A Creature of the Forest
If you come here, you will find me.
Ever since he was small, he knew that something was amiss within that forest.
He used to venture into the woodland located at the back of his school. The little hill that stood there was as if his playground. He would go there whenever he was out of school, just to hang out.
The hill was certainly a nice place to set fire. He could play with fire freely there without injuring anybody (he was already old enough at the time to know that injuring people was a bad idea) and suffer any consequences. There was only the nature and him. Just the both of them.
The wind that blew gently across the forest was a beautiful addition to his fire. The flame he set swerved and danced along with the movement of the breeze. He had hoped that he would be able to become the wind someday (not the fire) that would be able to control the fire without inflicting any injury to itself. Becoming the wind was something he dreamed of as a child and something that he still hoped to become even when he was already a teenager of age nineteen (turning twenty in three months).
And so, that was what he did when he was small, playing with the fire, dreaming of becoming the wind in the forest of eternal tranquility, all the while managing to seclude himself from his friends—from socializing.
He remembered having a huge grin all the time while he was setting the ground (or the grasses once in a while) on fire, trying his very best not to set the entire forest ablaze (he was also old enough to know that setting the woods on fire wasn't exactly a good idea either).
One day, the boy found out that burning a forest really wasn't a hard thing to do. Due to his miscalculations while he was experimenting with combustion, the wind suddenly blew strong and hard to another direction, taking flickers of flame with it.
Before the boy could prevent anything from happening, right before his very eyes, the forest was already ablaze. Radiant color of red and orange flashed before him like the sunset he used to watch when he was bored. And in this one, like the firmament, was tainted with puffs and dusts of darkened clouds (except in the fire, it was the smoke).
He jolted out of his dazed state almost immediately when he inhaled and smelled the burning and roasting scent. He began to tremble in fear and surprise, watching with wide eyes, a pair of huge emerald eyes that belonged to the boy swimming in terror.
'No.' he mouthed, but not doing anything about it.
Somehow, he felt as if his legs had become one with the ground, unable to move, stunned.
He knew he was going to die if he didn't get out of the forest soon.
But he couldn't move… (or maybe he didn't want to move, feeling that he should be swallowed by the beauty of the blaze… maybe then, he would be cleansed of his sins).
And then, the flames neared in on him, as if smiling gently at him with its hellish glimmer.
And it was then that he experienced death and came back from it.
…Given a second chance to live his life.
And now, he was nineteen, a teenager—who, deep down inside, was still obsessed with the fire and the wind.
"Axel, where are you going?"
Said redhead raised his eyebrows at the question. Well, that was a stupid one. His classes were over and Demyx sure as hell had memorized his schedule. "Home?" he answered, which sounded more like a question rather than a statement.
"I know, but didn't you say that you're going go to a chemistry study group at…"
"Ah…" the redhead growled, suddenly growing increasingly exhausted. "The study group shit. I don't need that to end my day."
"Tell the folks I have to be somewhere or something. I have no time for that shit." Axel bit back defiantly, never one to be interested in mingling with friends or teachers. Demyx was an exception. But even then, the Mohawk blond had to stay away when Axel wanted it.
Demyx rolled his eyes in annoyance and released a small groan. "You know, Ax. You could stop being such an ass once in a while. Everyone's expecting you."
"Why? Because I managed to figure out combustion while the others doesn't? Gimme a break, Dem. I'm not paid to teach them. That's the instructor's job, got it memorized? I have no obligation whatsoever to…"
"Alright, got it, got it. Chill, Ax. I'll find some excuse for you."
The redhead flashed an appreciative grin. "Much appreciated."
Demyx heaved a sigh before running away to the other direction where the library was located.
Axel walked away with his jacket slung on his shoulder. Easily, he fished around his jeans' pocket and took out a lighter and a pack of cigarette.
Cigarette was his best friend. It helped keep his mind out of unnecessary garbage.
Ever since he survived the so-called 'incident,' he stopped visiting the forest located at the back of the elementary school. He was lucky that the fire didn't take the school down. Or maybe the school was lucky… he couldn't decide. Either way, it rid him off of additional burden and guilt. He didn't need to be reminded of the day he 'died.'
The walk back to his place was always a dull one. He didn't like the town at all. Nor did he have any desire to move away. He just didn't like it and he doubted that he would like it any more or less the next coming century. It was always the same (what did he expect anyway? Towns didn't just change in an instant as far as he knew). His hollow footsteps rung in the evening air and the racing cars packed the road. Funnily enough, even the fastest speeding car waited patiently for the traffic light to turn green, signaling that it was safe to go.
And his eyes shifted slowly over to the collection of people waiting for the bus to arrive. Sometimes, he couldn't figure out why those people would wait thirty minutes for the bus to come when they could have just as easily arrived to their destination by foot with the same amount of time. They could be healthier and save the fare they needed to take the bus and invest on something else.
However, he digressed. It wasn't like it was any of his problems anyway. Those were just fun subjects to ponder when he was feeling extremely bored about life.
How he wished life had those pointers and arrows, directing him to his next step.
By using his age as an excuse, he frequently told others that he had lost the sense of life.
Life didn't have any purpose or meaning most of the time to him.
And he wasn't about to add any meaning to it.
Earning eight hundred bucks a month, spending six to his apartment and the rest for food, he could be considered doing well in the financial aspect of life.
But everything became routine very soon.
And he was thinking that maybe… just maybe… setting things ablaze wasn't a bad idea after all. At least he gained a sense of happiness from doing so.
However, he feared that maybe… as he grew older, his long buried desire to set things ablaze had grown so enormous that he couldn't control it. And thus, he stayed away… from the fire and wind he dreamed of becoming.
But of course, he used fire when cooking… so maybe it wasn't such a big deal after all.
Two more blocks and he'd be at his workplace. Somehow, he had a feeling that something big would happen on his way there. Having walked eight blocks, he encountered nothing special. So, maybe he was wrong.
And trudging through the two last dreaded blocks, he was proven wrong. Nothing special happened…
Maybe it was merely his desire for something exciting to finally grace him.
"Hey, Ax. Wanna go hiking on the weekends?" asked one of his co-worker with such casual tone that outsiders would think the two had known each other for years.
"Why the fuck would I go hiking?" Axel frowned deeply, staring at the person before him… he didn't think he knew his name. Nope, he was sure he had never talked to the dude before.
"Because you seem like you need to chill," the person with black hair and some strands of white tied to the back shrugged easily, grinning.
"I've chilled enough. In fact, I think I've chilled too much that my entire soul is burning." At that point, he honestly wondered if he was voicing out the deepest state of his mind.
The man laughed throatily. "That's why you need to chill more. So what do you say about camping in the forest?"
"First you say hiking, now you say camping?" Axel raised an eyebrow, taking a fresh towel to wipe the wet glasses. The bar was closing and Axel, just fortunate enough, was stuck to a cleaning and/or closing job with that weird man he never figured out a name to.
"Can't find any mountains 'round. Might as well go with camping."
"Whatever you say," the redhead answered, not at all interested.
"What do you say? The back of the Twilight Town elementary school?" the man smirked. "There's a pretty nice forest there. You should know of that, right?"
"What?" Axel released a choke, stopping at his current activity overall to look at the man. "What are you talking about?"
The man grinned knowingly. "Just saying. Call me if you're interested," and as if on cue, the man threw his name card to the redhead. "I've done cleaning the back and everything. I'll leave the rest to you, young one. Night." At that, he was gone.
Axel caught the name card easily. "Xigbar…" he muttered the name written there.
His eyes twitched…
His eyes never twitched before…
The same forest.
The next day, the redhead decided to skip all his classes, not worrying about the quizzes taking place the very same day. He was already doing badly anyway, one quiz wouldn't kill him that terribly. He could just easily drop the classes and retake it all over again in Spring. Everybody did that, so why couldn't he?
Picking up his wallets and keys, he headed out of his apartment.
And he took the bus which would take him to the Twilight Town Public Elementary.
His head throbbed as soon as he set foot on the familiar place. The woods… the very same scenery, the very same fresh-watery air, the very same little noises of chirping birds… everything was as he remembered. He took in a deep breath in hopes that the pound of his head would stop or else, he honestly think that it would burst open soon.
He didn't like the feeling. He was tempted to turn back and run away, never again stepping foot on that dreaded place.
Now that he was able to think clearly… how did the forest still look the same after what he had done? The woods should have already turned to ashes from the scale of the fire… but… it had been nine years after all. It wouldn't take a lot to grow an entire forest back, it seemed, right?
Lighting up another cigar, he began walking deeper into the forest, looking around warily. At least smoking calmed him down.
Are you trying to start another forest fire?
"Huh?" Axel frowned, immediately turning one eighty to see who was speaking to him.
But he was muted when he discovered no one there. He looked to his left, right, up above… no one. There was only him and the forest animals. Was somebody trying to pull a prank on him?
Shrugging it off and dragging the cigarette away from his lips, he moved forward, hoping to find the place where he 'died.'
He remembered dying…
But it turned out that he didn't…
Please go back and don't ever come back again. We don't welcome you here.
"Who's there? Show yourself!" Axel shouted, extremely annoyed by the voice infiltrating his head. The latter voice sounded different from the one he heard before.
There was no answer. The silently chirping bird was the only sound filling the air.
He narrowed his eyes in slight anger.
Heaving a deep sigh, he decided to precede further, never one to back out just because someone told him to. In fact, the more he was forbidden to do something, the more he would be disobedient.
He paused when he finally reached the same place.
Faintly, he could see the small figure of a young boy with spiky red hair, standing there, happily playing with fire. When he reached out to touch the boy, as if wanting to tell the boy to stop, he quickly noticed that he was trying to grasp the air. The boy vanished before him, leaving him all alone there in the silence of the woodland.
He took his hand back and dragged the cigarette away from his mouth again before throwing it to the ground and stepping on the butt.
"I didn't mean to burn the whole place…" he whispered huskily.
He closed his eyes in mourning, silently apologizing.
Emerald eyes were wide opened a while later.
Axel released a gasp, trying to register in the creature he was seeing, standing… no… floating right in front of him, carried by the gentle wind.
"What…?" he frowned deeply.
That was definitely not human… but whatever it was looked similar to a human.
It was a boy. A boy of flawless skin, the small of his bare body covered in aging roots of trees. His hair was so golden, flowing slowly, following the direction of the wind, spiked up to the side elegantly. The creature's eyes were closed, peaceful and tranquil. And finally, when it opened its eyes, Axel was graced by the most beautifully colored pair of eyeballs he had ever seen.
"Who are… what are you?" Axel questioned, curiosity overwhelming him. Strangely, he didn't feel wary. It was as if the presence of the being itself soothed him. When he took in a deep breath, he could smell the refreshing scent of the leaves and the greeneries—of herbs. Never before had he felt so close with nature.
The creature smiled. When Axel examined closely, he found a glorious crimson ruby planted on the boy's forehead.
Axel blinked a couple of times.
You are here.
The person who had caused disaster to the forest.
The creature kept its smile, directing it at the redhead.
There is no need to feel sorry. It is merely an… accident, no?
"It… I wouldn't say that, honestly…" the redhead released a hoarse chuckle, raking a hand through his gorgeously groomed scarlet hair.
Are you saying that you set the forest ablaze on purpose?
The creature's expression contorted into a slight worry.
"No, of course not. I didn't intend to cause any kind of harm!"
Axel wondered why he was so desperate, explaining his situation to the bizarre creature he knew nothing of.
Then that is good. Welcome back.
Yes. Welcome back. I am Roxas. I have been watching you…
Let us talk.