From the point of revving up his monocycle, to the point of leaving town, Ted Wiggins had been extremely uneasy.
Even when he had forced himself to go onwards through the unfamiliar and rather uninviting new world, many doubts had lingered in his mind.
Finding a smooth stretch of land, he found himself thinking back to what had gotten him here in the first place...
Ted stumbled home in a daze, the new idea of real trees still on his mind. Had Audrey really said that she would marry the guy that got her a tree on the spot?
"WO-how..."He mumbled as he made his way to his house, "That would be amazing!" The scene of Audrey in a flowing white gown and himself dressed smartly in a tux being united beside one of those trees passed through his thoughts, making him smile contentedly, "Yep, it would be totally worth it!"
He ate quietly and quickly with his family, consisting of his mom, and his Grammy, thinking about asking them about where to find a real tree. In fact, he even opened his mouth to do so, but a thought stopped him.
How in the world would they know where a tree is? Mom even bought a new automatic one last week! This is pointless; I'm going to have to find out on my own.
He scooped the last of his artificial broccoli into his mouth, swallowed, and stood up.
"Ted, honey, where do you think you're going?" His mom stopped him.
"I just wanted to see if I could get to the library at a good time! I have a big test in school coming up tomorrow!" He flashed a huge grin, and waved his arms enthusiastically. Ok, maybe he had over done it there.
She raised an eyebrow suspiciously, "This has nothing to do with that Audrey girl, right?"A small smile lifted the corner of her lips.
"What? No!" Ted replied, even though it was the truth.
"Uh-huh. Ok, hon., Get going while you can, then. But don't be too late!" Mrs. Wiggins had to yell the last few words because her son was already heading out the door.
After an agonizing evening of flipping through book after book, Ted concluded that there was nothing about real trees that could be found. Everything was about the electronic ones now.
He gave a frustrated grunt, shoving yet another novel back onto its shelf, titled "The Trees of Tomorrow, Today!" And stormed out of the library, considering what to do next.
As he walked down the street, his mind elsewhere, he wondered if there was a person who somehow knew about trees, maybe even where one could be hiding. They're obviously rare by now He thought. Someone old, maybe? Someone who remembers back to when the trees still grew? Perhaps-
But he found himself crashing right into a propped sign. "Aw, man, how did that-whoa!" His eyes flew open as soon as he had viewed the picture on it and he startled backwards.
Pasted there was an old man in a slightly torn green outfit with a ghastly face and dark blood dripping from his hands, a knife clutched in one.
The tale of the Once-ler was a well known one in Thneedville. Ever since a young girl had strayed from town and had wound up with a broken neck, dead, years ago, every other disappearance had been put on who-ever lived up in the half-collapsed Lurkim about a mile from town.
Many books had been written about him. Horror stories that ended in the Once-ler snatching those who dared come near him.
Everyone was told and believed that the Once-ler had gone mad over the years of being completely alone and that anyone who tried to approach him would set him off, including poor Ted.
He had always had nightmares about this guy. From the time he had first snuck a read, at the age of 5, to now.
Recovering, he glared at the creepy thing. I'll bet he knows a lot about trees, he was the one who killed them all…
He suddenly had an idea. It was not a good one. In fact, it could have been the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas, but he knew that he had found his solution.
Unsurprisingly, he was not a fan of it. But he was beginning to feel desperate to get Audrey her dream. If it meant sneaking out of town, finding a guy who had a 70% chance of being crazy, and even risking his life, it would all be worth it for a little kiss.
He snapped out of it pretty quick when what looked like a large-scale axe head appeared right out in front of him, heading for his head.
He yelled and ducked, feeling only an instant later the blade skim along his bike helmet. It would have seemed a close save, except others flew out of him from the mist that he swerved around, each being a closer call then the last.
"WOAH!" Escaping the danger, he glanced over his shoulder at what could have been his immediate termination. He breathed heavily, wondering if all this had been really worth it after all.
But that was not the end of it.
Only a few minutes after words did he run into a second problem. A very big and unavoidable problem.
That being, a large chasm that gaped open directly in his path, separating him from his goal.
"Aw, man…" He growled, staring around for ideas. That's when an old, dusty barrel with a rotting plank propped up against it caught his eye.
In minutes he had set them up near the edge of the cliff, the barrel on its side and the plank leaning on it like a ramp. He had seen it so many times in his favorite movies, it couldn't possibly fail.
Thoughts differed as he and his monocycle were thrown right over it and down into the depths. Thankfully, it wasn't endless and the bike flew up the other side and landed hard on the ground. He had to scramble to stay onto the unstable vehicle, but he was soon riding along safely.
A streak of lightning flashed across the sky, making the figure of a tall house appear in the distance. He swallowed, feeling as though he was about to get himself into the worst situation yet.
But then he squinted his eyes, wait a minute…this guy would have to be so old, that he would either be stiff jointed and feeble, or even dead!
Finding new confidence and comfort, he crawled off of his bike and crept cautiously forward so that he would be able to see the windows first. That way, if a light was not on, he could assume that no one alive was inside.
A triumphant grin spread across his face when he saw that every open crevice was dark and forlorn.
"Well, this should be a piece of cake." He made his way to the front door, grabbed the handle, and pulled.
Only, it wouldn't open. In fact, it seemed to be jammed shut, like it had been glued or nailed.
He shook his head and looked about, searching for a solution.
A doorbell? In the current situation, it seemed tempting to try. Even if most likely (He hoped) no one would answer.
He laughed briefly at himself before reaching forward and jamming his finger into the small button.
Immediately a cold, dull ring echoed through the air, making chills go down his spine.
He started when the door suddenly flipped around, revealing a hammer hooked up to a string that was pulling it back, almost bending it.
"Ok…" Before he had time to react, a pair of scissors shot forward and cut cleanly through the string.
It would never have hit him. He knew that for certain. However, he would never have expected that the board the hammer slammed itself down on to would create a see-saw reaction that propelled him two stories straight up into the air.
"WOOOOA! WHAT THE- ." Just before what would have been a very gruesome death ending in a splatter, something caught his leg and yanked him back up.
In his panic, he grabbed for any surfaces, most of which fell apart with age. The thing holding him suddenly threw him up and caught the back of his shirt to get a better grip. It did not fail to startle him further.
"OH, GOSH! HELP ME!" He yelled to no one in particular. His jaw dropped when a pair of green gloved hands poked through the spaces between the boards on the window and grabbed frantically for him.
The voice that followed was husky and rough, "Who are you and where do you come from?" Another snatch that succeeded in getting a fistful of Ted's hair.
"Ow-ow! OK! I'm Ted!" Fear was practically dripping off of his words, "I-I've come from Th-thneedville!" He tried not to move and whimpered as the man lifted his head up to examine his face.
"You're just a kid!" He mused, "What brought you out here?" He yanked Ted forward, letting him see who was behind the boards. "Don't you know that people can get hurt out here?"
Ted found a gasp escaping his chest as he got a good look at him.
There, right in front of him, was the Once-ler. Looking just as young as when the last tree had fallen. With a dark glare in means of serious business taking up his face.