This photo was taken of artist Aaron Brown at the CSULB Art gallery. My short story is based on his piece
Jonah and the Forest by Alexandra Brontë Newe
Jonah was a little boy of about age 10. He was skinny for his age and had freckles dotting his face like the stars in the sky. His eyes were little green emeralds that sparkled with wonder as he experienced the world around him. Jonah lived in the little town of Waukesha, Wisconsin where the forest surrounded him on every side. He had a good loving family. Ma and Pop took good care of him and his sister Mary-Lou wasn’t too bad either.
At school, Jonah didn’t have too many friends and often walked the halls daydreaming about sword fights and magical realms filled with adventure. Bullies like Toby and Bryson would make fun of how little Jonah was.
“Little John, Little John!” They’d tease him.
“You just wait ‘til I’m big and strong!” replied Jonah, giving them his best menacing face.
“Well until then!” snarled Toby as he pushed Jonah up against one of the lockers. Jonah felt his back ram up against the cold metal. Bryson laughed as Toby sneered right into Jonah’s face.
“You’ll never be as strong as me Little John, so I suggest you run on back to your mommy and daddy and hope that we don’t follow you home,” Toby growled. All Jonah could do was stare back in utter fear. Toby let go of Jonah, causing him to fall to the ground, his school books spilling everywhere. Toby strode off with Bryson at his tail as he turned down the hall of the school and finally disappeared. Jonah took a minute to collect himself, then, picking up his things, walked the opposite direction and made his way back home.
It was a crisp and cool fall in Waukesha, and orange and gold leaves piled on the ground, blanketing the cold dark street. Jonah had always loved nature, and autumn was his favorite season. There was something magical about harvest time. Although his home was around a 20-minute walk down the neighborhoods, Jonah decided to take the long way, cutting a right into the forest.
The brown leather boots that his dad gave to him the last Christmas crunched over the fallen leaves as Jonah stared up at the magnificent Aspen and pine trees surrounding him. He felt his ears and nose turning red with the caress of the chilly breeze of fall. He didn’t mind the cold too much, and he found himself lost in his own thoughts.
It wasn’t too long until Jonah realized the sun was almost down and he stopped dead in his tracks. The forest around him looked different. Although there were pine trees from before, there were no more golden aspen trees.
“I must have been walking for hours…” He mumbled under his breath. Jonah wasn’t going to let his fear take control of him though, and he decided to retrace his footsteps in the soft ground. After about a half an hour he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere and again stopped. This time, he just listened. He heard a few crickets, the wind rustling through the trees above him. Jonah looked up at the trees and peeking through the branches he saw little white specks.
It was night time and Jonah began to grow colder and colder.
“I need to keep moving,” He told himself. He started walking again but suddenly froze. He heard something loud off in the distance. He slowly crept through the brush in front of him, pushing past smaller pine trees. After a little while, the sound grew louder and he finally pushed past a tree and stepped into a clearing. His breath caught short. In front of him was a magnificent waterfall overlooking a pool of water. The pool almost seemed to glow.
“Wow,” Jonah breathed. He was in awe. The pool perfectly reflected the bright night sky and he began to walk to the pond. As he reached the edge, he knelt to the ground and stared into the water. A pale reflection stared back at him with eyes as green as grass. His nose was a cherry red and his ears pink as a pig. He looked away in shame at his hollowed out features but glanced back. Something had caught his eye. His skin began to change color, melting from a peach to a green and his eyes became yellow. Jonah stared intently at himself as the water in front of him began to bubble.
“What is happening?” He stumbled backward and crawled away from the water’s edge as the bubbles began to ferociously emerge. Suddenly a green rock popped out from under the water. Jonah’s breath caught short as the ‘rock’ opened its eyes and yellow piercing orbs stared right back at him. The creature then surfaced, its head completely out of the water. It was a giant lizard-like animal with red thorns adorning its head and scaling on down to its neck and diving into the water with the rest of its body. Its lips curled into a smile, revealing sharp ivory-colored teeth.
“Wh-who are yo-you?” Jonah barely spoke. His whole body was frozen with fear. The creature smiled at him menacingly.
“Hodag” The creature spoke with a low voice, almost soothingly. It craned its long neck towards him moving slowly. Jonah inched backward in terror at this huge beast. Its snout was a mere foot away from his face. He felt it’s warm breath against his face.
“You are… Jonah? Are you not?” Hodag asked the trembling boy. Jonah nodded his head slightly as his lip quivered.
How does this creature know who I am? He thought
“I know more than you think.” The reptilian monster assured. “I have belonged to this world for thousands of years and guard this very forest and all those who live in it.” It continued.
Jonah softened at this remark.
“So you aren’t going to hurt me?” He questioned Hodag.
“Of course not.” The creature laughed. “You care about this forest more than most people Jonah, and that is why I made myself known. Others before you have too gotten lost in the maze of this place and I am here to offer my help.” Hodag smiled again, his yellow eyes gazing upon the boy.
“How can you help me?” Jonah quipped. Moments after he said this, the creature began to move. Two strong arms breached the water and reached onto the ground and Hodag began to leave his pond. Jonah watched in bewilderment as the creature stepped out of the water revealing shiny translucent wings.
“Climb on.” Hodag invited. Jonah carefully walked up the the creature and placed his hand on the scaly back of the now dragon. His skin was cold to the touch from the water, but after a moment he felt the warmth radiating from its body. Hodag knelt down so that Jonah could climb up onto the dragon. Jonah leapt up onto its back, mindful of the red thorn-like spine, he sat quite comfortably on his back. Within moments, Jonah felt Hodag tense his body and extend his long wings out into. With one great movement Hodag lifted himself and Jonah into the air and they began to fly directly upwards.
“Ahhhhhhh!” Jonah screamed as he clung on for dear life to the beast. His small hands grabbed hold of one of the spikes on the dragon as they gained more and more altitude. Finally Hodag breached the clouds in the sky and leveled himself out, allowing Jonah to release his death grip.”
“You could have killed me!” Jonah exclaimed. Hodag laughed and kept a steady pace of light as they soared over the forest. Jonah glanced over the right shoulder of the dragon and gazed in amazement at the scenery below him. Hundreds of trees lay below him and with the glow of the moon, illuminated the forest. It was magical. Jonah couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. He didn’t once think about Toby or Bryson, or school, even getting lost in the forest. The feeling of flying through the cold night sky and the wind in his face was enough for him.
“You see?” Hodag spoke. “I protect this land for it gives life to everything. The trees, the water, the ground are all a sanctuary to be guarded. There are people out in this world who will stop at nothing to destroy this sacred beauty. It is my duty as well as yours to protect it.” He finished.
They flew for what felt like hours, in beautiful silence. Jonah saw glimmering lights off in the distance.
“Home.” He whispered.
The dragon began to decrease it’s altitude until softly landing in a clearing of trees before his house. Jonah slowly slid off of his back and landed on the ground. He looked back at Hodag, and felt a pang of sadness wash over him.
“Will I ever see you again?” Jonah asked, holding back tears. He had loved being up in the air away from everything with the dragon.
“You will be able to see me in your dreams, and I will always be watching over you to protect you.” Hodag assured, smiling.
“You should get to your family Jonah, they are probably worried sick. I must get back to the heart of the forest.” The dragon said, turning away from the boy.
“Okay. Thank you Hodag, for helping me.” Jonah smiled. The dragon turned and nodded, with another smile. He then stretched his wings and leapt up and flew away into the sky. Jonah watched the dragon fade from view into the clouds.
“Goodbye.” He whispered.
Jonah walked back up to his little house and crept through the back door. Immediately he heard footsteps rushing from around the corner.
“Jonah! Is that you?” His mother screamed as she appeared and embraced her son.
“I was worried sick! Where were you?” She squeezed him tightly.
“I took the long way home and got a little lost.” Replied Jonah, barely able to breath from the embrace.
“Thank goodness you’re alright.” His mother caressed his face, smiling warmly.
“Now get upstairs and go to sleep, you have school tomorrow!” She nudged him towards his carpeted stairs. Jonah obliged and went up the stairs and into his room. There he changed into his warm red and white checkered pajamas and crawled into his bed. He couldn’t believe what happened earlier that night. He saw an actual dragon! It was nice to know that as long as he was in Waukesha, Hodag was watching over him, protecting him. He pulled the covers up to his chin and let his eyelids droop. Jonah was exhausted from such an eventful night. After everything that had happened he knew one thing. Hodag was right, nature needed to be protected. Jonah swore to himself that night that he would spend the rest of his life helping Hodag by protecting not just the Waukesha forest, but other forests around the world.