Friday, April 13, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: The girl who disappeared and was nearly found again

The friend who lives on Ravenswood road has moved out. I had intended to post this story at the time, as it was complete in my head, but life intervened, so I guess now is as good a time as any.

The girl who disappeared and was nearly found again.

People vanish in the Ravenswood. Sometimes they vanish in the winter, and are found in the spring, all gnawed bones and scraps of clothing. Sometimes they vanish in the spring, and come back, years later, with tales of wars and voyages, with fortunes, or rags, with missing limbs or scars. Sometimes they vanish as couples, to come back weeks later, having been married at the Great Green Tree, fifty miles up the valley, where the parents' consent isn't needed. Sometimes they vanish in hard times, and if they come back, it's to be buried.

One day a girl vanished in autumn, while herding pigs through the forest to feed on the mast. The pigs came back, as pigs will, a little later than expected, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. The girl's father and brothers and uncles and cousins went out to search for her.

Some of them straggled back in throughout the night and the following day. They had found where the pigs had been, and followed the trails that lead too and from it. They thought they had seen signs that some people had been past, some going this way and some that way. They could almost heard shouts at the edge of their hearing. They followed marks that nearly became tracks.

The village sent out searchers all that day, but only the most ambiguous of signs of the girl were found.

The best hunter in the village followed what traces could be found for a week. He said afterwards that he always felt on the verge of finding something, just around the next bend, or past the next bush. His dog was always sniffing out some faint scent that might have been her. Occasionally the wind or bird cries seemed to be drowning out a high pitched human voice.

As autumn turned to winter, several people who were in the forest said they almost found a track, or a place where the ice on the pond had been broken the day before by something, or what might have been a footprint in a thin layer of snow. The girls father followed the merest hint of a trail for three days, always on the verge of finding a clear sign.

As the years passed, every now and then people nearly heard things, or almost saw a trail, or felt something unusual that made them think they could follow a track, but they always petered out. One man got lost in the woods following such signs and hints, and was only found by a hunter a week later.

If you go into the Ravenswood, you may think you see something, a trail or track, that might or might not be human, and may or may not be just random signs in the wood. If you follow them, you might find the girl, as so many others so nearly have.

But no one has yet.

Note: All the Ravenswood stories are first drafts, and I had real trouble with this one. It's no where near as spooky or mysterious as I hoped. If anyone has any ideas on how to fix it, the comments are open.

The title owes something to the Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold story The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars.

Next time in Ravenswood: something a little lighter.
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