Something is taking me towards the forest... I find a village there... but no one lives here... there is more to this village than meets the eye... what drew me here? Who or what will I find here?
The snow was gone, yet a few white patches lined my path as I strolled along the rural countryside. Canada had a way of elongating the winter, so to see only a few clumps of snow as opposed to the usual large banks, was a welcome sight.
I always traveled along this path, as it had been the setting of many elementary school adventures. The trail sits behind the property line to my family's farm, where field meets forest. I hadn't wandered too far into the forest as a child, only deep enough to find tadpoles swimming in the brooks, or to scavenge for mushrooms for my potions.
It was this day, however that I had felt the need to venture further into the woods. I had some time on my hands, as it was not yet noon and supper wouldn't be for another several hours. I open the large wooden gate into the wheat field and away I went, making my way across the field and into the entrance of the forest.
I immediately find the makeshift trail I crafted as a child, and gently brush my fingers along the old wooden sign where I had carved "Welcome" in it, many years before.
Trailing off the usual path, I felt a strong sense I needed to follow a certain direction. North. Why? I'm not sure. A voice, no, an influence, was telling me I needed to travel far into the forest. I hadn't felt this feeling in the field, nor along the countryside path. It was only as I entered the forest that this influence swooped in and pulled me further in its direction.
I bat away branches and ferns as I trudge a new path in the direction this influence was taking me. I stop suddenly as there were no more branches to bat away, only a wide open clearing.
"What is this?" I say aloud to myself as my eyes soak in the new sights. Before me, in the middle of the clearing, was a collection of tiny stone buildings resembling a town or a village.
Thinking I had intruded, I turn around to make my way back the way I came. I was stopped, however by a gust of wind, and that strong influence again. I couldn't hear it clearly, but there seemed to be a voice telling me to stay.
"Fine. I'll see who lives here." I said to myself as I lower my hand over my dagger, stomping through the tall thick grass towards the village.
I see no people, so I make the assumption either they are out working the fields, or this village was abandoned. There were a total of ten stone buildings, all situated to face each other in an oval. In the middle sat a large stone well with a lever pulley system and a bucket attached. Surrounding the well were large round benches and elaborate stone pillars adorned with vines and pink flowers.
"Beautiful." I say aloud again as I admire the town square. "But where is everyone?" I wonder as I pick out the first house in the row, and decide to try that one first.
I don't hear any noises in this village, no blacksmithing, no dogs barking, not even a horse or a carriage. "So strange."
I breath a deep breath as I knock on the first house's door. Nothing.
"Good. No one is home. Must get back to my farm, then."
I hadn't even finished my sentence as the gust of wind I felt earlier returned and brushed across my face enough for my hair to have to be re-positioned.
"Fine. Next house then." I squint my eyes as I make my way to the neighboring house.
This house was a bit smaller than the first, and was mostly made of mud and straw, as opposed to stone. It looked incredibly sturdy and warm.
"Here goes nothing." I whisper as I knock three times.
I hear a bit of shuffling inside, but nonetheless this house seems to be occupied. I hear the door on the other side unlock, and it swings open.
My eyes look at the old lady standing before me, yet my brain had trouble discerning if it truly was who I was looking at.
"Grandma?" My voice had cracked, as my deceased grandmother who had only passed away a few years before, stood in front of me.
"Darling! Come in! Come in! I'm so glad you made it!" Her voice sounded like smooth, silky butter and only enveloped my soul with a warm bout of nostalgia.
My emotions took over as I found myself wrapped in my grandmother's arms. She felt real. Warm, soft and still smelled of her old vanilla and rose perfume. Tears immediately flowed from my eyes.
"Grandma, am I dead?" My voice still cracking, as I am struggling to take this all in.
"No, no dear." She says as she brushes the hair from my face. "You found purgatory. I had been trying to lure you here ever since I had passed away. It seems, however that it took a few years for my magic to reach you." She replied.
"Lure me? You... you were using your magic to guide me here?" I say as the pieces came together in my head.
"Yes, dear. I had been trying for years. Oh look how you've grown! You're so beautiful! I knew I would be able to see my precious girl again!" She exclaimed as she pulled me in close once again.
The door suddenly knocked and I felt my heart pang as I couldn't possibly imagine who it could be. My grandmother kissed my forehead, then made her way to the door to answer it.
"Larry! Welcome! She's here! Look! Come in, come in." She said as she ushered a man into her cottage.
"Uncle Larry?!" I cry as I run to hug him. The uncle I had lost when I was only nine years old, was standing before me looking alive and jolly as ever.
"Come here, you little squirt!" Uncle Larry called out as he wrapped his large comforting arms around me for the first time in over a decade.
The tears flowed once again, as I embraced his familiar warm hug.
"But, if this is purgatory, why have you guys not crossed over yet?" I ask finally as I sit down at the table along with my grandmother.
"We are not the only ones here, darling." She says to me. "Your ancestors all inhabit this village, it's only when you truly need them, do they appear to you.
"So, you guys have stayed here, for me?"
"For you, for your siblings, for all future members of this family. We created this village with our magic, centuries ago so that our clan had a "home base" of some sort." Uncle Larry began to explain. "We use this village as a meeting point for all clan members, living or dead."
"So then does everyone know about this place? Mom? Dad?" I ask them both.
They look at each other, then look at me.
"Yes." My grandmother says "But they have all found this place with the help of our magic. It appears in random locations. For you, it happened to be in this forest."
"So next time, will it still be in this forest?" I ask.
"Yes." Uncle Larry says simply. "It will appear to you wherever and whenever you may need us. For you, it was the forest, for your brother it may be the barn or the garage."
My grandmother offered her kind, gentle smile to me. "I sensed you needed me, darling. That's why I tried so hard to lure you here to me."
I could not help but break into tears yet again, as I embraced my grandmother once more. She was right, I did need her. I needed her guidance, her advice and her perspective on this cruel world. I needed Uncle Larry, too as he had always provided much needed comedic relief in times of great sorrow.
"Don't cry, child. Now that you have found us, it will be easier for you to find us again. Just go into the solitude of nature, breath it in, and you will feel it. It will guide you." My grandmother says to me softly as I slow my breathing and soak in the information I have been given.
My ancestors, beloved family members, even the ones long gone will be with me forever. With them along side me, I have the magic and the strength to defeat or accomplish any adversity life happens to launch in my direction.