James didn’t say a word. He still couldn’t comprehend what was going on so he resorted to silence. His thought was that whatever hallucination he was having would fade away with time as long as he didn’t acknowledge it.
As he stared in silence waiting for everything to come back to normal, the girl drifted around him humming softly, picking tiny leaves and breaking roots away from the forest floor.
He was transfixed by her movement: That sway that reminded him so much of the movement of trees in a soft but powerful draft of wind. She was graceful, the way her petite body glided around as if her feet didn’t touch the ground. This was one hell of a hallucination, or maybe, he was not hallucinating at all.
Maybe the light he had seen in the old auditorium was a hole in the ground, some kind of opening and he had fallen through into this forest. A construction flaw maybe. That explains why management had sealed off the entire seventh floor to prevent people falling through just as he had.
But realistically, if there had been an expanse of virgin land anywhere near The Porte Hotel, he would have noticed it. And it was very unlikely that he would have fallen down seven floors and still survived, even considering the degrees of the injury he had now. It could have been that instead of falling seven flights, maybe he had fallen to the lower floor, into some kind of movie set or something. Yes, that made more sense but the wide open space, sweet smell of the forest, the massive tree without end behind him and the taste of the fresh air surrounding him disproved this theory too. He was irrefutably outdoors and he didn’t know how he had gotten here. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t reason past a situation.
“Hey, where am I?” He said to the Cherry-faced girl who had now laid the materials she had been picking on the floor beside him. If she was a hallucination, she wasn’t going away anytime soon so why not just ask her instead. The girl knelt beside him and was slowly and carefully pulling his trousers apart to expose his injured leg.
“At the heart of Fairy Forest. By the Great Tree.”
Her answer agitated him. “I’m being serious here. What exactly is going on? Where is Ebony? I fell through a hole at the auditorium on the seventh floor and now I am here.”
“Please relax, Chosen one.” The girl said smiling. She put a pale hand on his head to check for a fever while James stared up at her inhuman face.
“Why do you keep calling me chosen one?” James asked in a calmer tone. Her contact seemed to relax him. It was as if her touch took away the pain and fresh gusts of wind emitted from her pores.
“Because you are.” She said. “You do not seem to have a fever. It seems the most hurt is in your broken leg. I will now proceed to heal you.” She squeezed the leaves from the shrub she had picked within her palms and massaged the brown juices into James legs. Then she chipped a piece of root with her teeth and chewed at it. She spat the wood fragments into her palm, rubbed it together and then applied it on the leg also. James heard a sizzling sound as his skin absorbed the medication.
“Dryad medicine is highly coveted by the evil humans of this world.” Saerrie told him as she noticed him staring at the effects of her treatment. “These, as I have applied will immediately mend your broken bones, and the Dew Leaf I applied earlier will protect you from pain. You can only imagine the pain of re-growing human bones on the inside.” She winced. “Now, a splint to keep your leg in a place. We don’t want your movement to hamper your bone growth do we?”
James, who barely understood a word that she said stared in disbelief as the cherry-faced girl hovered each palm a quarter of an inch away from his leg. Like magic, a thick pasty substance oozed out of her palms. It matched the color of her skin and as it touched James’s skin, it hardened like a kind of cast. The closer James looked, the more he could not believe his eyes. What exactly was going on?
“This is not possible.” James muttered struggling to wake himself from this crazy hallucination.
The girl, paying no mind to his reaction removed her hands after forming the cast around James leg and looked around.
“Now the hard part is taking you to the hollow where we will await further instruction from Elder-Tree.”
A moment of realization struck James. “Did she say Dryad medicine?” James hardly even read fairy tale storybooks when he was a kid. He preferred hard facts, encyclopedias, science journals, newspapers, not fantastical storybooks that referred to imaginative creatures like fairies and dryads. Ebony was the one who loved the mushy stuff. She was the one who finished reading a storybook and cried the whole day that she wanted to come to a fantasy world. But despite never having any affinity to fantasy tales, he knew this much, Dryads were or tree-spirits or forest spirits. The girl had been referring to him as “human” and herself as a Dryad all this time. But it was impossible. Yes, she seemed strange and in-human but it was impossible.
Just then, James heard a rumble as a mound formed quickly as if a torpedo was moving under the earth. It stopped just in front of Saerrie and a human-sized tree stump busted out of the ground. James jaw hung open. He was still wrapping his head around how the girl had cast his leg from liquid wood that she had sweated out of her palms and now this.
To be continued…