It’s a typical family picnic at the woods. A girl is standing by the large oak tree beside the stream. Across the glimmering stretch of water is a big field of grass, so green, so bright under the sun that it almost hurt to look at it. And behind her is the woods.
The girl cannot be any older than seven years old. Light-blonde hair, just barely touching her shoulders. Her skirt flaps slightly in the wind. She is a striking figure, under the imposing tree that seems to have no effect on her, and looks as if she expects to have her picture taken at any moment.
She squats, ignoring her family – father, mother, and a dog – who are sitting on a picnic mat, right at the edge of the woods, under the shade of the leafy trees. The girl faces the too-green grass and picks something up from the ground. A leaf, perhaps, or something equally insignificant, a mere observer might assume. She clutches it tightly in her left hand.
Scratching at the soil about her feet, she shifts, as if uncomfortable with her current position. She soon settles, though, and continues playing with the earth. She slips the object into the shallow hole she has made – it is an acorn. The girl stares at it for a second, the tiny acorn nestling in the indention.
She frowns, annoyed. Her mother always did have an irritating way of calling her – Isabelle, Isabelle, Isabelle. Darling? No. Isabelle? Yes, always only Isabelle. “Yes, mummy?”
“Careful, darling, don’t fall into the water and get wet.”
As if. Isabelle rolls her eyes, her back still facing her family. “Okay,” she replies. Sighing, she smooths out the hole by sweeping loose dirt into it with her palms. The acorn is thrown aside.
She’d forfeited her magic a long time ago.
She stands up slowly, feeling her muscles straining to pull her up. This body is too old, and she does not have enough magic to sustain appearances. She had killed Isabelle the moment she first stepped into this body, four years ago, and it has begun rotting ever since. It is only because of her lingering magic that the corpse could move and talk.
Now that the lingering magic is fading, she would have to go back to her original appearance soon. She makes a face.
She never did like herself.
In a vastly different wood, another child is thinking. His group is out of the Container for one of the rare playtimes. He understands all too well the need for secrecy – governments could hardly raise mysterious children in unorthodox ways without the public blinking an eye.
He merely wishes that the secrecy didn’t limit them to playtimes in the middle of the woods, just far enough from the Container to constitute as an outing. It was, honestly, rather disturbing to play in the woods.
The supervisor looks at the group of children sitting on the shabby checkered mat. They are of various ages, ranging from five to ten, and are all too silent. They stare blankly at nothing or play with toys that they had brought along.
The man sighs. He is bored.
He is a new recruit, not even thirty years old yet and still a bachelor. He considers the transfer from a normal government department to the covert department the singularly worst thing to ever happen to him. Looking after children in the woods… he sneers at the seemingly oblivious children, shivering. It is cold.
He glances at his phone.
He is going to call his girlfriend, and to hell with the creepy quiet kids and babysitting them. The man unlocks his phone, confident that the children would still be there when he comes back.
Mistake. He dies that day, alone and terrified.
Lani looks up at the retreating back of the man until it disappears. He is reasonably certain that the supervisor would not be coming back, because quite frankly, it is not the first time these things have happened.
He wonders away from the group to the familiar stream with the crooked oak tree. He has always liked this spot, and he begins fiddling with one of the fallen acorns his fingers find. A few moments to himself, a few moments when there is no one watching him with cunning eyes and hooded intentions.
Lani covers the acorn with his hand and pushes it into the soft, pliant ground. It is mildly frustrating, how the ground refuses to accept the acorn fully. Lani pushes harder, the shell of the acorn digging into his fingers.
I return you to the earth, and claim the gift that is my right.
Lani is almost unaware of the syllables slipping out of his mouth. As it is, he barely has time to gasp before soft blue sparks are sliding up his arm. Huddling in on himself and curling into a ball, he could only watch as the blue seems to go into his skin. He has no ideas where the words have come from, and he knows nothing to explain away the sparks. All he knows is that the strange lights have made him feel safe and complete, not that he has ever thought himself incomplete before.
His harsh breaths are suddenly loud to his oversensitive ears as his loud heartbeats calms. Lani cannot resist the urge to turn behind and make sure that none of the other children has seen the sparks, paranoid that someone might have seen.
No one has, though, and he breathes. In out in out in out.
Magic, he thinks. Magic is not supposed to exist.
The corpse that Isabelle has abandoned is tucked into bed. The light are off, but in another few hours the sun would come up and illuminate the body that is little more than bones. The woman would scream when she sees it, Isabelle thinks.
She stretches. She has forgotten how liberating it is to be in her own body… she disregards the responsibilities that come with it more a moment, enjoying the feel of her won skin once again.
Her body is eighteen years old, with black hair and black eyes and a sharp chin. Dressed in black and neon, Isabelle decides to keep the name on a whim. It is not as if names matter very much, and she has never liked her original one.
“Flight 306 to Ireland, boarding now.”
How vexing. Isabelle does not like planes.
A/N: This is an old story, but completely rewritten because I didn’t like the quality of the previous one. Yes, I am a perfectionist, and I am back from a long holiday. Randomly, does anyone still remember me?
Tenses fixed. Sorry. And I’m having problems with Lani because he used to be a girl. If anyone spots more gender mistakes, please tell me. It’s embarrassing to say the least, having a male character referred to as a female.