When Jack was small his mother nurtured him, raised him with a warmth and tenderness akin to none. Jack loved his mother very much, she was his whole world. Every time she would leave him Jack would cry and cry, and cry. Nothing would ever appease him; neither a nursery rhyme nor warm glass of milk could calm his anguish. But Jack lived on and he grew into a fine young boy.
On his 11th birthday his mother announced to him that they were to move to a new home in a very old village which touched the edge of an ancient forest. This did not concern Jack for he felt that his mother was his home, not the wooden box he spent his nights in. The next week they were off. It was a long journey and Jack did not handle it well. He developed a horrible tightness in his throat followed by a burning fever and a dry hacking cough. To anyone else this would be just a cold as he adjusted to the change in climate, but it enveloped Jack’s whole world. He saw only blackness and chills as the air thinned and other worlds consumed him.
It was not until 3 days hence he awoke with a start, in a place he did not know with no bearings as to the time that had passed. It hit him as he peered out the large port like window by the bed in which he lay; he was in the new place…
The sight had entranced him; endless dark woods. An eerie calm took hold as Jack slowly made his way through the large home, creeping down the staircase with the utmost care. It was not a mouse he was afraid to stir but his own senses and slowly but steadily he made his way to the door and out into the grass between his house and the forest. Jack became aware the world was just begging for the fall of dusk, when the world fell asleep, as had Jacks poor mother, in exhaustion from tending to his care and worrying herself sick over his health.
Jack only saw the woods, the dark black woods soaked in the harsh orange light of the fading sun. Each step closer caused his heart to leap, faster and faster did it beat, pumping like an old crank engine, not sure if it was to tear off his arm or splutter and die the next moment.
Little Jack was graced for his mind had not yet been able to catch him as the grass beneath him turned to moss and roots and the sky to thick branches and dark shadows. His pace increased as his calm faded, rushing, tearing through the woods, ducking and dodging around the snap of echoing branches. As the last light was fading Jack slipped, his foot caught on a hooking root half torn from the ground. He landed face first in the dirt. As he pulled himself to one knee, his eyes fixated on the sharp stone slab not four inches above where his head landed his awareness snapped. Jack no longer had calm or strength; his lips trembled as terror took hold. He was about to slink into a ball, nothing but acceptance of his fate in heart or mind as the world closed in around him. Suddenly he heard and felt a presence causing all the hair on his body to prick up like the spines on a porcupine, preparing for battle.
A shadow of a shadow, he could make out nothing in the darkness, only that it was there, a monster with the only possible intent of wanting to eat him. Jack thought he had known fear but it was only this that truly let him see its face. The monster approached Jack slowly as if to adjust to the light before coming in range of this strange creature cowering on the forest floor. Jack felt its breath; to him it smelt of rotting carcasses, and children’s tears. Jack rose and fled with all his might, screaming as to burst his lungs in the slightest hope that he would be heard, and that his life would not end this night.
After running for what felt like hours, tired and hungry, Jack saw space and crawled into it, hiding there, He fell asleep, uneasy, yet tranquil.
Jack awoke sore and as he rubbed his eyes and rose up, the fear of the previous night entered him again. It took him a moment before he noticed he could see the house. He had a strange feeling that he may not have ventured quite as far as he thought. He made it home scratched and dirty, eyes red and puffy from the tears he had shed the previous night running from the monster. He quickly ran inside, threw his clothes under the mattress and lay down in his new bed. Just as his eyes closed once more Jacks mother opened the door to his room, walking in with a smile.
Jack of course, being a scared little boy, could not hide all that happened from his mother. As he slowly revealed the details of his night of terror and was comforted by his mother, Jack began to recover his sense of peace and security. It had been some weeks and the boy was feeling happy again, cheerful and safe, under the protective wing of his dear mother.
It was not until Jack started school that he started to see things in a new light. As it was to happen, on first day the child saw another boy a similar size to himself getting beaten what seemed like half to death by two older, much larger ruffians. Strangely every time they would knock him down, he pulled himself back to his feet and started to slug back. To Jack this was strange; he wanted to help the boy but he dared not interfere with the thugs handing out the beating, or he too would certainly be getting one. So Jack waited until they had had their fun, and were well out of sight, and dashed over to lend the boy a hand getting up. As the boy thanked him beaten and bloody as he was, Jack asked him why on earth he did such a ridicules thing. The kid looked at Jack out of a half open eye, and a blood soaked face, and replied ”Strength aint hurting guys half your size; it’s getting licked by guys twice your size and asking for seconds. ” The boy limped his broken body away without a care in the world. Jack couldn’t see this; it was stupid. “That guy is a godamn moron!” he thought, while disgust and a sense he would come to learn of as self loathing encircled him. Yet he did not know why; there was nothing wrong with the way he lived, he was sure of it. He thought back to the night in the forest, what he had done, how he had felt. Jack now knew what he must do: he had to go back; he had to know the truth. Was there a monster or was he just a coward?
That night Jack crept out of his bedroom right at sundown, taking a torch with him so he could shine it on the monster when he caught it as he had resolved he most certainly would. He hopped down the stairs, ran across the grass and dived into the forest, racing through, paying no attention to where he was so he could get as lost as before. As he struggled through the dense woods, the fear crept back up again; slow and steady it came over him. Realizing that this time he might not be so close to home, panicking, his thoughts then moved to the monster: “What if it tried to get him this time, what if… NO!” Jack steeled himself. He would prove there was a monster, and he was now sure he could stand and face it. Jack stopped and laid wait for the creature to appear. Sure enough he heard footsteps. His hair stood up the same way. He froze absolutely still; he could smell the same rotting smell that took the heart of him before. Only this time though he could see past his fear. He grasped his torch and flashed it straight at the beast. Alas it was just a doe with eyes as black as night and as deep as a pool that went right through the world. She stared at Jack and in her eyes he could see but his own reflection, frightened as each other. It all at once became clear to Jack; the deer was not his monster, nor was it fear for if the deer felt it too, then surely all creatures feel fear. The monster was him, allowing himself to be lost in it, not being willing to stand up, for he now knew it was but a choice…
All of a sudden Jack was pulled out of himself and the deer shot off running as there was a loud thud, and an echoing crack sharper than any he had heard in all his years. Jack ran courageously towards the sound. Born of nothing but feeling he reacted. He shone his light and ran, until he saw shining red, in the corner of his eye, reflecting brightly from the torchlight. As he stopped, the torch slipped from his fingers - it was Jacks mother; she was dead.
His mother had tripped on the same root as Jack in his last venture into the forest, only she was tall enough to reach the stone. She had fallen just so and her head twisted just the right way, she had broken her neck. Jack hadn’t been quiet enough and she had heard him leaving. Unbeknown to Jack who was caught completely in his own world, she had chased him into the woods, Jacks world was shattered; he could hardly breathe. But whether he liked it or not, he had found his strength, and even this would not be the end of young Jack.