To refresh your memory on what has been going on so far, please read the previous installments by clicking on the hyperlinks below:
This part is quite lengthy but I did not want to break it up into parts again. Just keep on reading and then let me know if it was worth it.
When Delilah stopped running and turned around, her family house was nowhere to be seen. Oak, elm, and birch trees surrounded her. Whichever direction she looked, things all looked the same.
The first time she snuck out of the house, she was simply trying to get as far away from her toxic parents as she could. All she wanted was a little peace and quiet. The farther into the forest she went, the quieter the things got and Delilah was able to enjoy hearing her own thoughts again. It was impossible to concentrate on anything with people yelling, doors slamming, and plates falling to the floor.
Delilah’s grades were slipping, and she was not happy about it. She almost wished she had brought her schoolwork with her. “Kids do not run away from home to study,” she chided herself, leaned against a tree, and slid down. Delilah closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. For a while, she enjoyed being away from home, but with the night fast approaching and the temperatures dropping, Delilah decided to head back towards the house. She got up from the ground and looked around, puzzled. Without the presence of the sun, all of the trees looked the same. With a pit in her stomach, Delilah realized she was not sure how far away the house was, or even in which direction she should start walking. “Ahead” was her only option.
After what felt like an hour of aimless walking, Delilah started to panic. She wished she had thought of marking her path as she walked here from home. “If only I had a knife,” Delilah thought to herself. She had seen plenty of movies in which people carved markings on trees to make sure they were not walking in circles.
On the verge of tears, Delilah sat down with her back against a tree and whispered a prayer. When she opened her eyes, she saw some sort of movement on the horizon and considered the possibility of it being a wolf. “What kind of animals even live in this forest?” she wondered, scolding herself for not thinking of such things sooner.
The silhouette that emerged from behind the leaves was too tall to be one of a wolf. Plus, it was wearing a hat. “A man,” Delilah thought. “A man!” she silently exclaimed and quickly got up to her feet. She dusted the soil off her pants and waved towards the stranger. The last word struck her. “Stranger…” Delilah gulped. No wonder her parents were miserable. Not only was Delilah not excelling at school, but she was also dumb enough to get stranded in a forest, and was now trying to get the attention of a serial killer or a rapist. “Or a rapist-serial killer,” she thought and shuddered. It was too late to run away. Plus, she would not even know where to run. Delilah looked around again, hoping that something would appear familiar to her. Nope. Still only the same-looking trees.
The man wore a long, beige trenchcoat, a black hat, and dark sunglasses. “Definitely a rapist-serial killer,” Delilah thought as her heart pounded out of her chest. She wondered whether he could hear it and if it made him want to kill her more.
“Please, don’t kill me,” she began, pressing her back into the tree.
The man, now about 30 feet away, did not respond. He inched closer, and sweat broke on Delilah’s forehead.
“I will scream,” she shouted, cursing her own stupidity as soon as the words left her mouth.
“No one will hear you,” the man in the coat said as he closed the distance between them.
He was so close now that Delilah could punch him in the gut. Or the crotch. If she knew martial arts. Or was brave enough.
“Why are you here?” the stranger asked.
“You can’t put the blame on me. People can go to the forest and hope not to get raped or killed,” she said and bit her tongue. Why was she giving him ideas? Now, he was not only going to kill her but definitely rape her, too.
“Why are you here?” he asked again.
Delilah was not sure why the stranger in the woods wanted to know that, but she shared her reasons with him anyway. She told him all about her broken family. She told him about her parents being immigrants and how they adjusted to an American lifestyle. About her mother still believing in tribal superstitions yet being obsessed with modern designs and fashion. About her father, who cannot handle his wife and therefore runs into the arms of any woman that is kind to him. About herself just wanting to have a normal home. A roof under which people who loved one another lived peacefully. But why was she saying all of that to a person she just met in the forest? Delilah straightened.
“How did you do this?” she asked. “How did you make me tell you all of this?”
The man shrugged.
“My name is Mr. Thumper,” he said as he extended his hand.
Delilah did not take it. “What a creep,” she thought.
“Fair enough. I understand you’re not ready,” Mr. Thumper said and turned his back to Delilah.
“If you ever want to talk, come find me,” he said and walked away.
Delilah looked at the mysterious stranger as he walked away. Still paralyzed with fear, she tried to process the weird encounter. “There was something wrong with his…” she thought as the man knocked on a tree three times, took a step forward, and disappeared into thin air.
“Holy crap,” Delilah gasped, rubbing her eyes in disbelief.
New energy filled her, and Delilah got up to her feet and approached the tree on which the man knocked. “My brain must be playing tricks on me,” she thought to herself as she knocked. Once, twice, three times.
All of a sudden, the trees from in front of her disappeared, and her house stood just a few yards away from her. Delilah tilted her head. Was she that delirious? Deciding that it must have been the mystery man who had hypnotized her, she walked towards the house. Her bedroom window was still open. She breathed a sigh of relief and climbed into her room. Once inside, she let out a yelp. Mr. Thumper was sitting on her bed.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Have a seat, young lady,” the stranger said and pointed to the chair by the desk.
Delilah took a step forward and then froze in place, considering her options. She realized she was right about him being a creep and a rapist. He was in her bedroom for heaven’s sake!
“I’ll call my mom if you don’t get out of here right now,” she threatened, but the man on her bed did not move.
“I won’t hurt you. I promise. I just want to talk,” he said, taking off his hat and revealing rabbit ears.
Delilah gasped. She knew his nose looked weird in the forest, but the hat, the glasses, and the high-collared coat made it impossible for her to make a full conclusion. He was not a rapist-serial killer. He was a man-rabbit. She didn’t know what was worse. Delilah’s knees weakened, and the world in front of her eyes blacked.
When she came to, she was lying in her bed. Mr. Thumper standing over her.
“There you are!” he exclaimed.
Delilah tried to sit up but could not. Something was holding her arms and legs down.
“Moooooom!” Delilah screamed as loudly as she could.
Donna appeared in the doorway within a second.
“Why did you have to go and do that?” the man-rabbit asked.
“I wanted to explain everything to you first,” he continued.
“Oh, honey, were you having a bad dream?” Donna asked and approached Delilah’s bed.
“Can’t you see him?” Delilah asked frantically.
“Of course I can see Mr. Thumper, you silly,” Donna replied and hugged Delilah.
“She’s not ready yet, Donna,” the stranger said.
“I see. I will give you two some time, then,” Donna said and hurried out the door.
“Daa-” Delilah tried to call for her father, confused by her mother’s reaction to the stranger in her daughter’s room.
“Enough!” Mr. Thumper said, and she obeyed.
Delilah did not want to, but her mouth closed against her will.
“Welcome to the world of your dreams. Here, your mother shows affection and your father is an accomplished man. They love you and each other. They never argue or complain about anything you do,” the man-rabbit explained.
That was the first time she got lost in the forest, met Mr. Thumper, and met her alternate self. She spent the whole weekend with better models of Donna and Daniel. Each time she returned, it was harder to leave. Delilah made up her mind. This time, she was going to stay forever.
Delilah approached the birch tree in between two old oaks and pressed her knuckles against its bark. She knocked.
“Write a story in which someone finds a secret passageway.”
– a prompt for the latest CW pieces.
Click on the hyperlink above to be transported to Reedsy’s blog where you can view other submissions for this prompt, as well as other prompts. It is a lot of fun.
Maybe we can connect there?! Feel free to browse through my other submissions that are not featured on this blog and comment.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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