Naturally, I was scared. I knew exactly how Alice had felt as soon as she'd landed in Wonderland, and I didn't like it. I mean, it wasn't like Dodo Birds were coming out of the trees, or I was creating an ocean with my tears, but something had definitely happened when I'd climbed out of the tree. These woods weren't murky brown and dull green. They weren't littered with trash. They were golden and bright, beautiful and lively, even if it was cold and growing darker, as it had been in my woods.
Something was definitely different about the trees. They moved in a different way. Like... they were more... alive.
I forced myself to remain calm. I was doing better than I imagined in a situation like this. I had no idea where I was, but there was no panic. I waited for it, but it didn't come. I decided I couldn't just stand here. What would be the point? No one was around here. Just the trees.
So I re-laced my boots and shoved my hands in my pockets, starting to move away from the hollowed tree. A tree that didn't seem so hollow anymore.
As I walked, my nose started to go numb. I didn't realize how cold it was when I'd left the house, and it was colder still in this new place. Tiny, perfect snowflakes began to make their way through the leaves of the canopy. I was in awe. My fascination overpowered my fear of the cold and loneliness; the entire place leaked wonder.
Leaves crunched and twigs snapped behind me. Every time I would jump, but whenever I looked, nothing was there. I felt no eyes on my back, and was assured that I had to keep moving and not let it bother me. Maybe I was dreaming. This thought entered my mind more than once.
It was too real to be a dream, and my toes would be numb if it was. Soon I came to what appeared to be a clearing, wide and large, an exact circle. As the trees thinned and I got closer I got, I thought I was seeing animals. I squinted and rubbed my eyes, and sure enough, there they were. They weren't just animals. They were, but they weren't.
I swore I was seeing things, because what I was seeing didn't exist. Sure, there were normal animals; but most of these wouldn't be able to coexist with each other, much less coexist with this biome. I wondered then if I'd been drugged, because as I stepped behind a tree [as close as I would allow myself to get to these creatures], I could see every hair on the back of a black centaur a few yards away. There were also minotaurs, big and black with course hair and large horns. There were tiny men, dwarves or elves or something. Petals and dry leaves swirled around the heads of the group, forming and dispersing into human shapes. Lights as big as fists buzzed on the wings of insects. All of them fidgeted, but none made a noise. None looked at one another. Just straight ahead at platform stone overlooking the crowd.
Not much time later, at least, it couldn't have been because the snow had barely made a layer on the frosted ground, I could hear something behind the platform. All the creatures seemed to have heard it, too.
A lion emerged, behind him springing and eager-looking tiger. They were both as large as rhinos, the biggest big cats I've ever seen. The lion looked over the array of creatures silently. He sat. His eyes shown through the twilight like tiny golden suns and his coat seemed to glimmer with flakes of gold as well. Snowflakes seemed to melt a second before they touched him.
The tigress [I knew because when you tried to think of her as a he, it didn't work]had a bright white stomach when she sat, a color that seemed to be spreading through her body with the arrival of winter. She was slightly smaller than the massive lion, yet bigger than a fully grown tiger. I liked her. I liked her very much.
They sat in silence. No one- nothing, moved. The fairies and sprites seemed to have landed, because the air was still. All but the snowflakes. The centaurs looked at them with distain.
I must have been standing there for an hour, maybe a minute [I had no idea] until something actually happened. And when something happened, it happened. My toes may have been numb, and my eyes watering, but I had been good for this. Though nothing could have prepared me. It happened.
Something the creatures had all been waiting for.
The lion opened it's mouth, and spoke.