OTW Book 1 – Chapter 2

OTW Book 1 – Chapter 2

“Ouch!” Cecelia hissed in pain as she rubbed the back of her head, looking around in confusion and fear. She might’ve also said some words that her father would be very much not proud of her saying, though she’d never admit to it. From somewhere in the woods, something was screaming, and it had woken her up in a manner she wasn’t at all happy about from a dream that had just been starting to get interesting. She was almost angry about it, to be honest. Keyword being ‘almost’.

It’s basic common sense that when something is screaming in the woods, you should probably be concerned about it. Or at least, that was what Cecelia’s basic common sense said. Placing her feet on the floor and standing up out of her bed, Cecelia quickly found herself walking quietly over to her bedroom door and opening it, stepping out into the nighttime hallway of her house and immediately making a beeline for her brother’s room. She quietly inched open his door, which she hadn’t done in a long time after she’d finally gotten over her fear of the dark, but she felt she had an obligation to check on him. Maybe the screaming had woken him up, too. Maybe she could talk to him about it.

Unfortunately for her, Leroy was sleeping like a log in his bed, snoozing away through the cacophony of sound coming from outside. It was as though he didn’t hear it at all, breaking Cecelia’s spirit almost immediately with the thought almost anyone would’ve had in that situation; I must be going crazy…

Cecelia sighed and closed his door again, trying not to wake him whilst also trying not to listen to the immediate swarm of thoughts that she was just hearing things and something was wrong with her. Mustering up the fragments of her courage and determination, she marched over to her father’s room instead, inching open the door to check on him, just like she had with Leroy. Maybe he- oh. Nevermind, she thought, hopes immediately getting crushed like a bug again when her eyes fell upon her soundly sleeping father. Nobody else in the house was awake or aware of the screaming outside, and she closed the door to Brad’s room as well, trudging back off to her own room and flopping down on her beanbag chairs, staring up at the ceiling with a heavy sigh.

This must be another dream, she told herself. I had a dream inside a dream. It’s dreamception. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Cecelia rolled over onto her side. If she was fine, she certainly didn’t feel it. The sound from the forest kept coming and coming, and all she could think to do was go grab her phone and headphones and turn them on, trying to drown out her fear with her favorite songs. She’d feel better soon, she was sure of it. She just needed to close her eyes for a little and imagine something happy, like she’d been taught to do in school when she was little.

Dawn came with golden light through Cecelia’s bedroom windows and the opinionated beeping of her alarm clock. Blinking her eyes open to find that she’d fallen asleep in her little library nook listening to folk music, Cecelia sat up, hair a disheveled mess in front of her face from her usual habit of tossing and turning during the night. She yawned, stretched, and turned off all the sounds she could, blinking sleepily. It was morning and everything was okay. She was okay. It was just a dream, according to her common sense, which at this point she was more than willing to believe in the face of her other option and the many questions that came with it. She’d had a bad dream and ended up sleepwalking like she’d done that one time when she was 7.

Getting dressed didn’t take her very long at all, and she was soon in the living room, wrapped up in her favorite gray jacket and waiting for her toast to be done toasting, which seemed to take longer than it should’ve. Patience had never really been her forte.

Perhaps the slow toasting of the toast wasn’t so bad after all. After all, it did give her time to think. Like about that dream inside of a dream that she’d had that night. What did it mean? What is my subconscious on about this time?

It seemed Oakwood had a lot of strange figures in store for her, that was for sure. First the ones on the hill, now the ones in the dream… what was next, strange figures at Walmart? She figured she’d have to wait and see, which she wasn’t exactly pleased about.

More importantly, what the everloving heck had Leroy been doing in that dream?! She wasn’t one to normally dream about her brother. She saw him enough during the day, after all. Usually dreams with him in them meant something, like about her… bad memories. The ones she didn’t want to relive. Did that dream inside of a dream mean something? If it did, what did it mean? Not knowing was like the worst kind of torture ever to her, a horror of horrors second only to sitting in the car at a McDonald’s drive-thru for more than 30 minutes. 

On top of all that, what were the road figures doing in her dream? Normally, she wanted to chock it up to herself focusing on it so much during her waking hours that it seeped into her dreams, but something about the nature of the dream had her asking questions. 

Questions that she couldn’t ask, because Leroy suddenly appeared beside her (he was a quiet walker, though she liked to joke that he actually just teleported everywhere) and spoke. “Cecelia, are you okay?”

Cecelia just about jumped out of her skin. “Geez louise! Leroy!” she exclaimed, whipping around to look at him with wide brown eyes. “Don’t scare me like that!”

“Sorry, sorry!” he replied, putting up his hands in the universal gesture of ‘I don’t want any trouble’. His face darkened a little with genuine worry, and Cecelia immediately felt bad for reacting the way she did, “You just looked so far away… you’re not thinking about her again, are you?” 


The words came out flat and monotone, something Cecelia didn’t like at all, but figured was better than her usual rage. She hadn’t thought about her in awhile, and she didn’t really want to start now.

Leroy wrapped her up in one of his big, warm, signature big bro hugs and kissed the top of her head. Cecelia smiled warmly and hugged back. “I love you, beanstalk.”

Leroy chuckled. “And I love you, shortstack.”

Those were their nicknames for one another. Leroy was almost six feet tall, while Cecelia had only beaten five feet by a measly four inches and was affectionately referred to by the tall members of her family on her father’s side as being the family’s resident gnome. She’d learned to take it in stride, but only from her father and brother. The rest of her relatives poking fun at her made her pretty irritated.

“My toast is taking waaaaay too long,” she complained, and grimaced when Leroy chuckled at the statement. “What?” she snapped, now a little irritable. She hated being laughed at.

“You forgot to turn the toaster on.”

Cecelia uttered some words she’d heard her father use in heavy traffic once or twice and rather aggressively flipped the toaster switch on, snarling as she did. 

Leroy gently, awkwardly, rubbed circles on her back to soothe her a little. It kind of worked, though Cecelia promised herself then and there that she’d never admit it for the sake of her pride. She just sort of stood there awkwardly and watched the toaster do its thing, making a binging noise at her when her food was done.

Careful of the hot metal of the toaster, Cecilia gently inched her toast out of its burning prison and slathered it with delicious butter. She took little bites, savoring it as she watched Leroy move around the kitchen to prepare some cereal for himself, then sat down at the table to watch him while he ate.

Leroy looked up at her from his bowl of Froot Loops and milk and furrowed his eyebrows at her. “What?” he asked, through a mouthful of brightly colored sugary cereal rings, the word coming out muffled. He was used to her doing this and already anticipated the answer, another joke between brother and sister every single morning, practically part of the breakfast routine at that point.

“Your cheerios are gay.”

There it was. The classic gay cheerios joke. It barely even warranted a laugh anymore, given how many times it had been used, but it was a beloved breakfast staple nonetheless.

“Think we should go for a walk today?” Leroy posited after taking a bite of his decidedly gay cereal, “Dad’s gonna want us to.”

“Dad always wants us to go for a walk. He thinks we spend too much time inside,” Cecelia replied as she finished off her toast, “But sure.”

Brad, heavy man that he was, walked down the stairs at that very moment, feet causing thunderous footsteps that rang throughout the house. “Good morning, you two! Are you kids thinking of going for a walk today? It’d be great to go see the neighborhood some more!”

Speak of the devil and he shall appear, as the saying went.

Leroy downed the last of his cereal, practically drinking it from the bowl. “Already on it, Dad!” he said cheerily, grabbing Cecelia by the wrist and dragging her towards the door. “We’ll be back by twelve!”

“Ow!” Cecelia yelped the second they were out the door. “That hurts, doofus! What was all that about?” Leroy had never been an eager walk-taker, so Cecelia was very much weirded out by how enthusiastic he seemed to be at the moment. Maybe he’d had a dream he wanted to talk to her about? It was a long shot, but she didn’t really have any other guesses.

“Sorry, I just don’t want him to have me keep helping with extra furniture stuff,” Leroy confessed, walking briskly down the street but fortunately letting go of his sister’s wrist. Leroy had always hated heavy-duty work such as moving and dealing with furniture, given as he had little twig arms that Cecelia figured could barely lift a dust bunny, but he was frequently dragged into such work anyways by their father, who seemed intent on improving his son’s ability to lift and otherwise handle things.

Cecelia sighed and looked at the little nail indents her brother’s grab had left her with, but let the situation go. The sky above was a signature blue dappled with white clouds, though it was hard to see through the trees, and the slowly-turning-colder late summer air was at the perfect temperature. Not too hot, not too cold. Just perfectly right.

“So where are we going?”

“There’s a park about half a mile up the hill from where we live,” Leroy replied, focusing mostly on the lawns of the houses they were walking past. Apparently lawn gnomes were like a staple of living in their neighborhood, if the copious amounts of stupid lawn decorations most of their neighbors seemed to have were anything to go by. 

“Wow, you like studying town maps more than I thought. Is it, like, a playground kind of park or more of a nature park type of park?”

“Kinda both? I mean it’s got a playground but there’s also a big field and I think a little dog park there, too, if I’m remembering the town pamphlet correctly.”

“Sounds nice. Let’s go!”

“We are going, Cecelia. What we’re doing right now is going.”

“I meant let’s go faster.”

Leroy sighed. “I wanted to admire the scenery, though!” he playfully whined. Cecelia elbowed him in the ribs and smiled up at him.

“Fine, I’ll be slow too, ya big crybaby.”

Leroy laughed, a sound that was warm and welcoming and made Cecelia laugh, too. Something about the sound made her feel safe enough to ask about the strangeness of the town, a decision she regretted the second she acted on it.

“Hey Leroy, do you think there’s any truth to what the townsfolk say about this town? How strange things live in the woods?”

Leroy scoffed, and Cecelia bit back the urge to punch him in the shoulder. “No!” he said, maybe a little condescendingly. “There’s no way any of that is true. I think everyone here might just be a little superstitious, and from the looks of it it’s already starting to spread to you.”

Cecelia felt irritated by that, and nearly opened her mouth to say something about the figures, but stopped herself from doing so, realizing that it was going to cause more stress than she wanted to have at the moment. Instead, she took a deep, shaky breath and smiled up at him, forcing a little laugh to escape from her mouth. “Yeah, you’re right. I guess this town might just be sleepy enough that I’m trying to make it more entertaining already.”

“Y’know, you could just go for a walk downtown. That sounds pretty interesting.”

“But I’d have to get Dad to drive me there,” Cecelia pointed out. Usually her brother was the one who’d state a fact that had been glossed over like that, but sometimes the roles reversed.

“Fair point.”

A momentary silence hung in the air before Leroy spoke again. “Listen, just don’t get caught up chasing things that aren’t real, okay? You might get hurt and I don’t want that to happen to my little sister.”

She nodded solemnly. “I won’t, don’t worry.”

I know what I saw.

As Cecelia and Leroy made their way through the streets and trails of Oakwood’s outskirts on the way to the park, Cecelia caught herself looking around in a nervous, paranoid way more than once. Each time she scoffed mentally and dismissed it, but minutes later she’d catch herself again. It felt like something was… watching her? Cecelia couldn’t be sure. Leroy was looking at the trail straight ahead, moving faster than her due to his longer legs and longer strides. Keeping up was a struggle, but in the slightly darker patch of woods they were in at the moment, Cecelia managed anyhow. It was better than being left alone. So, so much better than being left alone.

“There’s the park!” Leroy’s voice suddenly exclaimed, nearly giving Cecelia a heart attack before she realized what was going on. She reached out to grip her brother’s sleeve as the two began to jog towards the clearing ahead, tripping and falling and rolling on the grass together, laughing at one another.

They laid there in the grass together for a little bit before a male voice called out to them. “Hey! You two okay?”

Cecelia shot to her feet immediately to see a boy with dark skin and close-cropped black hair approaching them, followed by a blonde girl with classic California tanned skin and a girl with big, round glasses and black hair. Cecelia chuckled a little. “We’re fine!” she reassured them between laughs as Leroy groaned and sat up. It seemed to Cecelia for a second that her brother’s green eyes looked right into the blonde girl’s blue ones and some sort of connection sparked in the air, but Leroy promptly looked at his sister instead and struggled to his feet before Cecelia could observe anything more. She watched as her brother adjusted his red-and-white checkered jacket on his shoulders and smiled at the unfamiliar people.

The dark skinned boy sighed in relief. “Oh thank goodness. It always worries me when people fall over. I don’t think I’ve seen you two before. I’m Govind!”

Cecelia shook his hand when he reached it out. “I’m Cecelia! My big brother and I are new to town.”

Leroy waved somewhat shyly from behind his sister. “I’m Leroy.”

The girl in the glasses grinned. “Nice to meet you! I’m Tessa Chang, but everybody calls me Tess,” she said, and Cecelia got the immediate feeling that she and this girl would get along wonderfully. Tess gave her the vibes of a clever girl who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and that was the exact type of personality Cecelia liked having as a friend.

The blonde girl smiled and pushed a little bit of her short hair out of her face, glancing occasionally at Leroy. “I’m Millie.”

Cecelia heard her brother gently whisper the girl’s name and elbowed him gently. She could already tell he liked Millie, but now wasn’t the time to flirt. She actually didn’t think Leroy was even capable of flirting. She’d never even seen him have a crush before that she could remember. Then again, of course no sister sees all the aspects of her brother’s life.

Time passed quickly in that park as the group chatted and ran around. It was almost like being a little kid again, actually, with playing tag and climbing on the jungle gym equipment. Only when the sun began to dip below the treeline did everyone part ways and go home for dinnertime. Cecelia felt it should have lasted forever, especially with what ended up happening that night.

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