The Changing of
Autumn Competition – Winner Grade 11
The dense fog hung heavy over the treetops. The once bright leaves of fiery reds and oranges had dulled to murky browns. Somewhere, a crow cawed into the stillness of the dawn. The frosted grass crunched underfoot and the brisk air had turned my nose a bright red and my cheeks a rosy pink. It was mid-November, the days were growing shorter and the temperature was dropping. I pulled my scarf further up to cover my face, tugged my hood up onto my head and tucked my gloved hands into the deep pockets of my coat. I had been walking for close to an hour and still wasn’t ready to head home. Lost in thought and beginning to fall into a zombie-like state, I was brought back to reality by a branch that sent me flying forward, crashing face-first into a pile of leaves. Winded by the ground beneath me, yet softly cushioned by the damp leaves, I stayed where I was. The fog had sunk lower into the woods and thickened. The world fell silent.
All of a sudden I heard the crunching of leaves and the snap of twigs. I wasn’t alone. My heart began to pound in my chest, with a feeling of overwhelming terror I whipped my head up and twisted around, but the dense fog made it impossible to see much more than my own two hands. I held my breath, waiting for something, anything. That’s when I saw her. She kicked her leg straight out of the thick cloud and I swear I saw it part for her.
The girl had jet black hair and a pale, almost sickly complexion yet her bright green eyes looked as though they could see into your soul. She must have been fifteen or sixteen. She wore a long scarlet jacket that was hiding a tartan quilt and crisp white shirt. Besides the jacket, she wasn’t wearing anything to keep warm. No gloves or mittens. Not a scarf wrapped around her neck, nor a woollen hat atop her head. Her long raven hair fell over her shoulders loosely and her bare hands swung down by her side. She wore a mischievous look as though perhaps she was not supposed to be there. Her eyes darted around to see if anyone was watching. I held my breath, not moving a muscle, hoping my jacket would blend into the shrubbery. Satisfied with her thorough search, the girl raised her arms above her head, shut her eyes tight with a look of great concentration. Then with pop and loud rustle the leaves of all the trees around us came away from the branches in an explosion of colour. I let out a gasp in pure wonder. This was a mistake. I was so in awe that I hadn’t noticed the direction in which the girl was looking. She had spotted me. For a split second, I saw her confidence waver. I held her gaze for as long as I could. Then, she flashed a smile and retreated back into the mist.
After ten minutes of waiting, I knew she was not coming back. Standing up I had not realised quite how soaked I had become. Nor had I noticed the chill that was beginning to creep into my bones. The fog had retreated with the raven-haired girl and what was left was remarkable. Each and every one of the trees for miles around was totally barren and the forest floor had turned a mix of reds and oranges. Slowly, I turned and began walking back through the silent forest. Once I had reached the comfort of home I sat by the window looking out at the empty forest. Just then I heard the whistle of the wind and what I thought was laughter somewhere deep in the woods.
And then it began to snow.
by Ottilie, Grade 11