“NO.” Forest hissed, his mother taking a step back. Forest and his mother, Megan, had been arguing about something small, like they always did. Forest always saw his mom as astilted woman. She had jet-black hair that reached her slim shoulders, and was a tall, curvy business woman. Forest, on the other hand, had raven black hair that went in all directions. He wore casual clothes, like the grey sweatshirt and blue jeans he was wearing now. He was an introverted boy, and short for his age.

Trudging by his mother, he grabbed his backpack and stormed out of their basic house. It was a white structure, and had three bedrooms despite only two people living there. He stared down at his Converse, the fall leaves crunching under his feet as he walked into the woods. Funny how he lived so close to a forest, seeing how his name is Forest. The woods always seemed nefarious to others, but to Forest, it was a safe spot, a place he could relax and be himself. Forest laid down in the soft, bright green grass, an exasperated sigh slipping from his chapped lips.

He stared at the threes above, which had little to no leaves on the seemingly dead branches. It was fall, after all.

He sighed again, eyes fluttering closed, but then immediately shooting open. He perked up from his lying position. His first assumption was that it was an animal, like a deer or rabbit, and he wasn’t wrong. There was another rustle in the bushes, the only one with leaves on them. Forest got up, regained his composure and stalked towards the bush in a cautious manner.

“Hello?” he said, as if whatever was in there would answer with a greeting of some sort. Reluctantly, the petite boy looked into the bushes and gasped. A cat, just larger than a microwave and seemed to have wings coming from its ribs, stared up at him with an unsettling amount of innocence. It ultimately reminded Forest of the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland. The cat ran away, trying to use its wings but only stumbling. Forest blinked, staring for a moment before processing what was going on and chasing after the cat. “Hey...wait!” he stuttered, picking up his pace. He continued to run for about 10 minutes before the cat stopped, causing him to almost trip on the small creature.

“Who is this, Jules?” A sudden English-accented voice spoke from behind him. He felt a dribble of sweat roll down his forehead as he whipped his head around, suddenly panicking at the taller figure, along with one a few inches shorter.

There stood a boy and a girl. The boy had brunette hair, that was washed and fixed thoroughly. Forest imagined the stranger’s locks being ‘downy’. His eyes were a purple colour; very rare. Forest was almost mesmerized by how they sparkled in the sun.

“What’s your name?” the girl suddenly asked. Forest noticed how aggressive it was. Her accent was Australian. Australian and English? Very extraordinary. Her perfume wafted into Forest’s nose, causing him to fall in love with the scent of roses. They were both very attractive, Forest concluded.

“I...um, Forest.” he stammered, giving a sheepish smile as he rubbed the back of his neck bashfully. The boy and girl looked at each other, nodded and walked over to Forest. He stumbled backwards as they strutted forwards, the cycle  going until he felt a tree hit his back. ‘Oh God. I’m dead.’ Forest thought to himself, the scent of both flowers and mint filling his nostrils and blooming into his two new favourite scents.

Suddenly, they both put out their hands. Forest was confused for a moment, but then quickly shook their hands, noting their firm grips. “I’m Diana and this is Thomas,” she spoke, less aggressively now, glancing at Thomas. “We’re siblings.” “Wait. If you’re siblings, then why do you guys have different accents?” Forest asked, getting his arms ready in case they decided to attack. “Well, our dad was Australian and our mum was British.” Thomas replied, looking down at his shoes and shuffling awkwardly. They probably got the question quite often. Or, at least, when they talk to people. They didn’t seem like the gregarious kind. “Was?” “Yeah, they died a few years ago.” Thomas responded glumly. Forest pitied the two siblings. They most likely didn’t want, nor like pity, but he couldn’t help it. “You’re staying with us.” Diana crossed her arms. Forest’s eyebrows tugged themselves into a narrowed look, his face expressed great confusion. “What?! No-I-I need to get back to my mother..” His voice was shaky. But, despite his plea, Diana pulled him towards their bunker - the opposite direction to his home. Forest struggled under her grip, trying to rip himself away from the two people. He’d kill to be back home, under his covers and watching a movie on his laptop. But he had to be here instead!

“We’re here.” Thomas smiled, letting Jules in before Diana dragged Forest and inching in last. The bunker was actually pretty large. For a bunker, at least. Forest stared in awe, but quickly realized where he was and scrambled to his feet, Diana letting go.

He watched as the bunker entrance closed, resulting in him being stuck between two strangers and a magical cat. He let out a string of curses before he sat against the wall and buried his face in his hands. Magnificent. Absolutely perfect.

He sniffled, the brief smell of his grandmother’s house invading his nostrils before leaving just as quickly. His grandma was also understanding, like his mom. She always bought treats instead of cooking them, though. Especially when Forest was upset or anxious. It was always donuts and always his favourite type, which is when her house always smelled like that.

Soon enough, Forest felt his eyes get droopy and he fell into a deep slumber.

When Forest woke up, Diana and Thomas were sitting in front of him, shaking his tired figure. “Huh?” he spoke groggily, voice husky as he did so.

“Jules is gone.” Thomas had panic laced in his voice, but Diana’s showed much less emotion. Forest shot up, his face twisting into a confused expression. “Gone?” he asked. “Yes, gone.” Diana said in unison with Thomas.

Forest wondered what could have happened to the poor cat. Eaten, shot, abducted, who knows? All he did know was that he had to find Jules. Forest stood up, his legs sounding like they had just broke as he did so.

Thomas handed Forest a piece of toast, but Forest was already consumed by finding Jules. As they walked outside, Forest took a bite out of the crunchy snack. It’d have to do for now. It wasn’t as good as the breakfast his mother would make him every morning, though. He could faintly hear the noise of sizzling bacon in his ears and could just barely taste the orange juice on his tongue. Now he yearned for a proper morning breakfast.

Scampering was heard from a nearby tree. Thomas, Diana and Forest all looked towards the noise and they saw a small glimpse of what seemed to be a spider leg.

A six-foot long spider leg.

The three teens split up, hiding behind trees as the spider crawled with abnormal speed. Forest’s chest heaved up and down and his back was pressed against the bark of the tree.Thomas climbed up a tree, hiding in the leaves but quickly realized that was a bad idea when the spider crawled up that same tree. He felt a shaky gasp slip from his chapped lips as it brushed against his leg and suddenly glared daggers with its dark, malicious eyes.

Diana and Forest heard a bloodcurdling scream ring in their ears. Diana reacted right away. She walked over to the creature, her glare just as cold as the spider’s, if not colder. “Let him go!” she screamed. The spider had Thomas in its grasp, but quickly let go and ran towards Diana.

She screwed her eyes shut and placed her palms out towards it, getting ready for the impact of the large spider...

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Jules in the next edition of Shākāt Journal to find out what happens to Forest and his new-found friends.

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