Mackenzie Tanaya and the Faerie Key: Part One, Chapter #2

# 2 Cold, Wet, Muddy and Miserable

Mackenzie continued to stare up at the night sky, flat on her back, right where she had landed. That’s right, she had landed, hadn’t she? The sliding down a muddy hill – that had just happened, right? Something had happened, because now she was lying down on what felt like quite damp ground in some never-before-discovered place in her backyard garden. And it was night. It was day when I fell, she thought. Bright stars this night – the night that had come around too early. Normally only a few stars scattered across the sky in their familiar formations, but right now she looked up at a vast white carpet of stars which painted a great line across the sky, in a haze of brightness. It was almost as though she could see other galaxies beyond the belt of stars and planets. It was beautiful, like a big white ribbon wrapped around the earth’s sky ready for someone to receive on their birthday. She suddenly remembered it was her birthday – double digits. Happy birthday Mackenzie.

She might have been hypnotised by the beauty above her had it not been for the sound of deep breathing somewhere out there in the darkness. There was someone – something else here. Afraid to move or make any sound, she simply blinked a couple of times, then stared back at the sky, listening for where the breathing was coming from.

She heard it again, closer this time, almost right next to her on the cold damp ground. Her pale freckled skin formed goose-pimples all over her arms and legs; she was covered in wet sticky mud; she shivered. The deep breathing grew louder and more rapid. It was on top of her but she couldn’t see it. It was under her, but she couldn’t feel it. Mackenzie knew she needed to sit up – she couldn’t lay there forever – but she was scared to do so. It was like when you are in bed and wake up in the middle of the night, and need to go to the toilet; but you can’t bring yourself to do so, because of the imaginary monsters which live under your bed. Mummy told her they were imaginary, but let’s face it, in the middle of the night that theory offers little comfort to someone who just woke up from a scary dream. Oh! Perhaps that’s what this is. A weird, scary, slippery, muddy, cold – dream, that just seemed more real than most. Oh okay, it’s just a dream, it’s just a…

The worst part of any falling dream, including this one, was that you found nothing to grab onto to stop. You were always helpless, unable to rescue yourself, crying out to some greater force to save you from your peril. The sequence of events flowed back into her mind – the path, her garden, Chess, the mad white chook – then falling, falling down that mysterious muddy hill and ending in darkness. The deep breathing became faster and faster. This really was an awful dream and she knew she had to sit up and confront the deep breathing monster to wake herself up. If only I could…

It wasn’t courage, the poor little girl was terrified of what might be out there in the darkness. What finally made her sit up was the freezing temperature of the ground under her, turning her body into a goose-pimply icy pole. She sat up in the dark and cold to confront the deep breathing monster.

The monster wasn’t real, but this place was. It was no dream. As she sat upright her head began to spin. Looking down at her heaving chest she realised that the deep breathing had been her own. She had been scared of her own breath. Oh, how silly, she thought, but she felt relieved.

Mackenzie held the big-red-plastic-torch tightly as she rose to her feet. She felt around her body to check that all vital organs were intact. By some miracle her pink beanie was still fitted to her head, perhaps because she fell backwards and upside down. Her shorts and t-shirt were all covered in mud – everything a sticky mess. The torchlight revealed dark red bubbles oozing out of the mud covering her knee, dripping down the sides of her leg. She was bleeding.

Okay, this was not a dream. The blood dripping out of her knee was real as can be. As the calmness that comes with shock wore off, the next stage set in – panic. The impact of what had just happened became real. She’d had an accident. She was covered in mud. She was cold. It was dark. She was hurt. Alone – she hoped so. She froze for a minute. And then, as any ten-year-old would do in this situation – she began to cry.

Her eyes weld up and little wet tears started trickling down her face. Her breathing changed to short sharp breaths, which were like hiccups. She made a few little coughs from her throat. He breathing rate increased again. Finally, she burst into a tropical storm of tears and stood there in the miserable darkness. Muddy, wet and cold.

“Mummy,” she sobbed. “Mummy!”

No answer. After a moment, she calmed a little and wiped the tears from her face. Why am I standing here all alone? Why hasn’t Mummy come to get me? Her eyes still flowing with tears narrowed as her mind raced to solve this problem. Mummy was still at work, that’s why. Oh yes, but what about Nanny or Poppy – where were they? Couldn’t they hear her crying in the darkness? Mackenzie cried louder and made Awhher! sounds mixed in with the general bawling. Nobody came. How long had she been here?

“I don’t think I’m in my garden anymore,” she whispered to herself. The bawling stopped, the tears dried up.

Mackenzie looked down at the red liquid slowly bubbling from her knee, and decided that if no one else was coming to help her then she would just have to help herself. I mean she could just keep standing there in the cold and damp I suppose, but what good would that do? This wouldn’t get any better from standing still and doing nothing, that was for sure.

“I’m going to need a band-aid,” she said to herself. Her voice sounded loud in this silent place – older. Shining the light of the torch around she saw tall green bushes surrounding her, and behind them trees reaching up to the night sky. Scattered about on the ground were large rocks about the size of a three-man tent. Then smaller medium-sized rocks surrounding them – big enough to sit on, breaking up the green covering running across the ground. Some of the rocks were covered in spots of fungus, or moss or something, that formed those round carpets of tiny little hairs.

Mackenzie hobbled over to one of the bushes that surrounded this place. She looked down and shone the big-red-plastic-torch along the boundary-line of the shrubs. She looked for some kind of mark made in the grass, or fallen leaves or broken sticks in the bushes – anything that would indicate the place she had fallen through. Some sign of where she entered this place would logically also show the way to get back to her house. She might not have been in her garden anymore, but obviously she must have been in one of the neighbour’s yards, or the industrial junkyard behind the Garden-Villa. But there was no mark. No sign of where the muddy hill had shot her out into this place like a little pink bullet. Almost as though she had appeared here by magic. That must be it right? Just like in the books and movies – magic. Either way she was still stuck here.

Mackenzie reached out her hand and felt along the big round leaves – the same type with the big orange flowers in her garden, where the chook had scared her. She grabbed at a stem and plucked one from the bush. Scrunching it up a little in her hand she felt its rough texture. A layer of the leaf began to peel off the top when she rubbed it back and forth with her fingers. It was like a sticker that you had to carefully peel off a sheet of paper in a magazine to stick on your school books. Mackenzie helped it along with her fingernails, and found that it peeled off quite easily. Just like the magazine school-book labels the top of this leaf was also sticky underneath. She held it up and shone the torchlight on it – a thin layer of see-through paper, like they wrap food with at the Chinese restaurant. She tugged at it, pulling it in opposite directions – but it was strong, it didn’t break.

I wonder if I could use this as a band-aid?

Leaning over she brushed off a little of the mud still covering her knee. The blood had clotted a bit, but as she wiped the dirt off it started dripping again. Mackenzie felt that panic sensation creep into the front of her brain again. She took a big deep breath and held it, her cheeks popping out like tennis balls. She wasn’t going to let the panic get the better of her, not now while she had a chance to fix her knee. The panic paused, not daring to come up closer while her breath was held. She placed the sticky layer of leaf over the dripping wound. It sealed quickly and firmly as she rubbed over it with both hands starting in the middle and then sliding down both sides of the knee. It clutched the skin perfectly, sealing it like a very tight moulded plastic. Standing on her right leg, with both arms now out for balance, she swung her left leg back and forth, bending the knee to see if the leaf would hold. It did. Just like a band-aid from home – better. Much better. Moments after it sealed itself to her skin it not only stopped the bleeding, but now produced a cooling sensation around the wound, and she felt an energy flow up from it throughout her body. Like a sugar-rush made from vegetables. She giggled. Her leg felt strong.

A little smile came over her face. She had fixed her wound all by herself. She stood up with a bleeding knee, discovered a sticky leaf, and worked out that it could be used as a band-aid. There’s nothing wrong with feeling proud of yourself when you achieve something good. She had done a very good job.

“I think I’ll be a doctor,” she said to herself.

It was one thing to fix a hurt knee, but another thing altogether to find her way back home. She could walk now, but it was still dark, still cold and she was still covered with quite a bit of drying mud. Her leg still hurt a little as she walked around (but nowhere near as much as it had before), so she moved to one of the medium-sized spotted rocks and slumped herself down upon it with a thud.

Mackenzie looked out towards the bushes, not really looking at them but staring into space, giving herself a rest, and at the same time trying to give her brain a chance to figure what she should do next. Her tummy moved and made a sound inside. Oh, she thought, where’s the toilet here? That’s the thing they don’t tell you in the adventure books. Where do the Hobbits go to the toilet? It’s all very well to let your mind fall into an epic journey with fictional creatures, but in between their battles and hiking where does a Hobbit do a poo? Elves didn’t ever poo – she was pretty sure of that. A little fart squeaked out of her bottom and made its way across the rock, and the hot smell rose into her nostrils. She scrunched up her face – that was a good one.

“Oy!” growled a voice coming from the rock. “That’s bad!”

Mackenzie jumped up with a start! She didn’t dare say anything out loud, but looked this way and that trying to figure out where the voice had come from. She couldn’t see anything – or anyone – who might have spoken to her. Taking a slow breath in and out, she realized she might have imagined it. Her stomach grumbled. It was true she hasn’t eaten in a while. Certain not since she had fallen into this strange place. She listened once more but heard nothing. Then calmly took a breath and sat back down on the spotted rock, as another little fart reverberated against it.

“Oh, come on!” said the voice again. “That is the worst!”

Mackenzie jumped up quicker than before this time, and spun around.

“Who is there?” she asked again, a little more politely. “Who is there, please?”

“That stinks!” replied the grumpy voice. “What a way to wake somebody up.”

“I – I’m sorry,” said Mackenzie not knowing who she was addressing.

“It’s just rude really!” said the voice.

It seemed to be coming from right in front of her but she couldn’t see anyone. Not anything that should be speaking in any case. The only things in this whole place were shrubs and trees – grass and spotted rocks.

Mackenzie leaned forwards and spoke quietly. “But, where are you? I can’t see you.”

“Well, you could certainly see me well enough before,” snapped the voice. “Well enough not being good enough as they say.”

“I’m sorry…” Mackenzie said, not knowing to whom.

“And you farted on my head!” the voice went on. “How could you not have seen me if you could see quite clearly to sit down and fart on top of my person? Twice!”

“Are you a talking rock?” said Mackenzie.

“A rock? How rude,” said the voice coming from the spotted rock. A groaning, coughing sound came out of the rock. It began to quake and slowly rise from the ground. As it rose the grass runners that had grown over the rock pulled tight and then snapped back towards the ground. Little bits of stone and dirt slid off.

Mackenzie stumbled backwards wondering how big this rock was going to get. As it grew she began to see the rock’s true form appear.

Black fur with brown stripes grew out of the sides of the rock as it rose from the ground. These stretched out into quite long arms and the hands at the end of each pushed flat against the ground, to help itself out of the warm hole it had been sleeping in. The rock leaned backwards revealing a face covered in hair. The rock was no rock at all. (No wonder the creature was upset at Mackenzie’s farts.) The eyes on the creature were gigantic, and seemed way out of proportion to its head. Its nose seemed uncomfortably squeezed between the two large round eyes. The mouth appeared smaller, but it was hard to tell because of all the hair covering the top lip. It had little pointy ears which were mostly hidden by the large spotted hat (if it was a hat and not its head). As it stood up Mackenzie saw its rather thin and hairy body appearing, contrasted by a little fat tummy poking out in front. It wore no shirt but wore something like shorts made of leaves and bark.

Its legs were a little fatter and still very hairy, and moving downwards the creature ended with two large flat hairy feet. The creature stood tall – or as tall as it could, but it was no taller than Mackenzie. However, its huge head and little fat legs made it appear much wider and rounder. As it took a step forwards a long thin tail whipped around from behind. The creature stood proudly with arms upon its hips, staring wildly at Mackenzie.

“I am no rock,” it said, breathing heavily.

Mackenzie stood still, staring at this hairy creature now standing before her. This was very strange indeed, and she really didn’t know what to make of it all. It looked perhaps like a type of cat. Possibly an old sick one. This was at least the closest comparison Mackenzie could make to anything else she knew.

“Oh,” said Mackenzie. “Are you a cat?”

The creature’s eyes grew bigger and bigger and its lips went smaller and smaller.

“A cat!” it shouted angrily. “No. I am no rock, and I am no cat.”

The hairy rock creature’s enormous eyes grew wider. It grabbed a small branch which lay on the ground, and using it as a walking-stick, it limped towards Mackenzie at a rapid pace. Raising the stick, it poked her in the belly with it. Mackenzie reacted with a frown and took a step backwards.

“Enough of your questions,” it said. “You come into my realm, uninvited, unannounced and start asking me impertinent questions about my origin, ripping leaves off my shrubs as though you own the place. You wake me up by sitting on my head and farting, and then proceed to call me all types of names. How rude!”

Mackenzie was stunned. She was about to open her mouth to form some sort of apology when the creature interrupted again.

“A cat!” cried the creature, poking her with the stick again.

“I – I’m really very sorry,” Mackenzie said, “I don’t know what you are – you do kind of look like a cat, although I’ve never met a talking cat before. And – and well, I don’t know where I am really. I’ve never been in this part of the garden before and I can’t seem to find my way back home.” Tears welled up in Mackenzie’s eyes. “I really don’t understand what is happening.”

At first the creature looked at her suspiciously, but then its face softened and a look of compassion came over its old grim face.

“Humph,” he snorted. He paced around Mackenzie a couple of times, looking her over and giving her a few more pokes with his walking-stick. Then he stopped in front of her and frowned.

“The real question is how did you get here in the first place? I wasn’t expecting any visitors, and I always know when someone is expected. This is very strange, very strange indeed.”

“I was in my garden, and a white chook pushed me to the ground. Then I slid on my back a long, long way. Then when I opened my eyes it was dark, and cold, and I was here.”

The cat-like creature looked at her thoughtfully. “Muddy hill,” he muttered to himself. “Chook?” he continued.

“Are there any muddy hills in your garden child?” he asked.

“No. I don’t suppose that there are. There are lots of paths, and shrubs, and plants, and fruit trees.”

“Yes, yes” interrupted the creature.” Then how do you suppose you fell down a muddy hill if there are no muddy hills in your garden?”

“Oh” said Mackenzie. “I really don’t know. I…”

The creature moved even closer to her – right up to her face, and looked deep into her eyes.

“Child,” spoke the creature. “You have arrived here by nothing less than magic. Magic that is very rare. Magic that should not exist.”

I would LOVE it if you made a comment below – Josh Reid (author)

Read Part One, Chapter #3 HERE