Kat was having a bad hair day. It was a school holiday, Carter was home sick with stomach flu, and Kat’s hair was just not doing what she wanted it to do. As she stood in her bathroom looking at her hair in the mirror, she noticed that it was starting to turn from red to black. The girl gasped and put her hand over her mouth in shock. As she continued looking at herself, her green eyes turned blue, and her freckles disappeared.
She grabbed the ends of her hair and looked to see if it had really changed color. Her hair was still red, but in the mirror, it was black. Suddenly, the whole background behind the altered image of herself changed from the bathroom into a beautiful forest. The changed girl in the mirror was actually looking at herself in the reflection of a pond, and she looked as surprised as our Kat was. Kat reached out to touch the surface of the mirror just as the changed image of Kat in the mirror reached toward the pool to touch the surface of the water.
Kat pulled her hand back from the mirror and said, “Who are you? Are you me?”
The girl in the mirror looked very similar to Kat except for the changes described above. “I don’t know who you are, but I am me. I am Kateran Hashsted. Who are you?”
“My name is Catherine Hamsted, but people call me Kat. What’s going on? Who are you? Where are you?”
“People call me Hash because I do not like my first name. I live here in the world. I live in Alavan. I came to this pond because it is my favorite place to be alone and think. Things have not been well for my family and me. I was just sitting here looking into the pond wishing that I knew someone who could help us, and then I saw my hair, eyes, and face change. I realize now that I was not changing; it was you appearing to me in this pond. Yet, it is so strange because you look very much like me. I have always wanted red hair and green eyes. I thought maybe I had fallen asleep by the pond, and I was having a dream. Do you think I am dreaming?”
Kat shook her head. “If you are dreaming then so am I. Tell me, Hash, what danger are you and your family in? Maybe I can help.”
“How can you help? I do not even know where you are. I see you in some sort of room with strange objects on the walls.”
Kat looked around and saw that she had her bathrobe hanging on the door hook behind her, and on the wall to the right of the door was a towel rack with a red facecloth hanging on it. “Oh, this is just our bathroom. Never mind that. I think that if I touch the surface of my mirror, it will transport me to where you are. Step back a little and let me try.”
Hash seemed a bit confused by all that Kat had told her, but she stood up and stepped back away from the pond. Kat grabbed a rubber band and then she reached out and touched the mirror surface. Just as predicted, the young teen found herself in Hash’s forest, facing the girl. Hash gasped in surprise. Kat gathered her unruly hair into a ponytail and quickly bound it with the rubber band.
Kat smiled at the other girl’s surprise and said, “I know how you feel. I am used to strange happenings. Ever since my friend, Carter and I journeyed beyond Dead Forest, there isn’t much that surprises me anymore. Now, let’s sit down and you can tell me about your family and what kind of troubles you are having.”
“It all started when my twin brother, Tobus, ran away from home. My mother and father have just us two children. Four days ago, my brother did not show up for evening meal. My father went looking for him while mother and I stayed home in case he returned. We waited until it was very late, and mother and I fell asleep by the fireplace. When we woke the next morning, it was still just mother and me. Father never returned home. Mother was beside herself with worry. We waited until noon meal, and when neither Tobus nor father returned, mother made me stay home while she went to look for them. That was three days ago, and none of them have returned. It is just me now, and I do not know what to do. Can you help me, Kat?”
Kat was a bit surprised that Hash seemed to have little or no curiosity about her new friend. She did not ask about where she came from or why she was willing to take a chance and pass through the mirror. Kat figured that the problems Hash was experiencing were so troubling that she just did not want to waste time with unimportant questions. On the other hand, how is it that Hash just seemed to trust Kat without questioning her at all? She had learned the hard way that people and things are not always what they seem to be. She decided that she needed to be cautious. “I might be able to help you. Have you any ideas what might have happened to your family?”
Hash jumped up and said, “Yes. Follow me, and I will show you what I have found.”
Kat stood and said, “Tell me first what you want to show me?”
“It’s nothing really. You do not have to be afraid. Come, and I will show you.”
“No. There is too something to be afraid of. You said that your whole family disappeared in a matter of hours. If that is true , then there definitely is a reason to fear. What if we end up missing? Who knows what is behind the disappearances. It could be anything. Unless…
“Unless, what?” Hash asked, looking suspicious. “You mean, unless I had something to do with their disappearances? That is absurd. I asked you for help. Why would I do that if I were responsible for my family disappearing? Kat, please, I need your help.”
“Okay, but first, I want you to tell me what you want to show me before I go with you.”
“I was going to show you some footprints I saw leading into an old coalmine. Maybe my brother went in there, got lost, and now he cannot find his way out. It could be that my parents went in to find him, and they got lost too.”
“All right, I will come with you, but only to see if it looks like someone might have entered the mine. Old mines are not safe, and no one should go wandering around in them. They can have poisonous gas, cave-ins, and sometimes dangerous animals live in them.” As the girls headed toward the mine, Kat continued, “Besides, aren’t there any adults you know who can help you look for your family? Don’t you have neighbors you can ask for help?”
Hash turned on Kat and snarled, “Will you please shut up! Don’t you ever stop talking?” The blue-eyed girl no longer looked anything like Kat. Her face was twisted with rage.
Kat was shocked. With confusion in her voice she said, “What?”
Quick as a flash Hash’s face returned to normal and she said, “Please forgive me. I do not know what came over me. It’s just that I have been so upset over my family. You understand, don’t you?”
Kat had a wary look on her face. “I’m not sure, Hash. I’m beginning to think that my decision to help you may have been a mistake.”
“No please. I need your help. I am really sorry. Look, we just need to stop by my house and pick up a lantern so we can see in the mine. It is just beyond that line of trees over there.” She pointed off to their left.
“All right, let’s get the lantern. But I warn you, Hash, if you are not being honest with me--”
“Kat, you can trust me. It is just that I do not have anyone else.”
Kat nodded, but she had a doubtful look on her face. One thing she made sure of was that she kept track of how to get back to the pond. She was ready to make a run for it if things got dangerous.
As the two neared the line of trees that blocked their view of Hash’s house, Kat could hear voices and sounds of hammering. It sounded like people working outside. She looked at Hash to see her reaction. The girl had a look of surprise on her face. “It sounds like my family might be home. But let’s be careful. If it is not them, we could be in trouble if the people who took them have taken over our house.”
“What do you mean the people who took them? I thought you said they wandered into a coalmine.”
“Kat, I do not know what happened to them. Let’s just be careful.”
Kat mumbled under her breath, “Careful is just what I plan to be.” This is not shaping up to look very good for me, she thought.
When the girls peeked through the trees, Kat could see a man, woman, and a boy outside chopping wood, planting flowers, doing repairs on a log cabin type building. “It’s them!” Hash exclaimed happily. “Come on Kat. I want you to meet them. Oh, I am so happy.” Kat was about to protest, when Hash reached out and took her hand in a strong grip and pulled her toward the family. “Mom! Dad! Look who I brought home. Kat is my new friend.”
The two adults dropped what they were doing and approached the girls. “Mom, Dad, Tobus, this is Kat. Is it okay if we have her for dinner? Please?”
“Well of course, dear.” To Kat the mother said pleasantly, “It is always a pleasure when Hash brings home a friend. It is nice to meet you, Kat.” The woman was a bit overweight, had rosy, plump cheeks, and black shoulder length hair.
Kat was beyond confused. “I don’t understand?”
The father said, “Did Hash use that old story about her family being missing to get you to come with her? She always does that. You will have to forgive her. She does not think anyone will come home to play with her unless she tells that awful story. But that is all it is, a story. As you can see, we are all just fine. Now why don’t you two go and play or do whatever it is you young people do, while we get things ready for dinner.” The father seemed to be just a bit too pleased to meet Kat. He was tall, thin, and had a lean angular face. His teeth seemed to be a bit more sharp than normal, and his head was totally bald. This along with the man's dead eyes, made him look a bit like a shark.
“Yes, come on Kat,” Hash said. “Let’s go for a walk, and I will show you all my favorite places.” Then to Tobus she said, “Do you want to come with us? The boy looked so much like his sister that if he did not have short hair and a masculine aura about him, he would be a perfect match to Hash.
The boy shook his head and said, “I do not like playing with my food. Then he saw his father scowling at him and the boy corrected, “I mean I do not like to play before I eat.”
Suddenly, Kat realized that the boy was correct the first time. Having Kat for dinner did not mean she was going to eat with them. She knew that she needed to get away as soon as she could. But she also knew that she could not let on that she understood that she was going to be dinner. “Sure, Hash, let’s go for a walk.”
“You girls don’t be gone too long. We need to start food preparations in about an hour,” the father said as he rubbed his hands together greedily.
“Do not worry. We will not be gone long. I’m getting hungry,” Hash said as she smiled innocently at Kat. That smile made goose bumps form on Kat’s skin and made a tingle go up her spine.
Kat cleared her throat and trying to keep any tremor out of her voice said, “The forest is so lovely, and the sun is so nice and warm. Can we walk back to the pond and go for a swim?”
“No silly. If you go back into the pond, you will go back to your world. You have to wait until after dinner.”
“You know, Hash, I didn’t let my mom know where I am. I really think I had better go back home. Maybe we can have dinner some other time.”
Hash ignored Kat’s statement and said, “I am going to show you my favorite climbing tree. Dad built me a tree house in it.” Hash grabbed Kat’s hand again and ran off toward her tree house. “There it is. It is beautiful is it not?”
“Very nice,” Kat said flatly.
“Come on and let’s climb up. You go first and I‘ll follow.”
Going first up the tree did not fit into Kat’s escape plan. “I don’t have any experience climbing trees. Will you go first and show me where to put my feet and the best places for handholds? I fear that if I go first, I will fall on you, and we’ll both get hurt,” Kat said convincingly.
“Oh, very well,” Hash said a bit miffed. “First you have to grab this low branch and pull yourself up so that you can get your foot into the hollow.”
“I see. Then, what do I do?”
As Hash continued climbing, she explained to Kat where to step and which branch to grab. When Hash was high enough, Kat decided that it was time to make her move and snuck off into the forest. When the dark-haired girl reached the tree house, Kat was already well on her way to the pond. “Kat! Where are you? Why didn’t you tell me you were afraid of heights?” Hash was too far up the tree to jump off. She had to climb back down, and once down, she understood where Kat was headed. Hash had to catch her before she jumped into the pond, or their dinner would get away.
With a good head start on her new cannibal friend, Kat felt sure that she was going to make it back into the pond before Hash could catch her. And she was right. Just three more steps and she would be back safe in her own home, and Hash was nowhere to be seen. One, two, and then Tobus jumped out in front of her. He grabbed Kat, and the momentum of the girl’s run almost knocked the boy down. “Leaving so soon, dinner? No no we cannot allow that.”
Kat was so scared and so angry at being caught that she screamed in the boys face as loud as she could, “NO!” At the same time, she kicked him as hard as she could in the shin. Immediately, the boy let her go and grabbed his hurt leg. Kat pushed him aside. Then she heard Hash running toward her. Luckily, Hash did not see her brother bending down rubbing his shin. As a result, Hash ran right into him and they both fell to the ground crying and yelling at each other.
Watching them, Kat could not help saying, “Glad I could help you find your family, Hash. Sorry you will go hungry tonight. Of course you could always eat each other.” Then she laughed and jumped into the pond.
The main character, Kat, is based on the same character in the novel, Beyond the Dead Forest. This book is available on most online stores.
fantasy, action adventure, religion and spirituality, children, kids, young adult, horror, dark, christian values, church, spooky, thrilling, christianity, Sunday school, teaching story, home schooling, children's, church, YA