Disclaimer: The characters in this story are from “Silent Woods”, and belong to Ofelia Gränd. She has granted me permission to write senseless things with them. She is a sweetheart.
Warning: Since this is basically a sort of “what happens after?” scenario for “Silent Woods” that my inappropriate shipper mind made up, it is FULL OF SPOILERS. Basically, if you haven’t read the book yet, you might not get this. If you haven’t read the book yet, please do so.
You can find the blurb and shop links for Silent woods at
Axel checked his backpack for the last time before he zipped it up and hoisted it onto his shoulder. His violin case was a constant black shape in his vision, but he didn’t pick it up.
“Do you have everything you need, Axel?”
“Yes, Dad. Thanks.” He gave Anders a one-armed hug before he walked out of his room and downstairs, where his other dad was still fretting about his leaving.
“Make sure to have your phone’s GPS turned on at all times, darling. And call me as soon as you get there, you hear?”
Axel smiled at Daniel, hoping to hell his dad didn’t suddenly realize that he was lying and that he wasn’t heading out to his friend’s house after all. “Dad, I’ll be fine. My phone’s all charged, and so’s my iPad, and my laptop. I’m going to the next city, not deep space. Relax.”
Daniel’s frown deepened, but he did stop pacing. Maja came out of the kitchen in her pajamas, half asleep, a piece of toast hanging out of her mouth. She gave him a wave and said a muffled goodbye before she went back upstairs.
“You should be like her,” Axel quipped to Daniel.
“A parent worries,” was his father’s response.
Axel smiled at both his dads, grateful that he had such wonderful parents, and sorry for what he was about to do. “I’ll see you guys soon. Take care.”
Daniel gave him a squeezing hug, murmuring a reminder to call back one last time before he let go. Anders hugged him after, curling a palm over the back of his head protectively, giving away with body language what he hid with his words. “Bye, son.”
“I’ll be back before you know it.” Axel gave both his dads a kiss on their cheeks, and was off before Daniel could stall him with some excuse or the other.
He walked to the station and got a ticket to where his friend lived. Boarding the bus, he felt a strange sense of apprehension welling in him, and he couldn’t decide if it was excitement or dread.
Before long, the bus was traveling through the forest, and Axel felt the apprehension in his stomach curl and form into something solid and heavy. This was where he’d intended to get off all along. But should he get down? Going into the forest was sheer insanity.
He should just go to his friend’s place, and forget about the forest and the strange creature that had taught him to play the violin.
But he couldn’t, and before he knew it, he was stepping off the bus and onto the leaf strewn forest bed.
The bus smoothly moved away, leaving Axel all alone in the woods.
The forest was just as he remembered it: still and completely silent. His memories were fuzzy, but as he stepped onto the trail, pictures began coming back to him: a tree with a weird shaped branch, a rotted tree trunk on the ground, the rocks that he’d tripped on.
The brook that led to the gravel pit.
To where the Neck was.
As he followed the brook, he thought of the Neck, if he’d even see him this time. It was a Thursday, and it was midsummer. But he was neither a child nor a woman.
He shook his head, marveling at the height of idiocy his thoughts were taking. Here he was, worried that he wouldn’t be able to meet the supernatural creature who wanted to take him to an early, watery grave when he was five.
Or had he?
It had been sixteen years since the incident that had changed him and his fathers for ever. Maja didn’t remember much of it, but he did, though not the same way as his dads. Anders had never volunteered to take them camping again, and Daniel had become overprotective to the point of paranoid sometimes. They became uneasy whenever he touched the violin. They had never actually told him to keep his violin playing a secret, but he did it anyway because he could sense that it was what they wanted.
Axel hadn’t given it much thought at the time, but as he grew older, he started dreaming of that night.
He dreamed of the mournful wail of the violin and the defeated stance of the Neck. He dreamed of despondent, black eyes and a terrible loneliness.
Always, that soul sucking loneliness that he was powerless to ease, despite how badly he wanted to.
The last dream had been unbearable enough that Axel had sat up in bed and cried because he didn’t know what else to do. That had been two days ago.
The whole forest was cool and misty, the canopy dense enough that the sunlight only dappled though it here and there. There was no wind, and there was no birdsong. There was nothing. Just like sixteen years ago.
Finally, he was standing beside the Gravel Pit.
The forest seemed darker somehow, the trees closer together. The placid surface of the lake brought memories of the Neck’s dark eyes. He could imagine hearing the violin and could remember being helplessly drawn to the beautiful man that played it. There was still that strange, magnetic quality in the air, but it was barely a whisper of the actual feeling.
The water lilies weren’t as abundant as they once were. They were clustered further away from the shore, as if cowering from the land. Axel remembered what Mr. Ahlqvist had said about putting pins in the leaves to stop the Neck, and he felt an irrational stab of anger. His dads had stopped getting phone calls from Ahlqvist three years ago. The leaves should have been free to grow since then. Or had Ahlqvist passed on sentry duty to someone else?
He set his bag down on the shore, toed off his shoes and his coat. After a second’s hesitation, he pulled off his shirt as well. He stepped into the icy water, and a full body shiver ran through him. He pulled a pen knife from his pocket and made a little cut on his thumb before he threw it away from the water. Anxious and nearly on the verge of nausea, he dipped his bleeding hand into the water, saw a tendril of red spread from his thumb and then vanish.
He waded further out into the water till he reached the lilies and the pads. They were unscathed. He looked around, hoping the Neck would show himself, and when a few minutes passed, he took a huge gulp of air and went under. But it was dark as pitch and he could neither see anything, nor hear the signature sound of the violin.
He shook his head, smiling ruefully at his reflection. He was being silly. Not for believing the existence of a creature straight out of folklore, but for believing that the Neck would come to him when he was the reason why he was discovered in the first place.
This was ridiculous. He should count his blessings and leave right now.
He swam back toward the shore.
He was slipping on his right shoe when he felt it: that ragged, bone-deep loneliness again, like a tug on his entire being. He whipped around, eyes wide. There was nothing to see, but the feeling…
Acting on a hunch, he pulled out his phone. He selected the recording he’d made of himself playing the song of the Neck and pressed play, staring intently at the water.
The haunting melody filled his ears, bounced off the trees and echoed, weighing the atmosphere down with its emotion.
He thought the Neck would come now for sure, but he still didn’t.
Then the sound of another violin resonated in the forest, its sound clearer and sweeter, much more potent than his own.
From the middle of the lake, surrounded by the lilies, the Neck looked at him, a corner of his lips crooked upward as he handled the violin with magical dexterity. Axel’s skin prickled with excitement and relief.
They started at each other till the song ended. The Neck lifted his chin off the violin and cradled it in his hands, it’s glossy reddish-black sheen a stark contrast against his pale skin. Axel vaguely registered it didn’t have a chin rest.
Axel dropped his phone onto his bag and walked toward the water, but he didn’t step inside. “Hello,” he said, and swallowed, not knowing what else to say.
The Neck regarded him with a look that was almost pleased, despite how his black eyes warped the expression. “Hello again. It is good to see you. I had been very lonely.”
“I know. I could feel you in my dreams, calling me.” He paused, looking at the Neck’s face, tracing the delicate features with his eyes. He was a work of art, and Axel couldn’t believe that he existed. “I didn’t know your kind could do that.”
The Neck laughed lightly. “My kind cannot do that.”
Axel blinked. “Then how did I feel and see you so clearly?”
“I do not know. But I am glad you did. I have missed you, and I hoped you would return one day.”
The words pulled a warm ribbon of happiness and pride through his chest. “You did?”
The water rippled and the lilies shivered, despite the complete lack of a breeze. The Neck smiled a small, fond smile. “Very much.”
Axel stepped into the water, his whole being full of nothing but the need to be closer to the man that had haunted his dreams for years.
On the Neck’s lovely face, the smile widened.
Well. That went somewhere unexpected. But I’m still satisfied with how it turned out.
Happy One Year Anniversary of Silent Woods, Ofelia 🙂