His secret hiding place had been discovered. A feeling of dread churned in his belly as he stumbled upon the scene. The treasure chest lay open, crudely revealing its insides. The contents spread about his feet.
Jack, full of panic, managed to pull his gaze away from the mess and look at the face of the offender. He recognised the strong jaw, the pointed cheeks and the lack of warmth in the dark brown eyes. His adversary grinned wide, his milk white teeth gleaming in the midday sun. If he was unsure as to what he had found, the look on Jack’s face confirmed it.
“This is your treasure?” he questioned, his lips savouring the last word, disdain coating each syllable. Jack made no comment save for flinching at the disrespect his precious items had been given. Sensing Jack’s displeasure, the enemy picked up a small piece of rope, an object of his newly acquired loot. He turned it over in his hands, his fingers feeling each section of the fraying braid.
“G-g-give it back,” Jack stammered, anger replacing fear. The enemy ignored him, continuing to play with the rope, its rough surface sounding like sandpaper against the smooth skin of his hands.
“It was a gift… from the King of the Forgotten Forest… it will only work for me.” Jack said, defiant.
The enemy barked a laugh, his face awash with disbelief. He surmised that Jack must have stolen the rope and informed him so. Jack did not care to disagree.
The Forgotten Forest was a dangerous place. It had rumours surrounding it that were so well established they were told to children as bedtime stories, scaring them into sleepless nights. The legends said that people who dared enter the forest never returned, their very essence forgotten as if they had never existed.
It was unsurprising that his adversary thought him a liar. Dark magic was cast over those trees to ensure that families never came looking for their loved ones. Clearly, Jack had survived, the memories of his loved ones were still intact, and above all he’d been given a gift for his efforts.
“What do you mean?” the enemy sneered, “it will only work for you?”
Jack sighed, he had already said too much. He watched the enemy, still holding the rope, fat fists clasped around it. Despite trying to cool the hate coursing through him, there was something in those lecherous hands that made Jack want to continue. To prove that he wasn’t a liar, that he had done something that his foe could only dream of.
“I saved the King from a fire that was in his forest. To thank me he gave me that rope… Spells are cast on it so that it will grow longer or shorter when I say and knot or unknot.”
Incredulous the enemy demanded Jack show him this magic thrusting the rope into the open space between them. Flaunting its magic was a condition that the King had bestowed upon the rope, the spells could not be performed in front of others, to protect the secrecy of the forest. Jack made no move to take the rope and merely shrugged.
Bored of Jack’s lies the enemy threw the rope on the floor. He picked up another item that had been spilt from the chest, a small gold coin.
“…and this? Did the King of the Forbidden Forest give you this too?” Each word tainted with sarcasm, akin to a stroppy teenager not getting their own way. He flipped the coin with his finger and thumb, its golden shine making the sunlight blink. He went to catch it, and missed, the free coin landed on the ground and rolled towards Jack. The enemy made to snatch it but Jack was too quick. He held the coin creating a fist around it, feeling the comforting indentations of the coin pushing into his palm.
“No,” Jack said, relieved at regaining one of his treasures, “the Goddess of the Ocean gave me it.”
The enemy’s face split into hysterical laughter.
“First the King of the Forbidden Forest and now the Goddess of the Ocean, did you save her from drowning?” he asked, the spite in his voice giving the laughter a menacing sound.
“Obviously not, she’s the Goddess of the Ocean,” Jack replied, his confidence mounting as he rubbed his thumb against the coin. “she can breathe underwater. She gave me it after I found her crown at the bottom of the sea.”
The enemy, annoyed at dropping the coin, sensed the condescension in Jack’s voice. He lunged for Jack’s hand, knocking him off his feet. Letting out a high-pitched yelp as he fell to the floor, Jack released the coin and watched it sail through the air, rattling as it hit the floor.
At the commotion, a woman’s voice could be heard in the distance, as though calling to them. As they lay, they heard the voice get louder, she was approaching them. The enemy scrambled to retrieve the chest, stuffing the rope and the coin back inside. His eyes were frantic as he thrust the chest into Jack’s hands.
The door opened and his mother walked in. She took in the teenage boy and the child sitting on the floor. The child’s fingers clasped around a tin. A tin that had the words “Jack’s Treasure” written on it in a childish print.
The young boy released a sob, a large droplet fell from his pale blue eyes and coursed down his cheek. The frantic fear that was once written on the teenagers face vanished and was replaced with guilt. His dark brown eyes warmed and his hard jaw slackened.
“I was just trying to play with him,” he sulked, “but he lies about everything.”
She held the child’s head against her breast and soothed him. Her eldest son, Billy, had always been boisterous and had preferred to play football with his friends in the street than be alone. But her youngest child was gentle, he had a sensitive manner about him that Billy didn’t understand.
“Let’s see what’s in your treasure chest then Jack,” she cooed, trying to distract him from his tears.
“Oh look,” she said in delight, taking the rope out of the tin. “That nice man at the garden centre gave you this, for helping tidy up after that candle got knocked over.”
“…and this,” she continued, picking up the pound coin, “that lady from the swimming baths gave you this, after you fished her hat out of the pool. I’m surprised you haven’t spent it.”
Billy looked at his little brother, whilst listening to his mother.
“I’m sorry Jack,” he said quietly, “everything you said was true.”
Thanks for reading. This is my first attempt at a short story so constructive criticism is most definitely welcome. Please share your short stories with me too! 🙂