At Rest in the Woods

"He hasn't come back yet, and I'm getting really worried!" Donald exclaimed, showering Merlin's carefully prepared potions and serums with small downy feathers and spittle.

As usual Goofy smiled at his friend's frenzied complaints and gazed at him with even eyes.

"Uh-yuk. Donald, you know that that there book is the last place that Sora would run into any real trouble. He's probably just sorting nuts, or bouncing or--"

"--Getting turned into a heartless! I'm going in. Charge!" Donald exclaimed as he bolted towards the storybook that lay glowing faintly on Merlin's mahogany reading stand.

With a start Goofy bounded towards the duck and held him fast. Despite being lanky and, at times, monsterously clumsy, Goofy was surprisingly spry and exceptionally hard to escape from given his large stride. Donald's body shook as if in seizure. His tantrum jettisoned more of his bright white feathers into the dank, musty air of the study. Goofy stiffled a sneeze with one finger under his long snout as he held his crazed partner in check with the other. Donald could not escape and so resorted to his best defensive manuver: erupting into a litany of almost indecipherable threats.

"Put me down you big...of all the...when I get my hands on my wand you'll..." he squawked.

At this moment the two exposed pages of the open libram began to pulse with green light. To Goofy's eyes it was not a book but a small, round hole, formed by roots and sticks, that lead unexplainably into the small table. Donald did not share in this perspective as his neck was firmly encircled by Goofy's arm and his field of vision was limited to a view of his friend's boney backside.

The room was then permeated with the forgotten sounds and smells of youth. These sensations were not easily explained afterwards, but both Donald and Goofy would later try to discuss them between themselves. They would agree that they smelled the smokey embers of a bonfire defiantly blazing against the darkness of night. And they would add how they could smell the first blades of grass reaped in sacrifice to summer and hear the mock-heroic last stand in a treefort bound for winter kindling. They would both remember (although neither would admit it to even themselves) the intoxicating perfume of their first love, a natural incense first inhaled before they had charted the other side of their hearts and found the ability to forget all of these things so that they could spend the rest of their lives fighting to protect them.

And into the middle of this exalting and heartbreaking rememberance strode Sora, beaming with the joy reserved for those who had traversed the pages of Merlin's most powerful tome.

"Hey guys. I hope I wasn't gone for too long," said the young man snickering audibly at the absurd tangle that Goofy's headlock had made of the duo.

"Too long! You were in there for hours!" retorted Donald and quickly pulled himself from his undignified position. And even this feat he accomplished only because of Goofy's great surprise at seeing Sora's manifestation in the middle of the thick purple rug that lead to the bookstand. Donald tugged on his cap as Goofy regained his voice.

"Gee--uh, Sora, you think maybe you had better let Pooh and his friends get back to their games and let us get back to trying to find Riku and Kairi--"

"And the King!" Interrupted Donald.

Goofy nodded at Donald and, as he looked up, could have sworn he caught the slightest hint of annoyance across Sora's normally cheery features. He shrugged inwardly and assured himself that the trip between worlds must have been disorienting enough without your travelling companions bombaring you with their concerns when you arrived. Sora, however, did not answer him so he decided to broach the subject again.

"Well, yuk! I guess it's off to the next world. I'm sure we'll find your friends there. Chip says the world has plenty-a folks that look like you do, Sora."

"I've seen the pictures he took with the gummi-camera, they look more like monsters." Sora shivered. He remembered seeing something akin to a skeleton in clothes.

"Monsters! The Heartless are the real monsters. We should get going soon so we don't have to fight a million of them when we get there!" Donald screeched in his normal fashion and then headed towards the door. Goofy turned to follow him.

"Uh guys. I'm ready to go too but I think I left the charm Kairi gave me back in the Hundred Acre Woods. I was showing it to Piglet on the swing and I...uh. I must have dropped it."

Donald and Goofy shared a look that contained a hidden code that Sora did not yet comprehend. In due time he would learn how to read the language of a dear friend's eyes, but for now he stood oblivious to their mute palaver. Goofy sighed and put his large hand on his forehead, kneeding it gently.

"Well, I reckon you better do what you think you should, Sora."

"It'll only take a second," Sora practically snapped back at him.

Again the friends shared a look. Donald remained uncharacteristicly silent. Sora laughed nervously and approached the book. He placed his hands on the edges of the stand as if to anchor himself to Merlin's cozy study. However, it was only a second before his body relaxed and pitched forward and was no more.

"Sora." Donald sighed.

A handful of heavy seconds crept by disguised as hours.

Unbuckling his shield from it's resting position on his back, Goofy beckoned to Donald with a smile. Donald responded by grabbing his wand from it's holster on his belt and spinning it as a fop would twirl a cane.

"Well come on, Goofy!" he chided as he dashed from the study.

"A-yuk. Comin'! Wait for me!"

Sora lay in a bright green field of unkempt grass. Eyes half-closed he gazed at the painted sky and allowed himself to drift. He felt the wind and welcomed the scents it brought in toe. They came: Times before struggles, times before memory. He was a child and knew nothing but ease and love, love and contentment. It was hours before he started to feel the tug at his sleeve. He turned lazily to find a young girl staring at him with a broad grin on her face.

"Hello Sora," said the girl.

"Hello Girl-Who-I-Don't-Know," said Sora.

echoed a voice in the wind.

"You know me, silly."

"Maybe, but I don't know me so it's not polite of me to pry into who I do and don't know. Anyway, I was kind of enjoying a nap here, so maybe you should..."

"Why wouldn't you want to know who you are. Isn't it frusterating to have dreams where you can't related to anything in them?"

"I don't dream here. And I much rather remember who I used to be. I like being who I was. You should go now. You're nobody I want to know." Sora yawned as if to make his point and rolled away from the girl.

echoed the wind, far too late to be a proper echo.

"It's just plain childish," reprimanded the girl. "You can't go back to being the person you were. You have friends who need your help..."

"I-I like it here. I like how easy it is to just be and not worry about them. If I can just close my eyes the dream will pass and they will be alright. Won't they?"

Let me tell you who you are. The somebody you are now is hiding in a warm field that you want to remember as yours but are not meant to tarry in long. The place I am in is a cold place, a dark place that no one wants to remember and I am meant to tarry here for a while more, possibly forever. But my place is no less dangerous than yours. In fact it is maybe less dangerous. But in time I too will learn to love my place and then we will be lost to each other forever. Try to understand. I have to leave now the starting to hurt my eyes." The girl's voice drew distant throughout her explanation and as she finished speaking it sounded like no more then the rustling of the wind in the leaves.

At first Sora was pleased to no longer be able to hear the girl's voice. However, when he tried to inhale the scents and hear the sounds that he had so recently cherished and loved they eluded him completely. Instead, he tasted the blood in his mouth from his first fight with Riku. He felt the fear of a darkness that held monsters more real then imagined. But what most terrified him is that his heart that so recently drowsed silently began to beat at a dizzing pace as he remembered the gentle girl's name. He sat up with a jolt. The fields and woods remained surrounding him but they no longer held the same intoxicating sense of comfort. He remembered that his job was long over here. The world had been sealed against an invasion of Heartless.

As Donald and Goofy exited the study they heard the flapping of large sneakers on the flat tile floor behind them. Sora emerged from the doorflap flushed and panting. Donald cried out joyously and Goofy yelled "Garsh!" But as Sora approached Goofy the gangly knight regained composure and extended his hand as if to shake the young man's hand in friendship. Sora extended his in kind, but instead of receiving his comrade's grasp he felt a small pointy object drop into his palm. It was Kairi's keepsake charm.

"You left this in the study. You should take better care of a gift like that," said Goofy quietly.

Sora smiled wryly at his wise friend and then brandished his keyblade suddenly in salute to his friends. The weapon's shiny surface reflected his grimly determined face. It was past time that he fulfilled his duty. He had rested too long in the Woods.