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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

The chill winds of late autumn rushed past Aiden's ears as he ran but he paid them
little heed, for as fast as he was running, he needed to go faster. His dark, shoulder length
hair streamed behind him as he sprinted through knee- high grass, his blue eyes focused
on the distant tree line with singular purpose.
He felt his strength flagging, but spurred himself on for one last burst of speed before
he crashed through the undergrowth and staggered to a halt, gasping for breath. Turning
to look behind him, Aiden grinned breathlessly at his pursuer, who had apparently been
unable to keep up with his breakneck speed.
“You owe me a copper jack, Pace!” Aiden called out between breaths. “I told you
turning thirteen makes a difference.”
His friend, Pacian, merely waved dismissively at him as he staggered to a halt,
unwilling to waste his breath by shouting across the twenty yards that remained between
them. It had been Pacian‟s idea to ditch their chores in favour of something more
entertaining, for Aiden had turned thirteen this very day. Although not overly fond of
work, he didn't feel that running out on his family was an entirely honourable endeavour,
but his friend had been very persuasive.
They‟d left the village of Coldstream, the only home either of them knew, far behind
them. The two boys had been friends since they were little, a source of some concern to
his parents as Pacian had a knack of getting into tro uble and liked Aiden‟s to be there
when it happened.
“I let you win, since it's your birthday,” Pacian shrugged, taking the time to tidy up
his short blond hair and absently brush non-existent dirt from his tunic. “Any other day I
would have beaten the pants off you.”
Aiden laughed scornfully, knowing that Pacian's pride wouldn't permit him to admit
defeat, but he decided to play along with this little fiction to spare his feelings. His friend
was good at making up plausible lies when pressed, something A iden could never
“Anyway, we should get back now,” Aiden suggested. “I'm going to be missed and I
don't want any trouble today.”
“Okay,” replied Pace hesitantly, “but I wanted to show you something first.” He
started walking into the forest, evapo rating Aiden's light mood in an instant.
“But that's the Cairnwood,” he protested, gazing with trepidation at the dark shadows
in the thick forest. “We're not supposed to go in there.”
“I don't see anything dangerous about trees, do you?” Pace asked as he looked
around innocently.
“You‟ve heard the stories. There's something in there besides trees. Something
“Such as?” his blond friend prompted. Aiden was at a loss. All his parents had ever
told him was that Cairnwood was a dangerous place, and sometimes people who went in
there never came out again. He was never told anything specific, such as if they were
eaten by bears or ghosts, or possibly the dreaded Ghost Bear Pacian had once told him
“Look, we're only going in a little way,” Pacian confided. “All the times I‟ve been in
there, I've never seen anything dangerous.”
“How many times have you been in there?” Aiden asked curiously, drawing a shrug
from his friend.