Shannon stood atop the stack of rocks that marked the highest point on the hill, silhouetted in moonlight and unobscured by the trees that shrouded the countryside for miles around. Spinning sharply around and striking a pose, he grinned and then burst into laughter as he saw his two friends still struggling to climb through the thick bracken some thirty feet away from him.
“I win!” the boy shouted. “So I get to pick!”
Lorelai and Hannah looked up at him and started laughing too as they sprinted up to where he stood.
The three laughed and giggled for some time, revelling in the exertion of the race and the beauty of the scenery spread out below them that was brightly lit still by the full moon.
A few minutes later, sitting on the rock for a brief moment whilst they regained their breath, Hannah asked the question that both girls had been wondering.
“So, where're we going?”
Shannon paused for a second, then giggled. “I dunno. Don't mind. Let's take a chance, go somewhere new!”
“Yeah!” Lorelai and Hannah cheered.
“Well then, let's get going! The adults'll start to wonder where we've gotten to if we hang around too long!”
They stood up as high as they could, balanced on top of the rocky outcrop, held each others' hands, and wished.
“I wish we were somewhere new!” they chorused. “I wish we were somewhere new! I wish we were somewhere new-“
The children shone brighter and more silvery than the moon for a tiny fraction of a second before scattering into tiny particles of light and rushing up into the cloudless sky.
A bush just inside the clump of trees produced first a purple feathered hat, then at a different point a mop of curly hair, and finally three sets of inquisitive eyes peered out from behind the mass of twigs and dry leaves into which they'd just been unceremoniously dumped.
“Hey, this place smells weird!” Hannah said. “Hey, you too, this-“
Lorelai shushed her and motioned for the three of them to duck. Just a few seconds after they did so, two figures walked past the bush, so wrapped up in their own whispered conversation and their looking into each others' eyes that they failed to notice their watchers. The watchers noticed them, though, and more besides – the world positively rippled as they walked by.
Lorelai heard every word of their conversation, and blushed. The other two, both three years her junior, looked confused and whispered to her.
“What're they?” Hannah asked.
“Humans,” Lorelai replied.
“Do they all smell like that?”
“Not all of them. Some of them do, though. They say that humans like other humans more when they spray these strange liquid chemical things on themselves.”
“Weird!” Shannon interrupted.
“Shhh!” Lorelai put her index finger to his lips. “You don't want them to hear us, do you?”
“Why not?” Shannon replied in more hushed tones. “We could have some fun with them!”
“They're having enough fun already, we shouldn't interrupt.”
“That's fun, for them?”
“That's love, for them.”
“Oh.” Shannon and Hannah were quiet for a moment.
“Does the world always ripple like that, when people are in love?”
“Usually,” Lorelai replied.
The colourful fluctuations in the grass diminished as the two humans walked on, and eventually all was back to what might pass for normal again.
“Shall we get out of this bush?” Hannah finally asked.
“What bush?” Lorelai asked, and the three of them were crouching on bare ground. Always had been. There hadn't been a bush, in fact.
“What? Hey, that's not fair!” Shannon declared, stamping his foot.
Lorelai giggled. “Sorry.”
The bush was back, and had never disappeared in the first place.
“But…” Hannah mumbled. “You're not… Are you allowed to do that?”
The older girl laughed again. “No. But I thought it'd be fun. After all, there's no adults around to tell us what to do, right?”
“Yeah, you're right! Hey, wouldn't this tree look better with flowers?”
“Yeah!” Shannon replied.
For a while nothing changed, until Lorelai grinned and relaxed and flower after flower bloomed from the dying leaves and damp branches of the tree.
“I think it should have stars too!” Shannon exclaimed, and stream after stream of glittering stars wound their way up and down the trunk.
They played with the tree for hours, although it felt like barely a few minutes for them. The pure exuberance in Shannon and Hannah's hearts didn't just decorate and redecorate their tree, it brought colour and life to everything that they set their eyes on. As Lorelai sat back and watched, the moon and the stars became brighter, the sky darker and frostier, the grass wetter and more vibrant, the copse of trees larger and deeper and the trees themselves taller, and by the time they had finished they had a rapt audience of squirrels and mice as well.
The two younger children went to sit with Lorelai and marvel at the beauty that they'd created. It was a wonderful sight – and that it had been created so easily! It was true what the elders and the wildlings said, the human world really was so easy to change!
Hannah and Shannon were busy whispering to each other of their plans to come back here more often when, for a short but stomach-turningly intense moment, the world felt like it fell through and down into something else.
The three of them opened their eyes slowly, and instinctively felt what was happening. Their works, the changes that their hearts and minds had woven into the fabric of the world, were being unravelled. In the distance, but heading slowly towards them, a single figure walked. But as he walked, the world coalesced around him, became normal, became unenchanted, became boring.
Shannon felt sick.
“Lorelai?” he asked through the hands that covered his mouth. “What's that? Why does it hurt?”
“That's… That's a human too.”
“But… weren't those other humans pretty and shiny?”
“Not all humans are nice. Some are boring, apathetic, closed-minded.”
“Yeah,” Hannah chimed in. “Let's get out of here!”
Lorelai nodded to both of them, and they ran over to the tree they'd decorated. As the seconds passed and the human made his way closer, its decoration faded and dissolved. There should be enough time, she thought, just enough…
They reached the tree and held each others' hands in a circle around it. With all the willpower she could muster, Lorelai willed the tree to keep being colourful, to keep enough imagination and magic alive for just a few seconds, while they chanted their wish…
“I wish we were home again! I wish we were home again! I wish we were home again-”
Glitter sparkled in the darkness as their forms turned to silver dust which dissipated along with the rest of the tree's ornaments.
The man who brought the mundane world with him came around the corner of the wood, and saw the tree – completely normal. His walk continued, oblivious to what had happened there that night.
The three children sat, recovering their breath, on an outcrop of rock atop a forested hill. A welcoming forest; a pretty and colourful forest; the forest they called home.
They each looked into each others' eyes, and shared each others' relief that they had made it. And, as Lorelai made her slow way back down the overgrown hillside, Hannah and Shannon vowed that they'd go back.
After all, despite its dangers, the human world was so much fun!