The Woods were not, in fact, haunted. Jadith Boyer knew this, but she didn’t mind that the townsfolk thought that it was.
She and her parents lived in the midst of The Woods, a few miles away from the town. They’d occasionally venture into the town for supplies, but not very often as they managed to live almost entirely off the land. When they went out, they didn’t bother to lock their door. They didn’t even have a lock on their door. The townsfolk’s superstitions were all the security that they needed.
From an early age, Jadith had been taught a strong work ethic. To live as self-sufficiently in The Woods as they did, most days were filled with many chores – gathering dead-fall for the cooking fire, trapping small animals for their meat and fur, tending their small garden in a small clearing, cooking, cleaning and numerous other tasks.
They may have worked hard, but they knew how to have fun too! The days may have been filled with chores, but the evenings were fillled with laughter and song. Although there weren’t a lot of other folk living in The Woods, they did have a few neighbors, and at least once a month they either hosted or attended a party. Jadith lived for these nights, when she could get together with other kids her own age.
On Saturday mornings before breakfast, it was their habit to go for a hike. The Woods were large, and there was always something new to discover, or someplace to see that they hadn’t been before. Besides the adventure of these hikes, they served a practical purpose as well. Her dad taught her to recognize the different types of trees, how to notice subtle differences even within a single variety of tree, how to tell direction from where the moss grew and many other ways for her to navigate The Woods without losing her way. “The townsfolk believe that the trees all look the same,” he told her, “and that is why The Woods are so dangerous for them, but if you have eyes to see how much difference there is between one tree and the next, you can live here quite safe and happy.”
Gull did not have eyes to see the differences, and the longer he spent looking for a way back home, the further into The Woods he actually went.