rating: +9+x

Dr. Flora Davis was walking through Verstecktedorf with purpose. Assistant David Vadas was struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, he was having trouble avoiding the citizens of the small town, and nearly crashed into several of them. He could feel the crowd becoming denser, and realized Davis had not even noticed he had fallen behind.

“Davis! Hold on, where are you—'tschuldigung!— We need to—Sorry!— Oh, come on! Slow down, Doctor D!” David yelled after his superior.

With this last statement, Flora stopped on the spot and spun around to face David, walking a few paces to meet him. She looked at him, seemingly angry. The crowd began to part around the two of them, as if fearing confrontation themselves. David was preparing for the worst, but she just relaxed and almost laughed even. “Don’t call me ‘Doctor D’ again. I’m not a children’s cartoon villain.”

“Yeah it felt wrong as soon as I said it.” Vadas said, trying to catch his breath.

“And you really can’t keep up with me on a brisk walk? Just how out of shape are you?”

“Very, but thats not what I’m saying. I’m saying you’re heading off in god knows what direction and we don’t even have a plan of action.” David took a few seconds to breathe, waiting for a reply from Davis.

She paused, about to retort. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized his point was valid. “…You’re right. We need to get more organized if we’re going to contain this thing, whatever it is.” Flora admitted.

“Alright, so what do we need to do? What are our priorities?” As David said this, Flora could practically see the gears turning in his head. He seemed almost excited to begin working. She had noticed this behavior before; he liked putting together clues to see the full picture.

“The main thing is obviously finding the tree, and the bird. My guess is once we find one it'll lead us to the other. We also need to research how the anomaly manifests. Are these events the same because of this anomaly or is something else pulling the strings?”

“On that note, I think we need to figure out if an event has already begun. If so, we need to discover the characters in the event. If this event is going to be as gory as the tale, we need to find out who's in danger.”

“Correct. Absolutely. Ok, so you know vegetation pretty well right?”

“I mean, I guess—“

“Go look for the tree. Figure out where it could’ve been; it might’ve moved before, maybe theres some kind of pattern. And remember, our best guess for an outer radius is in England, so the sooner we find this thing, the better. I’ll do more research on the folklore. Maybe the characters are representative of something.”

David handed Flora the copy of the Grimm stories. “Start here. Obviously there are different interpretations but all of the characters are right here. Do we know where the first reports came from?”

Flora gave him the files had led them to the anomaly in the first place. “It’s all in these documents. You may find the original sources… questionable, but I have a feeling they know more than they let on.”

“Roger that. We’ll meet back at Site-99 later?”

“Sounds good.”

David wondered if perhaps he hadn’t been clear. Plants. His specialty was plants. Not kids. If I did say kids I meant baby goats, he thought to himself. He was instantly glad he hadn’t said the joke out loud. Nevertheless, here he was, leading four children into the forest to find a tree. Well, they were really leading him. After all, they were the ones who first reported seeing the tree.

He was uncomfortable with the whole situation. In fact, he had told each of the children's parents this when they suggested he take them on a walk through the forest. He had tried to get one to come with him but they all had… convenient excuses. He scarcely had to wonder why as the high energy of the group made it difficult to tell if they even knew what they were doing.

"Will you play a game with us?Wirst du mit uns spielen?" One of the young girls asked. The others turned towards Dorothea as she asked the researcher, watching in anticipation and wondering how the strange man would respond.

David sighed internally. It wasn’t that he disliked kids, he just never knew how to behave around them. He was prone to putting multiple feet in his mouth at a time, and he didn’t trust that would go over well with impressionable children. "Will you show me where the tree was?Zeigst du mir wo der Baum war?" he replied to the trickster. Dorothea was the one who convinced the parents to let them go with David. She stood there with a mischievous grin, refusing to walk any farther. David needed the information that she had, and she knew it. "How about we try both?Wie wär's, wir versuchen beides?" he finally caved.

One of the boys, Gustav, asked "How do you imagine we do that?Wie stellst du dir das vor?" The other children waited in anticipation, giggling and whispering as if something David had said was funny. Maybe he had said something odd. His German might be a bit rusty, as he hadn’t spoken it this much in years.

"I spy, with my little eye…Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst…" David started, looking around for something that was just obvious enough that they could get it without much trouble. The kids eagerly awaited the description so they could begin their search. "…something thin and pointy.…Etwas dünnes und spitzes." He finished. The four looked around for a few minutes before the other girl, Christa, spoke up.

"It’s a pine needle!Es ist eine Kiefernnadel!" Christa exclaimed gleefully. David nodded in agreement, as the other kids were disappointed that they had missed it. She stood there, mouth agape as if she had the best possible idea for what the others should be looking for. "I can’t think of anything.Mir fällt nichts ein," she said, seemingly unaware of the anticlimactic presence that hung over the group. "Alfons, you do it first!Alfons, mach du zuerst!"

Alfons seemed to be the quietest one of the four. David wondered if he was always thinking or if he just didn’t have much to say. "I spy with my little eye… something square shaped!Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst… etwas Quadratisches!" The boy rattled this off quickly just as David heard his text tone. As the other kids scrambled to find anything vaguely squarish, David pulled out his phone, revealing a text from Dr. Davis.

How’s it going on your end? Found any interesting plants or whatever you botanists do?

He chuckled. He wondered if she would commiserate with him or laugh at his present circumstances.

No, but somehow I got wrangled into watching four kids. Parents these days. You find anything?

Well, kids can be more observant than adults. I'm still sorting through character archetypes, interpretations, and all kinds of things. I'll let you know when something sticks out to me.

Cool. I think theres a way I can drop a pin in SCPMaps to let you know where my location is. Once I find the sightings I'lacnx;j

Dorothea pulled hard on David's arm, nearly yanking the phone out of his hands. "We're here.Wir sind da." She said. The others became quiet. David wasn't quite sure where the tree had been. Perhaps it was too long ago to notice anything different. But he thought something seemed odd about the clearing. He looked around and saw a few scattered dying rose petals.

"Move me as close as you can possibly get to where the tree was.Bewege mich so nah wie möglich dahin, wo der Baum war." Dorothea obliged, carefully leading him a meter or so further in the clearing. With a calculated precision, she inched him left and right, forward and back, until he could tell she was certain. He was standing where the tree had first appeared. He looked down and saw a few more petals, plenty of juniper berries (not uncommon on the forest floor), but the thing that caught his attention was the almonds. He remembered Davis had been fixated on one when they had found the tree. He wondered what she was thinking. What could she learn from an almond? What could he learn from it? What if all he had to do was reach down, grab and almond, take a bite, and…

His text tone snapped him back to reality. In the few seconds of positioning and distraction, he had already missed several texts from Davis.

What are you going to do at the sightings?

Mr. Vadas?

Vadas, are you in trouble?

David, answer me

Sorry! Kid grabbed my arm. I'm fine, I'm at the first sighting now.

And I think I can save the location in the map, gimme a sec

You dropped a pin. Click here to open map.

Sorry for freaking you out, Doc. I'll pin the other three locations and send them to you.

The children were looking at him intently. He wasn't sure what to say, if he should say anything. Gustav finally said, "It was a rock.Es war ein Stein." He held up the vaguely square-shaped rock to show David. David hesitated for a second.

"You won this round. So you get to lead us now. Show us where you saw the tree.Du hast diese Runde gewonnen. Also führst du uns jetzt und zeigst, wo du den Baum gesehen hast." A huge grin creeped across Gustav's face. He made a gesture to follow him, then sprinted off in another direction. David realized he didn't feel quite as awkward as he had before. He ran after the children, jumping over plants and grabbing low hanging branches along the way.

The kids soon grew disinterested in "I Spy." Though the game was still on, it was more of a courtesy at this point. David's plant facts, on the other hand, were very interesting. Perhaps his German wasn't perfect, but he talked about plants with such passion that the children couldn't help but pay attention to David's vision of how wonderful plants were, the various things you could make from them, and the different properties they each had. David was just glad to have someone listen to him for once. He could go on and on about plants. He had almost completely forgotten about the game as Gustav and Christa led him to where they had spotted it. He sent the pins to Davis, hoping she might see some pattern before he did. Not that he was trying too hard to figure the pattern; he was having too much fun geeking out about all of the plants.

"I spy, with my little eye…Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst…" Christa started, bored. Then an inflection changed in her voice as something caught her attention. "Something red, green, and gold.Etwas rot, grün und goldenes." David took a second, but when he had translated, he realized the color scheme was very familiar. He quickly looked around the green foliage, past pine and oak, in search of juniper. Sure enough, he saw a familiar bird in a (rather normal) juniper tree. David turned to the children and made a signal to stay silent, pointing at the bird to get confirmation from Christa. She nodded, with a big smile. It quickly turned into a look of confusion at David's somber reaction. They all turned to the bird, still and staring. David swore he could hear leaves rustling from miles away.

"Why are you so quiet?Warum seid ihr so still?" The bird said in a singsong voice. The children were awestruck at the vocalizations, mouths gaping in surprise. "Nothing will hurt you for being loud.Nichts wird euch weh tun, weil ihr laut seit." David pondered this for a second, but before he could reply, the bird flew away.

"Dammit! We have to follow it!" He said, forgetting his audience. He quickly corrected himself, "Follow it!Folgt ihm!" and the five were sprinting after the swift bird, dodging and weaving around the forest.

"English, on the other hand," the bird taunted from the treetops, "is a dangerous language. That might get you killed. In fact, if I were you, I might not speak it at all." David ran, not realizing he had begun to drift from the children. They followed the reverberating sounds of a far off song, running as fast as their legs could take them. David felt himself tiring quickly, and it wasn't long before he could run no further. He felt himself start to collapse in a small clearing and attempted to regain balance, finally stopping to breathe. Hands on his knees, he took deep breaths though his lungs begged for quick shallow ones, and stared past the ground as if we was looking at the earth's core. He recognized he had just ruined another chance at finding this anomaly, and felt defeated. Before he could let that thought plague him, however, another, more terrifying thought came to him.

"The kids," he whispered. He snapped his neck to look around for any sign of the energetic bunch. How could they have gotten so far apart from each other in such a short amount of time? Were they still together? "Dorothea!" He hoped wherever they were they could hear him. "Christa! Alfonse! Gustav!" He felt so stupid. This was why he wasn't good with kids, he was too irresponsible. He couldn't even keep track of them, and he now he couldn't help them if the bird— What would the bird even do? "Oh, this is a mess!" He murmured, mentally kicking himself for agreeing to watch over not one, but four kids, all of whom he had now lost. He caught his breath, and was about to call out to them when a familiar face appeared from behind a bend.

"Christa!" he said, relieved. "Oh, thank god. You're ok. You're ok.Es geht dir gut." From the corner of his eyes he saw Gustav, and Dorothea dropped in from a nearby tree. Alfons snuck up from behind and quietly tapped his shoulder. "Did any of you see where the bird went?Hat einer von euch gesehen, wo der Vogel hin ist?" He still felt the panic from before and was disappointed to see not a single one of them had been able to keep up with the bird.

"What was the bird saying?Was hat der Vogel gesagt?" Gustav asked, curious.

"'Don't speak English.''Sprich kein Englisch.'" David paraphrased. He looked off into the distance. The bird was out there, among the foliage, and David was sure that he had been threatened by it. He wouldn't have anybody be hurt because of his mistakes. "I have to go after it.Ich muss ihm hinterher."

"David…" a quiet voice started.

"I almost lost you four and I don't know what that bird can do.Ich habe euch vier fast verloren und ich weiß nicht, was dieser Vogel alles kann."

"David." Dorothea turned toward the boy.

"I lost the tree and now thisIch habe den Baum verloren und nun das and I don't know if I can help anyone—"

"David!" Alfons asserted himself to the surprise of all of them. He paused, as if he was about to say something important. "We're here.Wir sind da." David was confused for a second. "I saw the tree here.Hier habe ich den Baum gesehen." He explained.

"Where was it?Wo war das?" David asked, raising his foot to move.

"Stop!Halt!" The boy interrupted "Right… there.Genau …da." David stared for a second before receiving a nod from Alfons. Without saying anything he took his phone out and sent the final pin to Dr. Davis. He then quickly sent a text asking Davis to add the pin where they had first found the tree to the map.

"Thank you. All of you.Vielen Dank. Euch allen." He started heading back towards Verstecktedorf, a solemn expression on his face. He could hear the quiet footsteps behind, grave as soldiers marching home from war. He didn't realize one pair had wandered off.

"David? What is this plant?Was ist das hier für eine Pflanze?" David turned around, and saw Gustav peering down at a small stream, a few meters away. Short plants were growing all around the water, but Gustav was interested in a particularly exotic flower, elegant and dark in color.

David took a second to match the flower to its scientific name, and was surprised when he finally realized it. "Zantedeschia aethiopica. Calla-lillie." He replied. "I think those are called,Ich glaube, die heißen," he chuckled, "Schwarzwald Calla Lilien. Because of the color.Wegen der Farbe."

"Cool!" Dorothea said. She gently touched one of the flowers, in awe at the deep color. "Can they be used for anything? Are they a medicine plant?Können sie für irgendetwas benutzt werden? Sind sie eine Heilpflanze?"

David chuckled. He thought she must have been taking mental notes; she had been asking these kinds of questions since he mentioned some plants could be used to make medicine."Not that I know of. Eating them can make you sick.Nicht, dass ich davon wüsste. Man wird krank, wenn man sie isst." He chuckled again at how surreal the situation was. "Strange. They don't grow here. Somebody must have planted them.Komisch. Die wachsen hier normallerweise nicht. Jemand muss sie gepflanzt haben." He pondered this, realizing this was only the second out of place plant he had discovered in the past few days. Another voice interrupted his contemplation.

"What are you looking at, Alfons?Wonach schaust du, Alfons?" Christa interrupted. Alfons' eyes were trained on something in the distance that was no longer there.

"I thought I saw a manIch dachte, ich hätte einen Mann gesehen." Alfons replied, finally looking back to the group.

"Do you really believe what your grandpa tells you?Glaubst du wirklich die Dinge, die dein Großvater dir erzählt?" Dorothea teased, as if making fun of a fear. Alfons only shrugged in response.

"What does your grandfather tell you?Was erzählt dir dein Großvater?" David asked, concerned.

Christa started "He tells the scariest story about how his brother disappeared. He says it had something to do with a wooden man.Er erzählt diese schreckliche Geschichte darüber, wie sein Bruder verschwunden ist. Er sagt, es hätte etwas mit einem Holzmann zu tun."

David was slightly confused by what they were saying, wondering if the translation in English was the same. "Do they mean a woodsman? Like, with an axe?Wie, mit einer Axt?" he asked.

"Ja!" Gustav chimed in.

"His brother went into the forest one day and never came back.Sein Bruder ging eines Tages in den Wald und kam niemals zurück." Dorothea explained.

"What happened to him?Was ist mit ihm passiert?"

"He met the wooden man.Er traf den Holzmann." Christa continued.

"Grandfather won't tell me what the wooden man did to his brother.Großvater sagt mir nicht, was der Holzmann mit seinem Bruder gemacht hat." Alfons explained, "But he says to respect the forest and to never speak English there.Aber er sagt dass ich den Walk respektieren soll und dort kein Englisch sprechen soll."

"It's just a storyEs ist nur eine Geschichte." Gustav said. David was unconvinced. "Where are calla lilies from?Woher kommen die Callas?"

David smirked as the five quickened their pace back to the village. "Afrika."

I've done some more research.
And I think I might understand what's going on with the tree.

You know that bird that lead you on a wild European Bee-eater chase?

I immediately regret typing that.

I just saw it.


Meet me at the first pin with the map and any information you've got in an hour.

And look up if there's anything about a child, surname Sauber, disappearing some time ago.

What? Why?

I got some cryptic advice from both the bird and the kids. I want to find out what's going on once and for all.

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