A chill shot down the fireman’s spine and he stepped forward along the path. He could hear snippets and catch glimpses of other incidents with his comrades in their fight against the fairies. Sometimes it was a flash of light, or a scream, other times it was the whispers of the fairies among the trees. Raymond refused to listen closely to their soft words. He refused to give those creatures even the smallest foothold against him.
They moved forward as a group, despite the casualties. They had to be almost to the heart of the forest. The magic of the forest had kept Raymond separate from his co-workers. He was aware that phenomena was common with fairy woods, so when he saw a few of his friends and his sergeant, he couldn’t help but exhale sharply. He was almost there. After they cleared the forest, it could finally burn and they could rest easy.
“You’re the last one to make it here, Raymond. We’ve waited for ten minutes without sign from anyone.” The sergeant furrowed his brow and turned his sights to the center of the clearing. “You’re lucky we waited that long fo--” The sergeant stopped and cocked his head. “D...Do any of you hear that noise?”
The firemen looked at each other in utter silence. Not even the ambient sounds of night were present. No crickets or cicadas, no breeze running through the trees, and no sound of running water. There was only complete, stifling silence, barring the soft cooing noises coming from the hollow of a tree ringing the clearing.
They froze. They trusted anything that appeared in the forest like they would trust a crocodile with a child in its mouth not to devour it. Raymond was not quite so stunned, however, and cautiously ventured to the tree since he was closest to it. He was not terribly keen about examining the hollow in the tree, but as he approached, he was astonished to find he had no reason to worry.
“H...Hello there, little guy.” Raymond crouched down to the level of the small being beaming up at him. The other firemen closed into a loose semicircle behind Raymond.
“What’s a toddler doing here…?” the sergeant mumbled, looking terribly confused. “A human child…Is he even human?” The group murmured to itself trying to figure out what to do with the child who just looked happy to see all these people. He wobbled over to Raymond and stumbled, taking the fireman’s arm for support with a giggle.
“I think he’s as human as it gets, sir….I humbly request we take him back with us.” Raymond picked the boy up, who instantly perked up at the prospect of seeing the world from five and a half feet off the ground.