I thought about writing a piece of fun Halloween fiction this week, but I’m feeling a bit lazy, so instead I dug into the archives and found a story that I wrote eight years ago for one of my college classes. The class was called Greek and Latin Roots of Words (yes, I am THAT big of a language nerd that I took this class as an elective), and we were tasked with creating a new word using some of the Latin roots that we’d studied, and then writing a story to accompany that word. We were also given bonus points for any of our previous Latin vocab words that we could include somewhere in the text (which accounts for my strange word choice at different points in the story).
I do think (I HOPE!) that my writing has improved somewhat since eight years ago. And it is much more of a silly story than the scary story I was aiming for it to be…but enough with the disclaimers. I present to you, “The Short-lived History of the Town of Terrabon.”
An anifolian is a rare species of bird found throughout Northern America and Eastern Europe. Its name comes from the Latin bases ANIM which means “mind, feeling, or life” and FOLI which means “leaf.” The suffix “-ian” means “pertaining to,” making the literal translation of this word “leaves that are alive.” It acquired this name because it lives its entire life high in the branches of trees. Its feathers show a remarkable resemblance to leaves and its feet look like twigs; it is rarely ever seen by humans. It is a massive bird, usually half the size and weight of a human.
There are many myths surrounding the anifolian. Because it is rarely ever seen, one must rely on the accounts given by its few witnesses. One legend is that the anifolian has three thin branches protruding from its forehead. It is said that if one of these branches were to be broken it would die instantly. That is the only way that an anifolian can die; it has no natural life span and nothing else will kill it. Another legend is that the anifolian actually holds control over the weather. It is a rare bird that never sings; it only opens its mouth to change the weather conditions. Imagine the anifolian sitting high in a tree top, unseen by anyone in the dead of night, and opening its mouth to let out a stream of crystal cold air. That one exhaled breath fills up the forest and pervades out in to the night sky. The temperature drops drastically and the landscape begins to freeze. Snow starts falling from the sky and everything is blanketed with it by morning. This is a pleasant, peaceful image, but what of other weather phenomena such as lightening storms, tornadoes, and hail storms? The anifolian is said to be the creator of those as well. That is perhaps the reason why this bird is feared above most other creatures. So much about it is uncertain, and yet is holds the potential to be very dangerous. The only reason people venture into the deepest woods to find this bird is with the intention to kill…
One of the most famous stories surrounding the anifolian occurred in the late 1700’s, when eastern America was first being colonized. It happened in a little town called Terrabon, located in present day North Carolina. About ten families made their homes there in the beginning. At first they built simple little log homes, the majority of their land being used for farming. The first community building to be erected was a church. Later on their came a general store, a doctor’s clinic, and a school. The townspeople got along well together and there weren’t any complaints. Nothing extraordinary ever happened in Terrabon, and the people of Terrabon liked it that way.
It was on one of these ordinary days in June that young Jacob got into trouble at school. Since it was only a one-room classroom and because the town was so small, Jacob was simply sent home with a note for his mother from his teacher. And, seeing as Jacob was not the most docile child, he did not proceed directly home, but wandered around a bit before receiving his punishment. It was during his walk home, after absentmindedly pulling up some flowers and throwing rocks at birds with his slingshot, that Jacob found himself at the abrupt entry to the forest. Children were warned to never enter the forest for many obvious reasons: there was a risk of them getting lost and there were wild animals such as bears and wolves lurking around in the dense foliage. Most parents preferred that their children play within the town where it was safe, so they would tell their children tales of horrific creatures known to roam within dark forests, in an attempt to kill their curiosity. Jacob stood there for a moment, considering the fact that no one knew where he was at the present moment; his mother assumed him to be at school and his teacher assumed him to be at home. If he were going to discover what really lie within the boundaries of the forest, now would be the opportune time.
It was some time later, after swinging through the long, magnificent tree branches and tearing through cobwebs that Jacob was out of breath and paused to rest. He took some cornbread out of his shirt pocket and began to eat. It had gotten a bit smashed during his excursion, but it still tasted the same to him. He thought idly about what his parents would say when they discovered that he had been sent home from school for the third time this month. The thought briefly crossed his mind that he could stay here, in the branches of this tree, and never return home again. He pictured himself with a coonskin cap and a rifle, eating the wildest game and living independently, in the trees. The rustling sound of leaves broke the silence and sharply brought him back to reality. He froze, cornbread halfway to his mouth, and looked around. He saw nothing. Then it happened again, louder this time. Jacob’s heart started beating wildly and his breath quickened. What if the stories were true? And he was all alone–no one knew that he was here. He scanned his surroundings yet again, and what he saw this time made him stifle a scream. There were two black, beady eyes staring directly at him from the shrubbery. He couldn’t see who they belonged to, but he longer he looked, an outline began to take form. He slowly realized that it was a bird he was looking at. A giant bird, with three thin branches protruding from its head, was sitting in the trees directly across from him.
Jacob could never recall how long he and the bird had been sitting there staring at each other, but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, Jacob moved. He jumped and fell from the tree branch and took off running as fast as he could. When he had almost reached the clearing, he turned around to see if the bird had followed him. He looked just in time to see the bird emitting a crystal blue stream of air from its mouth. The sky grew dark and the clouds began swirling. Jacob felt rain on his face before he even heard the crackle of thunder. And because he had been running with his face turned backwards toward the bird, Jacob ran into a tree, full force. Everything went black and he fell hard to the ground.
When he woke up, he was lying next to the warm stove in his cabin. He had a warm cloth on his forehead and his clothes were soaking wet. As his eyes came back into focus, he saw his mother’s kind face leaning over him. As soon as she saw that he was conscious, however, her expression changed. Jacob’s head was splitting with pain as his mother yelled at him and barraged him with the usual asinine parent questions: “Were you TRYING to get yourself killed, going into that forest? Do you act this way simply to upset your father and I?” Jacob tried to sit up straight, but the sudden sharp pain that he received nearly split his skull in two and knocked him back to the floor. He removed the cloth from his forehead and was startled to see that it was soaked through with blood. Seeing his frightened expression, Jacob’s mother took the bloodied cloth from him ad washed it out in a basin before reapplying it to his head. He made no attempt at an apology, but instead tried to explain the mysterious bird to his mother and tell her what had happened. She simply hushed him and told him to go back to sleep. As Jacob was drifting away, he noticed that rain was still hitting the roof and the roar of thunder still crashed in the background…
Jacob was awakened by a knock at the door. The pain in his head was easing and he attempted to lean up from the floor a little. He was surprised to see that his father was in the cabin, along with all of his brother and sisters. The preacher stood in the doorway, bundled up with a jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf. He brushed the snow off his shoulders and stepped inside. He announced that the town was congregating in the church, which was undoubtedly the largest and most durable building in the community. He and Jacob’s father spoke quietly to each other in the corner while Jacob’s mother got everyone bundled up in winter clothes. She turned her gaze toward Jacob. “Do you feel strong enough to walk?” she asked. Jacob slowly got to his feet, the blood pounding in his head, and with the help of his father, got dressed and walked to the door. What he saw at the window nearly knocked him to the floor again. The ground was covered in at least two feet of snow, and the flakes were blowing and coming down like a blizzard. It was mid-June, yet everyone in sight was leaving their home and walking toward the church, bundled up with warm winter clothes. Jacob gave his father a questioning look, and his father replied that he had been asleep for quite some time. The weather had been acting very strangely in the past week, and everyone was evacuating their homes. Jacob knew that he had to tell his parents, and everyone, about the bird in the forest, whether they believed him or not.
Later on, after everyone had been gathered into the sanctuary and were chatting with each other frantically, Jacob announced that he had something to say. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to him and the mumbled tones still echoed throughout the room, so he said in a louder voice, “I know why it is snowing outside!” Every voice in the room fell silent and the whirling winds outside were the only noise to be heard. Jacob was never a very talented orator, so without hesitation he just spilled out everything. He explained how he had gotten sent home from school, what had happened in the forest, and everything. A few of the young children giggled. Some of the older children Jacob’s age smirked. The reaction that Jacob didn’t expect, however, came from the adults. They all looked at each other solemnly, and nodded their heads. What’s strange is that they seemed to actually believe him. His mother was the first to speak up. “I didn’t want to believe him when I first heard, but I can’t deny it now. What we attempted to flee from in the old country has found us here in the new.” The preacher spoke up next. “She is right; it has got to be the anifolian. We all know that there is only one thing that can be done.” Jacob’s father boldly stood up from his seat. “I will go.” Several others were quick to stand as well, all agreeing that they would go too. Jacob wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but he wanted to go as well. Of course, being adults, they wouldn’t allow him and took off quickly, leaving him behind.
It was several hours later, when most of the women and children were asleep, that Jacob restlessly roamed the sanctuary. The howl of the wind could still be heard outside and he felt as though he had slept enough in the past week to last him a month. It was dark and eerie in the church at night, and after messing around with the pastor’s things behind the pulpit, he wandered over to a far window. He looked, and then looked again to be sure that he saw correctly, and it was in fact what he saw. Those beady, black eyes were staring at him from a tree outside of the building. He could barely make out a line of men, his father in the lead, fighting the snow and the wind to make their way to the tree. They moved slowly, but the bird did not even twitch. Jacob’s eyes were glued to the window as he watched his father climb the tree to the anifolian. The bird opened its mouth and the blue air streamed out to form a tornado. It approached from the already swirling clouds in the sky and sounded more sinister than any roar Jacob had ever heard. Amidst the chaos, Jacob’s father stretched his arm toward the bird, and triumphantly broke off one of the branches protruding from its forehead.
Everything fell silent, and the bird collapsed from the tree onto the snow. The men let out a cheer that awoke everyone in the church building. Jacob’s father held the broken branch over his head like a prize, and the men lifted him into the air and carried him into the building. “It is over!” yelled Jacob’s father, and a resounding cheer echoed throughout the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary. Jacob glanced back out the window and noticed something peculiar. The bird that was lying on the snow still had three full branches coming out of its head. This could only mean that his father must have broken a branch off of the tree outside, mistaking it for the bird! The anifolian opened its eyes from where it laid on the ground and glared hatefully into Jacob’s. It opened its mouth into that familiar “O” shape, and Jacob could only manage to weakly whisper, “It’s not over,” before the roar of the tornado picked up again and swept the church off its foundation. There were no survivors.
There isn’t any specific proof that a real anifolian (or “leaves that are alive”) exists. However, this story among others is enough to deter anyone from going to look for one. As for Jacob and the rest of the town? There is still a beautiful green meadow left vacant in the hills of North Carolina. It has never been re-settled, and is only occupied by one simple wooden sign that reads: “Welcome to the town of Terrabon. Population: Zero. Beware of the anifolian.”