When I was five, I spent most of my time outdoors. I lived in rural North Carolina, surrounded by dusty roads and towering mountains. My best friend, Austin, lived across the street. He was a short, wide-eyed kid who was raised strictly Baptist and spent his days outside too, which is why we were always together. He and I would go exploring.
We lived on a dead end. The side of our houses were framed by the edge of a looming forest. That forest was our wonderland. We romped in the woods for hours, looking for magic. And one day, we found it.
We called the place Happy Valley. It was a place in the woods where the trees suddenly thinned and there was a river that surged and bubbled through the earth. Violet wildflowers swayed alongside our light-up sneakers. We would sit on a log by the river and run our hands over the soft fuzzy moss that grew on the damp wood. We made up stories and ate dandelions and stuck our feet in the water. Then we would leave, and come back, and leave, and come back again.
Until one day, we came back and it was different.
The first sign was a beer can. It glittered on the pathway. Austin picked it up and examined it.
“Aliens,” he said, with certainty.
We proceeded with extra caution, tiptoeing through the underbrush, watching for extraterrestrials.
The trees cleared. My sneakers scuffed into another beer can.
And we saw Happy Valley.
A bulldozer was sleeping by the side of the river. Trees lay cracked and sprawled across the clearing. The wildflowers were gone, crushed into the mud. The river hissed like it didn’t recognize us.
We didn’t know it at the time, but our neighborhood was expanding. The woods that framed our dead end would give way to a new house. Happy Valley would be replaced by a new neighbor.
We bolted out of there. Feet slipping in the mud, chests heaving with terror.
It was the end of Happy Valley. But when the new family moved in, a kid came knocking on my door. And it was the start of something wonderful.
yours in haste,
kelsey day is a young award winning poet who grew up in the blue mountains of north carolina. she has received recognition for a collection of short stories, as well as two novels she published at the ages of 11 and 13. today she is studying creative writing in boston, massachusetts.