It was a bright afternoon. The warm gold of the sun settled on the hills like a wool blanket. Arial plopped down with her bucket next to a particularly full mound of blueberries. One handful for pies... one for the mouth.
She had been on Blueberry Hill for a few hours now, poking along, picking berries, snacking, looking for snakes and mice. The hill was called Warrensfield to everyone else, but Arial just called it Blueberry Hill because that's where the blueberries grew. It was ten minutes from the dead end of her street to be up the hill and over the first hummock so that the town was out of sight.
She loved it here, had felt draw to the hill as soon as her family had moved to Prosper. She was only seven, but the town was small and isolated and in 1977, no one questioned a seven year old roaming the hills alone.
Today her mom had let her watch the end of Scooby Doo, then had handed her the big Crisco pail and sent her to get enough berries for a couple of pies.
She heard a whiffling behind her and lazily reached back. "C'mere Goldie. Good girl. Don't you go scarin' them snakes now. I want to see a snake."
Arial often talked to her dog. There weren't many kids in Prosper, and cartoons had taught her that dogs were great friends, and good at solving mysteries.
"Goldie, let's pretend. That hill there is going to start having trees appear on it. They'll be big walkin', talkin' trees, like on the wizard movie. And there will be naiads. Or are the tree ones dryads?"
She frowned but Goldie didn't answer, so she went on. "Dryads I think. Dryads among the trees, and nymphs. And those goat-feet guys."
She paused and cocked her head to one side.
"Goldie, didjoo hear that? Somebody said my name."
Goldie looked at her quizzically. Arial popped another two handfuls of berries into the bucket and jumped to her feet.
"I DID heared that. I'm gonna go see. C'mon Goldie."
She headed back up the hill, cresting it and going down the far side, out of sight of even the tall water tower. Far down the hill, there was a dark line, near the horizon. There WERE trees.
"I never walked this far before, Goldie, but I think I still hear my name. Do you?"
Goldie barked once.
Arial closed her eyes to concentrate. There were a few lazy flies buzzing around her, and a fat bumblebee whose bum was twitching as he focussed on his flower. Far off in the distance, she again heard, "a r i a l."
As she moved forward she felt as though the heat was making the air shimmer. Through the shimmer, it looked like the distant horizon was twitching. Like the trees from her fantasy were indeed marching.
"'S'funny, Goldie, lookit the trees! I think it's elves calling me!" She forgot that dryads had been her earlier pronouncement, because through the heat shimmers she thought she saw short figures, frolicking on the field, between her and the dark moving line of trees.
Goldie began a low growl.
Arial continued to walk forward, feeling caught in a trance. Goldie caught hold of her tshirt and pulled. Goldie was a mutt, and not a big one, but Arial was a fairly small child. The unexpected resistance caused her to lose her footing and drop the Crisco bucket.
Her head snapped down to see her berries rolling away.
"GOOOOLLLLDDIIIIEEE!! NOOOOO!" The horizon forgotten, she scrambled to collect as many of the berries as she could rescue and then turned and chased the gambolling dog back over the hill.
Ignored, in the distance, a low sound carried on the breeze... "a r i a l..."