The Barney and Echo COSTA Short Story Award 

Emily's Entry...  
Night is meant for sleeping.  
As the sky cools and the moon rolls across our glass ceiling, they sleep.  
But the little creatures crawl out of their holes. How unnatural is it that nature chooses this hour to finally wake up? 
Hearing a call, Oscar clambered out on all fours. Taking time to search the forest floor and quell the terror in his beating heart. His mind raced with the fleeting thoughts of a child, filling the unknown with monsters. 
“Mom…” It was barely a whimper but Oscar needed to release the thrumming energy pent up in his chest. She’s by the fire. She said she’d stay by the fire. But the embers lay still. It was hard without mum to coax him forward, but he pulled in a breath and peeked at the outside. 
There was mist unfurling on the ground, weaving together and moving with a purpose; each strand spun like a spider’s web and as treacherous as an arachnid’s trap. The mist was allies with the wind. Carrying wailing spirits through the currents until they dissipated at the boundaries of their prison. Bark and wood serving as their bars. 
The chilling cold pierced through Oscar and chased the blood faster through his veins. He shot up. Needing to move, to collapse in his parent’s arms and find the warmth buried there. 
Suddenly a cry streaked through the air in white and red. And there were voices, deep voices like the giant hunting Jack. Oscar was dizzy with panic. He hurled himself towards the only form, the white blur of a bird. It was crying out like earlier and wore red streaks in its feathers. Too loud. They would hear it and hunt them. 
“Shhh… please, be quiet.” And with each stroke it settled, but it was shaking and so was Oscar. He crumpled inward and shielded the bird as each step pounded past. 
Eventually the cold sank and curled around him. It was the only thing he could feel as he stirred from an anxious night. But when he awoke so did his senses in a mad rush of prickling light. Then came the smell of damp pine needles. The last sensation to return from its vacation was the feeling of feathers. 
The bird brought with it a fear. They were being hunted. But no giants with traps on their backs and children in their sacks were in sight. 
Oscar stood and regretted it until the pins stopped pricking his legs. There were no landmarks or signs so he followed the sun in its orbit. The journey was hard on winter (yes, he gave her a name) so he took very tiny steps. 
That was okay with him though as each cracking stick reminded him of the monsters. Crunch, crash, creek. Wait - that wasn’t him. 
Winter screeched as Oscar sprinted with a final push. Nothing was louder than the wind battering his cheeks red; all was a blur and he was lost. 
A bright light scarred the line of his vision. They had found him. He was a boy trapped in headlights with the monsters at his back. Of course, this was when the knight rode in to save him. Or drove in if you’re being technical. 
The ranger halted his car and dove forwards to catch the kid. 
“Are you hurt? What’s your name? Are you alo….” 
“Help!” Oscar wailed, “The giants want to eat me!” 
There were no giants but the ranger could see men in the trees stalking the child. 
“Do you mean them?” 
Oscar didn’t have the heart to turn but nodded with violent speed. 
“Why do they want you?” He tried to search Oscar’s eyes but they were closed with water spilling out to trace his cheeks. Some sank into his skin but others fell and hit the bird in his arms. 
An endangered spotted flycatcher, bleeding with a broken wing. It could only mean one thing; the poachers were back again and on the prowl. 
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