The Trail of Kiki to Kiki
"I saw her so many times before yet I haven't seen her in such a long time I can't even remember her face. Oh, the pain, the agony."
"You saw her yesterday."
My village was a pretty peaceful place, but a kid or two would disappear every once in a while. When that happened, it was my job to find them. And I did, happy and healthy, every time. Most of them would get lost in the forest playing hide and seek or tag or murderous mischiefs. The last one might not sound like a game, but was the most popular of them all.
The forest was dense and unexplored, with bugs and beast lurking in every corner. Losing your trail was too easy even for adults, let alone children. The only reason I was able to move through it so surely and freely was my gift of smell. I could the sense the scent print of every person who ever passed through it and, if I concentrated hard enough, I could clutch onto one of them and follow it to its source.
I could find anyone and anything, but I wasted half of my talent on a one particular person.
This time, the missing kid was Kiki. Like the last time. An the time before it.
To put it lightly, Kiki was the most mischievous kid the world has ever known.
"Did you check all her usual hiding spots?" I asked Momo.
"Of course I did! I even checked all the hiding spots she didn't even try yet!" she said. "What if she's lost forever? How will my heart live through such a heartbreak?!"
Momo was a ray of sunshine burning a bit too bright. She was adorable, cheerful, overly dramatic and desperately in love with Kiki. Everyone knew it, except for Kiki and Momo herself.
"I have a bad feeling this time," she said slowly. "Like-like it's different than usual."
She was on verge of crying again, so I pat her on the frizzy hair. "Don't worry. I'll find her, like I always do. She's playing a game."
A game. Exactly. That was something we should be doing as well. "How about we play a game? Are you more of a tag or a murderous mischiefs kind a girl?"
"Murderous mischieves," she said readily, but it wasn't true. Momo was extremely fast and dexterous, running was her thing. She would play tag for hours on end until Kiki came around. Kiki, being the cunning beast she was, loved games packed with tricks and scares. I knew Momo was easily scared, so it was the furthest from her ideal game, but she was forcing herself to like it until she actually came to like it. But not more than tag.
Murderous mischieves was a game of stalking and scaring. One person would jauntily walk around the forest and the other would follow in shadows, watching their every move. When the time was right, the 'murderer' would jump out of its hideout and try to scare the 'victim'. If he succeeded, the game would declare the 'victim' murdered and the 'murderer' victorious.
I was going to play as a 'victim', having to promise I won't use her smell to track her movements. Momo hid somewhere and I continued to follow Kiki's trail. I was so used to it by now, I could found it in the unwashed crowd without trying. I never confronted her about this, but I was fairly sure the part of reason for her constant disappearing was testing my ability. Ever since she was a toddler, she was jealous of me, crying 'I want to be a doggy too' every time she saw me. It was annoying at first, but became endearing with time.
I was relieved every time I found her, even though I wouldn't admit I was worried in the first place.
The forest was silent. Too silent. Aside from my footsteps breaking branches and fallen leaves, the air was empty. I made my way through the usual trails, paved with mistakes and wrong turns. With time, they became right. I was calm, but the silence was still unsettling. It made me aware of any little sound I was making, shifting my focus from Kiki's scent.
Where did all the animals go? Usually you could hear birds' singing, boars' galloping and squirrels' squeaking. Those sounds were familiar, comforting, sounds of a true forest. Silence was the sound of death.
Despite my unease, I proceeded, more cautiously than before. I walked and walked and... I came to the end. The end of Kiki's trail, but no with Kiki in sight.
I laughed at my naivety. Of course she wouldn't be standing in the plain sight, it was Kiki, for god's sake. I circled around, carefully searching for the glimpse of her raven black hair. Kiki was skilled at hiding, I'll give her that, but I was skilled at seeking too.
I pushed the branches back and forth, I flipped rocks and went through the bushes. Not a trace of her. The cold sweat came running down my face. I ran fingers down my hair, trying to calm myself down. She had to be there. My nose couldn't betray me. It never did.
There was a tall tree in front of me. Of course, she climbed to the top. How could I not notice it before? I started climbing it as fast as I could, but it wasn't fast enough.
"Kiki, I'm coming for you!" I screamed from the top of my lungs. I had to scare the silence away.
My hand almost slipped, but I grabbed onto a lower branch in time. Its bark was rough so it hurt my skin, sending waves of pain and discomfort down my body. I desperately tried to lift myself back up, but the world didn't work in my favor. The smaller body landed on me, hugging me the instant it felt my presence. My hold of the branch lost its grip and I fell back-first on the hard ground. The breath escaped my lungs as the other person fell on my stomach. I screamed in agony and fear, lifting my head to see the little mischief.
"Ha, I found-" I started happily, but stopped. It wasn't Kiki. It was Momo.
She smiled at me. "You've been murdered."
I wasn't. I lifted myself off the ground. The ground. The ground was too rough. I was missing grass. I knelt by it, examining its surface. It was dug up and freshly covered with dirt and sand and crushed flowers. And Kiki's scent.
I realized at that moment I lost in the game of murderous mischiefs, but won in the game of hide and seek.