This is an introductory tale that shall start the Wicked series, the events of this story take place exactly a year before the "main" series.
It was a warm Summer's evening when we arrived at Bigsby Manor, I had just "celebrated" my eight birthday in bed - having just now recovered from a recurring sickness and my parents decided that the Manor would do us all some good as a place to relax and get away from the stress of city life.
My father technically owned the Bigsby Manor ever since he bought it from the previous owners several years ago but this was the first time we really went to stay at the place - it was quite an intimidating building for my young mind: hidden in a forest and having an almost Gothic design, yet I soon began to forget about it as I made my way inside.
The Manor was very large and my parents were quick to take me to my room, situated on the second floor and sporting an impressive window that looked out into the garden below - at first my mother voiced concern over this but my father assured her it was secure and I was old enough to know not to play around with heights, this seemed to do the trick and soon I recieved my usual hugs before they left me for the night.
It didn't take long for the sun to set and I prepared myself for bed, still feeling a little unwell - hoping that my sickness wasn't returning.. as I slipped into bed I became aware of something in the room, a haunting feeling of not being alone.. my heart raced as I looked around but couldn't see anything.. yet try as I may that feeling continued to grow and I began to get a feeling of dread as I began to think to myself..
It's under the bed..
I began to feel myself shivering as I slowly slipped out of bed and went on my hand and knees, peering underneath - as I did so a pair of eyes stared out at me, like those of a feline: sparkling in the dark.
I instantly leapt back and watched with growing horror as a small furry figure emerged from under the bed, on its hands and knees, soon standing up on two small feet as it looked to me with its oversized head and large ears that perked up like those of a bat, a small nosepad wiggling much like that of a cat or dog.
Its entire body was covered in soft fur and its mouth seemed to stretch from one cheek to the other in an impossible smile, sharp teeth barely visible as it wiggled tiny fingers: tilting its head slightly.
"Me Poppy.. You friend? ..Poppy likes friends.." it said in a voice that whilst quiet caused goosebumps to rise up my back.
I went to scream but found myself frozen in fear as I simply stared, wide-eyed, at the creature - I was too old to believe in monsters under the bed.. yet here it was.. staring right at me.. talking to me.. even at the age of eight I was beginning to question my sanity.
The creature continued to look at me, then put a single finger to its wide mouth in a "hush" signal - moving towards the window as it flicked one of those large ears, I simply watched in a mixture of fear and fascination.. unable to do much else..
"Me show you magic trick.." Poppy said, somehow opening the window and letting in the night air as the curtains blew out like ghosts in the wind - turning to face me the strange creature began to beckon me forward.
"Poppy not hurt you, come.. me show you how to fly.." Poppy continued after I refused to come forward, suddenly I came to my senses and ran out of the room - not daring to look back as I swung the door open and ran over the dark hall, crashing down in a panic.
As I quickly scrambled onto my feet I felt my heart beating ever faster, finally letting out a cry I found myself confronted by the image of my mother and father - I began to babble to them about the "monster", they obviously didn't believe me and my father insisted I had a nightmare, yet I refused to let my mother go as she held me close.
So after some debate my father finally agreed to spend the night in the room with me, making a bed for himself on the floor - though he did make a point of saying this was for "one night only": I knew he was right, I had a bad dream.. that was all.. the fact the window was securely locked and a quick check under the bed revealing no signs of life proved that.. yet I was thankful to have him there as I finally went to sleep.
The next day went by fast despite the troubles of the night before and I found myself settling in quite well, that night I had convinced myself that Poppy was just a dream and thus felt no fear as my parents bid me goodnight and closed the door, leaving me alone in the room.
Yet that night proved to be anything but tranquil, after drifting off I found myself awoken by gentle nudging - Poppy sitting cross-legged on my bed, nudging me continually with a tiny finger as it tilted its head back and forth: upon noticing me stirring the creature's eyes seemed to sparkle brighter than before and it spoke out:
"Poppy not hurt you.. no run away.. come.. me show you new trick..".
I once again found myself unable to speak, yet something new stirred in me as I looked into those eyes - nodding quietly I found myself getting out of bed and following the creature as it led me out of the room and into the darkened hall, stopping every now and then to motion me onward, stopping at the top of the stairs.
"This is a special trick, just for you.. take Poppy's hand.. me show you how to bounce on stairs.. no fall down.. me promise..".
I stopped, looking down the stairs and then back at Poppy - the creature's little hand already stretched towards me, yet when I didn't respond its face turned into a small frown, then the creature leapt onto a stair and back, rather rapidly, remarkably keeping balance:
"..see? Poppy no let you fall.. we bounce like rabbits.. then you can show all your friends.. be fun..".
I began to feel myself slowly reaching towards Poppy despite my inner-fears, the creature's little hand soon grasping onto my own with surprising strength as it smiled at me - then turned to face the stairs as I began to take small steps towards the edge.. to my surprise Poppy started singing a short hymn I remembered from Sunday School:
"..root them out, bid them gone, all the little bunnies in the fields of corn - envy, jealousy, malice and pride -they must never in your heart abide..".
I began to hover one foot over the edge of the stairs as Poppy continued to hold my hand, when suddenly I felt myself being grabbed from behind - my father dragging me away from the stairs and calling out, to my surprise I jerked as if awakening from a dream, Poppy nowhere to be seen.
What followed was a worried conversation with my father and then a trip back to my room, thinking I had been sleepwalking my father decided to lock the bedroom door and left - Poppy never returned that night and I soon went back to sleep.
The next two nights went by without incident and I soon began to find myself forgetting about Poppy, this was to be the final night before we returned to the city and I felt a slight sadness at the prospect of leaving the Manor behind: though a part of me knew it was for the best.
So it was on the third night I went to bed and closed my eyes, only to feel something climb up onto my bed - opening my eyes and sitting with a start I found myself looking at Poppy once more, the little creature giving me a sad look with those large eyes.
"Poppy want to show friend something.. Poppy promise it not bad..".
I began to shake my head, knowing that Poppy wasn't my friend - yet as the creature stared at me I began to feel myself slowly giving in as I climbed out of bed despite myself and stood still as Poppy hopped down, offering me a hand.
Taking the offered hand I silently followed Poppy to the large cupboard at the corner of my room, the creature motioned me to the edge and I instinctively knew what to do: taking the edge of the cupboard I moved it over with as much strength as I could.. to my surprise I was able to move it and Poppy showed me a small hole in the wall, which had been covered by the cupboard.
Kneeling down I watched as Poppy reached into the hole and pulled out a small shoebox, obviously of considerable age - opening it to reveal a collection of small trinkets that obviously belonged to children.
"Poppy loves friends.. because friends love Poppy.. we all happy.. you be happy too.. if you were Poppy's friend.. no be alone.. no be sick.. or scared.. Poppy care for you.. just like Poppy care for other friends.."
I just stared at the box for a while, trying to make sense of it all - Poppy's words haunted me as the creature pulled out a small but sharp letter opener, hidden amidst the trinkets, holding it out towards me:
"..all you have to do is sleep.. Poppy keep you safe.. no be scared.. no hurt.. just sleep..".
I began to feel my heart racing again at this and instinctively got up, pushing the box away as I ran out of the room - running down that familiar hall as I burst into my parents room and began to tell them the whole story, as could be expected neither believed me but had assumed I was experiencing another nightmare.
Heading back to the room I was shocked to find the cupboard back in place, as if nothing had happened, despite objections I had my father check under the bed - there was nothing.. no box.. no Poppy.. everything was as it had been before.
I refused to believe Poppy was gone, no matter how much my parents tried, I simply couldn't stay in that room and thus the final few hours of my last night at Brisby Manor was spent hiding in my parents' room like a frightened toddler trying to evade the boogeyman.
The following day we were getting ready to leave for the city and I was quick to pack my things - climbing into the back of my parents car I looked up at the window to that room and saw a small shadow standing there: I quickly looked away, thankfully my parents soon arrived and started the car, as we drove away I breathed a small sigh of relief.. it was over..
The scene shifts to reveal a female news reporter standing over the wreckage of a family car, speaking to the camera as emergency crews come and go in the background:
"This is Elizabeth Grey reporting from the scene of a terrible tragedy in Brisby Way, a young family heading back from a stay at Brisby Manor have become the victims of a fatal car-crash: both Mr and Mrs Smith were declared dead at the scene, leaving eight-year old Edward Smith as the sole survivor.. the cause of the crash is still unknown and authorities are continung their investigations.. Edward is being taken to the Brisby Hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.. the care of Brisby Manor is now expected to pass onto Mr Smith's brother, who shall also take on the role of Edward's guardian..".
The scene shifts to reveal an middle-aged man, clearly distressed, speaking at an interview:
"My brother was a good man, I will do everything I can to keep Brisby Manor going.. he would of wanted that.. of course Edward is my main concern right now - once he is well again I will take him to the Manor and try to work this out.. we'll get through it.. as a family.."