Once Upon a Time wait, no, that’s a terrible beginning. Who would ever begin a story like that? Hmm….how about, Ah!
“Clara Raviola?” A woman said looking at Clara’s passport. “Please head this way and take the first terminal to your left.”
“Thank you.” Clara said as she grabbed her bags and rushed to the terminal. She boarded the plane took her seat away from the window and tried to relax.
“If everyone could please take your seat and fasten your seatbelt we can get this trip underway.” The pilot said over the intercom.
Clara fastened her seatbelt and waited. Once the plane started Clara gripped the arms of her chair. She looked out the window and saw the plane lifting off the ground. She quickly closed the blind and took a deep breath.
Once the plane settled Clara reached into her bag, pulled out her laptop and opened up her email to check her job.
“Cleveland Row across from the St. Catherine Foundation. Okay.” Clara reassured herself. She closed her laptop and began to doze off for her nine-hour trip.
The plane halted to a stop waking Clara up. She looked outside and the sky had blackened. The hundreds of lights from the streets of London lit up the ground. Clara walked out of the London City Airport and hailed a taxi.
“Where to?” He asked.
“Um…” Clara pulled out her phone. “The Grange Wellington Hotel.”
The taxi drove all the way to the hotel. “That’ll be forty three pounds.”
Clara reached into her purse and pulled out a hundred dollar bill.”
“American, huh?” The taxi driver reluctantly took the money.
“Wait, don’t I get any change?” Clara asked.
The taxi driver drove off. Clara grumbled to herself. She checked into the hotel and walked into her room. She set her things down and laid on her bed.
Clara woke up and lurched forward. She rubbed her eyes and looked at her alarm clock. It said 8:30. Clara jumped out of bed and got ready. She opened the door to her hotel room and saw one of her favorite sights, Big Ben.The morning was cool, the wind lashed at Clara giving her reason to reach for her scarf. Clara looked at a small piece of paper with the address on it. When she walked to the car she rented (a blue Aston Martin) she noticed many on goers with umbrellas at their elbows as if they were handbags.
Clara opened the front left door and saw an umbrella, some fertilizer, her gardening gloves, and her trowel. Immediately realizing her mistake she went around to the other door where the wheel was.
As she drove she crossed the Tower of London, and a few streets down was the home of her eccentric employer. She locked her car and grabbed her things then ran up the steps. When she rang the doorbell it played four different notes. A woman opened the door. She had wrinkly skin and gray hair covering her tired expression.
“Hello, are you Mrs. Chu?” Clara asked.
“Yes, and you must be Clara, the gardener?” Mrs. Chu asked.
“Yes, I got your email.”
“Please, come in. When I got your ad, I knew my garden would be in good hands. You see, my garden rarely gets the same gardener twice, I don’t know why they just never come back the next day.” Mrs. Chu said walking through her hallway.
“Is your husband in? He might be able to help.”
Mrs. Chu eyed her wedding ring with great discomfort. “My dear husband Micah vanished five years ago.” Mrs. Chu said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Oh, I’m sorry to have brought it up.” Clara said covering Mrs. Chu’s hands with hers.
“It’s quite alright, I’ve learned resilience. Now, let me show you the garden.”
The garden was in great disarray. Vines crawled up the stone columns, Clara looked into the koi pond, The water was green and seemed like something had died in there, and red stains were under the hanging plants. The only thing left untouched was the zen garden with a Buddha statue in the center.
“As you can see it’s in very bad shape.” said Mrs. Chu.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” Clara said.
“I love that attitude, now, I left a list on the porch table. I’m off to go get groceries. I assume you’ll be done when I get back?” asked Mrs. Chu.
“Yes ma’am.” Clara said unassured.
“I’ll be back in about an hour or so.” Mrs. Chu returned inside and drove out of the driveway to the supermarket. Clara reached for the list. It was stiff and crinkled.
“She’s got fancy handwriting.” Clara said.
Pick up the leaves
Rinse the stains
Ignore the dog
Carry the water
Kill the weeds
You’re a professional
Outdo the others
Undo the knots
Find the tools
Ignore everything but the first
Nevertheless you’ll nearly be done
Gut the squash
Clara went into the shed and came out with a leaf blower. She blew the leaves into a pile, filled them into large garbage bags. She returned to the shed to get the power washer. As soon as she began spraying a large dog across the fence began barking. She ignored it. She grabbed a couple buckets and scooped up the murky water and dumped it into the grass. She returned to the grass with weed killer and began spraying along the brick fence. While she was spraying she noticed a small hedge inside the fence.
She stood back, the hedge was about 7x7 feet. On it, she saw a weed. She tried spraying it with the weed killer, but nothing happened. She decided to pluck it out. When she attempted she pricked her finger on one of the thorns. She examined her it, blood was surfacing. When she looked back at the hedge there was a drop of blood which quickly spread into the form on an arch. The vines shriveled from the dark red arch revealing a shadowy pathway.
Clara looked around her to see if anything was watching her. Nothing. She stepped back but the vines thrust towards the Buddha statue then grabbed her, the thorns injecting in her skin making her cry out in pain it pulled her tumbling down through a tunnel of thorns and thickets. She fell on stable ground, she looked up, only to see she was no longer in London.
Clara checked her surroundings, there was a large tree with a stone in front of it. The stone was dirty except for a strange rectangular outline. Clara heard something, the vines began closing. She heard rustling in the bushes in front of her. She backed up against the hedge. Out of the bushes, there was a little boy who looked wildly out of breath, he was wearing torn clothes and was missing a shoe.
“Please you have to help me!” the boy cried frantically.
“Why?” Clara asked.
What the boy said was indistinct.
“What did you say?”
From the bushes a giant wolf leaped onto the boy tearing him limb from limb. The boy had cried wolf.
Slowly the large wolf changed into a man with black hair and a white blaze and dressed like a biker, covered in leather, and a red ascot. He had blood dripping from his mouth. Clara stood still, terrified.
“’Ello beautiful.” he said wiping the blood away, his accent was profound.
“Why would you do that?!” Clara screamed.
“I was hungry.”
“That’s no excuse to eat him! He was a little boy.”
“He was the King of Deceit’s grandson, I was putting him out of his misery.”
“What? The King of Deceit? Who’s that? Never mind that, who are you? And do you know where I am?”
“I am often called the Big Bad Wolf, but my friends call me Chris.” He said. “And the King of Deceit is the ruler of this island. He says he’s keeping us from chaos, but we all know he’s lying to us. That’s why we call him the King of Deceit.”
“What is the King of Deceit’s real name?”
Chris paused to think. “No one’s seen him so no one knows.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the Sherwood Forest.” Chris paused. “You know. You’re the first girl I’ve seen come from there.” Chris motioned to the hedge.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Clara asked.
“Women are meant for one thing. And that is to take care of the children. We can take care of working.” Chris said defiantly. “And besides, we wouldn’t want you to get hurt yourself on these bushes.”
Clara gave a slight smile, and slapped Chris across the face leaving a red mark where the boy’s blood once rested.
“Oooh, feisty, I like that. It’s too bad. I’m going home, you’ve spoiled my appetite.” Chris grumbled.
Chris turned to the right and walked down the path leading to a large smooth hill. There was white smoke rising over the horizon.
Clara stopped to think. “The Big Bad Wolf. Great, I’m going crazy.” Clara chased after Chris. As they went over the hill they saw a large house which looked like it could be a cottage or a mansion. The designs were gothic, many of the windows were slightly tinted, the columns were made out of black stone. The walls were made of a dark wood all with a brick fireplace and the smell of baked goods.
It was a steep hill, as Clara would know. She took her first few steps and tripped knocking Chris sending them both hurdling down the hill. Clara landed on her back and Chris landed on top of her.
They landed right at the edge of the pathway to the cottage-mansion when the door swung open.
“Christopher Alexander Torrez! What are you doing?” A girl with short red hair covered by her red hood barged through the door.
“Who’s that?” Clara asked worriedly.
“That’s Red Riding Hood, my girlfriend.” Chris said pushing off the ground to stand and to help Clara up.
Red Riding Hood pulled out a long tube and shot a small dart into Clara’s arm. Her head began to spin as she fell to the ground again.
Clara was walking down a path, it was raining. There was nothing but water for miles, behind her was Mrs. Chu. She smiled devilishly as vines constricted Clara dragging her under the ground as Mrs. Chu waved good-bye.
She fell through a hole in the sky and landed in a strange room. She saw a cloaked wispy figure holding a midnight black wand strangling Chris against a tree. As Chris drew his last breath, he fell to the ground and the shadow turned around and reached for her. As soon as they touched the shadow turned into smoke. Clara was left in the dark when a single light shone around her.
Around her six other lights revealing six others. Three men, three women. All were hooded. Behind Clara there was a tired old man with an axe, he knelt down and prayed. He grabbed his axe and lunged at one of the figures. Five of them grabbed their wands and lifted him into the air and turned him into dust leaving nothing but his axe. All six pointed their wands at Clara and shone a blinding light. Clara was with other prisoners in shackles.
They all stopped and saw a woman with extraordinarily long blonde hair. A rugged man stood on the stage.
“Jean Amory, you are being executed for treason, and breaking my heart.”
A woman in a blue dress came over and turned Jean into a statue of ice. Most of the prisoners stepped back. Clara was next, she was shoved onto the stage next to Jean as the ice woman sent a blast of frost at her.
Clara was cold and sitting in a steel cell, in the next cell over she heard a voice.
“Please, I don’t know where she is, just let me go!” said a frantic voice. Not soon after there was a loud crack and a thud.
Moments later, two guards with black armor picked up Clara and carried her into the next cell over. There was something white and slimy all over, especially on the chair. One of the guards unsheathed his sword and was about to swing, but an arrow flew through the window and hit him straight in the neck. The bars in the window quickly turned to liquid. From the window came two young men. They stabbed the final guard and left him on the floor. They grabbed Clara and handed her a pole connected to a zip line leading into the forest. They jumped and descended into the trees. Guards on the castle wall began shooting arrows, most missing until the zip line snapped and they fell.
A man dressed in a green suit walked below them and took off his top hat, as soon as it came off it sucked the three of them in.
Clara was now sitting in a chair, her eyes coming into focus, she was in a dark room. In front of her was a table and a large stove from where sweet aroma had come from. Clara’s hands were tied to the arms of a wooden chair with a velvet cushion.
“What are you doing here?” asked a voice behind her. “Were you trying to steal my granny’s goods and sell them? Because you wouldn’t be the first and you won’t be the last.” The hooded girl continued to talk about past experiences with thieves.
“Sorry, she can talk for ages sometimes.” Chris said untying Clara’s hands.
“Except for these two twins, they… Hey!”
“Red, cool down. She’s not here to steal from you.” Chris was hesitant. “She came from the hedge.”
Red stopped talking. “That old portal? I didn’t know a portal was still working.”
“It has been.”
“What?” Red said angrily, her hood becoming a bright crimson.
“Recently that portal has been opening up and sending people through. I’ve been there every month.”
Clara tried to intervene but was unsuccessful as Chris and Red began to argue.
“And how long has this been going on?”
“The past four years.”
“Four years! After all this time, I have paid for animals for you to eat and you leave for people! I thought we were getting you over that! And let me guess, because she’s a girl you let her live.”
“I do that all the time! You of all people should know this.” Chris shouted back.
“That’s not why I’m mad!”
“Um, excuse me-” Clara attempted.
“What!” Red shouted looking as if she could spit fire.
“I was wondering if there was a way for me to get back home.”
Red sighed. “I would like to help, but I have my own problems right now.” Red glanced back at Chris.
Chris reverted back into a wolf and began looking up to Red. Red was finally persuaded by her pathetic boyfriend.
“Fine, I’ll do it. But you have to do something for me first.”
“What’s that?” Clara asked.
“The person who gives me eggs stopped supplying me so I need to go, fix the problem.”
“Where does he live?”
“He’s on the other side of the Sherwood Forest.”
Red and Chris walked in front letting Clara trail behind as they reentered the woods.
“You know, over the hedge, I heard stories about you two.” Clara said at the foot of the tree.
“What did you hear?” Red asked after she’d calmed down.
“Well, you were known as Little Red Riding Hood, and Chris dressed up as your granny and ate you. Or at least that’s one way. Then there are a bunch of different movie adaptations.”
“Trust me, I’d never do that. Her granny is a witch.” Chris said.
“Don’t you think that’s a little mean?”
“No, an actual witch.”
They were now at the foot of the doorstep of a little hut with an oval door. They opened the door, the sides were wet and there was a large pile of bones at the
front of the door. Sitting on a chair, was an egg dressed in a blue suit and loafers.