There’s always that story which your grandmother tells you. The one with the pretty creatures, the mischievous creatures, the creatures which promise you everything … if you go into the woods. You heard the story from your grandma, who heard it from her grandma, whose grandma had firsthand experience, right?
Good. Me neither. That’s the sort of thing that happens in fairy tales for children to learn morals or something like that. But some things should be taken seriously, like, never go into the woods alone. At night. When there are rumors of disappearances. See? The news can be good for something. Why didn’t I bother to watch the news? Maybe I would have avoided the mess I put myself and my older sister in. She watches the news, she warned me, but she’s a stickler, so I never listen to her.
One day, when the summer had begun to fade, two young blondes went to market place near the woods of their home town. A nameless place that everybody knows, but nobody acknowledges. The youngest of the girls, a seventeen year old family-rebel, was in a bad mood. Her older sister was a twenty-one year old responsible family-member galore. She’s the mum, the dad, the sister, the aunt and the cousin. They were at a stalemate in their argument. An argument neither would remember later that day.
The older sister was called Elizabeth, but preferred Lizzie or Beth, and the youngest was called Laura. They needed food and had gone to the market to stock up. It was late afternoon but there were a couple stall owners still open. Lizzie stayed closer to the stalls which were further from the woods. Having heard about the disappearances and the danger they posed. She ignored the calls of the loud stall owners by the woods who gave out a continued stream of cries;
“Come buy! Come buy! We have apples for your pie! We have oranges for your juice! Lemons for your flavoring! All are ripe and all are fresh!”
Unknown to Lizzie, Laura had wondered over to the stalls closest to the woods, darkest through its shade. The hush that settled and surrounded Laura as she stepped further from safety and closer to temptation went unnoticed.
There was something different, both alluring and threatening in the smiles of the men. White hair on men so young, eyes which sparkle without the sun. Teeth which gleam and seem so mean. Yet their essence was enticing. They were threateningly sinful. Sinfully tempting. They possessed a glamour of freedom and a glamour of imprisonment. They drew Laura in, deeper and deeper.
“What else do you have?” Laura questioned, wanting them to speak. Their voices were harmony personified. Weaving a spell of adoration and bedazzlement around her.
The stall owners paused in their calls, looked to one another, and smiled so mischievously, Laura wanted to be a part of their plans. Their pranks and joys, their fun and ploys.
“We have melons and raspberries,” The first one replied.
“Bloom-down-cheeked peaches.” Another stated.
“Swart-headed mulberries,” A third continued.
“Wild free-born cranberries!” The final exclaimed.
“We have crab-apples, dew-berries,-”
“- pineapples and blackberries!”
“Apricots and -”
“Oh!” Laura interrupted as she leaned forwards. “You have strawberries!”
Their grins grew.
Lizzie looked up. She could’ve sworn she heard Laura call out. She looked around before noticing her younger sister had wondered over to the woodland stalls.
“Please, will you bag this for me? I’ll be right back.” Lizzie hurried out as she began to make her way to her sister.
“They grew in the summer weather!” one of them explained.
“The mornings passed by, and the evenings flew!”
“Did you know?” Another came from beside her, the number of stall owners increasing without her notice. He was younger than the others, who were in their mid-twenties and thirties, perhaps a brother who tagged along to learn the trade. He whispered and leaned closer, his blue eye glowing with excitement. Laura leaned forwards to hear. “Our grapes are fresh from their vines, and our pomegranates are so very full and so very fine.”
“Dates!” “Rare pears!” “Bilberries!” three of them cried out over the stall.
“Would you like to try them?” the man, no more than nineteen, asked her as he held out a basket.
“Currents? Gooseberries? Figs? Citrons?” She listed as she looked into the basket.
“And fire-like barberries.” He finished pushing the basket closer.
As the sky darkened, the glamour’s pull began to fade, the smiles became sinister, and their eyes sharp like a spinster. Laura was trapped and Lizzie was near.
The reason for the town, that everyone knows but nobody acknowledges, to be so nameless is because of the curse, where the families cannot leave, and strangers cannot enter. Those younger than eighteen, the secret remains hidden. Those who are older, wiser and more level-headed, so they hope, know the secret and protect the naïve.
Laura is a naïve, Lizzie is a protector.
When Laura bows her head and reached a hand to pick a fruit, her wrist is grabbed and she is yanked, as if by a brute. Her sister stands before her, breathing ragged and with cheeks full of flush.
She pulls her forward, resting Laura’s head upon her shoulder. “Stay close.” She whispers as they walk away from the woodland stalls where the men in glamour’s call. “We must not look towards those men, nor buy their fruits.”
“Come buy!” The calls began anew, this time not as few. They call as they pack, they call as they leave. Back to the woodland, the dark, dark woodland.
Laura looks back, Lizzie still beside her. “No, Laura! No.” She cries as she covers her sister’s eyes.
“But Lizzie!” Her sister cries in awe. “Look, Lizzie!”
“No, no, no.” Lizzie covers her ears and returns to the stall owner who she asked to bag her purchases.
As her older sister hurries away, and they reach the road before last, Laura lags behind. She’s dragged to her room, once she enters the house.
“Don’t leave this room. Not for a single thing. For tonight, just tonight.” Lizzie closes the door, her footsteps retreating.
Laura jumps through her window, to the tree. She lands on a thick branch, she lands on her knees. She climbs down the trunk, from branch to branch. She starts down the road but stops for a moment to look, to see, the house in which she grew so empty and cold. She wants the warmth and joy, the hope and the mischief.
She turns back and returns to the now empty market. Night has fallen, but the woodland stall owners were still there. They looked different in the moonlight. They had various animalistic traits. Such as slit eyes, with tails, and ears. Whiskered faces, with fangs, and claws. The boy from before, the youngest of them all, he had an orange fox tail and ears to match, with white tips, so slick. His hair, once brown, now reddish mud, with orange tufts. Eyes, once blue-pools now silver-like dew. They glistened and glowed, reflecting the light whilst showing their own.
When they cooed at her return, it was the sound of velvet, of silk. It was smooth and kind, both rippling and flowing.
They all leered at each other, and then back away together. Into the woods, the dark, dark woods. The dangerous, the haunting. The horrid, the enchanting. The woods she was warned about, but not given a reason.
Like the rebellious stage suggested, she ignored what was requested. She raced forwards. Pushing and shoving the branches and vines. Running after the sound of silky smooth velvet which ripples and flows. The laughs and calls as sweet as sugar.
She stopped in a clearing, both empty and full. The sound of laughter, echoing and swirling. Nothing was visible, in the moonlight night.
And then, the eyes that glow silver, silver-like dew, emerged from the trees, with baskets of fruit. The stall owners came next, with plates of gold and golden dishes too. The fruit so ripe, so new, so true.
One stepped forwards, then another, then another. They spoke in purrs and growls, with tones of honey.
“If you want to try, come buy.”
The whistles and purrs, the growls and meows. They parrot together, “Come buy,” Step closer. “Come buy.”
Laura checked her pockets as her mouth starts to water. She freezes and thinks, they think she just loiters. They step closer, and insist. “Come buy.”
The fox boy, of orange and red and silver stands back and watches as the girl so fair, so true, have nothing to give –
“I have nothing to give you. My sister holds my purse, and I have no change. I’m sorry. So sorry.”
He steps forwards now, as the others jeer and leer. The excitement in their eyes growing ever more.
much gold upon your head.” He says, seemingly out of the blue. “Buy from us
with a single golden lock.” He reaches forwards and twirls a single curl around
A look of confusion covers her face. Why would her blond hair, though gold, be enough? Enough to buy their rich fruit? Their rich fruit so fresh, so fine? A lock of hair so soft, so gold can give all that was foretold. Apples, oranges, lemons. Raspberries, cranberries, strawberries. Pineapples, apricots, crab-apples, and grapes too. All so fresh, so fine. A golden lock of hair, so fine and soft, for fruitful riches.
She grabbed a knife upon the platter and slashed her hair, ragged and rough. From the ends she took two inches off. The locks fell slowly, drifting down eternally. The fox-boy moved, a slash of his hand, rough and cruel, ripped the locks from mid-fall, and held them tight.
He bowed to the girl, the girl with golden hair, the girl with hunger in her eyes, the girl who drowned herself in their cunning lies. He swept an arm, so elegant, so smooth, giving her free rain amongst the fruit food.
Laura reached. She reached for the strawberries, the red, glistening strawberries. She took the fruit, and a peach too boot. She bit and she sucked. The juice of the strawberry, so exquisite, so elite. Sweeter than honey, stronger than wine, clearer than water, the fruit was sublime. Her head became hazy, her appetite ravenous. She fed and she tasted, she gouged and devoured. She did not notice the eerie glow, the evil cackles, the darkness descend. She was trapped, caught, and stuck in an apprehend. She was one of the stolen, the missing, and the gone.Start writing here ...