In the middle of the wood there’s a clearing where the sun plays with grass turned gold, and where you can find the entrance to the forbidden path. We were always warned of the forbidden path, but children will be children so one day – on a dare – we set out to find it.
Living so close to nature, we were used to finding our ways in the woods. The sun’s angle, the way the moss grew and the streams and rivers guided us where we wanted to go, and berries aplenty were always available for a snack if we needed one. There were three of us, that day. Sophie, Melinda and I, the merry muses as we called ourselves that summer (the summer before it had been the pretty princesses). We’d snuck out of the house after breakfast, but there was nothing strange about this as it was summer and no school for us. Most of the neighbourhood’s children vanished to play in the morning and were rarely seen until dinnertime. But most of the neighbourhood’s children knew to stay away from the middle of the woods.
Haha! We laughed in the face of such foolish superstition! The merry muses were out to explore, and before long we found the clearing. We had just sat down in the grass to rest before starting the next leg of our adventure, to find the actual forbidden path, when a small woman appeared. Her hair was a brassy red, her eyes green as emeralds, and – the weirdest thing about her – if you looked you could clearly see the tip of a fox’s tail sticking out below the hem of her rough, handmade skirt.
‘Welcome to Magia’, she said and bowed before us. ‘I am Marion and I have been chosen to be your guide on this adventure. We understand that you want to visit the land beyond the forbidden path?’
Sophie, the oldest of us merry muses, took charge of this (though I believe even Sophie was a bit surprised by Marion’s arrival). ‘Maid Marion’, she said, ‘We are the merry muses, and yes, we have come to explore the land beyond the forbidden path. Will you help us?’
For a second there was the oddest flicker of something malicious on the beautiful face of the fair Marion, before she nodded her head. Yes she would help us.
All the hunger and tiredness we’d felt before was completely gone, and the forest around us felt as if it was breathing, as if we could hear the heartbeat of Mother Nature herself when Marion beckoned us to stand up and follow her.
Before us in the clearing, bright as day, a pathway had opened up. It lead from the center of the clearing, in among the tall spruce trees and straight as a nail out of sight… How had we not seen it when we first got there? I can’t speak for the other muses, but I have to admit I felt a bit scared at this point. ‘Shall we… Shall we follow you?’ Sophie stuttered. Marion bowed her head only once and set off at high speed down the path. ‘Wait! We can’t go that fast!’ Sophie shouted. ‘Wait, Marion…!’ All three of us started running, not noticing for one second the odd sensation of a completely quiet forest, nor questioning the urgency of our departure from ‘our’ woods into unfamiliar surroundings. In the distance we saw the tip of a fox’s tail vanish up a roughly woven skirt and we knew we couldn’t allow it to disappear out of sight. Off we went!
The light changed as we followed the path… It went from the golden glow of summer sunshine to a misty grey you would probably expect on an autumn afternoon, and soon after that the voices started… At first they were mere whispers under the canopy of the leaves, but soon they became a rhythmic chant, rising in volume the further into the woods we ran.
Melinda was the first one to fall. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she tripped on a root and went down. For a split second I halted myself, contemplating helping her up – we were the merry muses, after all – but in that split second I lost track of Marion and her wondrous tail… I sped up rather than slowed down. Melinda would be fine, she could always manage on her own. I didn’t even hear her cries for help as I sprinted onward… And I most certainly didn’t see the roots rise up out of the ground to drag her down with them.
Sophie fell next and I felt strangely jubilant! I was winning! I was going to get to see all the secrets of Magia without them! They would be so jealous! And she would surely be OK, I mean… We’d all fallen down in the woods from time to time… I couldn’t stop to help her, I had to keep my eyes on Marion and her enchanting tail… Further and further into the woods we ran, following the forbidden path. Or rather… I ran, alone now… I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat echoing in my head, and my legs felt like lead. Like they’d been running at full speed for a very long time… Where was I? What was I doing? Where was I going?
Suddenly I couldn’t see Marion anymore… And as I tried to follow the path that had, only seconds earlier, been so clearly marked and straight as a nail in front of me, I found I couldn’t see that any more either. All around me were high, dark spruces hiding the sun and leaving me in a twilight darkness… I had reached the end of the forbidden path, alone, and I was very, very lost.
How is it that whenever I try to write a fairy tale it turns into a horror story? This is based on the inspiration provided over at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie and the Fairytale Prompt #9. I will admit it turned into more of a story than a fairy tale, but I went where my muse lead me… I can only apologize for that and hope you enjoyed – or that it scared you! *smile*