by R D Larson
Tied high in the tree, the swing’s rope was so long that I had to lean back to see the knot. There was even a huge rock to use as a jump. The swing would arch out over an old wet ditch. I knew about the ditch. I played there.
I jerked hard on the rope. Old ropes rot. Who had made this swing? I looked around for telltale signs like footprints or gum wrappers. Nothing. Pulling the swing behind me, I climbed onto the rock. If I bailed out at that height, I could land on that grassy fairy circle just beyond the ditch.
I pushed back as far as I could on the rock, standing on tiptoes. I raised my feet.
The swing flew forward fast. Then the drop. I nearly fell at the sudden jerk. Then out. Out nearer the circle. I turned my hands backwards and jumped for all I was worth.
Then I spotted the spikes. They were planted a foot apart, dozens of them. Ready to kill me. I’d be absolutely gutted!
I somehow twisted in mid-air and landed on only three spikes. Two pierced my thigh but one tore open my stomach. I screamed. I rocked in pain. I was caught. Then, fearful, I kept silent.
I half sat up to look at myself. I only wanted to go home to Mother. Gritting my teeth, I pushed at the protruding purplish intestine. It didn’t hurt. My leg hurt more. What if I couldn’t run? Who ever had left the spikes would come for me.
A movement caught my eye. A circle of tiny people, each no more than waist-high marched toward the fairy circle of grass. They carried knobby sticks.
I guess I’ll be late for dinner again. Mother will be angry.
“I give up; you’ve got me. I’ve hurt my leg.” I said, loudly knowing how deaf the elves were.
Elki stepped closer, and said just as loudly, “Girl, we told you to stay out of our woods. You won’t mind. You will be punished.”
“I’m sorry.” I started to cry. My gut began to throb and my head felt as if it floated up from my neck.
“Don’t cry, Girl. Come have cookies,“ Melba came close, her hand on my shoulder. “Elki, children always misbehave.”
I stood slowly, a towering giant compared to the elf group. Holding a hand on my stomach wound, I hobbled after them toward Robbers’ Glen where I would enjoy my hot chocolate and oatmeal cookies. I’d been before.
They weren’t very pleased with me this time. They all looked angry. If only I had a cell phone, I’d call my Mother to come get me.
When we were just a bit into the woods, Elki and Melba motioned to the thick braided grass mat with the poles attached to the sides. I lay down upon it. Six or maybe eight elves went to either side. I had so much pain that I couldn’t count. Melba handed me a cup of thick sweet tea. I drank it down. At a word from Elki, they raised the mat and carried me into the dark forest.
I groaned in pain, wanting to go home. That was my last thought until I came to in the elves’ camp in the heart of Robber’s Forest. Melba again brought me a hot sweet tea that made me sleep again. Then I woke near dawn, freezing cold and in pain.
Ropes bound me in intricate and careful knots. Each hand and each leg was bound to the ground by ropes tied to trees. I felt as though I were being pulled to the four corners of the universe.
“Please, help me, Melba?” I whimpered. She came almost immediately from behind some bushes. As she came closer, I saw that there was not a tiny bit of kindness on her face. “I’m cold. Please let me go home. I will never, never go into your woods again.”
“It’s too late, you small human. You’ve come too far and we’ve taken you captive. You’ll never see your home again. Not ever.” She leaned over, hissing into my face, spitting the words in to my mouth. Her breath was horrible, like onions and garlic. I jerked away, my hair tangling in the mat beneath my head.
“Girl, you do have such beautiful hair. I think it would make me a lovely vest, golden brown, like a wren in spring. I vow to make myself a vest from your long hair with my needles.” She smiled, not nicely at all. She handed me the tea which I drained in a gulp.
I knew it was useless to yell. Through the bushes, I could see a bit of a fire .Some of the elves moved back and forth. Melba went away as I stared trying to see what they were doing.
Finally, I figured it out. They were sharpening their knives! My stomach hurt and I was hungry. Melba came back, sprinkled a powder on my leg wounds, and put a plant poultice over the gaping wound where my intestine showed. It made me glad not to see it anymore when I raised my head. To drink the tea from Melba’s cup.
Melba left and quickly returned with her knife. Neatly with few movements, she cut off my hair. I tried to twist away but she hit me with her fist. Who would have thought such a small woman could hit so hard? I felt my head bounce on the ground. .
She gathered my hair up and took it away. I lay there thinking — thinking how to get away, how to fool them, how to get home to Mother. My lips stung for many minutes where she had hit me.
I could not think of any good plan. I slept off and on. Whenever I woke one of the women, not Melba, would bring me the sweet dark tea.
In the afternoon just as I had gotten warm, the sun slid into the trees. I began to chill again; I shivered with fever. Suddenly high in a fir tree I saw a raven. Its caw cried hoarsely at me. Ravens carry messages of death! That Raven spoke to me! Just like the one that spoke to Edgar Allen Poe!
As darkness fell, I became more feverish and in more pain than any of powder or tea could lessen. Elki came over to me and stood like a giant at my head. Although he was only two feet tall, he towered above my blazing head.
“It will soon be over, girl,” he said, not unkindly but matter-of-factly. He threw a worn old blanket on me.
“What will be over?” I felt barely able to speak.
“The feast, you silly girl, for when you are good and cooked, we will have the Feast of the Child. We will dance all night with full bellies. And for you? Why. you will no longer feel pain. That will be good, won’t it?”
“NO! No! You can’t eat me! You can’t do that. Please, please let me go. My mother will give you money or her jewelry. Please, Elki, let me go this one time.”
“No, never.” He reached out for my face and tweaked my nose. “I shall personally chew on that sweet little nose, so tender, like a baby piglet, to eat.”
I started to shriek but when his fist doubled up beneath my chin, I fell silent, quivering throughout my whole body.
I saw them build the bonfire. I saw them drag the kettle to the fire. It was as big as I was. I would easily fit. Melba brought me some cookies, which she fed me, bit by bit, and then she slowly dripped the tea, this time thick as syrup, into my mouth.
I felt my eyes turning toward the bonfire and the kettle. However, suddenly, without knowing it would happen, I fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of birds. The swing that I had jumped from hung from the tree near me. The spikes were gone and I was on the other side of the ditch. I groaned. Had it been a nightmare?
Then my hand went to my stomach and felt the poultice there. I peeked under it. I saw only a faint trace of a scar, fading away as I looked. I sat up and stood as best I could, holding my stomach. I hobbled as fast as I could all the way home to Mother.
I would have to get rid of the poultice and tell her I’d gotten lost in the woods. If the elves found out I told on them, they would eat me for sure.
Copyright © 2006 by R D Larson