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Light and Dark

The password to my secret forest means both dark and light. I cannot tell you what it is, in case you’re there some distant night, but it always is, it always shall be, and I shall never forget it as long as I am me.

In the dawn, light crept through the candle leaves, and wax dripped down the trees. A tiny caterpillar performed her circus act in a suit of green thread, hanging by gossamer that swirled from her head.

I made my way through fields of grass, to where the sun had become but a pile of ash, and the hills’ warm embrace sang a waning refrain and the air smelled like pine trees and rain.

My toes, painted bloody, old with wear, young and muddy, carried knowledge of things I had not known when I last stepped into my forest all alone. The mesh fence seemed too ominous, just like all the broken promises. It was the time where summer was losing air, dying as softly as a prayer. I whispered the password, the word meaning light and dark, but the branches did not open for me, no secret fuse began to spark.

It took me a second to realize I was just too tall, and that under the branches I would need to crawl. The the last time I was here I was not this high off the ground, but yet my head was somehow closer to the clouds.

The sky was misty with the residue of airplanes, and the red sticky buds glowed, humming soft refrains. The pine needles scraped at my bent over head, and showered me with brittleness as I walked on the lush bed. Around me the entrance hall began to glow, and I remembered how I once imagined its luminescent show. A grand hall it was, all gilded with green, filled with fairy dust and flickering flames and things felt, not seen.

Towards the right, in shadows steeped, was the witch’s cave, where darkness creeped. Her swollen skin, thistles adorned, fat with her magic, splayed out on the thorns, she curled her lip and spat fire my way. The witch haunts my woods, dawn and dusk, night and day.

Through the shining hall, to the dining room, I remembered feasts and cherry trees in full bloom. With footholds ripe for climbing high, the tree could carry you straight to the sky. Straight to the netted green leaves you’d go, to where the wild, wild summer wind would blow.

It was autumn then, and summer’s dead, but I carry the memories of the woods inside of my head. I walked past the royal rooms for sleep, over which vines and thorns had since begun to creep. Guests admired in the richness of the castle; the trunks were the beds, with a leaf for a tassel.

Past that, the throne room, grander still, and I could feel the power, a quiet chill, when I stood on the empty, mossy root, looking out across graves that had once been fruit. When I was a child, I was queen. Now I wonder if the neighbors had seen. I wandered the woods, snapping blurry photographs, recalling royal days and echoing laughs. I wondered if anyone saw me here, and though the thought was not enough to rustle up a tear, I felt a stirring of autumn in my heart, feeling the summer detach and depart.

Down the hill I picked my way across brambles, like a leaf in the wind, I turned and I ambled. Past the rock wall, and the half-dandelion shell, past the tall pine trees, past the shakes and the swell. I came upon my kingdom’s darkest place; the prison, encumbered with spiderwebs, a cramped, dark space. A rickety wire fence provided its walls, and leaves cloaked the staircase, and the wild wind called. I stepped hesitantly into the cell, wondering who I once trapped here, in this spidery hell. In the spring the forsythias bloomed by the door, but in autumn they bloom no more.

As I made my way back to the orangeness of home, I looked at the sky and the sky was a dome, and perhaps there’s a kingdom there far beyond stars, I mean past space’s frontier; I’m not speaking of Mars. I’m speaking of comets to be ridden forever, and to fly like a falcon, to leave only a feather. I once ruled these woods, but I still understand, the magic and memory of this backyard land.

Someday I will leave this house, and I was never a bird, but as long as I live, I won’t forget the password. I hope, at least, that I’ll be able to find the key, a little caterpillar still swinging free.

The password to my secret forest means both day and night. To the other side and back, friend, in darkness and light.



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