ONCE upon a time…
There was a lone girl who lived in a castle on the edge of the wood. Though she had plenty of pies to eat and slept safely in her tower, she never felt full, and each night she would dream of far away lands. In her dreams she could fly, as easy as the ravens outside her tower window. As the clocked ticked by and the years went on, the castle and all within it began to crumble…
As father time ate away at the castle walls, the girl grew sadder. ”What more is there beyond these walls?” she would ask the Maker of Mirrors. “Where else does my future lie?” she would ask the Baker of Breads.
”Hush,” they would say. ”No one wants to hear the worries of a beautiful girl.”
But as time ticked away, so too did her dreams. ”I must leave here,” she said one day, to the face in the clock. ”I must leave before time crumbles me like it has this castle. I am afraid. But still I will go.”
She put on her cloak, as the clock glared silently at her. She did not glance back as she set off into the dark woods…
The forest grew darker and darker, and she did not know what awaited each turn. Friendly foxes crossed her path, but they were not what they seemed. Wolves leered from the shadows, owls screeched from their lair. She feared she should turn back, but a raven landed beside her and whispered: “You must walk further, beyond the path, for most do not…”
“But I know not where I am going.” she said. She looked into the dark trees, but could not see beyond.
“It may be,” said the raven. “But still you must.”
She was afraid. But she would not turn back. ‘If I die in these woods, at least I die brave” she said to the raven.
But he had already flown away.
She walked all night, and in the early dawn she stumbled upon a little cottage. It looked just like the one where her Granny once lived. She remembered picking blackberries by the brook with Granny, and how they would make puzzles by the fire. Granny would tell her stories of wolves with sharp teeth and gnomes with clever smiles. She missed Granny so much.
Perhaps Granny has brought me here, she thought. Maybe here I will find a place to rest, or a toasty fire to warm me up.
She turned the knob on the cottage door…
But no one was there. Dust & cobwebs painted the walls. A lonely stillness hung in the air. There was a dusty old stove that cooked no food, a withering chair that sat no soul. There were no fires, no place to rest.
Just a time no longer there. A life no longer lived.
The air was turning cold as the winds grew harsh. She was alone. Again she set off into the dark woods, though she knew not where she was going…
A storm was brewing. The clouds crept in and the air threw angry gusts. She walked faster and faster, climbing hill after hill. She could feel the pain in her legs, and the fear in her blood.
As she made her way up a steep, rocky knoll, there in the distance appeared a grand manor. It was just like one from the stories Granny loved to read her. Surely I will find safety here, she hoped. Surely I will find a place to sleep, or a friendly face, or a pie to eat…
But the manor was as empty as the cottage, as dark as the woods, as crumbling as the castle.
There were no friendly faces, no pies to eat. All the doors were barred and locked.
Another raven landed beside her. ”The storm shall pass,” it said. ”And when it does, you must walk on, over the seven jeweled hills, for most do not…”
Tears formed in the girl’s eyes. ”I do not want to go further. I will go back to my castle, though it crumbles. I am lost, and alone. I have not a single pie to eat, and I am tired and hungry.”
”It is the castle where you will starve.” said the raven, as it flew away.
So over the seven jeweled hills she walked, until she could walk no more. She did not have the strength to walk another step. There was nothing to be found, even in these jeweled hills. There was nothing at all.
Until she noticed the shiny red apples that hung from the trees. How welcome something so simple could be! She plucked the reddest, shiniest apple from the branch, and held it to her lips. But as she did, she remembered something Granny once said…
Beware the reddest apples on the tree. For some hold poison, and some hold luck – but they cannot be told apart.
The lone girl held the apple in her hand. Images flashed before her: of Granny, of the face in the clock, of crumbling towers and dreams of flight.
A raven landed in the pines. It did not speak, nor fly away.
She met the bird’s eyes, and to him she said: “If I die of this apple, at least I die full.”
She took a bite.
Is the Beginning, of another End…