It wasn't a cloak or a hood but a tent. It appears and disappears at random parts of the forest. The girl and the grandmother are one and the same. The wolf is a prince fulfilling an ancient ritual that has kept a kingdom alive. Sometimes the prince fails because he fails to see the girl in the grandmother, and the grandmother in the girl. In such times the kingdom falls, and the prince is cursed with forgetfulness and an unspeakable ache in his heart that sends him wandering in the cities that corrode his spirit and taint his senses. He confuses the scent of magic with the tricky scents of mortal indulgence. He hungers for a love he only remembers in dreams.
This is why the garden is impossible and the forest is wild.
It is a present that is writing its history in order to shape a desired future. And with every shaping the future becomes the present.
And the past is a vast, vast landscape where anything could have happened.
To craft a story one needs to be fluent in forest, for it is wildwork, and only chaos carries the seeds of impossibles. To be fluent in forest one must navigate the grammar of dreams. For dreams is where chaos slides along the fragile edges of our souls, like hands feeling for seams on a blank wall, looking for ways in.
The 30th day is the Impossible Day when everything and anything is possible. But to get to it you have to make the leap on the 29th. And that is not just any whimsical leap but a Quest. And even then there is no guarantee it will grant access to the 30th. Or how much impossible you can make possible.
And then there is the other Quest, of how to take your possible back to the real world. This, I believe, is the hardest part. Because so much heart is needed. So much hope. So much faith. So much work.
Roughly it means Day of the Dead Hearts. But it is also called the Day of Dead Stories. Among others it is referred to as Resurrection Day, for it is the one time in a year when stories may get a chance to be retold, in real life, and possibly to have a different ending. But of course such chances come with impossible conditions.
It is celebrated in the middle of February, interestingly coinciding with that other more popular occasion. Though it does benefit from the abundance of flowers.
It is said that in some of the graves there are real bodies.
And not all of them are mortal humans.
It is said that if you bury yourself in a shallow grave at sunset, and don't get up until the sun has risen, you will be granted a boon to change a heart, including yours.
It is said that you can leave objects in any of the original graves for a full moon cycle. When you claim them again they will either be blessed or cursed, depending on whether which of the dead has touched them. The touch of the broken-hearted always blesses. The touch of the breaker curses.
It is said that if you listen carefully on the Day, the wind murmurs the stories of the dead. If you listen carefully there will be a pause before the final twist. If you speak your wish within that silence, your wish will be granted. But if you speak your wish outside of that silence, your wish will be woven with the ill luck of the dead.
It is said that the Queen of the Wildforest always visits the graveyard on the Day. If you wish to ask a favour from her, this is the time she is most generous and kind. But if you displease her in any way, she will be as cruel as the deaths of those buried beneath the stones.
It is said that the graveyard is a labyrinth. You have to be careful where you walk. You have to know where to put your feet. For in this place, a dead end can mean so many things.
It is said that the veil between worlds is always thin in the graveyard, so that the dead can pass through any time. But on the Day they can make themselves visible, even though you are invisible to them. It is said that with certain impossible conditions, you can speak to them and they can see you and you can ask for advice.
It is said that on the Day the dead can live out an alternate ending (not in real life but as a dream) but forget it all once the Day is over, thus spending the rest of the year in a hell of hope and longing.
What is the beginning? In the beginning there was an ocean.
The sand of the shore became a desert. The desert found a mountain. The mountain sheltered a forest. The forest sent itself to me as a garden. Like an archangel subduing itself in human form.
The ocean flows through to the forest by the rivers, also subduing itself to be less overwhelming, less stinging. But it waits for when it can be what it is and still be loved. We both wait.
The way through is a road of thorns lined by trees weeping poison. But if your heart can spell the password you can pass unharmed.
Do you know that as you travel this earth, as you move from place to place, but most importantly when you cross its imagined borders, the invisible lines that countries claim for instance, you pass through the thresholds that the Wildforest shares with everywhere?
And the same is true for when you pass over oceans, or even when you simply stand at that point where the sea repeatedly paints the shore like a needy lover.
The Wildforest also has an affinity with certain places, and has loosely woven its border walls within certain countries where it finds itself echoed into a love song. When you are in these spaces, you walk in two places, except that the forest is closed and invisible until you open yourself. The forest will mirror your opening, and show itself in all its sometimes frightening beauty.
If you know how, if I tell you how, if I love you enough that the secrets will speak themselves to you, if you love me enough to really want to see, not merely out of curiosity, not simply because you think you can if given enough instructions, or not just because you've once been here in a forgotten dream, then you can learn how to walk into the forest any time. To find the soft spots where the walls become doors. To seek refuge among the ancient trees and the too-knowing flowers. It would not matter which way you came in, the forest dwellers will lead you to me because they will recognise you, because they know my heart.
In the forest you will never be lost unless you lose me.
The creature said:
Take an egg. Give it to the sea, or cast it into the rapids of a waterfall, far away from here. In return I will give you this key.
The creature said:
The egg is a seed. When it hatches it becomes a story. It becomes a world.
The key matches a lock. But you have to find that for yourself. I only know that the lock exists because this key exists.
I give you the key because it is the price of the favour I ask of you. The lock holds in what you desire and what you need. The key will grow itself into what it should be. Pay attention. Listen. Watch. The key is in your hand now. It is yours.
The garden is where the courtship happens. The forest is where you find yourself when you open your eyes after that long, longed-for, first kiss.
(Of course this is a courtship. Did you think that all courtships happen with fanfare and mad loud declarations? Have you never wondered how a forest came to be upon a once flat empty landscape? Think of all that silent time and careful roots and the patience, oh the patience. The seasons woven in layers of magic, spelling an enchantment. The wind is sometimes my fingers running through your hair. The sea is sometimes my arms embracing you, and sometimes the turmoil in my heart clamouring for you. Every fire you see carries the ember of my desire.)
(Of course the Queen courts. Did you think she would just sit still on her throne waiting to be sought? Did you never realise how much a Queen is not really seen, always looked at sideways or with averted eyes, left to her own queenly devices, assumed to be self-sufficient with everything else at her command? Have you never wondered how a Queen feels watching everyone inside and outside of her kingdom have their fairy tales while she, who is a fairy tale in her very soul, had to play by unfair Rules? Well, she has broken those Rules. She has risen from her throne and gone hunting for herself. Her love is an untamed secret, a wanton feral creature howling at the Dark Moon, waiting for the call of another.)
After the first sip, a winged creature alighted on my coffee. I was no longer just here but also somewhere else. I took another sip, careful not to disturb my guide. The rasping whisper of its wings echoed into the liquid and flowed into my mouth and I tasted its words. Reaching into a pocket of my mind I found a coin.
The value of the coin is determined at the end of the journey, and its true worth will depend on the choices I will make. Zero can mean nothing or everything. Emptiness or infinity. I flipped it high and it disappeared into the sky that was beginning to stain with daylight. The coin will meet me at the other end, and reveal the fate I have made for myself.
The flowers by my feet and all around me were no longer just flowers but also beings of magic and enchantment. When I am not looking I see them nod their beautiful heads in recognition and in greeting. I felt their permission to touch and to pick. For now I kept my hands to myself.
Resting upon the thickly clustered flowers of a tree, I spied the serpent. The heart-shaped mark on its head shimmered with the first rays of the sunrise. The markings on its body seemed to move and writhe as the snake moved.
I looked closely upon the tree, expecting the cliche of forbidden fruit. But the slithering beauty said in a singsong hiss: There is nothing for you to eat, but instead I give you the choice to be bitten. The seeds of that fabled fruit have long born a forest of its own. What you need now is the antidote to the consequences of that first choice. My venom will pump into your blood the essence of innocence and the pure strains of wonder. It will soften what has become brittle, restore what has been jaded, purify what has been spoiled. Maybe not entirely, but for a very good part. Because finding your way through the Wildforest is hard enough, and to bring along a spirit so bruised and starved will be too much of a handicap.
It could be a trick. But my spirit is battered and barely holding itself together. I asked the serpent what would be the price to be bitten.
Price? Did you think there will be no pain?
Before I could answer the snake had lunged from its languid perch and sank its sharp sharp teeth into my ankle, finding just the perfect spot for its mouth to curve and cling.
And the pain was all the pain of every second I have ever lived in this lifetime, hot and cold, stinging sharp and heavy blunt and cruelly serrated, and all the shades of every heartache every heartbreak shooting through my body. Every sliver of every shattered dream slicing through. Every pinprick and every bludgeon of every disappointment and loss. Scourged by fear and guilt and sorrow. A thousand regrets. A thousand hells.
STORIES are what happen in the Impossible Garden & the Wildforest. They are the overheard conversations, the gossip of the flowers and the trees, the fragments written on bones and stones. They are the secrets whispered by the wind, the tales of the stars, the knowledge earned or traded with the forest dwellers. They are the fairy tales that had been forgotten or never told. They are the rules and the history and how they are repeatedly broken and rewritten. They are the murmurings of magic, the language of hidden love, the wildness beneath every order and the pattern beneath every chaos. They are truths and they are lies and in the end they are real to those who have the heart to see.
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