Today without leaving my bed I make my pilgrimage to the darkest corner of the forest. The shadow of black granite rises to pierce the rumbling sky. I do not let the chill in my bones slow my determined progress. I drag the ache in my heart behind me as I place my well worn doll into the empty chamber for safekeeping.
The pines tower over me like parents, the scales on the trunk tempting my dragon and her fire. I let my fingers trace their armour hoping wisdom will rub off on my tips. I leave sound and fury far behind as I plunge further into the forest’s embrace.
Soon enough birdsong fades and the air is so still it weighs upon me like a heartbreak. The light creeps into the warm folds between the branches and I fear I may be lost. My feet keep moving without my bidding and I feel the magnetic pull of the hut, tendrils of its acrid smoke stinging my eyes.
I fall across its border like a wounded animal, grateful for the embrace of soft earth and its denizens. The air is momentarily sucked out of my body as I feel her standing over me, a bony finger hovering at my back. I begin to weep, pooling myself as I raise my eyes to meet hers.
What do you bring me, child?
I offer her my desire for all that I took for granted. I pull the longing thread from my chest and begin to spool it at her feet. I stack hopes and fears like uneasy dominoes and arrange sticks of pain around them, enough to make a fire.
And what else? Her voice is sharper and I know what she demands. I lay my doll in my lap and gently reach into my heart’s cavern to the tiny flint on a shelf at the back. I offer it up to her, both my hands above my head. She takes the black arrowhead with her spiny fingers and scrapes her nail along it, sparks flying about us as she narrows her gaze at me.
She bends to meet me and sighs, her fetid exhale as warm as death’s embrace. With a harsh snap a scintilla leaps from her time worn hands, catching on the sorry pile in front of me. Flames unfurl to consume its heaving mass and I feel it pulled from me, lifted like a curse. She opens her wizened hand to reveal the flint larger than it was and flings it back into my body.
Keep your faith child, she croaks.
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa Diptych by Milo Neuman
Fairytale c. Kerrie Basha 2020