by Allison Symes
‘Help me’ he screamed to silence.
But he knew the huge oaks and beeches around him had moved to box him in. He also knew how mad that sounded. It was the truth though and it was his fault he was now trapped with no way out. Though the marble statues he found when he reached what he thought was the halfway point were odd. It wasn’t what you’d see in a forest as a rule. Had this been a grand estate sometime in the past? Was there a castle with a fairytale turret somewhere?
The villagers in Preximel, two miles away, were not so fanciful. They had warned him not to go to this forest. They also told him in graphic detail what happened to the last person who thought it was a good idea to go into a magical wood with an axe.
What they hadn’t mentioned was the creature who lived in those woods and feasted on the greedy who thought they could chop down magical trees and make a fortune from the timber.
Not that it would have made him feel better as he watched the creature approach him cautiously. It wasn’t looking at him. It was looking beyond him.
The man sighed. Dare he look behind him? Or, given death appeared to be inevitable, should he just give up with good grace and as much courage as he could muster?
‘Are you sorry?’ came a voice from behind the man. He thought it sounded female. He guessed it would be a good idea not to find out. Whoever lived here with a creature which looked like a cross between a wild boar and a dragon was not to be argued with.
‘Yes, I’ve been an idiot. The villagers did tell me about this place. I thought they were nuts.’
‘But you know they’re not now.’
‘Indeed,’ the man wondered if now he should look behind him. After all his life had been extended by a minute or so. It would be nice to know by whom or what.
The man shuddered. The creature in front of him had stopped about ten feet away and the stench of its breath made the man have to fight to not be sick. The one thing the man knew for sure was that being sick in a magical forest was likely to be construed as an insult by whoever or whatever was behind him.
‘You may go then. Go back the way you came in. The trees will part for you when you take one step towards them.’
‘Thank you… oh thank you. Who are you?’
‘You were wise not to look around to check. I can turn anything into marble by one spell and a wave of my wand. I am the fairy godmother who guards these woods. The creature over there is my pet. It has been known to feast well on those who dare to try to harm my forest and show no signs of remorse for doing so.’
‘I like living. If I need to say sorry to keep doing so, that’s what I’ll do.’
‘Wise man. Now off you go. I do not expect to see you here again.
The man ran, relieved the trees did part as the woman had said. He did not hear the laughter of either her or her pet.
The fairy godmother waved her wand and changed her creature back into its usual form - a collie. ‘I think our guest was trying to outdo the land speed record for running, my love. Still we are well rid of him. But it did make a nice change not to have to turn someone else into a statue. That one had some basic sense. Maybe there is some hope for humans then. We must be off. Time for your usual dinner, Lady. Will chicken do tonight?’
The dog woofed its approval. It hadn’t fancied the human even when in its monstrous form. The human hadn’t smelled right and even his magical owner didn’t quarrel with his nose.