Vilia oh Vilia your magical fire, captures
enraptures my yearning desire...
It had been three weeks since Richard answered the call. The men had always been warned to stay way from those forsaken trees, but just like all the others who had disappeared, Richard hadn't been able to resist.
"It's ridiculous Mary!" I can just picture my newly married husband smoking his pipe in exasperation while I sat by the fire with my bible in hand. "All that land! All that lumber and who knows what else!" he threw his rough hands into the air, piercing through his recently created smoke cloud. His annoyance was apparent to me, but I was accustomed to my hard working husband's anger towards the village laws. I patiently continued my reading, gently turning the thin pages of scripture. The forest was not to be touched by men, and the women were only allowed a few feet in. As children, we were taught to beware it's mystery, a dark personage haunted those trees, and other things besides.
"Mary, you have ventured into those woods and you have never encountered a demonic presence or any danger." I stopped in my search for religion and flicked my eyes to Richard's bearded faced. It was true that I had made many an excursion into the forest, but only the sections that were marked by our village handkerchiefs. I looked at Richard's face and reflected. He was not a beautiful man. His eyes were small and his ears far to large, but his face was kind and his manner gentle and humorous. I loved him. Richard cocked an eyebrow at my resistance to respond. My eyes found themselves again on my worn bible and I answered,
"No Richard, I have not." He gave a short grunt of triumph as if my statement had given him all the information he needed. I suppose that I knew he would venture into the forest, I myself did not have a great fear for the folklore presented by the elderly of our kind, but I was law abiding. I would only break a law if forced. Richard's disappearance was all the force I needed.
The morning he left, I remember filling his pack with bread and cheese while he prepared his knives and over-night hunting gear. He kissed me fondly and left our cottage to gain food. He did not return the next morning, or the dawn after that.
A week passed by and there was no sign of my husband. Witnesses came to me with the information that he had entered the cursed forest. As time went on, I became unnerved and frightened for Richard's safety. As the days crept by, I came to my decision. I packed my own supplies from our meager storage and found myself on the edge of the dark woods.
A small crowd of villagers followed me and watched as I ventured forth. Calls of warnings and promises of punishments weaved quiveringly into my ear tunnel, but I continued with one foot in front of the other. As I reached the marked handkerchiefs, I paused, but only for a moment before firmly passing them by. As I did, the noise of the village left, I turned to observe those whom I had known since my birth, but found no one. I saw a single cottage stand firmly in the middle of a plot of brown land. My little home called to me. I shivered and turned away from it. After a few more steps, I turned back, but there was nothing there.
I followed a winding path etched into the ground and found no obstacles. The air was moist and clean. Had I not been in fear for my husband, I would have found the green leafy branches and the soft brown earth to be very inviting. I smiled to myself and breathed in the smell of life that was seeping from the majestic trunks that soared above my humble woman's head. My feet found themselves happy on the strange and yet not so strange, mossy ground. The day left me quickly and fell into a cool night. My travels were so pleasant, the night took me up and rocked me in it's shadowy stillness.
I don't know how long the magic of the trees embraced my consciousness. It could have been days, or perhaps it was years. I will never know. The trees whispered and the ground rumbled pleasantly, but the air was silent. No birds sang and no insects flew, suddenly the forest was no longer inviting. It was empty and devoid of life. The forest was a simple shell of what should have been a green cave of energy, pulsing and filling the earth with living things, but it was nothing but a lie. Upon discovering this fact, my hands shook and my feet found the ground slippery. I slid and fumbled my way through the prison of branches, and finally found a clearing. A small cave lay in my path with a large stone that rested a few feet away from the entrance and on that stone sat the semblance of a maiden. She lay across the stone in an improper manner, her green hair tumbled upon the rocks and swayed gently to a non-existent breeze. The maiden's eyes stared blankly into the sky and her white legs as well as her arms, curled over the stone and embraced the very essence of it. As I approached her, she lazily lifted her upper willowy body and faced me with her empty black eyes. Her face was perfection. A simple nose with full red lips danced across her perfect white skin. She was the most beautiful maiden I had ever seen. Her very presence entranced my every thought, but I was not a man. My tongue was loosed and I spoke to her, asking of the whereabouts of my husband. Her vacant eyes studied me and her smiling lips twitched, but she did not respond. I grew impatient with her. I stood to my full height loosing my womanly humility and spoke harshly,
"Maiden speak! For you are the only personage I have laid eyes upon in this forsaken death! You must know what has become of my husband. Answer me at once!" The maiden lifted her white and green body and slid like an eel off her stone chair and walked toward me. I held my ground, my bottom lip quivering at the situation, but too furious and tired to do anything but wait for this woman to speak to me. Her white feet stopped inches away from my trembling body, she parted her red lips and spoke in a slow and slippery voice.
"My lady you have found him." I stared uncomprehending at the green woman.
"I do not understand." She stared at me with her vacant black eyes before she threw her beautiful head back and let out a long laugh full of mirth. Her mouth was wide and open as she laughed with pure delight at her private joke. She took hold of my wrist and led me to the mouth of her dark cave.
"Look!" she chorkled, "Look and see! He followed my loving call! He came to my lair and he received all the happiness I could give him!" It took me a few moments to see into the dark, and when my pupils were fully adjusted, I screamed and the sound bounced through the endless tunnel of dead men. Men of all kinds and shapes, handsome men, ugly men, old men and young men. Their bodies where torn and decaying, but they were staring at me, all the men who had followed this green wood maiden's promise. Richard was at me feet, his dead eyes wide and pleading for forgiveness and behind me, the laughter of the green woman rang high and hard.
I backed out of terrible black death and turned to the maiden. She spoke to me again, "I called and they came. I search the world for these men, these foolish stupid men, and they come! I give them what they want and they receive what I want! I can't take them, they could destroy me, but they will not!" She laughed with joy and her laugher stung my soul. "You see they love me..." I stared at her, this green woman. Her hair hung in coils of putrid green and swiveled like snakes. Her pallid white skin turned the vomit in my stomach as she inched towards me with her arms outstretched in a sisterly embrace.
I turned from her and ran. Her laughter chased me and I could hear her putrid feet follow me. I would look behind my form and find a wild woman chasing me. A wild beautiful sick woman. I fought my way out and spotted the handkerchiefs of my village. With a terrified yell I broke past them.
She was gone. The wood maiden was gone. I looked behind me and saw only a forest with the sounds of birds and insects all around me. I returned to my cottage and mourned the loss of Richard who I had loved. I have told my experience to the people of my village. I have told it for years and years. Many men heed my warning while others mock it. She is always waiting in that cursed forest. Those dark trees are ever present at the back of our village and every village. At night I hear her laughter and her call, and in my dreams I see her arms wide open in a deathly embrace.
Vilia oh vilia, will love tell me why?
In your embraces I die...