A tiresome three mile journey through twisted shrub and fallen pine,
nestled in-between pockets of birch and luxurious ponds
and seeping streams of crystallised royal blue water.
Jacub forewarned that the age-old arenaceous trail, at times,
appears to change; to alter; to almost move and lead in directions
and to bizarre places not foreseen by map or by wise counsel. Up through
the hills, through the Wayzurk pass into a land similar, yet distinct.
I now tread, worn stick grasped tightly in hand, up into the trail
and forest green covered canopy.
Zig-zagging up and up, I am guided by the sparsely marked path.
Branches reaching in, leaves scratching and biting into the soft flesh
of my legs and arms; grey sharp rocks protruding from trail’s edge,
slicing into my leather shoes, soles wearing thin. Lack of air. Strong feeling
of being consumed: trees as teeth; rivers and ponds as saliva;
the circling birds patiently, biding time to feast
on decomposing flesh and stripped bone.
A breath of relief as a splendid meadow appears, and the feeling subsides.
It is ovular, with a winding serpent shaped stream jetting
through a vibrant grassed and flowered field. Three mammoth brown
spherical rocks stand at the far end barring my current way, but offering
a new pathway to my left. I tread and follow, and re-enter the forest.
Night is setting; the sun fading from the sky,
darkness is encroaching and creeping around the trail which splits
into a manifold of different paths. Losing sense of direction:
left turn, right path, up hills never far from the meadow. Then a light:
first a yellowed glow, appearing dim and faint in the distance; then
it’s intensity has grown into a brilliant shade of orange
and, at some points, green.
I follow the orb to a small and crude wooden shack
with brown moss covering the roof. The light suddenly disappears,
almost evaporating into thin air. I edge closer onto a patch of trampled mud
and piled branches. Leaning on the side of the shack is a hunched old crone:
clothes made out of worn animal hides; hair grey
and wildly flowing over bony shoulders; head facing down towards
the ground, out of sight; arms covered in filth and mud;
fingernails jagged and sharp; hands leaning on a wooden stick. I never meet
her gaze, and I hastily scurry backward down the trail,
to the meadow.
I try the left path, the right path, backwards and forwards-
but each seems to twist and wind back to the shack
and the mysterious figure. I cannot get out: lost within a tangle
of green and brown; of sharp trees and haunting orbs.
By God, what does she want?
A friend once asked Matthew Laing why he wanted to write fiction. He looked at his friend, thought carefully and responded, “Why wouldn’t I?”
Now he writes for enjoyment, up here in Canada, the land of polar bears and igloos. He takes an avid interest in history and historical folklore while also delving into the realms of fantasy and science fiction. He previously attended the University of Ottawa for history and political science, and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. Matthew has had poems published by Bewildering Stories, The Literary Yard, and Three Drops from a Cauldron. He also had a short story published this fall by the Corvus Review.