All Woods

Microfiction inspired by the first line of Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. One led to autumn, calm and chilly, its last bronzed leaf picked by a wind still echoing with residual birdsong. The other to darkness, cloaked in mist, where naked trees loomed overhead like a canopy of murderers, intentions ill. The signpost before us was worn with age, the letters slipped away in time and wood rot. Moira could not read them and didn’t seem to know which way to go. Autumn’s beauty called to my senses, but it was the darkness that beckoned, leading me by my very nature down the wintry lane.

I wanted to be safe. I wanted to be safe. But the call to adventure sang in my bestial blood and I knew I would never find it down well-worn paths. All woods are lovely, dark and deep, but only one is your home. Moira seemed to trust that I knew where we were going, but I was only trusting my heart and knew nothing at all. When the thieving trees thinned at last to reveal the mediaeval castle, it was all I could do to not recoil at the sight. But it was I who led us here, and there is always a reason, even if only in remembrance.

Still, I pawed at the frozen earth and shied away from the high gates before us, skittish and very much unnerved by their gothic, alien ironwork. Even before I heard her sharp intake of breath, I felt Moira’s heartbeat quickening at what now stood before us, and the gate that slowly opened though no one opened it, and the howl of nearby wolves at our back. She slipped off, reins in hand, and reached to touch my muzzle, the gesture intended to steady. From where she tethered me there in the cobbled courtyard, I could observe the end as it unfolded.

Moira’s nervous knock on the thick, wooden door. The shadow within shadows. The pause before her muffled scream, and the sudden tearing away of her beautiful face. The wet noises of him feasting on her flesh, hungrily tearing the clothes from her body, crunching her bones. The eternal silence thereafter, as he slipped into the moonlight and fur fell away from a blood-soaked face more beautiful than even hers. He walked towards me then, reaching out with a gentle hand and an even gentler voice.

“What a fine horse.”

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