There was a small dark house in the middle of the forest. Light rarely emanated from the windows, or from the crack under the old wooden door. People rarely came, and those who came, never left. Smoke would rise from the chimney often as the winter nights made even icicles shiver. The forest surrounding the cottage-like house usually smelt of blood. Animal or Human? No one is quite sure. Children often entered the forest, accompanied by a woman, never to come back out. That woman would make trips often and always wore a deep scarlet cloak that covered her face and the majority of her body. Mystery engulfed the woman; fear soaked the air that surrounded her. She was unknown and unheard. She tried to avoid society for the most part and very few actually knew of her existence; very few except those children who now called the house in the forest home.
Today was a new day. The sun only just managed to force its bright light through the gaps in the trees, just beginning its long journey through the sky. The creatures of the forest made noise as they took advantage of the light to forage for more food to last the winter. Birds sang to each other with love in their notes and hope in their tunes. The town was already bustling with people, covered in wool and animal fur to stay off the cold. They bought warm fresh bread that was sending delectable smells down the main streets, getting into peoples noses and willing them out of their houses. As people ran in to others, they stopped and smiled, often engaging in chit-chat about the weather or what their kids were doing on the weekend. There was hardly a sad face in the town.
A deep scarlet cloak moved silently through the laughs, unseen by any, even the most observant. She slid quickly into a shop; a bakery; coming out a short time later with bread hidden under her cloak. This woman never payed for anything in order to cover her tracks; to remain invisible to those she wished would not notice her.
She walked past a small child. She noticed the little girls beauty from the corner of her eye; the little blonde ringlets that bounced on her shoulders as she walked, the full rosy red lips that were pursed around the stick of a lollipop, the piercing blue eyes that imitated the womans own. The childs smell enticed the woman. She smelled so young and sweet, so fresh.
The woman turned around and began to shadow the young girl and her mother, keeping her head down and her face covered as she walked. The girls mother stopped to talk to a young man. The woman in the cloak did not bother to hear what about; the young girl had been tugging on her mothers hand and the mother eventually let go. People in the town never took great care in where their young ones went. They had no reason to. To everyones knowledge, the population of the town were all kind, genuine people. And they were right. The population of the town were.
The little girl skipped over to a shop window, fixated on a small blue polka dot dress. This was the womans chance. She walked casually up to the side of the young girl, took her hand and began walking away. At the beginning of this, the young girl complained; not wanting to be taken away from such a beautifully crafted piece of clothing; and then she relaxed and walked beside the woman. After all, no woman in the town was allowed out without a cloak on, and the little girls mother was wearing a red hood. The girl never looked up to see her face, and so the woman kept walking away from the town and headed for the forest.
The child became distressed as they moved further towards the forest. She had been told horrid tales of strange happenings in an isolated house and was warned by almost every adult never to enter. She looked up at the woman in the cloak, who smiled down at her warmly. The young girl knew this woman was not her mother.
Its okay little one, The woman breathed airily. Im taking you to a fun house with treats and games. Youll enjoy it very much. And with that, the woman looked back up to the forest and continued on her path home. The young girls eyes changed into those shaped of almonds with her wide smile pushing her cheeks up. Treats? She was never allowed treats at home. The girl began to skip softly alongside the woman as they continued their journey.
The little girl looked around her as she skipped, bewildered with the scene surrounding her. There was so much beauty in the forest scape that forced her to wonder what problem the grown-ups could ever find with such a place.
Large ever-green trees towered over her, making her feel smaller than she already felt. The trees sent out shards of broken sunlight, dapples and dots making intricate patterns on the lush forest floor. Butterflies seemed to dance on the small white flowers that were scattered throughout the trees and shrubs, flirting playfully with each other before flying off, weaving in and out of the rays of sunshine. She could hear birds singing cheerfully in the distance, a stream running calmly and with a turn of the head, she could see the stream, bustling with a variety of life. The girl looked back in front of her. A wall of trees confronted her, breaking in a spot that would enable two or three people to fit through side by side. She became intrigued as the woman in the cloak led her through the trees and to the other side.
Through the break in the trees was an expanse, at the centre of which stood a little house, one like the girl had never seen before. It was surrounded by a quaint garden filled with petunias and roses, an abundance of herbs and even more colour. A tabby cat sat on the front window sill, basking in the sun, a rarity for this time of year. A pebble path lined the way from the trees to the very front of the door, which was small and wooden. The cottage itself was made of stone instead of bricks like the houses in town, and the chimney was still pouring out dark grey smoke.
The woman in the cloak let go of the childs hand momentarily, merely to open the front door. The child gasped at what she saw.
A bright room with rainbow striped walls and green fluffy carpet confronted her. The childs eyes widened and she giggled happily to herself. She let go of the womans hand and went exploring. She ran into the room and kicked her shoes off, moving her toes around in the carpet, giggling as the fibres tickled her feet. There were toys littered all around the room; all the toys the little girl had always wanted but her mother could never afford. The woman smiled happily to herself at the childs joy. She hung her hood up on the coat rack placed at the front of the door, slipped her red high heels off and joined her new daughter in the living room.
I told you that you would enjoy it, The woman said, excited and dancing with the child. The childs smile was stretched to the widest her mouth would possibly go. She was overjoyed at her new home.
Thank you, lady, The girl replied as she skipped playfully around the woman, giggling as she tripped before rolling around on the carpet.
You can call me Mama now. The child giggled as her new Mama handed her treats.
The woman essentially treated her daughter as a pet, like a dog that was being housebroken. Anything the child did that was in the womans eyes misbehaving; she would get a smack and put out the back of the house. Every time the woman smacked her child, a perverse pleasure rolled through her system, and she would smile sadistically at her red hand as the child cried. Whenever the child would behave, she would be rewarded with sweets and toys, and these rewards came more often than not. Aside from the occasional beating, the child liked her new home and her new mum. They would often venture out into the forest and go on long walks, away from the busy town and observed the wildlife. Butterflies were the childs favourite. She loved to watch them flutter their wings as they flew gracefully through the air, she loved to chase them off flowers and as time went on, she began to love trapping them in her hands and watching them squirm.
That isnt nice to do, The girls Mama would remind her. The young girl, who was around six years old, would look up at her Mama innocently and question her.
But Mama, why? It was being naughty, flying the wrong way. You punish me when I am naughty, I am just doing the same thing, the girl would argue as she clapped her hands together, quickly ending the life of the innocent animal with a satisfying squishy sound.
It is still not nice. They would wander slowly back to their home and every day at 7oclock, the little girls mother would brush her golden curls in front of the fire and sing.
Hush little baby, dont say a word, She began as she brushed the length of her daughters hair. Your hair is growing very long, we must cut it. The little girl nodded. She adored her long hair, but it was never worth arguing with her Mama.
The woman got out her hairdressing scissors from the top draw of the kitchen and retook her seat on the armchair behind the girl, humming as she went. She straightened a curl of her daughters hair and snipped off about three centimetres from one ringlet. She got back up and returned the scissors to their rightful place.
Is my hair better now? The girl asked as she watched the flames in the fire dance. She could see a gazelle bounding gracefully through the flames. And from nowhere a lion emerged and a chase began, the lion quickly catching and killing the gazelle. The child could see the blood on the lions mane as he licked and tore at the flesh of the dead prey. The child smiled to herself.
Yes, all better, The woman said smiling, whilst putting the lock of hair into her coat pocket. Now go off and get ready for bed. The little girl nodded at her mother before running down the hallways and to the bathroom to get into her nightgown.
The woman looked down the corridor wearily and only when she could hear the toilet flush did she get up off her armchair. She moved over to the top of the fireplace and looked at the ornaments decorating the mantel piece. She picked up a silver box, decorated with intricate patterns of gold lines that sat next to a photo frame of her as a child. She opened the lid and smiled at all the different coloured locks of hair, each individually tied with either a pink or blue ribbon to distinguish the sex of the child of which the locks belonged. She pulled the lock of her new daughters hair and pulled out a length of pink ribbon from a compartment concealed within the box. She could hear talking from the bathroom, so she stopped her task momentarily, waiting to see if her daughter was coming, before she resumed. She tied a neat little bow around the lock and placed it carefully amongst the others before repositioning it on the mantel piece again.
She walked in to the kitchen to fix herself a hot cup of cocoa. Her daughter skipped out of the bathroom and entered the kitchen, smiling proudly at her Mama.
Mama, I did everything all by myself! The little girl had managed to put on her light pink floral night-gown by herself, put her abundance of blonde ringlets into her lace bonnet and even brushed her teeth; the woman could smell the mint on her breath.
Wow! I am so very proud of you, my little pumpkin pie! The woman beamed happily, handing her daughter a new toy off the kitchen bench. It was a deep purple dragon, with green spikes and when you squeezed it, it made a sound. Her daughter loved dragons.
Thanks Mama! The little girl hugged her new toy proudly. She would place it with the other toys in the corner of her room and if it behaved, she would dress it up in nice clothing, like her Mama did to her when she was extra good.
Let me take a photo of you, The woman said as she reached into the cupboard to get the Polaroid camera. Say Cheese!
Cheese! The girl smiled, holding up her new toy pet. When the photo was taken, the girl gave her Mama a quick peck on the cheek before running off into her room excitedly.
The woman blew out the candles in the lounge room and kitchen and walked to her own bedroom, looking at the photo as she went. Her daughter looked very pale, almost ghost like, making her piercing blue eyes stand out even more. A couple of her blonde ringlets were poking out from underneath her bonnet at the side, but that merely added to the cuteness the woman thought. She opened her room, lit the candle and faced one of her walls.
It was plastered with almost three hundred photos of about thirty different children; all aged between five and seven. She would never keep her new children for more than two years as she practically loathed children any younger than five or older than seven. This daughter was her thirty-first child. She removed a thumb tack from a container on the top of her bed side table and stuck the picture she had just taken in one of the gaps on the wall. There werent many gaps left now.
She stood back to admire them and sighed. She loved them all so dearly. She would have to let her new daughter loose in a couple of months; she was close to turning seven. She got into bed, not wanting to think any more about the future and blew out the candle that was sending light out across the room, and with the extinguishment of the flame, the room was sent into darkness.
I can see my daughter in the lounge room, playing happily with her new dragon toy, so I turn back and focus on cooking our dinner. I begin to smell smoke, so turn back around and notice her burning the tail of the dragon in the flames and giggling to herself. I yell at her to stop, but my words run into each other on the way from my mouth to her ears and they get jumbled, not conveying my message with any satisfaction. She continues to burn the tail. The dragon then morphs from a toy into a real small baby dragon and began to cry in pain. I sigh. My daughter will stop. The cries continue. I try and yell at my daughter to stop torturing the animal, but again to no avail. The dragon manages to wriggle its way out of my daughters grasp and begins flying around the house, breathing fire in all directions. My daughter screams angrily that her pet has flown away. I try and concentrate on just cooking dinner and let my daughter sort out her own problems. A crash forces me to stop. I look back into the lounge room and my silver and gold box has been knocked off, landing face down on the floor. My daughter stops chasing the dragon and looks inquisitively at the bundles of hair on the floor. I scream at her to stop, but my words make no sense when they come out of my mouth. My daughter throws all the hair into the fire, making it spark and spit flames. My daughter turns around to me and smiles sardonically.
Ha ha Mama.
The woman woke with a sharp inhale; sweat covered her forehead in a thick layer. Her breathing was shallow and broken and all she could think about was that if her bundles of hair were ever lost or destroyed, there would be no order anymore. She slid her feet in to white fluffy slippers, placed a dressing gown over her shoulders and shuffled down the hallway. Photo frame after photo frame lined the walls, depicting the womans late family. When she reached her daughters room, she knocked harshly and then entered.
Mama! You cant come in until I say! The young girl whined. The woman was shocked at what she saw. Almost every stuffed animal she had ever given her daughter had pins sticking out of them and Satanist inverted pentagrams were etched into the walls.
Where did you see those? The woman asked, shock flowing through her voice, her long bony finger pointing to the pentagram symbols. She was not afraid of such symbols like those that inhabited the town were, she merely wished to know where her daughter saw such symbols; symbols that the woman actually worshipped.
I saw them in Mamas cookbook, The young girl replied harmlessly as she continued to play with her toy dragon, sticking pins through its wings. The woman gasped. Her cook book was not meant to be viewed by her children. She needed to hide her things better, seeing as her child had become so inquisitive.
She ran into the kitchen and placed all her books that were strewn across the bench in the very top cupboard, away from the child altogether. She gathered her jars of insects and various types of fungi and placed them in the same cupboard. Her daughter would not be subject to such things again. Suddenly, the woman remembered her dream and looked towards the silver box above the fire. It was only a matter of time before the child asked what was in it. The woman ran frantically towards the box, picked it up whilst pressing firmly against the lid so as to not accidentally have it fall open, and rushed off to her room. She closed the door behind her once she was in her room and went over to her bedside table. The woman fiddled with her necklace clumsily, before pulling off the key that was always around her neck and unlocking one of the draws. She placed the chest inside, safely amongst the other keepsakes from her other children and closed and locked it again. She then calmed herself and strode back into the lounge room; she sighed as she plonked down into the armchair, watching the flames flicker in front of her.
She called out to her daughter when her breathing stopped being so ragged. Her daughter emerged from the hallway, sucking her thumb and dragging her dragon by the neck behind her. The woman patted her thighs, an invitation for her daughter to sit on her lap. Her daughter clambered messily up and pulled her thumb out of her mouth. She knew what was coming.
That was a very naughty thing to do, The woman scolded, her stare serious and strong; her daughter cowered beneath the ferocity of it. The woman turned over her daughter and pulled down her skirt. She raised her hand and came down with a mighty force. The crack was incredibly loud and rightly so as the smack left a bright red hand print on the childs buttocks. The mark had already begun to welt. The woman smiled to herself as she hit her daughter repeatedly. The child sobbed quietly to herself, hugging her only friend, her dragon, close as she got hit. Again. And again.
It felt like an eternity to the child. In reality it had only been five minutes of constant smacking, however the child still had red raw skin on her buttocks and the top of her thighs from the repeated torture. The woman smiled at the tingling sensation in her hand. She lifted her daughter up and hugged her, as she wiped the tears from her face.
I do not give you toys and a nice room so you can destroy them, She whispers to her daughter intently. Now you know not to do that kind of thing again. Her daughter nodded silently and rested her head on her mothers shoulder, exhausted from the smacking and the sobbing. She slowly drifted off to sleep whilst her mother rocked her.
Princess Paddlepop blew ice onto my bottom, to stop the pain. She is my bestest friend in the world. Mama thinks she looks like a boy, but I tell her no, she is definitely a girl. And she doesnt breathe fire like Mama thinks. She is a good dragon. She flies around my room and I try and catch her. We play this game lots when Mama isnt around. I call it tip. My dragon lays in my legs and rolls around. Her pin pricked wings stick me in the legs and the cuts begin to hurt. I yell at my dragon and smack her. She was naughty and had to learn. This was how to teach her. Thats how Mama teaches me to be good. My legs bleed and the blood begins to fill up the room. My dragon flies off out the window and I beg her to come back. Blood continues to rise until it is above my head. I sob as I go under
The child woke with a whimper and her mother patted her back softly and began to sing to her. It managed to calm the child down slightly, but she still did not like the dream shed had. She looked at her toy dragon without lifting her head from her mothers shoulder and whispered Im sorry to it. The dragon seemed to smile back. The little girl felt better now; now her friend would not leave her all alone. The dragon was her favourite and always would be.
It was time for another walk. The woman got her picnic basket ready, filled with fairy bread, chocolate and assorted lollies, before helping her daughter put on her blue hooded cloak. Her daughter had just turned seven and it was custom for women to wear cloaks from that age. The child beamed proudly at her mother; she felt as though she was now a woman instead of a child due to her cloak.
Go get your dragon, The woman encouraged.
Princess Paddlepop, The child corrects. She was not just a dragon, she had a name. The woman sighed at her child and motioned towards the girls room, telling her silently to fetch her dragon. The daughter thought this was a little odd, as usually her toys are not allowed to accompany them on their walks, but she didnt argue; she knew better by now.
The daughter hurried back to her mother and took her hand at the front door. Always hold mothers hand was the number one rule when going out walking. The world was not a safe place for a young girl. Plus, if the child got lost, there was no way for her to get back, as she did not know the route home. And that was exactly the way the woman wanted it.
They ventured off into the forest, side by side, dragon balanced candidly on the top of the picnic basket. In the childs perception of time, they seemed to walk for hours, but the child didnt really mind, she got to see the wonders of the world again. Every piece of nature she saw was like she was seeing the beauty of the world again for the first time. The fresh morning dew on the grass and plants, making everything glisten in the spring morning sun. The webs that the spiders had spent the entire previous night making sparkled gloriously in the sun; one of the spiders was drinking the blood from early caught prey and it made the child smile. The butterflies danced on the flowers and floated carelessly on the wind. The daughter caught one between her hands and squashed it. Her mother went to scold her, but decided not to. The child took the lack of scolding as a bonus present on her birthday.
They wandered further and further away from the house and eventually chose a spot to sit and enjoy their picnic. The childs mother laid out the various types of food and poured some drink for her daughter. They sat and ate in silence for a while before they started to engage occasionally in meaningless, hollow conversation. When almost all the food was gone, the woman pulled out a large chocolate cake with Happy Birthday written in white icing sprawled across the top. The child laughed happily to herself as her mother sang to her. She made her dragon dance along.
Thanks Mama! She said before she blew out the candles; all seven in one go. The woman cheered happily as her daughter began to cut the cake. The woman then sighed and got up from the ground, no smile present on her face.
Im going to get you your other present; I left it hidden in the forest. Cut me a piece of cake please and I will be back very soon, The woman lied as she went in the direction of the cottage. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she walked away. It was hard to leave a child after mothering them for a year and a half. She had taught her and grown attached to her, but now she had to leave her. The child would soon grow ugly and lose her value to the woman. She still heard her daughter singing softly in the distance for quite some time, and the woman did not stop until the sound of her daughters voice had completely disappeared.
It was night time by the time the woman made it back to her house and she was famished. She opened the door, made herself some food and went into her late daughters room. She had taken some plastic garbage bags in there with her, and she began to stuff the childs toys and clothes in to the bags, tears flowing silently as she did so. She would clean the room, paint it and then set it up for a A boy. She wanted a boy next. She had gotten three girls in a row and believed that it was time for a change.
When she finished clearing out the room and storing all the bags amongst the others in an underground cellar near the back of the clearing, she made her way back into the room ready to clean up. When she re-entered, she noticed some things in the corner and investigated. There were dead rodents with pins in their eyes, birds that had their wings torn off and numerous species of insect that had their legs separated from the rest of their bodies. The woman cringed not only at the sight, but also at the stench of the animals. They had to have been there for a very long time to smell that bad. Maggots were abundant. The woman turned to grab a garbage bag to throw the carcasses and rotting animals out, before she realised she could use them in some rituals. She went into the kitchen and began to collect together a variety of jars to place each species in. She also placed on a gas mask so she did not have to endure the putrid smell again. She wondered how a child that smelt so sweet could create such a horrid smell as she began her work.
The woman in the scarlet hooded cloak walked silently down the street, unseen in the wide expanse of people, all hurrying to get to the markets before they closed. She kept her head down and her pace steady so as to not attract suspicion. She kept with the flow of everyone, even though she had no intention of buying anything from the summer markets. They were a celebration and the woman did not feel like celebrating, she felt like destroying. She walked beside a young boy, who looked about five years old who had long brown hair reaching to his shoulders, deep hazel eyes and tanned skin, who himself walked next to an almost spitting image of him, only larger; his father. The boy was beautiful and pure. The woman grabbed the childs other hand and began to walk away with the child by her side. The child merely thought the woman was his mother come back to collect him and take him on the Ferris wheel as she had previously promised. His father did not think anything of not being hold of his sons hand anymore as he himself thought that the woman was his wife, come to collect their son.
The woman walked on, through the crowds and she even passed the Ferris wheel. She was headed for the forest, promising the boy the best rides were at a clearing she knew of that was in the middle of the forest. The boy forgot all about the Ferris wheel and all the warnings the adults had given him about the forest. All he wanted was sweets and rides. He followed the woman willingly away from the town, and towards a little house in the middle of a clearing, situated in the forest, that would soon become the place he called home. Until he was seven