there is a place behind the house
where the trees grow close together and their branches twist like clasping arms
(if you listen to the wind you can hear voices for real, not just the pretend ones that mimic talking)
(they tell each other stories and they sing songs together and you can’t understand the words, but they make your throat hurt just to hear)
if you go there when the moon is full — never mind how mother scolds or father forbids — you will see something grand
if you are brave enough, if you are clever enough, if you walk barefoot through the brambles and the grass under the full moon, you will see ladies dancing
they are all beautiful
of course they are beautiful, but there is something more to it than that, if you are willing to look
(not many people are; most people end up quiet and afraid instead)
they are all tall, and some are lean and some are not, but they are all graceful as they move together, her arm in hers and in hers but also in hers
there are twigs in their hair, which is long and soft, like the gossamer of spiderwebs
if you are quiet you can watch them dance for hours
if they hear you, though …
you might be bold and you must be clever, for they are an old race and it has been many years since they have had a child of their own
(for you and i are children to them; even our grandparents are children, in their eyes)
they are hungry mothers; they are empty-armed and savage-eyed; they are wailing in the wind for what they cannot have
if they hear you, if they see you, then they will chase you
and you must run
(do not think to stay, for if you do and if they catch you, you will no longer be yourself)
you must run without looking back, for to do that is to pause, and to pause is to court capture
their arms are long and their fingers are thin; they are good for grasping and for pinching and digging in deep
run through the brambles and do not let them stop you; do not let the pain slow you down
(they are coming, they are singing, they are howling their names to the wind)
if you make it back — if you cross the threshold made of the wood of their sisters, they will stop
they will stop but their voices will still call to you, hungry and wanting, all through the cracks in the walls; their fingers will dig in deep and they will croon that they have a name for you, something new, something grand, if only you would step forward and take it
(do not step forward to take it)
for the whole of the night they will try to court you, you who are a child to them; you who are an infant in the eyes of something old and strange in the world — they will cry and they will call
do not look through your windows, do not look at their faces; do not be seduced by their dancing
in the morning they will go back to the forest, where it is quiet and dark
and where the trees lace their branches together like arms in an embrace
they will go back, and you must never go there again; carry bread and salt and silver in your pocket and pray that when night falls again and for all the rest of your years, no matter how far and wide you travel, you will be beyond a threshold, out of the reach of the hungry dark
they will remember you
they are waiting

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