“Stay out of the woods”, people tell their children, “Children who don’t listen to their parents get stolen away by the imps and the goblins.”
“Don’t stray from the path,” they tell their daughters, “There are hungry wolves there who will deceive you.”
“Don’t tarry after nightfall,” they tell their sons, “And don’t speak to strangers.”
The woods are not safe. The woods are harsh and cold and the trees stand so closely together that one can scarcely breathe when stealing across its borders. Anyone walking beneath the dark green roof knows too well the feeling of eyes on their backs, of being watched with suspicion and anger and hunger.
The woods are not safe. There are wolves and bears that speak like men and curious little creatures who demand that you guess their name. So the villagers say in nervous whispers as they hear of yet another child disappearing. But children do not seem to fear the woods. They sit on doorsteps and fences listening to the wind whistle through the branches like the tones of a ghostly flute, and wonder if goblins really do steal naughty children.
Two children are left in the forest alone by desperate parents. The brother leaves a trail of breadcrumbs, hoping they will find their way home. When they wake in the evening, the trail is gone. “Animals must have eaten them,” they say to each other in dismay.
There are no animals in the forest.
There is not a single insect or bird that dares to nest in any of the trees. No elves nor fairies nor imps nor goblins. There are only the trees, and the trees watch. Some bend their branches low to offer fruit to the children that listen to their music. They cradle the children in long strands of vines, let the wind howl through the branches, and the children forget. They forget their homes and their parents and their lives before stepping under the leaves.
They join all the other children of the forest, neither human nor tree, with flesh on their bones and sap in their veins. They run freely through the trees for years, but as the children of the forest grow older, they slow, and eventually stop. They put down roots, they grow tall and strong, they stretch out their arms and they wait. One day one of them who is not quite old enough to join his brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles leaves the woods for the first time since he and his sister were abandoned there long ago.
The forest is old, and it does not produce seedlings on its own. Young trees must be found elsewhere as the forest extends its borders.
Elsewhere, there is a town in need of aid. Vermin have flooded the streets, the houses, carrying disease with them. A strange young man in a tunic of patches enters their town and offers to rid them of the rats. He takes from his belt a flute carved from a fallen branch, and it sounds like wind singing through the trees.
A god worshiped through uncounted years in neither a figment of the imagination, nor a piece of merely decorative mythology. They are an archetype of the collective unconscious and the embodiment of certain personalities in human life and nature, which are eternal. We meditated on Prometheus until we imprisoned ourselves in a cage of silicon and concrete: now is the time to call on Dionysus. We worshiped our own works until the world was dead, and empty of the sacred: now is the time to call on Dionysus. We have felled the trees and poisoned the soil: let us call on Bakchos, on Dendrites. We have tamed the earth and tamed ourselves, and forgotten the call of the wild: come Zagreus, come Omestes. We have forgotten the dance of the labyrinth, and the faces of our dead: come Mystes, ‘the initiated’. We have left the myths to children and silenced the sacred songs: come Dithyrambus, come Iaachus. We are shut in the prison of ourselves: come Dionysus, the enrager, and set us free. Come with the screams of Maenads, and ivy bursting from concrete floors; come wit the pad of leopards and the howling of wolves, while the vine wreathes the iron bars and grows heavy with the swell of grapes; come with the laughter of Satyrs and goat-people, with the flaming of torches; break down the walls of our reality, that we may see the face of god.
All the little freshman fire mages have taken to lighting their hair on fire, walking around with these huge high-stacked hairdos that just burn and burn all day long. It’s the latest fashion, I guess. You can see them lounging around the edges of the courtyards, pretending to study their notes and hoping that someone will notice them. They all look very stylish. Also, very nervous. It’s ridiculous, and I kind of want to go flirt with them just to see what they do, but I suspect it would probably be wise to bring a bucket of water. Anyway, it wouldn’t last. Humans tend to get freaked out when you explain that you are your dorm room, that the projection you send to class every day is only bipedal because it makes it easier to sit at a desk, and only has a mouth because it’s easier to talk to people, and that it isn’t really you any more than a tree is the leaves it loses in winter. And it’s a little sad that most of them can’t get over it, because I do enjoy the company. I dated one of the Moon-Girls who live up in the towers a couple semesters ago, and she would come curl up inside my walls on cold nights, and sing me songs in the star-language that everyone from the moon knows by heart. She had a lot of free time, because she only went to class for the one week a month when she was corporeal enough to hold a pencil. That didn’t last either, but ever since then some of my leaves have been coming in silver, glowing faintly among all my rustling green. That’s another thing that’s a little sad about about humans. Their lovers only leave
behind colors on the inside.
Anyway, that’s another reason why I’m kind of tempted by all these goofball fire mages. It’s probably selfish, but I really think I’d like to have another splash of color. Just gotta get them to put their hair out first.