Your mother will give you a bag. Maybe a fine leather satchel, or maybe a rough sack.
It will be much heavier than it appears.
Your mother cannot speak, so she cross-stitches her warning to you. Her thimbled finger pushes the needle that pulls the thread. She spells it out so you see her words framed by pine above your pillow. Each day you wake to them, and each night you bed down beneath them:
Do not go into the deep dark woods alone.
You hear the story of your mother from the women of the village, so often that you know it by heart. The old wives tell their tale. Your ears grow heavy to carry. Sometimes the women are raccoons chittering, sometimes birds wide-beaked and screeching grief. You want quiet. You want dark. You want to be alone.
You set off carrying your mother’s bag.
From inside the wolf’s belly, you don’t hear the old wives at all.
Still. You know their story, by heart.
Your mother lost her voice to the jaws of a wolf. She went into the deep dark woods alone, with her basket in hand. She was plucking mushrooms from the good rot when the wolf came upon her. He caught her by the neck. At the last moment, a hunter saved her. He drove his knife through the beast’s belly. Soon you grew in hers. The hunter built your house. The hunter brought meat. But the hunter did too break your mother’s bones.
From inside the wolf’s belly, you can hear the hunters swarm for rescue. You stay very quiet.
They will leave, with their knives and axes and arrows. You will begin to chew.
You are a girl, and where there is a girl there is a story. A story about a girl.
The old wives will tell this story of you:
The girl went into the deep dark woods alone, chasing her shadow. The wolf had pale yellow eyes and a black smile. He gulped her down whole. But the girl ate the wolf from inside his own belly. She ripped and chewed and swallowed until the beast was inside her belly instead, every last sharp tooth of him. She belched. She howled and barked at the moon.
You. You will whisper to the wolf inside you:
You ought not have gone into the deep dark woods alone.
This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor Anna Lea Jancewicz