They take you to their land and you come out old, and that is the heart of the fey.
You’ll encounter them in the woods, either alone or in a group. They’ll laugh at your having crossed their path, though the laughter’s slightly different when they share it amongst themselves. They’ll invite you to come with them and you’ll say yes and it’ll mean nothing to them. Nothing other than that they knew you would say yes. You silly, silly man. They could rip you to pieces if they felt like it, they could blow a hole right through you—but they’d never have to do that, because you won’t be saying no.
I wondered about this part for a long time. Wondered why they all said yes, those fated men. Wondered why I would, too. Wondered who’d say yes to leaving the world behind, and never truly coming back.
Perhaps it has to do with the inherent wilderness of their hair. Or else it’s quite the opposite, and their hair is unearthly in its pristineness. Perhaps it’s either a glint or a depth to their gaze. Perhaps it has to do with how they smile, how their lips curl sharply upward like two nasty, perfect thorns. You want to know where they’d take you, a person who smiles at you like that. You want to know what they’re thinking that makes them look at you as if you’re just the latest plaything, a trifle to be expended.
Perhaps you only ever wanted to be somebody’s trifling plaything in the first place.
They take you by the hand, and lead you down a path you’ve been before. This time, it takes you someplace different.
The lighting’s off. The green of the leaves are a slightly different kind of green. It’s like every piece of the forest is somehow jumping out at you, imprinting itself upon your sight and mind and maybe even skin, without being discernibly different in any way. The forest in this world is a giant spider web, and you’re ensnared by simply being here to see it.
If you left right now, you’d waste away for the rest of your life, pining after this quick and fleeting memory. You’d try in vain to replicate the rustle of the leaves, the dirt underfoot, the light between the cracks of all the trees. You’d die trying to get it right for just one second, trying to make it feel exactly how it felt when you first set foot in their place. But it doesn’t matter, because you won’t leave.
(If you left, she’d just come back to claim you anyway. Seven years and seven days, or maybe nine years and nine days, and then you’re gone. And who knows what she’d do with you then.)
So you don’t leave this place. You follow her, or you follow them. You look at them more than you look at anything else. You can’t help it. It’s as if every step they take brings them a lifetime away from you. They laugh at one another, a dozen steps ahead, and their skips and twirls bring winter to your heart. Then one looks or laughs at you or walks your way, and summer roars back into being.
At some point there will be a feast.
Opinions are divided as to whether or not this feast is an elaborate contraption, a long table lined with delight after exotic delight, or if it is an old, worn–down picnic table with some chicken and apples and a bowl or two of nuts. Another unresolved question: when you get to this table, are you starving? Do you consume these foods as if you were a wild, ravenous beast? Or do you just sit down and eat because it feels like such a fitting end to such a fitting day? (Days like these, the argument goes, make you want to fit yourself into their patterns, in order to feel yourself a part.)
What everyone knows is: once you eat in the land of fey, you can’t and won’t go back. You are sealed within this realm for the rest of your life, and the rest of your life will not be very long.
Every hour that you spend in this place makes a month go by beyond it. Or maybe it’s ten years for every day, or every hour. What’s known is that within a week or a month, they will tell you to return. When you step back outside, your hair will shoot itself long and white and out of its roots entirely; your skin will pock and collapse inwards upon itself. Your bones will shrivel and dry and dissolve. This happens always and without fail.
You knew this would happen, and still you let her take you by the hand. You spent all those hours listening to them laugh. You know they laughed at you, and still you went with them, and now it is the end.
What I wonder is: what do those last few days feel like, as you live out the final days of the condemned? Does it feel like a sacrifice? Like you’re getting something you couldn’t have resisted, and this is just the toll you pay for it?
Do they feel like a wistful dream, those days? Are those final days the ones you always wanted to live through—here and now, in your youth—and suddenly you look around and everyone you ever knew was gone, and your body’s failing, and your last few thoughts are of those several perfect days and then you’re nothing?
Or else do the days rush past you with shocking vitality, a heady rush in which eight decades collapse into eight hours or eight days? Is it the thrill of having known them that brings you back into this world old and done?
This part haunts me the most, all these quickly–lost years of your life. Where did they go, and how were they spent? Did you hand them over like pocket money, for something irresistible in a shop window? Were they lost because you didn’t bother looking for them as they dropped, year after year, until one day you reached into your pockets and found nothing? Or were they used for kindling, to light a glorious monster of a fire, hours and days and months unraveling and crumbing to ash just to feed it ever-higher? Could a life ever be relevant, in the wake of such an all-consuming blaze?
“You have fey eyes,” I say, as you smile at me in the afternoon sun or at twilight or in the glimmers of a dark and moonless blue, and what I mean is: take me by the hand. Lead me to where I was already walking, because, if I walk there with you, I will never come back. Laugh at me, so I can get to hear your laughter. Let me spend today like this, possessed by everything I see, ensnared within the world through which you walk. The second I leave your side, I’ll grow old; maybe then I’ll know if my lost moments were a price you claimed for having taken me, or if I lived them after all without my noticing, or if I threw them away myself because they weren’t yours and thus weren’t worth the keeping, here in this green and tangled place I’d have begged you to take me to, if you had ever bothered giving me the choice.
Last Updated on 3 years by pseudonymous