This way. Come on. The girl made from fallen stars won’t wait. Hurry up, there’s no point trying to be quiet now. She heard you from the moment you crossed into the woods.
Your footsteps shake the very earth. Stumbling, tripping over roots. Stamping, your heavy feet echo in the night. Your bodies ripple and flow through the trees. Big lumbering beasts, reeking with confidence and heads full of wishes.
You’re lucky she’s not a vengeful thing. Not some great monster with writhing tentacles for hair and jagged teeth that long for the blood of foolish boys. She’s not one to set out traps of sinew and bone and jagged claws. There are many like that.
There. See? Up ahead. That light that shines in the maples, down by the place where the streams run together. She’s waiting for you.
I see you’ve brought gifts like I told you. Wrapped up whispers and promises painted on paper. I hope you listened to me. There’s a price to be paid for the dreams she can bring. You better have brought something true enough. I told you what happens to the boys that bring made up stories and lies.
Here we are now. Step forward. You can see her light shining before you. Shut up, stop laughing. Keep your backs straight. Show some respect. You know who you’re talking to?
Close your damn mouths. Stop gawking. Yes, she’s beautiful. More beautiful than any of you will ever know again. I warned you about this. Shut your eyes if you must.
You. Come on. Go first. Walk up. Kneel. Don’t listen to them, they’ll be bawling in a few minutes, just like you will be. Just like I did.
Show her what you’ve brought. Lay your gift out on the needles and moss. Tell her what you told me. What you’ve dreamed of. Beg of her.
Her words will cut you. There’s no way around that. You’ll bleed, but you’re young. You’ll live, even though there will always be a piece of this night just under your skin.
She’ll want to know you’ll honor her dreams. It’s a mark of respect. Tell her you’ll do so. Say the words. Make the promise. This is what you’ve always wanted, isn’t it?
Paul Alex Gray enjoys writing speculative fiction that cuts a jagged line to a magical real world. His work has been published in Spelk, 365 Tomorrows, The Wild Hunt, Empyreome and others. Growing up in Australia, Paul traveled the world and now lives in Canada with his wife and two children. Paul spends his days working for an artificial intelligence company that’s teaching machines how to think. He spends his nights dreaming up stories. Follow him on Twitter @paulalexgray or visit www.paulalexgray.com.