Stick to the path, Red was told. Don’t step into the woods. No good will come of it. There are things living in the woods that would mess with your mind as soon as say ‘Good morning’. All your life, you are told what to do and what not to do, and given creepy reasons for it.
Well, on this day, Red had decided to buck the trend. She was going to step off the path – just once – and prove the grown-ups wrong. It was her day for taking the shopping to her grandmother, who lived about ten minutes away through the trees. Every time – EVERY time – she walked through that door it was the same thing: stick to the path, don’t step into the woods, no good will come of it, there are things living in the woods that would mess with your mind as soon as say ‘Good morning’.
She walked far enough away from the house to be out of sight, but close enough for someone to hear her scream if she ran into trouble – she wasn’t stupid – and she stopped. There were one or two birds singing in the trees and a soft breeze rustled the leaves that still hadn’t fallen. She could barely hear the clanking of pots as her mother washed the dishes from breakfast. No other sounds. She looked along the path in both directions and could neither see nor hear any signs of movement.
Now, she thought. My moment has arrived. She shifted a little towards the edge of the path and waited. Nothing. She moved even closer to the edge and waited again. Now her foot was grazing the path border, a line of stones slightly raised to show you just where to stop before it was too late. Red breathed in deeply, lifted her foot and moved it over the path border, without actually putting it down on the other side. It hovered, as though transfixed, for several seconds and then she took the final step – literally – and put it down on the soft, mossy earth. Now she stood straddled between right and wrong. Was this the end of her? Would something come tearing out of the trees, teeth glinting in the sunlight, and rip her limb from limb? Was she to be the proof that dark things did live in the depths of the woods? She waited for what seemed like hours. Apparently not.
Red put her other foot onto the woodland floor. Still no apocalyptic monster. She realised she hadn’t actually breathed out in a while, so she did. Given that she was now well and truly in unknown territory, Red decided to walk amongst the trees. She kept the path in sight to her left and took the time to feel the forest floor under her feet. She almost wanted to take off her shoes and socks to feel it on her skin, but she had a fear of stepping in ‘something’ that a small animal might have left, so didn’t bother. As she looked around her, she spotted something brightly coloured a little further away from the path. It was purple and seemed to shimmer in the limited sunlight that reached it through the canopy. She checked her position. She was still close to the path, although further away than she remembered. Judging the distance to the purple thing, she decided she could still reach it and stay within range of the path. She put her back to the lifeline through the woods and counted her steps as she moved towards the object of her desire. She made it in fourteen steps. The purple thing was a flower. It was still covered in dew, which is what made it glisten, and it was one single bloom in a sea of brown leaves. She knelt beside it to have a closer look and it seemed to stare back into her very soul. She felt herself floating and was suddenly looking down on the flower from an apparently great height. She blinked and, when she reopened her eyes, she was back on the ground. She glanced back at the the path. It had gone. She thought she could hear her mother calling, reminding her of the dangers of stepping off the path.