I had the dream again.
Eyes too impossibly wide, teeth too impossibly sharp, slavering tongue and hot breath too close against my face and I cannot even scream as the huntsman’s scrabbling claws rip deep into my belly.
Woke up drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets. Panting.
I lay rigid in the dark and waited for the room to stop spinning.
* * *
Joseph Campbell was asked once why he didn’t account for stories about women when developing his archetype of the hero’s quest. “Women don’t need to make the journey,” he replied. “In the whole mythological tradition the woman is there. All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.”
And if she is the place people got to already?
What does she do then?
* * *
* * *
Stick to the path, they said. Honor thy mother and thy father and stick to the path. They said. They all said.
No one said, take one step on this path and you’re already a goner. One step off it, and you’ll collapse to your knees like you’ve got a belly full of stones. Said no one.
What’ve you got in your basket, little girl.
The wolf is a lie. I hope you figured that out already.
The wolf is the second lie.
The path is the first.
* * *
What makes our heroine beautiful? Eyes black as coal. Skin white as alabaster. Lips red as snow, after the rabbit is snared and skinned.
* * *
1) sequence of events in the main story of a literary or dramatic work.
“The plot of most fairy tales follows a recognizable pattern, just like a familiar path through the woods.”
2) secret scheme for accomplishing a specific purpose, usually hostile or evil.
“The fact that one type of character always comes to a bad end does not prove there is a plot against her. Maybe she has bad luck, maybe she’s careless. Maybe she deserves it.”
3) measured piece of land.
“The story’s setting is a desired plot. That is to say: a location where people will do things. That is to say: the place that people are trying to get to. That is to say: the woman.”
4) small area of ground in a cemetery.
“We all find ourselves in a plot, sooner or later. Why rush to embrace it?”
* * *
I am an old woman now. An old woman rocking gently in my porch chair, hands kept busy with needle and thread as I patch a worn-out knee in my husband’s work pants, or prep quilt squares for next month’s bee.
Today I am finishing a cap and cloak for my grandchild. Just like the one my own Gram made me and her Gram made her: red like love.
Red, too, like a flare, a warning, a beacon. Red like lust. Red like rage.
Humming, I slip another shuriken into the concealed pouch on the inner left-side, in easy reach of her throwing hand. A dagger’s sheath is already firmly stitched into the seam. No dependence on the fickleness of paths nor the faithlessness of woodsmen, not for this precious child.
No. Not my grandbaby.
This girl shall run with wolves.
# # #
“Red” is part of an ongoing collaborative writing project a friend and I have embarked upon: revisiting myths & fairy tales as a means of understanding, resisting, and healing from rape culture, trauma, and sexual violence.
Portions from my side of the developing series appear here.
[Poppies image via. By John Beniston (Palmiped), CC BY 3.0.]