Tic Tac Toe

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March 10th, 2019 by Patrick Starks 

TIC TAC TOE MAIN

We’d always get in a tie, O and I.

Usually, I’d start at the end of the corner, while she started at the other. One of us would, of course, go for the middle, however, like always, the other ends would be blocked before any could claim their win.

At times we’d think about our lives, and if we’d ever reach the end of our paths. However, it seemed all we kept doing was getting in each other’s way. On occasion, I thought about letting O win, so that she could see the other side for a change. She didn’t know it, but I loved her that much to give her that. Although, selfish as I was, fear of being without her was just something I could not and would not bear. So, I kept us in a stalemate, and it was in that moment I began to wonder if I really could beat O and that at the end, I was somehow involuntarily getting in a tie on purpose so that we’d be together.

But in mid-November O would do one of the most courageous things I had ever seen her do. On our next game, she had the choice to but didn’t go for the middle this time. Instead, she skipped it and started from the other side. Being naïve, still, I did the usual and blocked the middle, and I didn’t have much of choice seeing how as if I didn’t, the game would be over.

O would then go for another corner. I’d never seen her take so many points from the outside. It was somewhat madness at first. But looking at it closer, I then realized what had happened. She’d not only had one move, but two moves to choose from now, and deep down I knew that I couldn’t prevent her from both. O was going to go away for good this time. 

“I’m sorry X, but our game ends today,” she cried. “I need to see what else is out there. Maybe we will meet again someday. I love you, always.”  

I was speechless but at the end knew it was the best for us both. O was right, the world needed to be seen. And being cooped up in the same game for nearly decades, was surprising to me that we hadn’t taken each other’s heads off, well, if we had heads, jokingly.

Nevertheless, the game had ended, but a new beginning had started. I’d taken notes from O, from our last game, and just a few weeks after had beaten my next opponent, which was nothing like O at all, a CPU, whatever that means. But once I’d won, oddly the CPU would tell me a riddle:

“Go and you shall find O, but if you know, then you just might fold. Walk through the paths of the king and queen, and there you will find where she will be. Move three spaces and choose left or right but be aware of what you might fight. And on the night, you will see your path, diagonally, however, at the end there will lie the past. Be vast and make every moment last.”

The game had then changed. I was now looking at black and white squares as I exited through brightly lit pathway. I don’t know how but I could feel that O was close. I had so much to tell her, although, I wasn’t sure how I would say if I met her again. But luckily, I’d meet the Bishop and the knight. 

Marrows of Bone

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February 24th, 2019 by Patrick Starks MARROWS OF BONE MAIN

It was the spring of April when it all happened. It was a nice and sunny day as expected, and out of all the years they’d been on a losing streak, the Bone Marrows, for once, were headed to the finals. We’d have homecourt advantage, playing in our hometown, Plummet city. The referees would be on our side, we hoped. But in all honesty, we were playing against a team that everyone in the country and internationally hated, the Dundee’s. And the Dundee’s went to every final and won every game, which not even the owner himself of the team could explain. And so, he says. But either way, we all knew, for the most part, the referees always had something to do with it one way or another.

By the time me and my wife, Rose, arrived, the whole crowd sounded like they were already on their feet, rumbling the inside and the outside of the stadium like an earthquake. It was electrifying. We’d never seen the city so excited for anything in our whole lives, although, it was going to be one of our first championships if we won.

When we entered, the place was completely jam-packed, lines so massive that they curved all around the stadium. I guess everyone had decided to skip breakfast too, I rolled my eyes. Eager to get settled in, me and Rose decided to skip the food stands and find our seats—section one hundred and fourteen, seat eight. But once we sat down our stomachs growled, and Rose would give me an I told you glare. She had tried to tell me earlier that morning that we should’ve made breakfast or stopped to get something to eat on the way. But I hated being late and I hated dealing with the city traffic, so, we hopped into our two thousand and five Tahoe, and headed straight to the game instead. Little did I know, that everyone else would be thinking the same. Parking took at least half an hour to find, but I guess the good thing was that we had already bought our tickets a month in advance. So, there really wasn’t any rush.

The smell of chili dogs lingered in the air.

“Aha, there he is!” pointed Rose.

Rose always did have a keen sense of smell. It was Bone Marrow’s faithful mascot, Marrowgton. He had a gigantic golden beak, brown fur, one brown eye with a pirate patch covering the other, flailing wings that stretched out no further than what any human could do with their own arms. But to be honest, that’s exactly what was under the suit. Nevertheless, you just weren’t a fan of baseball if you didn’t have one of Westlake Stadium’s chilidogs in your hand. I’d bought us two-foot-long chili dogs, with everything on it. And to compliment them, two sodas, one cherry coke, and one sprite.

Roars of the crowd never faded. It kept its tempo. The pitcher was pitching his best. Strike after strike and the Bone Marrows would be back up to bat again. By the way things were looking, the game would be over faster than how long it took us to find a park, I thought. Chaz Sumo was the best damn pitcher the Bone Marrows had ever brought onboard. One of the best I’d ever seen. Better than Rondel Hasselman, who I honestly have to say played a big part in our losing streak throughout the years. But thankfully to Chaz, we were redeeming ourselves.

My hunger had been satisfied. The chilidog had gone down well. And like a baby, Rose would take a napkin and adorably wipe way what remained around my beard. Not a moment later, my stomach would growl again but this time in a different way. I’d take a few sips of sprite, hoping that it would calm it a little, but it seemed it only made matters worse.

“Hey hun, I’m gonna run to the bathroom really quick,” I said. “You want anything when I come back?”

Rose looked at me hysterically.

“Only you Tyson… But yeah, grab me something sweet but not candy. Like food, okay?” she said, giving me a peck on the cheek.

I then made my way up the stands and through the entrance way. I could tell I was getting a little out of shape because when I’d reached the hallway’s I felt relieved to just be walking on a flat surface again. It was like having a cold glass of water after being stranded in the desert for a day.

Above a big sign in front of me said “Men’s” but below was a line of twenty, if not more, to go in.

“Damn chili dogs,” said a man, making his way out of the bathroom.

After ten minutes of constipatingly waiting, eventually, I’d enter the bathroom. It was ridiculously dirty, graffiti all over the walls, and smelled like something had died long ago in it. Three times the toilet flushed and out came a man about the same height as me. He had sharp eye’s, like a snake. Muscular, athletic, and wore more clothing than what he needed for how warm it was out—about eighty-two degrees that day. We locked eyes only for a moment, awkwardly mimicking each other’s movements as we tried to move out of each other’s way. Just before exiting, a rectangularly shaped item fell from the man’s coat. It looked like a remote of some sort. But before I could really verify what it was, he picked it back up, fast, and placed it where it had fallen out. Suspiciously, the man smiled back at me with a sharp grin, bearing teeth that looked as if they’d seen many years of coffee. Still, I smiled back, involuntarily.

I went into the stall and proceeded with handling my business. There was barely any toilet paper and to make matters worse there were no seat covers, which meant I only had two options. A, take the remaining toilet paper that I had and put it around the seat, at risk of not being able to wipe my own ass. Or B, not use the toilet paper for the seat and sit on it bare cheek, at risk of catching something. But I’ll never tell a soul which one that I chose, not even Rose, who I trusted to keep a secret more than anyone.

In the stall, all kinds of things ran through my mind. What could Rose possibly want besides candy that was sweet? What was the item that fell from the man’s pocket? And what kind of chili dog did Marrowngton give me, more so, everyone that had been in the bathroom that day?  For some odd reason, things just didn’t feel right, excluding everyone’s constipation, of course.

It had been about fifteen minutes before I finished. Again, I won’t say what I did afterward, but I will say that I did wash my hands. That’s at least more than what I can say for the rest of the men that exited the bathroom.

I was back in the hallway now, and the lines to the food stands were a lot short than when we first appeared. I could’ve chosen any one of them to go to—pizza, popcorn, ice cream, burgers, and the worst of them all, hot dogs, which probably should have been shut down by the lynch mob that surrounded it.

For whatever reason, I decided to go with chocolate popcorn. It just sounded good at the time and it wasn’t candy, so, it had to be the right choice.

My phone pinged.  It was Rose, and she was growing a little un-patient for how long it was taking me. Must’ve been close to half an hour since I’d been gone. As a man, I should’ve known better than to make a woman wait.

Haste for time, I told the couple in front of me that I’d give them ten bucks each if they let me cut in front of them. At first, they were a little unsure, but seeing how ten bucks each would easily pay for their popcorn and more, they agreed.

The popcorn smelt sweet and buttery all in one and tasted like it too. I just couldn’t help but take a few bites on the way back.

“About time,” said Rose. “I thought you might have fainted or something.”

I gave Rose a kiss on the forehead.

“Almost. For you,” I joked.

“Oh, shut up,” she laughed punching me in the chest. “Give me what I asked for you goof.”

We continued to watch the game. It was forty-one to twelve. Finally, someone was going to give the Dundee’s a taste of their own medicine. And it was hysterically pleasing to see Bootmaker kick over the water bucket out of frustration in the dugout. All the Bone Marrow fans laughed.

The lights in the stadium then began to flicker, and not long after they’d shut off completely. As the day was getting darker, there was no way they could continue the game. One of the referees had come out with a microphone in his hand, explaining what would be done next.

“Oh, come on! Suspension my ass!” yelled a Bone Marrow fan from behind.

Everyone then began throwing empty cups of soda and half-eaten chili dogs onto the field out of frustration. Even Rose, who couldn’t finish hers.

“Your chili dogs sucked anyways!” yelled another, to our right.

All of us were then told to exit our way to the hallways until things got fixed. It was the last thing that was needed for a claustrophobic guy like me, but Rose wrapped herself around my arm tightly for comfort.

“Hey Tyson, could you hold onto my things? I’m gonna go to the ladies’ room really fast. Are you going to be okay?”

Everyone was shoulder to shoulder. Back to back. It was humid. I was beginning to sweat profusely. How in the hell would we get out if something…?

“Tyson… Baby…” said Rose. “You okay. I can stay…”

“Y-yeah. Of course, I’ll be fine hun. Go ahead, I’ll be right here when you come back,” I said

Rose vanished into the crowd, and it had then dawned on me that the chili dogs must have finally gotten to her as well. She only ate half of hers, but surely it had to have an affect on her. Oh, Rose… Only you, I wanted to tell her, but it was too late for the comeback now.

I waited around as patiently as I could, but I needed to find a spot that wasn’t as crowded. It was just too much for me to handle. About a foot, away from me was a room. From the sign that was bolted to it, it was obvious that it was for employee’s only but screw it, some rules were meant to be broken.

The crowd wasn’t budging. I’d asked politely if I could get by, however, some just weren’t trying to help a brother out. But somehow, I’d made my way to the door. When I entered, there was not an employee in sight. I even had to turn the lights on, shockingly. Get it. Yeah, moving on.

My stomach still ached. I needed to find something to calm it and I knew Rose would also need the same later. So, I went through the employee staff refrigerator but found nothing but an old half-eaten birthday cake that looked like it had been there for two weeks. I closed the refrigerator back and continue to look around more. Hanging on the wall next to the front door was a first aid kit. I opened it and what do you know, Pepto Bismol—just what everyone needed who’d been victims of the chili dogs that day. I took a few sips and already could feel myself coming back to normal again.

To the right of me, voices became louder as they approached. Maybe the employees, I presumed. Needing to hide, I shot straight for the closet across the room. I was expecting there to be a lot of coats within it but most of the stuff that I stood immersed in was just junk—broken vacuum, a broken broom, dirty towels, worn out boots, and strangely, a guitar with broken strings. But I had still had visual, and from what I was seeing through the crack of the door were two employees that entered the room.

“Shit man I’m hurt… No one told me messing with the fuse box would be so dangerous… Had I not pulled away in time, I’d probably still be down there, barbequed,” said a man.

“Shut up man before someone hears you,” whispered the other. “I told you, just stick to the plan. You heard what the boss said. We need to hold everyone in the hallway. They’re paying us too much dammit, and I don’t know about you but I’m looking to get the fuck out of Plummet city and maybe go to Canada or something. The Dundee’s must win the finals tonight.”

“Wow. You still bitter about the city not giving you your refund on taxes?”

“Shut up man. This city is a scam and you know it!”

“Yeah man, whatever you say, but… I really wasn’t expecting to put in overtime tonight. I’m supposed to be going on a date you know. I mean, Charles, you gotta see this woman. She’s an angel. I’m still surprised she’d even agree to go out with a guy like me, a janitor of all things, but she did.”

“Screw her man! Trust me, there will be plenty more like her when we get this job done. Now let’s go.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I never thought anyone could stoop so low, although, it all started to add up. The chili dogs and then the lights. It was all rigged. The Dundee’s were not only trying to kill the spirit of the fans but also cheat on the Bone Marrows. But how?

My phone began to ring. It was from Rose again. I did my best to silence it as fast I could, but the two men had already locked their eyes towards my direction.

“Hey, did you hear that?” said the man.

“Yeah. I think it was coming from the closet. Sounded like a phone. But it’s probably Shawna’s. You know how boss feels about having phones out on the job, and Shawna has always been notorious for her texting” said the other.

“Yeah but from the closet? I don’t think so. I’m gonna go check it out. Wait here.”

One of the men then begins walking towards the closet. He was short and stocky, with a crown for baldness. He wore a yellow vest and khakis.

“What are you two doing! I told you to keep the crowd together and you’re in here dicking around,” yelled a man, coming through the front door.

It was the guy from the bathroom. Sharp eyes, but minus the cynical grin. Which I’m not sure if I preferred more from the way that he looked now.

“They got the electricians here and the powers getting ready to come back on soon. I need everyone in their places!”

The man by the closet then stepped away and exited the room with the other two men. I’d gotten a text message from Rose.

“Smh. I told you we should’ve eaten before we got here. What the hell was in that chili dog! I’m gonna be a minute. You owe me, mister. Smh…” it said.

I laughed. Welcome to my world, I text back.

I exited the room and already the hallways were beginning to be cleared out. Everyone was headed back to their seats. As I waited for Rose, I pondered on who was behind what was going on, and how they planned to turn a game that was pretty much over, back into the Dundee’s hands. I was tempted to tell the security guards, however, was skeptical if they were apart of what was going on as well. No doubt about it, Rose was the only one I could trust, so, I waited for her. I just hope I don’t sound crazy when I explain it to her.

To be continued.

 

Into the Heart

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February 4th, 2019 by Patrick Starks 

INTO THE HEART MAIN

Every now and then, in the deepest parts of the woods, one could hear the wolves howl and growl to the rising of the moon. And on such nights like it was, not many people would have the courage to speak so much as a whisper, for just the tiniest bit of sound they felt would be found. But there hidden in a far away cabin stood a young woman who was not afraid of such superstitions, wherein the heart of it all she plucked the most beautiful of daisies a woman could ever lay her eyes upon.

The daisies were absolutely gorgeous. One of a kind. Some turquoise, some salmon, some turning purple on the days that it rain, ironically. And doing what she’d always done best, the young woman overtime would become one of the most sought-after florists of the town known as Wimborne.

Business for the young woman was as they say today, booming. And it was so good, in fact, it seemed that she was running low of inventory, which was bad news for what she had lined up on her calendar. Although the night was much colder than usual, still, the young woman through on her rose-colored winter coat and headed out for the night. She took her usual route. Safely through the thorn bushes and past the two oak trees, that of which she’d named, Brother and Sister. But it wasn’t over yet. Once past the oak trees, the young woman would then have to make her way through misty parts of the woods that not many dared to travel. Snakes, quicksand, giant centipedes, and more, all that would be too invisible to see on the floor.

It was said that before a group of lumberjacks had come through, told that in the heart of the woods they would find dry wood that could not be burned. Firewood, they literally called it, however, not the kind most were familiar with. This wood didn’t snap, it didn’t break, and you surely couldn’t cut it—better than metal, the legends tell. But only a week  later, officers of Wimborne would find that the men had either been killed or taken captive. They weren’t sure what they were looking at really, but the Sheriff felt it be for the worst.

“There’s just no way Bob would leave his favorite hat behind like this. There’s just no way…” he said, puzzled and disturbed all in one.

Nevertheless, the young woman closed her eyes. Three steps to the left, two steps back, one hop to the left, and then sprint straight ahead until the count of ten, she told herself. And for the first three steps she took, snakes would then hiss and snip at her feet within seconds, but none did she ever budge from. She remained calm and collected, eagerly moving by each snake one by one. Two steps back and now she would nearly be in the quicksand, for she could feel the sole of her right foot sink a little. She pulled away, and slowly as she knew, escaping what presumably would have been a tragedy for both her and her business. Trying her best to not delay any further, without hesitation the young woman then hopped as hard as she could to her left. There was a squishing sound, with a slight crunch to it. And not long after the young woman would feel something crawl up and around her ankles.

“Eww… I knew I should have just worn pants today. But nooo you always gotta be so fashionable miss congeniality,” she said, shaking off what was believed to be a centipede off of her leg.

Last, was the sprint. She took a deep breath, and before she’d realized it, she was already on the count of six.

“Almost there,” she whispered. “Just a few more strides.”

From her left and to her right shadows followed—the wolves. But just a couple of more feet in front of her there would lie a path that held a light of crimson. She kicked into sixth gear and the wolves would do the same, and just before entering into the light a wolf would get somewhat of a souvenir by the end of it all—a shoe that at one point nearly got lost in quicksand. The young woman was now safe, however, outside the wolves waited. But as courageous as she was, it was the last thing that was on her mind.

“Finally, I’m here,” she said. “The heart. I need to hurry.”

On the outside, it was sere chaos, yes, but on the inside, heavenly. Everything glowed, like reefs at the bottom of the sea. And in the middle of it all lied the daisies—gigantic and just as gorgeous as they’d always been. The young woman plucked as many as she could take with her, about a twenty dozen, to be exact. But as she walked away the ground rumbled. And from behind she could feel death on the back of her neck.

“Hissssss… Who do you thhhhink you arrrrree?” asked a voice.

All thoughts ran through the young woman’s head. To make a run for it or slowly turn around.

“Hissss… I asssssked you a quessstion girllll. Who do you thhhhhink you arrrree?”

Cautiously, the young woman turned around. Golden eyes pierced through her soul now, and the further she stepped back the closer they would come.

“Your… You’re a snake… And you can talk…” pointed the young woman, face as blue as the berries she carried.

“Yesssssss. And I am the guardian of the heart,” hissed the snake. “It issssss forbidden to take from the heart, girl. Who do you think you arrrrree?”

“I’m… Just a woman. A woman trying to survive, and I need the…”

“Hissssss! Then if you wanted to survive you sure did come to the wrong placccceeee my dear,” said the snake, coiling around the young woman. “I should ssssssnap you like a twig right now and feed you to the wolves.”

The young woman swallowed and then replied. “No! Please… I’ll give you anything you want.”

“Hisssss! Anything you say?”

“Yes. A-anything?”

The snake then uncoiled itself from the young woman. It flicked its tongue back in forward excessively. And made no hesitation to request what it wanted.

“Bring to me a bride,” said the snake. “One with your olive ssssssskin, but ssssssssofter looking.”

“I beg your pardon, but…”

“Hissssss!”

“Sorry… go on…”

“Bring me a bride with brown hair and eyesssssss that are sssssweet like honey. But… mosssssst importantly, this bride must have a heart that is pure.”

The young woman thought long and hard. There was only one woman that she knew of with such a heart and that woman would be getting married in three days.

“O-okay…” said the young woman. “I’ll get her. I know just the woman. But if I do this, will I be able to continue to return here?”

The snake coiled itself around the young woman again. And this time she could feel a little tightness around her waist.

“Hisssss! Yessss. You may continue to pluck afterwardsssssss. But if you fail. Then I will take you as my bride. You have twenty-four hours. Until the next rising of the moon. Tick Tock.”

The snake then uncoiled itself once more, and the young woman made her way out of the light, legs wobbling to sere fear. The wolves, of course, waited outside for her, but none made a move. They all stepped back into the shadows, and the black wolf that had taken her shoe would leave it by her side before she returned. It was completely destroyed now, but again, it was the least of worries.

Once she’d returned home, the young woman paced back and forward in her living room. It all felt wrong. To take a client and trick them into a scheme they didn’t sign up for—an innocent woman of all. But she’d also think about what it would be like being with the snake forever. How her business would plummet and how all would forget about her. She picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello… Mrs. Chesley?” she asked.

“Yes, this is she…”

“Hi, this is Leonora. I had a question to ask you?”

“Oh my god! Yes! Leonora! How’s it going with the daisies? Did you find more?” asked Mrs. Chesley.

Leonora, the young woman, paused for a bit. She really did feel bad about the whole situation. In her mind, she wanted to tell her the truth. That there was a gigantic snake in the middle of the woods looking to take her captive as her bride. But who would believe such a story, she thought. She began to reminisce, gazing out the window of the living room, thinking about the beautiful home she’d taken so long to build. And not a second longer from behind the trees around her cabin, the wolves appeared. They had a slight twinkle in their eyes, lips curled, and teeth expelling past them like a shark. It was a warning, Leonora thought to herself.

“Hello… Hello? Leonora are you still there?” asked Mrs. Chesley.

“Yes… S-sorry I’m still here. I was going to ask, are you at all available today?” asked Leonora. “You see, I found your daisy’s but I’d like to have your perspective on it.”

“Yes! Of course! Absolutely! Lucas and I will be down there in twenty minutes.”

“No!”

“I’m sorry…”

“I mean. No, there’s no need for Lucas to come. It’s kind of a gal trip if catch my drift…”

“S-sure. I totally understand… I guess I’ll see you in a bit then.”

“Agreed. See you soon.”

Leonora then hung up the phone. Her eyes had never left the wolves and theirs had never left hers. But now they had reverted back to the woods, to tell the snake the good news.

About half an hour later Mrs. Chesley would arrive. As usual, she smelt of cinnamon, her eyes were honey-colored, although, her skin looked a little rougher than normal, and it even seemed that she hadn’t shaved either in quite some time.  Her hair this time was not straight but curly enough that it bounced everywhere.  It wasn’t exactly what the snake wanted, however, it was close enough. All that matter was that there needed to be a bride.

“Ah, Leonora, its so good to see you again,” said Mrs. Chesley, kissing both sides of Leonora’s face. “Shall we get going.”

Her face was rougher than normal. And her voice had sounded like she was either sick or had been yelling at a Superbowl game all day long. Nevertheless, Leonora paid it no mind.

“Of course. Let’s do it,” smiled Leonora, hesitantly, uncertain.

Again, Leonora took her usual route through the thorn bushes and past the two oak trees known as brother and sister. Although, this time there was no need for her somewhat routine of hopscotch. There was now a clear path to the light.

“How beautiful,” smiled Mrs. Chesley.

Leonora swallowed. And for the first time ever began sweating a little, and to add, she just wasn’t much of a sweater, to begin with, plus, it was cold. Get it. Moving on.

Once again Leonora entered into the crimson light, but this time she had company.

“Hisss! My bride, you brought me, my beautiful bride,” said the snake, slithering down from an oak tree.

Any other woman would run for her life, yet, Mrs. Chesley just stood there. Not a muscle moved. The snake coiled around the two women and began to thoroughly examine his bride to be.

“Umm… You smell sweet like cinnamon,” said the snake. “But your skin is a little rough.”

Leonora stared over to her right in awe. She couldn’t believe how courageous Mrs. Chesley was being. It was as if she knew what was coming all along.

“Your hair is too curly. And your arms….” Paused the snake “Hissss! What issssss thisss!”

First was her hair that came off. Then it was her dress, and underneath it, nothing but armor and sword.

“This my friend is the end of you,” said a man. “Did you really think I was just going to stand around and let you take my wife from me.”

“L-Lucas?” questioned Leonora.

She then took a few steps back realizing that things were about to get nasty, but the snake coiled around her faster than what she thought it could move.

“Hisss! You’re not going anywhere!” yelled the snake. “You set me up!”

“No! I swear I didn’t know!”

The man without hesitation took his first slash at the snake. He made contact, and for the first time in its life, the snake could feel pain. It uncoiled itself from the woman and then whipped its tail at the man knocking him ten feet out. And before the man realized it the snake would be coiled around him in a matter of seconds.

Bone by bone crushed, as the armor the man wore was not enough. He yelled in agony.

“Hiss! Who do you thhhhink you arrrrrre?” asked the snake, flicking his tongue against the mans face.

“Your slayer!” the man spat, more bones crushing throughout him.

“Stop!” yelled Leonora. “Let him go! I failed, so, take me as your bride then.”

The snake paused once more. He’d already given Leonora a chance, and trusting her was now debatable due to the circumstances.

“I’ll cook for you every night. I’ll peel the dead skin from your back. I’ll smell like cinnamon for you no matter how rough the terrain. Snake, I’ll be your bride to be.”

The snake then uncoiled itself from the man, and the man could now feel air passing through his lungs. In the form of multiple S’s horizontally side by side, the snake made its way over to Leonora eagerly to find out what else she would protest. The snake again coiled around her but this time more gently for she was bound to be its bride after all.

“To finalizzzzzze the agreement all I require now is a kisssssss,” said the snake.

It perched its lips, and Leonora hesitantly would do the same. As the two gradually made way for a connection, Leonora could feel that the snake’s grip had loosened. She opened one of her eyes, and all the dots in front of her would connect. The snakes head was now by her side. And the man was down on one knee still trying to recover from the attack he’d dealt prior.

“Did my wife ever tell you?” asked the man.

Leonora swallowed as she’d always done but this time struggled.

“No… What is that, Lucas?”

The man smiled. “Well, you see I run a big lumberjack company here in Wimborne. And this snake you just tried to sell my wife to had taken some of my best men, but luckily one made it out alive to tell me the story. At first, I didn’t believe him, but then I started hearing about these tales of the snake that longed for a bride that lived somewhere in the heart of the woods. And that’s where that leads me to you.”

All a sudden she could feel the chills go up her spine. Leonora was at a lost for words.

“My wife told me all about you. How you’re the only person to enter into the heart and come out alive. I figured since you were so accustomed to it that maybe you and the snake were friends of the sort.”

“No, it isn’t like…

“Shut up! I ain’t finished yet. Like I said, I figured you two were friends, and seeing how my wife is the beauty she is, I knew any day now you would try to send her that way. So, I dolled myself, put myself in a silly little dress and waited for the slithering bastard to come out before I revealed myself.”

Step by step the man made his way over to Leonora, holding his shiny yet bloody sword over his shoulder. He had a cynical smile, showing teeth that were aggressively positioned. There was nothing else that needed to be said.

“All of this for your business hmmm… all of this!” said the man. “Shame you have to die right here. I’m gonna end all of this crap. And then I’m gonna get married.”

He prepared his sword. But just before he swung, teeth more aggressive than his own would appear. It was the black wolf followed by his pack. They all stood in front of Leonora,

“Get back. Get back, I said!” yelled the man, as each wolf took a bite at his armor. “This isn’t over. I promise you this isn’t over.”

The man retreated, leaving with little pride he had for slaying the snake of the heart. Leonora, on the other hand, is still anonymous to all. As the months went on many men, searched up, down and all around the woods, but still, never found Leonora. Not a sign, not a trace. It is said that she was eaten by the wolves afterward. But is also said that she still plucks her daisy’s on the rising of the moon and has been adopted as the mother of wolves, the with of the heart, they call her. And still to this day none dare to enter into the heart.