February 4th, 2019 by Patrick Starks
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?”
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…”
“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.”
“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.