In Search Of

You see a man on the edge of the forest, barely hidden. A young boy ventures up, red hair, gray eyes. Orange freckles dance upon his apple pie face. he is clasping a bundle of sticks. One falls to the ground. He tries to catch it, only to spill the remainder of the bundle in the process. His gray eyes travel up to meet the back of a calloused hand. A hard hand, the hand of a working man, his father's, or so you presume. You reach out, attempt to step closer, but are unable to move. The hard hands fly in a fury about the young child's body. Boots come down on the boy's fragile frame. You remain immobile. Green eyes with flecks of brown catch your gaze. "Now is the time to move," your brain tells your feet.

The corridors open up to you. They are the typical ones from most horror films. Rows upon rows of locked doors. Each one sounds unmistakably of rattling metal. You are sure the green-eyed man will hear. You know your only escape is to find a yielding door, one through which you may pass. Though the man is still not in sight, you can feel his presence close behind. A door at the corridor's end sheds a grayish-yellow light. It is open. You run towards it, every muscle, every pore in your body screams out in agony. You reach the door, the man still not in sight.

The first thing you see as you open the door is the candy red heart of the dove from Hansel and Gretel's tale. It lies upon the ground, pulsating up, down. Behind it you see the thick forest of horror books and fairy tales. The mist rises up and you know the witches, the wolves, the vampires, the fairies, the gnomes, the elves, the trolls - all the creatures of fantasy land - lay in the woods waiting. You know this is why the door remains open. They need people to enter.

You feel a hot breath climbing down your neck. Tis the breath of the man. You realize that you will go through the door. Beyond the door you encounter fantasy. Coming up behind you is reality. Although you know this is a dream, you know it is humanity as well. You cannot escape humanity lest you pass through the door. You push back the door, the mist pulls you in. "Hell, fairy tales always end in happily-ever-after," your brain rationalizes again. You step over the pulsating red heart of the dove, the trees stir with life, the fog makes a blanket around you as the door closes. The man is left outside, unable to enter. You see the dove's mate fly into the rising sun. The day's new sun illuminates a dirt road as you begin your search.

- Tammy Rayburn