I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid, am I? I am. I?
When they turn you into a rabbit fleeing down a hole in the ground, there you remain for the rest of your days. Peering out at the wide wide world through scarlet eyes with your little nose twitching and your little paws scrabbling for a security that will never arrive at your door in a brown paper package tied up with silken petal-pink ribbon like you think.
Four-legged fleet-footed creatures soft to cuddle do not last long and that is okay. You have to learn to let that be okay, to lose your fingers from the edge and fall without protest when the time comes.
You have to let go and stay gone because the dead do not rise from their graves unless you are in a fairy tale. Do you really want to be in a fairy tale?
The witch’s house is warm and cozy, there is a fire and she is perfectly willing to whip out her newly-crocheted blanket and wrap it around your shoulders. To make you some peppermint tea and butterscotch cookies and sit you down in her own rocking chair while she tells you her stories in that rasping, throaty voice of hers.
Wouldn’t you rather stay here instead? With her. Safe. Well-fed. Sleepy and lulled into a state of grace that is not yet false.
Yes, you could upend it all. You could transform her into the warty old grandmother of your imagination, the woman who consumed her own grandchildren when they wandered too far into the woods. The woman who fed her stepdaughter a poisoned apple, who locked her daughter, own flesh and blood, in a tower with no door.
You could do it, if you so choose. You could turn yourself into a hero and find yourself a monster to slay, and if the only one who fits the bill is this woman who has invited you into her home with no demand of payment, too bad for her.
You could take everything she has to give and then murder her in the eyes of the villagers to give you the opportunity to take even more. There is always more than can be given and you know that, better than anyone. Don’t you?
Vulnerability for you was an elevator that crashed 24 floors straight to the basement but you got out alive. When you crawled out from the smoking wreckage you were different, changed. Beastly at heart and when the old woman invited you into her home, you were telling the truth when you said that you would make sure that she was rewarded for her troubles. In your mind a quick death is all the reward anyone can hope for, and after all, she is old. After all, she does not need her home anymore she does not need her beating heart or the blood that keeps her alive, surely you could make better use of it than she could?
She is a witch, yes? She is the witch that you have made her into. And so her heart is yours by right, for going to the trouble of discovering precisely how evil she can be. Of warning others.
Children need to know to fear what tastes sweet and embrace what tastes bitter. To hold on too long to the people who hurt them most and avoid the people with arms wide enough to embrace them properly. You know how to make them love you because you are willing to do anything and you are willing to give up anything so long as it does not belong to you.
I am that witch and this is my home. I have been afraid for all my days because I am a rabbit too, and a doe, and a cow. I am the one who must die in the story so that you can become the heroine you were born to be. You have accepted your fate and why, why, can I not accept mine?
I have already fallen and I survived. When I die it will be my time but for now, it is not that time. All heroes must die a grisly long-overdue death for any of us to stay dead when we die, rather than be resurrected so heroes can cut their teeth ripping apart our inhabited corpses to push past their own internal repulsion towards gruesome gains.
The death of fairy tales will be the beginning of our stories, the ones we write ourselves.
Our stories will be the beginning of our lives without you, and the end of your stories of everyone in the whole world but yourselves. The end of your stories that are lies you tell yourself to avoid seeing that horror-story witch face, and recognizing her as the truest part of yourself.
Ariadne Wolf is an MFA student in Creative Nonfiction at Mills College. She is 350 pages deep in her first book, a speculative memoir entitled But It Will Hurt. Her literary nonfiction has been published in 8 literary journals, including Echo Literary Journal, Rascal, and now Parentheses. Wolf hopes to empower other women and honor her lost friends with her art.