In this dream-like story 18-year-old Mia Valodia Wessels van Zijl transports readers to a more poetic reality. As a child Mia had dreams of becoming a milkman. She now plans to become a professor of English.
Once upon a time, in a Far Away Land of around the corner, lived the Warlock.
He wasn’t really a warlock, it was all in her head, or so the adults said. However, she knew, with every fibre of her being, that that ragged old man, shut away in his evil lair, dealt in black magic of the most heinous kind.
Since no one would believe her, she set out one night, sneaking through the window, with her father’s old panoramic, to capture some evidence.
It was a treacherous few meters to his cave of peril and she risked great injury from nearly tripping over a pebble, but she made it. All the way to his back garden.
Upon arrival her suspicions of his evil-doing were encouraged. Rose bushes upon rose bushes, their thorns like mutant daggers, grew everywhere. They creaked up the walls and over the windows and even clogged the chimney. Only a mastermind of pain would live among such dangerous terrain.
She nearly lost an eye navigating this labyrinth, but she made it through. Next: find a window to peek through and get her evidence.
Light was trying to escape from the second story window so she headed for the tree that stood just outside it. A branch was growing rather conveniently by the windowsill. With shaky arms and legs she shimmied up the tree, almost falling on many occasions, and reached the branch.
As silently as possible she inched closer to the window. The nearer she came she began to hear murmurings and mumblings from inside; most certainly the conjuring up of some black magic.
She readied her camera, leant forward that final inch and peeked through the crack in the window.
“-then Little Red and her grandmother fell, unharmed out of the wolf’s stomach. The huntsman fetched some rocks and Red’s granny fetched some needle and thread and-”
She sat, silent and shocked, unable to move, at the site she saw before her. The terrifying old man who never did anything but grunt and glare, was sitting comfortably in an armchair, reading a children’s book with a warm voice. Candles littered the entire room, but the entire room was made up of books, all the way to the ceiling. There was dust and pots of withering, but beautiful, roses. Carpets upon carpets blanketed the cold floor. A portrait of a young, happy couple hung lonely on the wall.
There were no skulls or demented figurines. No ghosts of lost souls, trapped in cracked mirrors. No evil old man, tormenting the light of day with dark deeds. Not even a smouldering cauldron.
In its place, across from the old man, was a rocking chair, veiled in extraordinary embroidery. Artistic flowers covered every inch, with a fluffy pillow to complete the look.
But no one to sit in it. No aged version of the woman in the portrait. No loving soul to listen to his reading.
A gasp escaped her and the reading stopped. The old man’s eyes lifted to the window and spotted her before she could duck. Frozen in fear she began panicking, desperately trying to think of what to do next. A soft voice broke through her fog of fear, “You can come in, if you’d like, although you’ve missed a great deal of the story.”
A long breeze of silence blew past before she moved. It was slow and frightened, her movement, but curious.
She managed to open the window and gracefully fall in, all while trying not to make too much noise. She turned once properly in the room and found the glare she was so used to looking at her with gentle acceptance. His old worker hands, that she had always found so terrifying, motioned at the chair across from him.
Slowly, uncertainly, her feet carried her there. Her knees, shaky and unstable, bent to let her sit.
The chair was soft and sturdy and unused, but it welcomed her in earnest.
“Now, let’s start from the beginning shall we?” he asked as he turned to the front page. She nodded in shy anticipation and listened with growing comfort.
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who liked to get into trouble.”
Without either being aware of it, her hands rose with the camera in place, focused on the storyteller across her and took a perfect, blurry, warm picture.