A famous baker lives at the edge of the infamous Goblin Wood. No one knows why she chooses to live so close to terror. Although the gardens and orchards immediately around her cottage are rich and extensive, their equal could surely be planted and tended anywhere in the country. And right behind her cottage, three steps past the herb garden, looms darkness. Twisted with distorted treelimbs, vines that change their contortions between glances, vegetation never catalogued. Webbed with darting glimpses of things that cause most eyes to shy away.

Visitors still come to her from all across the realm. The inside of the cottage is comfortable and reassuring; lit by scented candles and warm firelight, with polished wooden beams and tables draped with bright woven fabrics. Heaps of fresh baking are renewed every day. Braided breads savory with herbs; mounds of hearty rolls rich with nuts and wild honey; pies brimming with dark, rich berries; all scent the air until breathing is a feast.

Her wares are unduplicated anywhere in the kingdom. A customer sampling her pie one day startled himself by thinking, "I'm tasting the blood of Earth." As the tart sweetness hit the back of his throat, he heard a high distant piping that he never forgot for the rest of his life; and he quite surprised his family and friends by beginning to write poetry.

One woman savoring the aroma of braided herb-bread marveled, "These *must* have been fresh herbs - but how can you get the amount you need, for so much baking, from your small herb garden?"

Even as she asked, her thoughts were turning home. She began to hear her daughter's humming and the rhythms that she beat while pounding out her washing on the stones. The mother's careful mental store of counted coins sorted itself into different stacks, as she decided that their family could well afford an instrument, after all.

She never heard the baker answer.

Every customer has always asked the same question before leaving. Arms laden with the richest baking in the kingdom, minds warming to new sensations and beginning to spark with new ideas, each one stops to ask earnestly, "When will you move away from that terrible wood?"

The baker squeezes a hand or pats a shoulder to acknowledge their caring, and says, "Please travel carefully."

Customers all leave her long before dusk; no one is around there at midnight. None ever see her walk into the wood out back. No one hears her screams while she works. No one sees her haggard face in the dim pre-dawn as she staggers out with her harvest. She dresses her wounds herself. The baking is done, and arranged, and no blood shows, before the first customers arrive for market.

And to ask her why a baker lives at the edge of the Goblin Wood.

Previously published in Online Noetics Network and Dream Journal


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Monday, 23-Dec-2002 21:55:49 EST