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When we step into the cottage
we know what we are getting into

Didn't our mother tell us not to talk to strangers?

but we enter anyway
into the smell of iron.

We have been walking in the woods all day—
we have been walking in the wood since we were born
and now we must squeeze our soul into the shape of four walls, a roof
where it is small and dark, like the belly of an animal.

The bed is waiting, but the fire comes first.

"Take off your cloak, my dear, and lay it in the fire
                                    you won’t need it anymore."

We lay the red hood on the flames and watch them eat it up
                                    they love it so
devouring the tender fibers.

We peel away all of our layers and consign them to the fire
until the ashes of cotton underpants mix
with the ashes of blissful ignorance
until we are all that is left.

Now we are truly afraid, when the darkness touches our nakedness
and we see ourselves reflected in the shadows
and it terrifies us.

And that is why
when the voice calls from the bed
                                   "Come get into bed with me."
we go like docile lambs

to the smell of blood
and the gleam of eyes
where a grimace of big teeth
promises to teach us to go disguised
in other people's skins.

Charis lives with her cat, Mithril, in a room full of books and craft supplies. She makes damn fine cakes. Her website is
Current Issue
13 May 2024

This variation on the elixir of life pairs the flavour of roasted roc with the medicinal potency of the philosopher’s stone. But buyer beware: this dish isn’t for everyone.
mourn and lament while mixing, then cut down a tree
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