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You are walking into the woods. Past the quiet, curtained houses, to the end of the
road. It’s early. Double check your bag for the parts. And quick, drink in the Sun on your skin
as it breaches the rooftops. Once you are in, you might not come out. You know this.
Eighteen months have passed. Eighteen overripe, oozing months. Grief has been
plum, piercing scarlet, and deep black. The colours of the berries you pick from the thicket at
the mouth of the forest. They bloody your fingers, stain your teeth, burst on your tongue.
You’ll need energy to complete your work.
Yew and hawthorn beckon you over the threshold, the wind streams round your
ankles. She knows you are here. Birdsong and distant car engines fade. The smell of damp
earth prickles your brain. Sweat, green, honey, rain. And you hear the soft voice hum beneath
A few minutes off the bridleway you are no longer visible. You have been swallowed,
but don’t get scared now. You won’t be alone much longer. The trees here are bruising,
chlorophyll-starved. Feel her? She reaches out to you with branches and thorns which tear
little holes in your smock. She guides you to the ancient tree. You search for the wound,
deepened by your knife weeks ago. Sure enough, it has bled. You scoop sap into a plastic
container, and smear syrup-gold across your knees.
You walk a long way. Time has wandered off and become lost. But you’re close,
because the ground dips under her gravity. Ahead the trees writhe into each other, until they
become the tangle. Remember how she brought you here when you were small? Told you it
was the darkest part? You had a tea party together. Last year, you came back to scatter her.
The police said you were lucky to escape. It’s too knitted to walk. Now you must climb.
Over a lip of bark, you arrive at the bathtub. It stands in the shadowed womb of the
tangle. The porcelain is ochre, hairline cracks forming veins. You don’t know how long it has
been here. Since before you. Maybe she placed it here, knowing what you would do someday.
You peer in, ever cautious that she might have lost patience. But she’s there. Her
body, curved with ashwood bones and ivy circulation, sap glue and moss skin. Your hands
muddy the bath as you reach inside and sit her up.
“I’ve brought your face,” you whisper. You pull the parts from your bag.
It is difficult. The arrangement of vines to give movement and expression is enough to
worry your hands into aches. You press chestnuts into her sockets, and weave wildflowers
over her skull. They won’t last forever, but she’ll wake in bloom. Finally, time for the relics.
A well-stained teacup, used at the party, now a spaulder. A scarf from her days in the city,
tied in a bow around her neck. Your locket, which you ease into the damp root bundle of her
For a while, you watch her sleep. Her leaves stir, though the air is stagnant. You
wonder if she is dreaming.
Then, you roll her over your shoulder, and stagger to the edge of the tangle. One
sunbeam punctures the canopy, all the way to the soil.
You sit with her, under the motes, hands folded together. You’re waiting. Soon you
won’t be talking to yourself. You murmur, mama, you became the woods. Now I have made
the woods into you.
About Lauren du Plessis
Lauren du Plessis writes about chaos, transformation, and the meeting between nature and the body. She is currently working on her first novel and is represented by The Good Literary Agency. She lives in a patch of bluebells in the British countryside with her partner and cat.
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