Eventually, the child could run no longer. Their legs had become too exhausted to keep going, and as they couldn’t see anyone following behind them, they couldn’t help but fall to their knees, holding themselves up by their arms, tears falling into the grass of the forest floor.
For a while, they stayed there, panting, sobbing, watching as the ground beneath them became wet with their tears, before they looked up again.
It was getting dark now. The sun had almost disappeared beneath the mountains by now, and so night made its way into the forest, and everything within it dimmed.
Looking around, sunlight was fading entirely, and the gloom within them had almost spread throughout the trees, as no hope nor happiness was reflected in them.
That’s when, while glancing about, they saw Mamma off in the distance.
She hadn’t seen them, and was quite a distance away, off nearby a stream, somewhere familiar. There, standing by the water, she held something in her hand which hung down limply, and in her other hand, there was a knife.
The child saw her use it before. She used it to carve wood, used it to cut vegetables, and used it to cut meat, among other things.
The child never knew what meat really was. A plant, it must be, that grows over the ground like a melon.
Melons are red like that on the inside. That’s what meat must be.
“That’s what it must be, right?”
She was holding a rabbit, the child realized. It wasn’t moving. It was as if it were asleep.
A friend is what it must be.
Mamma then shifted her grip onto the rabbit’s stomach and tilted the knife toward its neck. Slowly, cleanly, she glided the knife across the nape, red fluid oozing out. The child had seen this before when they got cut, or when Mamma was too careless with her knife. It meant being hurt. It meant injury.
Blood is what it must be.
The child yelped in horror, arms weak, and fell onto the ground. They didn’t understand. They really didn’t understand at all.
A friend is what the rabbit must be. Rabbits are friends.
When they looked back up at Mamma, the rabbit’s fur was gone, leaving behind a red, soft figure of what it used to be.
Meat is what a rabbit must be.
The child felt the back of their throat become moist, and once again, weak with fear, they nearly fell back down as they vomited between their hands into the grass, coating the sleeves of their cloak.
When they looked back up at Mamma again, she was looking toward them. Shocked, they scrambled into a bush, Had she seen them? Were they in trouble now?
Mamma was coming toward their direction.
They didn’t want her to be upset with them. This was all meant to be in secret, and it all had been perfectly hidden until now, all until now.
The child then jumped to their feet and darted toward the cabin, hoping Mamma hadn’t seen them.
For a while, it seemed that she didn’t. Sitting in the front of the door, their sleeves still a mess, the child was ready to admit guilt and apologize, beg Mamma to forgive them, and tell them all that happened.
They were sitting for minutes now, though, minutes that became several, all to the point where it became worrying.
Was Mamma too disappointed to even face them now? Had Mamma left them?
“Please don’t be upset with me,” they thought, shifting their legs where they sat on the floor, becoming both uncomfortable, afraid, and concerned.
Then, slowly, sounds of footsteps and grunts came closer and closer to the cabin’s front door.
As Mamma’s footsteps became louder, distinct from the song of nature, they lowered their head, ashamed of what they had done.
If only they stayed home. If only they stayed to listen to more stories.
A story cannot hurt you like the real world can.
In a story, the child does not have to be cursed, and the child does not have to be afraid.
In a story, the child can be happy, and can continue to be beautiful.
Maybe, in a story, just like Cinderella, they would have donned a beautiful dress. They could learn to sew like Mamma and make a dress out of the cloak they stole to wander into the cruel world, a dress with an impossible, fictionally thin waist and long, big, flowing skirt.
Maybe, in a story, they wouldn’t be a monster.
Maybe, in a story, they could really be beautiful.
When the door opened, Mamma was there, shaking, holding her knife, covered in blood.
Blood had spread onto her cloak, onto her boots, and when the child looked up, onto her face.
For a moment, her knees weak, shaking, crying, she took in a deep breath, raising an arm, almost as if to hit the child.
They winced, lowering their head again, their eyes tearing up like Mamma’s.
Then, a terrified, desperate shout.
“Run, solskinn! Run and hide–”
With her last word, her shout was cut short by a croak and the sound of Mamma’s knife upon meat.
On the wooden floor of the cabin, the child watched blood drip down from Mamma, and when they looked up, there were three metal prongs sticking out of her.
The child was covered in her blood.
When Mamma’s lifeless body fell to the ground, behind her was a man, the glare of death in his eyes and hatred in his stance. As Mamma’s body cleared his line of sight, that glare then fell upon the child.
The child was tired of running. Their legs were so tired that they thought they might break beneath them, and eventually, once the child had run far into the darkness of the forest night, they caved, collapsing onto the grass, sobbing, crying, gasping for air.
Ahead of where they collapsed, there was the stream, the bank of the river where Mamma killed the rabbit.
There it was, lying there in the moonlight, its blood staining the ground beneath it as it slowly dried, the edge of the water still slightly red.
The child crawled forward, clawing the dirt, pulling themselves forward toward the poor, soulless, lifeless rabbit. Once they reached its corpse, its flesh, they pulled it towards them, holding it close, ignoring its putrid smell, ignoring the blood that smeared onto them, onto their face, onto their hands.
The blood was red like Mamma’s, deep crimson.
The child crawled closer to the water, dipping their hands into its cold embrace. It wasn’t quite as cold as winter, but it still stung nonetheless.
There, into the river, their tears met with the current and flowed away, blending in perfectly with the water, the only difference between the two liquids being one was from the child whilst the other was from nature.
“If only it were that easy,” the child thought.
There, staring into the water, they dipped their whole arms in, the cloak now damp.
“If only it were that easy to blend in with it all, to be just like the rest of the world,” the child thought.
Leaving the rabbit on the riverbank, the child slowly slid into the river, holding themselves, shivering, cold, and tired.
“If only I could blend in perfectly with the water. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be a monster.”
When the baby was born, it had already been left behind by its own kind, left to travel across nature’s arms for all of eternity, the only place where their curse mattered not.
Human Child - End