Short Story inspired by Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland.
Nora ran, dodging trees and paying no mind to the twigs that scraped her bare arms and legs from shoulder to thigh. Once in a while, the high afternoon sun shone through the density of the woods, and she knew she had better hurry.
When she reached the beach, she admired all her sisters who had gathered for the festivities. The continuous breeze carried the ocean’s scent as it waved through her long, bright hair. She felt powerful and had no doubt that she would be the victor.
“Gather around,” said Mother Mabel. Even without her ceremonial robes she stood with confidence, stripped down to her breast and bottom coverings. She was the oldest and wisest in their community, beautiful and flawless. “It’s time for the first race.”
Considering her competition’s bronzed, muscular legs and stomach, Nora found her to be an equal opponent. She couldn’t recall her name, only that they had known each other for a very long time. Nora smiled, and the woman smiled back, but with more self-assuredness—like it was clear she’d leave Nora in the dust.
“Go!” shouted Mother Mabel.
Nora took off. Her legs were strong and her mind clear. She wanted to win, although she didn’t want the race to end. Her sisters raised their red-ribbon-tied spears and cheered. The further Nora ran, the thicker the sand gathered on her feet, but it didn’t stop her from crossing the finish line first. She took small, effortless breaths as she glanced behind her, but her opponent wasn’t there.
Where did she go? What did she look like? She wondered this as her sisters picked her up on their shoulders and paraded her around.
The moon, blazing orange, seemed to take the sun’s place in an instant. Everyone had gathered for the feast, eager and hungry for it to begin. The fire felt hot against Nora’s face and hands. She wasn’t hungry, but she couldn’t wait for the food. A bird with antlers flew down beside her and pecked the ground and then flew away again.
She watched as a wolf walked out of the forest. He stopped and then began to spin, around and around, in circles. No one else seemed to notice him until he sat down beside the fire. He was hungry. Mother Mabel threw him a crumb and told him to leave. He growled out of the side of his mouth but ran back into the woods.
“Nora,” Mother Mabel said, the fire’s light dancing on her face. “If you feed a wolf, it will leave.” She took a puff from her brass pipe and passed it to the sister sitting next to her.
A storm started brewing, and the wind blew sand over the fire. All was black, except for the light of the pipe, and it seemed to float to Nora. She took it in her hands but hesitated until she heard Mother Mabel say, “I will come with you on your journey. I will always be with you.”
Nora put her lips to the cold pipe and inhaled, feeling the sweet smoke invade her mouth and then her lungs, heavily gratifying.
When awoken by a sudden light and an uneasy rustling, she couldn’t recall ever going to sleep. She was afraid to look, but curiosity forced her eyes to fly open. Where am I? Like lyrics to a forgotten song, but without the sweet melody, she vaguely recognized the room. She couldn’t breathe; the four white walls were stifling. Other people were there, but she didn’t know them.
What did Mother Mabel say to me? “Something about a journey,” Nora whispered.
“Nora? Nora?” asked a lady with silver, stringy hair, wrinkles, and sunken cheeks. “Can you see me? Can you hear me?”
The old lady sucked in her breath and put her hand over her mouth. “It’s me … Mabel. Mabel.”
Nora shook her head because the woman didn’t look like Mother Mabel. But there was a resemblance. A similarity. The green eyes, the way she opened her mouth when she smiled. I will come with you on your journey. “But why do you look so old?”
The lady laughed. “Why indeed.”
“What kind of journey is this?” Nora whispered. She tried to stand, but her legs held no strength, and she fell to the hard, cold floor.
“Oh no, are you hurt?” Mabel said, trying to help her, but Nora refused, thinking she didn’t need help.
Nora sat on the floor, legs in front of her, staring at unkempt yellowing toenails that stuck out of dirty, pink slippers. She pulled up the gown she wore, revealing pale, thin legs. “What happened to me? Why am I here?”
“I’m so glad you can talk.” It took her a couple of seconds, but Mabel got down on the floor and sat cross-legged like a little girl. “You are talking, aren’t you?”
“Is there a reason? Is this a lesson? Does this have to do with the wolf?”
Mabel’s eyes widened and in a raspy whisper she said, “Wolf? What wolf?”
“It was by the fire, and you told me to feed it.”
Mabel inhaled, and her hands jittered about wildly. “Right. I told you about the wolf. You did hear me. You could hear me the whole time. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“About what?” Nora asked.
“Right.” Mabel bit her nails.
“Oh, Miss Nora,” a man wearing white from head to toe stood over them. “Am I in trouble!” Without asking, he helped her up and back into her seat. “Here.” He handed her a small container. “I got distracted on my rounds and plum missed you. Woo wee, we wouldn’t want this to get out.”
“No,” Mabel said struggling to untangle her legs. “No, she can’t have those.”
“Miss Mabel, causing trouble again, I see. You know what happened last time Miss Nora was off her meds for too long. She bit you. Remember?”
“It’s fine. I’m fine.”
The man held his hand out, now helping Mabel stand up.
“See,” Mabel said as she stood. “I’m fine. Don’t you see? Nora told me about the wolf. She heard my stories …”
He looked back at Nora and nodded. “Take them, Miss Nora, and you’ll feel a lot better. You’ll go right back to la la land.”
Mabel wiped her eyes. “But the fairy tales, she remembers. And I don’t have anyone to talk to.”
Nora looked at the two little pills in the bottom of the small clear cup.
“No, Nora,” Mabel pleaded. “Stay with me. Stay with me, please.”
Nora couldn’t see the value of her journey. She didn’t know why she had come to the colorless place where she had to be so weak and helpless and where her thoughts were foggy. “If you feed a wolf, it will leave.” As she looked down at the little white pills, the message the real Mother Mabel had given her became clear. In this strange place, she was the wolf. If she wanted to go back to be with her sisters and never leave the beach, she would have to feed the wolf the little white pills.
If you Feed a Wolf, inspired by Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll, United Kingdom: 1865, is one of the short stories from my collection: supernatural fairy tales. Available here!
Love, Laughter, and Fairy tales,