“Promise me, my sweet daughter, don’t go into those woods,” my mumma would plead with me, I promised her, saying what she wanted to hear.
Daddy would beg me, “don’t go into the woods, it’s not safe.” He made me promise him, I said what I thought he wanted to hear.
A wee girl of just six, I wanted to be seen as a grown up. I saw all the older kids, I wanted to be just like them! I know I could do it, if they just let me try, I’m a big girl. Everyone always tells me, what a big girl I am. But, when it comes to doing big girl things, they say I’m too small. It makes me so mad! How come I can’t be treated how they say I am? If I’m a little girl, say so. If I’m a big girl, treat me as so.
All the older kids taunted me, telling me I was a baby because I never went into the woods. I said I couldn't go, mumma would be mad and daddy would be angry.
After I was sent to bed, I made a choice to go into the woods. I climbed out of bed, sneaking out the kitchen door, as my parents watched TV. I held my breath and moved slowly, so as not to be caught.
Entering the line to cross into the woods, I hold my teddy bear tight. My little heart is beating fast, my breath seen in the dusky night air. I shiver just a little as I feel the wind blow over my nightgown, wishing I had brought a sweater.
Taking a step into the dark woods, I relax, giggle and begin to run. I feel as though I’m the Princess of the woods, playing as if it’s a giant castle, all my own. There is nothing scary about these woods, I think. Mumma and daddy are wrong, they are very wrong, I think to myself, roaming deeper into the woods.
I don’t know how long I’m there, but I listen to all the night sounds. The owls are hooting, the crickets chirping, other animals moving around, settling in for bed. It’s starting to get colder, I want to go home. I don’t know which way is out, I begin to panic. I can’t see the line to leave the woods. Every direction I look in, is endless trees.
The fear begins to take me, I’m scared now. I want to be curled up in bed, sleeping deeply. I trip over some brambles, hitting my head on a large rock. It hurts, and I begin to cry. I want my mommy. I feel so dizzy... Maybe I should... close my eyes?
Sleep starts to take over me, I can’t seem to open my eyes now. It seems like a long time before I hear something, I hear people yelling my name. Are they yelling because they’re mad? They don’t sound mad. I try and answer back, but no sounds come out. Why can’t I talk?
I get up, running now towards the voices. Please find me, I can’t talk. Why can’t I talk? I hear my mommy and daddy yelling for me more. Other voices too. I only focus on my mommy and daddy, though. I run faster, feeling like I’m not getting anywhere. Why can’t I see them? Where are they? Please, someone find me!
Mommy’s voice is loud, she cries out a long sobbing ‘No, not my baby. Oh God, please no.’ I begin to panic more, not understanding. Still, I chase the sounds of her voice, until I see them. They’re on the ground, looking down at something. What are they looking at? I keep trying to talk, no words come out.
Running closer, I see me! My little body is on the ground, clutching my teddy bear. What is happening? Why am I on the ground and standing over it? What’s going on? I don’t understand.
The tall men in uniforms told my mommy and daddy I died. I must have tripped and hit my head. It happened quickly, they think. It wasn't too painful. This made my mommy weep, she cried into my daddy’s arms. He held her close, trying not to cry, himself. I've never seen my daddy cry before.
I want to tell them I’m alright, I’m safe, that they don’t need to worry about me. It was peaceful to let go, I’m no longer cold and scared. I’ll be a good girl, I’ll mind my manners, and keep watch over other little kids.
I should have listened to my mommy and daddy when they told me not to come into the woods. I just wanted to be a big girl, but now I’ll never get to be one. Forever living in the woods, becoming one with the forest in the backyard. This is where I’ll live my afterlife.
I’m the Princess of these woods…