A girl is walking through a forest. The sun is shining through the branches, falling softly on the undergrowth, in braids, like magic. It doesn’t matter much. The girl was told to memorize the path and she has worked very hard on doing so. Still, it doesn’t matter if she strays from it to pick flowers.
She does stray, and she kneels among dandelions. What the girl doesn’t know is this: whichever path she chooses, it is all one path that leads to one place—her grandmother’s house. She may stop and pick flowers. It will only delay the outcome.
The girl is pretty and upon seeing her you are sure to like her. Perhaps even love her for her innocence, her cuteness, her little dimples. But the architect of this forest was a cold, practical man. His name was Daedalus. In this forest, which is really a labyrinth, what’s dark and evil has been stalking the innocent and pure for centuries. The girl doesn’t know this. There is only one direction in which both the girl and the wolf can go. They may take different paths (the wolf, as we know, knows a shortcut). But at one point their paths are sure to intersect. How do we know this? The classical Greek labyrinth consists of one uniform path that spirals towards the center.
You would have never guessed that looking at the girl picking flowers; birds chirping, grass blades bent gently by the breeze. Ignorance is all we have. The girl is not expecting the wolf and she is not expecting her hero (as you might have guessed by now, the Hunter is really Theseus, as all Hunters are always Theseus). She does not expect that her fate has been predetermined—death or life.
This reminds me of my grandmother, who had survived the war as a little girl in a soviet kolkhoz. When they (she had five siblings) were on the train going east, in a car without windows, with other Polish families, they heard the roar of German planes approaching. When the first bombs fell, my grandma’s dad cried out to his children (immediately, without thinking about it): “Kids, come as close together as you can and hold each other tight. If a bomb hits our car let it kill us all. Let there be no orphans left.”
An uneducated man, yet it’s as if he understood what logicians call the “law of excluded middle.” Either one outcome will happen, or the opposite of that outcome. Never both. Either death or life. What’s more, my great-grandfather understood the important distinction between living and surviving.
Now, back to the girl in the forest, as she enters her grandmother’s house, surprised that there is nobody greeting her. How could she know that the house has stood there, waiting for her, since forever? That the wolf has been waiting for her since man fully understood the idea of beast. The wolf’s huge teeth are as much of a surprise as the quick devouring. What comes next, what came before, is not up to the girl. But nobody can take her ignorance away from her, that moment of absolute, pure surprise.
Luiza Oleszczuk was born in Poland and lives in New York City. Her poetry was featured in the Apple Valley Review and Futures Trading literary journal. Her short story, “The Village,” is forthcoming in The Oddville Press. Her journalistic writing has been published in various media outlets including The Economist and Forbes. She holds an MLitt degree in creative writing from Univ. of St. Andrews in Scotland. Having given up on journalism, Luiza works for an animation studio in New York City and watches a lot of cartoons.