To Sow a Curse


AKA Xueyun, Contributing Writer

Through the forest and by the creeks, the sharp breaths of fear and anxiety. Branches of trees swept at his face as he pushed through, wishing to keep him still and quiet. The sky was dark and null of stars, the moon watching with a wide eye, peering behind grey clouds.  Sweat beaded his brow, and his clothes tattered after a long sprint. The moist forest ground caved under his feet as he continued to run, blood coursing through his veins like an animal desperate for life. 

An owl watched as a gust of wind brushed past, an eye opening and watching as the boy rushed past. Its grand orange eye watched with curiosity and condolences. Lifting its wings up, the owl fluttered overhead as it followed the small human. 

Why was this lost human running? A voice seemed to ask the owl, but it did not respond, its beak shifting in a hoot, which startled the boy still. 

Dirt and mud settled on the boy’s skin as he scrambled through brush and forestry. The adrenaline which forced his legs to move began to run dry, what was left was a body heavy with fatigue. He stopped and fell to the ground in the bushes, his feet sore from running, his heart heavy from beating, his eyes dry from the wind, and his stomach empty of energy to give.  

The night air almost seemed to choke the air from his throat, the cold biting at his lungs. He had lost his way, unsure of how he had arrived in such a place, but it seemed there would be no way out. 

The owl watched from a tree branch, its silence almost screaming at the little boy to keep running, but he lay still, his chest rising and falling with sharp breaths. The clouds, shielding the moon of its vision, shifted aside. The moon, now waking in the night, staring at the boy with remorse. Yet another, did it seem. 

Under the glimmer of the moonlight, a white wisp of dress appeared in the corner of the boy’s vision. He sat up, peering through dark leaves and sharp branches. A white fog seemed to linger in an opening of low grass, the figure’s white clothes dancing in the wind like a ghost, and their hat resting in a circular shape with a matching veil. The figure’s features were covered by the veil and hat as they stood with their back turned, without an ounce of menace nor evil will. 

The scene brought comfort to the boy’s racing heart as he emerged from the brush and stood. His black hair poked in every direction and his dark eyes reflected the white glow before him. 

“Hello?” the boy called, his voice almost piercing the night forest’s melody of crickets, winds, and frogs. 

The figure did not flinch in surprise, turning like a swivel as their attire flew in the wind. It was grim and difficult to see, but the boy could see black long hair underneath the hat which flowed with the veil and porcelain-like pale skin. 

He called again, this time taking a step forward, the yellow grass crunching underneath his feet, “Could you help me? I’m..lost.”

The figure was, without a doubt, a slender lady dressed in a white hanfu, and a white veil which seemed to web around her body like a spider. She faced the boy, everything but her bright red lips apparent in the white canvas she wore. 

“Blight your ears may hear, 

moon-cleansed light. 

Heart be pure where lies depart,
will comfort?

 Drink and close,
the wind will blow. 

Withered not rose.

 Cry, dear, night.” 

The boy watched and listened in silence as the woman spoke, his body almost seeming to grow lighter as she versed. What fatigue and hunger he felt almost seemed to vanish as the lady spoke, but he did not question the cause as he knew it was the woman’s blessing. 

She looked down upon him, her veil lifting with the wind’s grace, her red lips curved into a gentle smile and her eyes like a mother’s gaze. There was no mistake that this enchantress was the forests’ protector. 

“You must be cold. Come, I have a fire kindled in my stead.” She held out a hand, her slender fingers cold as he placed his living hand in hers. 

In the sky, from above, the moon shut its eye behind the clouds and shadow of leaves. The owl, with its large orange eyes, took flight and whispered through the forest with a spirit of caution.

Another has been found, and another will be lost.


By the dawn’s wake, the forest’s darkness glowed with light and life, beginning a day anew. Rising from a small bed in the corner of the home, the boy rubbed dreams from his eyes to search the room from where he lay. The night had grown cold, by which a fireplace had burned with comfort and now lay with hot embers and ash, and an empty wooden bowl placed by the bed, which had been filled with vegetable soup to satiate his hunger.

But for the signs which showed his stay in this abode, the enchantress was nowhere in sight. The little boy stood from the bed, his wooden shoes at the foot of the bed. The home was built with meaning, and the comfort of its contents provided proof the woman was to be trusted. 

As the boy slipped his shoes on, the door slid open to reveal the woman, once dressed in divine white, now dressed in only black. He questioned whether this woman was the same as the night before which saved him from the deadly night, though he knew by her red-painted smile. 

“Come. Supper is being prepared, though I need chopped firewood to cook,” she said as she motioned him forth with her sharp hands. 

The boy nodded and hurried with her outside of the home. The once frightening woodlands now ushered him forth with healthy green leaves and bright flowers of bloom. Sparrows twittered in the treetops, and butterflies danced through the prairie. Contrary to the frightening fairytales his parents had told him, the forest truly was only a fairytale of beauty and dreams. 

The woman guided him past a pot of water and to a tree stump with an axe stuck at the centre of it. She motioned towards it, smiling. “Would you help chop wood? It’s not too difficult.”

Hoping not to disappoint, he nodded and placed his hands over the handle of the large axe. Pulling the axe from the stump with his entire body weight, he managed to hold it. 

“Good, good,” she said as she brought a rather thick log onto the tree stump. “It may seem difficult, but I believe you can do it,” she smiled with encouragement. 

The little boy gulped hard and looked at the log, raising the axe to fall down onto the wood with all his force. The log split in two, its pieces with a clean cut through them. 

She clapped, taking hold of the two logs and placing another on the stump. “Just one more, if you would.”

He nodded with growing confidence, lifting the axe and letting it fall with the same force. Before the axe fell, the scream of an animal resonated within his mind. He paused, and blinked, looking around him, then to the log. The log split into two equal parts just as the last time. 

Before he could question it more, the lady spoke again and lodged the timber beneath the pot for fire. “You did well. Supper will be done soon. While you wait, would you be so kind as to find some flowers for me?”

Yet another challenge to impress the beautiful lady it seemed. He took it without complaint and wandered through the enchanted forest which seemed to shift by day and night, or perhaps it was only fear which morphed his perseverance of the land and the trees. 

The sun beamed down onto the grass, lightening it with a glow of life. The trees waved with a cool breeze, guiding butterflies in flight. He walked through the forest, his wooden shoes plucking through the dirt and gravel. 

Nearby, the sound of a creek called to him. He approached it, peering into the flowing water. The gentle splash of water, and the glimmer of the sky it reflected, reminded the boy of his childhood when he played outside as a pastime.  

From across the creek, he eyed a bloom of red flowers. Never had he seen flowers like these. They almost seemed to call to him, begging to be plucked and offered to the enchantress. He took careful steps onto stones rising farther up the creek to cross, hopping to safe land. 

The closer he got to the flowers, the more they seemed to glow with magic and secrets. The sun beamed onto the luxurious colour of azure, like a forbidden and rare cure to every disease. 

He glanced around, suddenly weary disaster was to strike if he were to pluck the flower of its roots. Nothing but the chirping of birds and cicadas responded as he wrapped a hand around the flower’s stem, and pulled it from the roots. 

He turned around, a cold chill grazing over his neck, but no one was there. He swore to have felt someone standing behind him, though there was nothing. Paranoia crept onto his skin, urging him to leave as soon as possible.

Not far beyond the path he had taken to wander in the forest, the smell of food led him back to the small house. The fire was still going, a thin grey smoke rising from beneath it. The woman had just exited the house with bowls; she smiled. “You’ve returned with the flower. The food is ready.”

The woman poured the soup into the porcelain bowls and placed them on a wooden table nearby. She told him to sit, and he listened. She held out a hand to him and he handed her the flower.

The red of the flower contrasted with her dark clothing and pale complexion. She brought the flower to her nose and smelled it with a smile. “Thank you for getting me this flower. I hope you enjoy the food.”

He nodded and watched as she admired the flower like an intricate creature. She was strange but had a motherly nature which comforted him of all his uncertainties. Why had I been so scared before?


The following afternoon, the sun gleamed through the trees, making the grass below scattered with orange and yellow. The forest was a pleasant sight even in the evening; the boy didn’t understand why he was there for so long, only that the woman was taking care of him. 

The woman had left him to play at the front of the house as she claimed to be in search of flowers which bloomed only at night. She said she would return the following morning, and suggested that he remain indoors by the time the last ray of sunlight grazed over the treetops.

He sat in a tree, watching the sky fade into an ombre of watercolour, like a painting. He could recall when he had tried his hand at artwork, but soon after gave up and pursued another interest of exploration. 

Why am I in the forest? He wondered to himself, taking a bite of an apple he had been given by the lady. The day had gone by so quickly, yet the answer to his question seemed to grow farther and farther from his grasp.

From below, a brush of leaves startled his attention awake. He peered down from behind the branches. The bushes and weeds were still swayed by the movement, but there was no sign of any creature or person. What had been there?

The boy felt a cold breath, whisper into his ear. “Forget them.” 

He turned and covered his ear, goosebumps rising on his skin, but no one was there. Forget who? Why? He decided to climb down the tree, the night air creeping into the graze of the forest along with his paranoia. Maybe a rest would do.


“..Brother! Let’s go berry-picking!” the voice of a little girl called to him. 

He shifted and looked around him, the forest beginning at his feet and growing in front of him. His little sister, small and feeble she was, motioned towards him with a large weaved basket. He ran towards her, embracing her with a tight hug. 

“Hey! Lwt go ofh me!” she muffled, pushing her brother away. “What’s up with you? You usually make me go berry picking alone,” she grumbled, smoothing out her dress.

The boy shook his head, uncertain of what overcame him. For some reason, he felt to have woken up from a bad dream.

The warm sunlight made him feel alive, and the grass tickling his legs made him feel free. Birds tweeted from their perches, singing songs anew. Dandelion seeds blew in the gentle wind, carrying the scent of fresh mint. 

Why had he been so scared and lost? He could not recall. 

Before a greater voice echoed within his mind, the words of the unknown origin resonating deeper than his heartbeat. “Return to me.” 

The pleasant memory before him dispersed into the gloom, his sister’s voice fading away as she called to him. Now it was only the forest and him. He stood still, the air blowing through his thin body. His body grew stiff from the cold, and his heart raced to keep up with the sudden change. 

“Forget it all.” The voice seemed to encompass the entire forest, or rather, it was the forest that spoke to him. 

Emerging from the forest, which seemed to twist and turn as the figure approached, was the familiar wisp of white in the night. The aura of the woman loomed over him, what gentleness had vanished. 

Fear paralyzed his feet, keeping him still from where he stood, waiting as the woman approached in her haze of louring. His lips quivered, his voice lost within his throat. 

She stopped just mere inches away from him, looking down and into his eyes. She craned her neck, tilting her hat to reveal her hidden features. Her red-painted smile curved with a craze, her once beautiful eyes, now of peril. She stared with an emptiness which made him feel he would be devoured by them. He shook his head slowly, wishing for life and escape, but his voice did not form. 

The monster raised her hand, nails sharp as teeth, as they glided along his throat with a slit.

“Night, dear, cry.
Rose not withered.
Blow, will the wind,

Close and drink.

Comfort will depart, 

Lies where pure be heart. 

Light cleansed moon,

Hear may ears,

Your blight.”

The woman raised her other hand, pouring cold blood from her fingertips into his throat. Her eyes, deep with evil, as he stared. And her heart absent, from her chest cavity, as he struggled to breathe.


He woke in a cold sweat, adrenaline coursing through his body, screaming at him to run. The sunlight had long disappeared. The familiar sound of nightly creatures and the howling wind outside the small house reminded him why he was there. He had been running away, so why was he here, resting within the den of the predator? It’s not safe here. 

How had he not seen?

The boy ran, his feet carrying him just as the night before. His fingers were numb from the cold, pushing through leaves as they scratched and pulled him to stay. His steps were heavy against the moistened dirt, making him slip and trip many times. The forest seemed to watch him as he attempted his escape.

What chased this frightened boy?

He ran and ran, fear breaking him past his limit. For every thorn or branch he ran through, blood was drawn from his legs and arms, but he was now numb to it all. What soreness or fatigue he felt dispersed as he ran ‘till his wit’s end.

Why was the forest a never-ending zoetrope?

There was no particular direction he ran, though he was sure he would be only growing farther from the monster’s grasp. The moon peered over from the sky, urging the boy to run farther and faster. The owl, with its large orange eyes, soared through the air where the boy ran. There was no guiding light to the never-ending forest, but the hopes of the boy for escape.

Why was he running? 

His legs and arms bled of thorns, but there was no phantom which chased him. He never turned back, his heart aching with slowing palpitations. His steps grew heavier, his feet falling underneath him as his energy was drained to dryness.

How did he get here?

The boy leaned against a tree, fumbling to the ground as his sores grew. His eyes were heavy with death, his clothes of scrapes, and his hands and feet of numbness. He sat, gasping for the cold night air which only seemed to make it harder to breathe. 

When did he lose his way?

Within the glimmer of the moon’s light, he caught sight of a contrast to the darkness. He turned to it, breath trapped in his lungs, as he approached.

Like a spindle, the figure turned with the wind’s kind loft of a white dress and veil. A smile of favour, red and eerie, creaked a smirk.