I ate from a rotting bowl writhing fruits picked blindly by the crone who set her children free into the forest. They whisper in the tangled brush, snatching at the ankles of those who wander from the path.
Under grey skies weeping their first snow, the crackling branches twist in their death throes, as wretched beasts burrow through their brittle bodies to hide from the cold. And from the children, who play at being wolves.
The crone speaks before the hearth, of little but the cold, stirring her filth over heartless flame. She says their names, never quite smiling, but weeps softly when she cannot remember her own. I do not tell her mine, for fear she will one day whisper it upon the embers.
On my leave, she called once from the darkened doorway, a plea to a girl she once knew, answered by mad laughter from the cold and dark, where no footsteps fall.