The Forest of Whispers was now closely watching the group who had trespassed his territory. He had seen them since their birth, as they belonged from a village situated in his vicinity. He had known their forefathers too. He swept the leaves of his trees, murmuring an apology to their ancestors. For, he couldn’t whisper the right path to their descendants who seemed so lost in his deep, dark realm.
Their so called leader Lucy, a proud lass of seventeen, had planned it all right from the very beginning. The admirers of Lucy, which chiefly included her own influential family (her father was the much – feared landlord of their village) had made it a point to raise their only daughter with a sense of superiority over her peers. Her childhood companions, who were basically the daughter of the serfs working in her father’s fiefdom, were in awe of her and unfailingly agreed with her on every aspect. Her error of judgment was never pointed out by her small coterie of admirers. It was her plan to explore the deep woods in search of those peach trees, which was a sort of rural legend in their parts. Her eyes twinkled with pride at the thought of how innovative her plan was and she said, “ We will enter the forest just after dawn, and I just know the way where to find the Oak tree from which we have to take a turn to reach the place where the peach trees can be found. I have overheard the village elders many times discussing it with my father.” She silenced all protests with the final question, “Don’t you believe my father?” And the matter was settled then and there. So she had recklessly led the other six here and now, her pride was stunting her from accepting the fact that they were lost. From time to time, an authoritative ,”This way girls, follow me!” would come out from her mouth, dragging them even deeper into this realm of darkness.
For Amelia, better known as ‘shoe princess ‘ among her friends, it was just another opportunity to make some extra bucks to buy and increase her already surplus collection of shoes. No one could possibly explain how and when did she developed this affinity towards shoes. As a wealthy peasant’s daughter, she had easy access to the peach orchard owned by her family. In fact, the season’s first peaches were already tasted by her along with her siblings. This much everyone knew about her. What they did not know was that she had started stealing from her family farm in small quantities, the season’s harvest to earn money. Her avaricious nature in this regard had continued to spiral for quite some time now. This quest for the peach trees sounded an excellent idea in her ears as sweet, juicy peaches were highly in demand in the local fairs. Customers from the nearby affluent towns swarmed like bees in these fairs to taste this heavenly fruit. And they were ready to pay the price, any price to be precise, to take a bite in them. A bunch of the forest peaches which, she was sure to exceed the expectation in matter of taste, could fund for those pointed, blue feathery shoes which she was eyeing for quite some time now. Earlier, she had bragged to others,” Girls, remain prepared to welcome your shoe princess in her new Cinderella shoes.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s volatile temper was further damaging the morale of the group.These aimless wanderings had irked her more than anyone else . Initially, she joined this venture to had a nice time with her friends. But as she became aware of its hardships, she cursed herself for falling so easily for this half baked plan. No, she didn’t want those peaches anymore. She wanted to go home, plain and simple. And as she could not do so, she was venting her rising anger towards others, who, she believed was responsible for her harrowing state. It became obvious that she had lost it when she shouted with exasperation,”I want you all dead!”
Catherine, the dark eyed beauty, was however, the most envious of this lot. Her suitors had ranged from seventeen to seventy. But of course, she had entertained only the young and resourceful ones who could pay the price of her angelic face. But now she was determined to let the bidding go higher. She had reasoned to herself that she must play her cards very carefully, as her future happiness depended on it. She had often said to her friends, ” A beautiful face always wins a man’s heart. And since I have it, I am destined to lead a prosperous life. You see, you have to earn it, but it is my birth right.” She had followed others in this venture lest she might loose the opportunity of meeting a tall, dark prince who might be passing by these woods, as it so often happened in her granny’s romantic tales. She muttered to herself, “He must see me first…I will not let others to steal my prince.”
Mary, too, like her companions, had an agenda of her own. She wanted to cross the forest to meet Arnold, who lived at a village on the other side. Her parents , however, had warned her against him, as he had quite a reputation as a philanderer. Rumor had it that he had multiple wives and mistresses at different places where he had traveled as a sailor. So to appease her parents, Mary had to assure them that she had distanced herself from him. But in reality, Mary’s lust for Arnold had not ebbed at all. It in fact, had blinded her rationality. She had been planning to elope with him in one of those faraway lands whose perfect pictures were etched in her mind by her sailor lover. There, she would live happily ever after with him, and prove them all wrong. She told herself,” They are all fools who doesn’t understand him…he loves me more than anything else…the way he touches me tells it all.”
For Isabel, the very word ‘food’ – any category of food, could spring her into action. Among the group, she was the most enthusiastic about this quest for peaches and voiced her approval about the novelty of the plan. In fact , she could be manipulated to do almost anything if she was promised a good spread at the end of the day. Her chatty mother had once told her neighbors that her daughter was “married to her insatiable hunger.” Isabel was already imagining peaches everywhere. The others, much to their irritation, noticed her occasionally munching the hays, which she was carrying at hand. “The peaches will be sweet and will taste like heaven”, Isabel was found muttering those words from time to time.
Joanna had a different story altogether. She had consciously nurtured sloth right from her childhood. Her lazy bones just refused to co-operate with her whenever she was given any responsible task to perform. Her own family nicknamed her ‘sleeping beauty’ as she could be found dozing off at most inconvenient hours and at most inappropriate places. Now, she looked despaired as she couldn’t lazily while away this time in her bed. She sounded almost desperate to Mary when she proposed, “Don’t you think that we should take a nap before continuing our search?”
The crimson sky with the setting sun ushered the evening and the pall of darkness intensified with every passing minute. The forest of Whispers witnessed the pitiable sight as the girls raised a cry of alarm while fumbling through his untrod path. To make matters worse, the cantankerous lot remained distant and indignant towards each other while desperately searching for an exit. The quest for the peach trees seemed a very bad idea now, as the nocturnal forest loomed large with its immense stature before the girls. They finally understood that any attempt of escape was futile and they would never be able to free themselves from the clutches of this dark beast.
Legend had it that the Forest of Whispers had pointed the peach trees to some, who could win his appreciation by their qualities.The rest, like the present group, kept getting lost in the quagmire of darkness while searching an illusion.
But then it happened. This horrific realization that they were going to die there, alone, unattended and young, finally humbled the group. It was Lucy who first made her confession. She said , “I am a fool to lead you all here. My pride has overshadowed my reasoning power. O Lord! Please forgive me, for I have sinned.” And one by one, the others followed her lead. “Is a pair of shoe more important than my life?” Amelia loudly asked herself. Elizabeth, for the first time in her life, apologized to her friends, “I chose to remain angry without offering to help. How can I be so dumb?” Catherine, amidst crying said, “I am too envious to be good to anyone, not even to myself.” Mary remembered her parents in her final hours, “Blinded by lust, I have let my own folks down. Now I have fallen in the pit that I have dug for myself.” Isabel accepted the tragic flaw in her character her by saying, “ My gluttony has become my nemesis.” Joanna felt terrible as she said, “ I have wasted precious hours of my life by doing nothing at all. And now I am leaving this world without leaving any mark.”
In their collective wail, the Forest witnessed the first effort of true repentance by the sinners. And he heaved a sigh of relief. For he knew that a repentant soul would attain salvation. There was still hope for them as they had, unknowingly, taken the first step for their redemption . He had never wanted to destroy them. Their own actions had caused their misery. And now, as they understood their own fault, he started the process of whispering the right path to them. He summoned the good angels of the girls who would guide them towards their village. And while passing his kingdom, the angels would allow them to had a taste of the peaches, which would make them forget this traumatic experience in the woods. After a while, he could spot the angels entering his domain with luminous halos above their heads. They would finish the rest of the task and show them the path – the path which would take these once derailed souls far away from the road to perdition.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My story is based on the concept of seven deadly sins. It is an attempt to write an allegory where the Forest of Whispers represents life, the peach trees represent the rewards of right action and thoughts. It also deals with the Christian concept of salvation and damnation.