Jolene and the Forest Bewitched by Steven Albert

Steven Albert's metaphorical fantasy flash fiction about a girl lost in a forest.

Jolene was a little girl who lived with her family in a little house in a small village. She was a happy little girl and she loved to sing and play in the fields and forests near her home. She would sing to the birds and talk to the butterflies...

Her mother would say to her "Be careful, as you run and play, for the witched wood is nearby." For everybody knew that those who got lost in the witched wood never returned. Jolene was always careful, but she never saw anything that looked at all like a bewitched forest.

Then one day, as she played in the forest, Jolene tripped and fell over a branch hidden along the ground. She rolled and tumbled and twisted and turned. When she opened her eyes again she didn't know where she was. This didn't look at all like the forest she was playing in. it was dark and cold. The trees were black with no leaves on their branches and she could not see the sky. "This must be the witched wood," she thought with a fright. The air was still and she could hear no sounds, and see no birds or butterflies. "What will I do? How will I find my way out?" and she cried, for she knew that those who are lost in the witched wood never find their way out.

Jolene stood up and looked about. She had been lost in the forest near her house many times, and she had always found her way home. She would talk to the birds and the butterflies, and to the leaves in the trees, and the wind that blew through the branches to help her find the way. Perhaps, she thought, they could help her find her way now too. So she called to the birds and butterflies, and the leaves in the trees and the wind in the branches to help her, even though she could see no birds or butterflies, and there were no leaves in the trees and there was no wind in the branches. And slowly she began to walk, though she did not know which way to walk, or why. She tried this way and that way. She walked and walked...

Slowly, the forest around her began to change. It was not quite so dark, and then she began to see light through the trees. Then, she began to hear birds, and she could see the sky. And then all of a sudden, she was out of the forest, she had made it out of the witched wood.

She was so happy to feel the sun warm her face, and hear the birds chirping and tweeting and singing again! She ran through the fields to her house, her family were so happy to have her back home safe and sound. "We were so worried," they said. And once again, Jolene ran and played and danced and sang in the fields and flowers. And the people of the village would say "Look, there's little Jolene, did you hear how she got lost in the witched wood and found her way home again?" For everyone knew that very few people who got lost in the witched wood ever found their way out.

Jolene was even happier now when she played in the fields and flowers, she wanted to climb every hill and tree. But something had changed since she had returned from the cold dark wood. She began to feel tired now where she never was before. Where before she could run and play all day, now Jolene needed to stop and rest sometimes. She wondered why she felt different now, and why her legs felt tired. She looked at her legs. At her ankles she saw tiny dark lines, the same colour as the trees and branches in the witched wood. It was as if the forest was in her, even though she was no longer in the forest. But she could run and play and sing and dance - almost as much as before, and birds sang and the butterflies danced with her.

One day, as she had to do now, Jolene was resting in the forest. She was so tired that she closed her eyes for a second. When she opened them, she found she was in the witched wood again. "Oh no!" she cried, "I'm back in the witched wood again!"

But this time she knew what to do, she knew how to find her way out. So she called to the birds and the butterflies and the leaves and the wind - even though she could not see them or hear them - to help her again. And as before, she slowly got up and began to walk. And, as before, she walked and walked, and took many turns along the way. But soon enough, the dark cold wood became slowly lighter and lighter, until finally, she could once again see the blue sky and feel the warm sun, and hear the birds sing.

This time, she did not run through the fields back to her little house, for now she was even more tired than before, and she walked all the way. Her family were so happy to see her, and they cried, "Jolene! You found your way back from the forest!" And Jolene was happy to be back in the fields and flowers near her home, and people would say "Did you hear about little Jolene? She got lost in the forest - and found her way out, again!" For everybody knew that very, very few people who got lost in the witched wood twice ever found their way out again.

Jolene still loved playing in the forests and fields. She still loved to sing to the birds and talk to the butterflies. The sun still warmed her face and the breeze in the branches still cooled her. But she walked now, and did not run, and she often stopped to rest in the shade of the trees. She looked down at her tired legs and could see the dark lines spreading upwards, like the branches of the trees in the witched wood. For the dark forest was truly in her now, and it grew just as the trees in that dark wood. And now she understood.

And one day, as she knew it would, she stopped to rest under the shade of a tall tree. She looked up at the blue sky, and green leaves upon the branches, felt the warm sun on her face, and she closed her eyes and smiled. And the dark forest, growing within her, grew and grew, until she became the forest.

For everybody knew that nobody who got lost in the witched wood ever really came out of it again.


  1. Your story is very evocative and works on many levels. I enjoyed reading it!

  2. A wonderful allegorical tale which, as Monica says, works at so many levels. Many thanks,

  3. This is a superb tale, something to tell the children that could be passed down.
    Mike McC

  4. My favourite line: "It was as if the forest was in her, even though she was no longer in the forest."

  5. Creative fiction which has everything! Charming yet frightening.
    B r o o k e

  6. Nice job. I like particularly like that everyone celebrated Jolene finding her way out of the witched forest (twice!) even though in the end they knew anyone lost there never really came out--confirmation of shared, long-held beliefs.

  7. Thanks to all for reading and taking the time to comment on my story. I have not found a way to reply without having to prove I'm not a robot each time, which can be a little tedious, hence a general thank you.