You don’t know who we are, but we promise you we are harmless, and we made this village for you. Well, for you and for us, and for all the others that might follow.
Each of us built their own little house. Some are made from hard candy, with gingerbread window frames and a door with a taffy handle. When you curl your fingers around it and pull, it practically melts in your hand. It leaves a sticky residue on your palm that you can’t get rid of for hours.
Not all of us have the same taste of course. Some houses look like little cottages, foreboding and crude. It makes those of us who built them feel like witches. No, we are not actually witches—although baking is a kind of witchcraft. Real witches are as rare as dragons these days. You should consider yourself lucky if you ever bump into either of those. You probably expected us to be old and raggedy looking, with menacing smiles. That’s what people expect when they come here. But our smiles are earnest. And even though some of us are indeed old, some of us are little more than children, and some of us are tall, and some short, some plump, some thin, some are women, some men, and some neither. You get the picture.
Other houses are pure white nougat with a bright blue Turkish delight roof, like houses in the islands around the Mediterranean. Or farmhouses with walls of fried dough and tamarind roof tiles. You see, we come from all over the world, but this place is now our real home, where we feel safe.
There is always a trail wherever you live. You just have to find it. If you peer through an opening framed by two linden trees. If you follow the foam of the waves on a cold night. If you are not afraid to crawl into the long narrow caves that open like mouths on jagged rocks. You will see them. They all lead here. To this village.
And now that you’re here you’re welcome to build your own house right in this clearing. We got all sorts of sugar and pastry; we have chocolate and honey and nuts. Your roof can be a thousand layers of phyllo dough one stacked on top of the other. The trees are heavy with fruit you can turn into preserve to paint your walls. Anyhow, we won’t interfere. We will love whatever you choose to do with the place.
There might be a time later when you wish to leave the village. You can of course do that. Not everyone likes to live on popsicles for the rest of their lives (although many of us could eat a bucket of ice cream a day without so much as blinking). If you choose to do so we’ll all take the house apart with our bare hands and then eat its parts in a great feast, like families do. It’s a farewell ritual to celebrate your new life away from here. The house will come apart easily because it will know you are leaving it. Just like it will be indestructible for as long as you stay.
We will not ask you why you came to our village. We already know. The people who find it are the ones who need it. Perhaps they read about it in a book when they were children and now—nearing the end of their life—they just want this village to be true. Perhaps their family is starving, and the village can feed them. Perhaps someone is chasing them, and they need a safe place to hide. No matter the reason, they are now a part of the village, even if they choose to leave.
We told you before that we were harmless but that was a sort of lie. You came here looking for safety, but someone has followed you, even though you were mouse-quiet when you opened that door and rabbit-fast when you made for the path in the woods. They followed your thrumming heart, your fast breathing, and the crunching of leaves under your soles. At the end of the day, they knew you were about to leave them. People like them always know. They followed you with harm in mind, but the village will find them. We will find them and deal with them. Their arms will turn into branches that will give us shade. From their mouths will sprout flowers. Their voice will be the murmur of the river. And you can stay as long as you want. Because we made this village for you. So you can be fed, and safe, and happy. But don’t worry about it for now. Now it is time to build.
© 2022 Eugenia Triantafyllou