There was a woman child whose father was a good man and taught her many things concerning the world and its dangers.? He did this carefully, since a time would come that he would have to let her make many decisions on her own.? He gave his child an amulet, inscribed with an invocation. He explained that when she would find herself in great trouble to hold the amulet and repeat the invocation.? She was to read the words out loud, and think of him.? He made her practice the words, but after some, familiarity with the procedure and boredom, caused the words to fall in value from her most important possessions.
As she began to grow, her thoughts turned to the many troubles and needs of life.? Sometimes, her worry was so strong that she could not reason at all, but sat in a stew ? befuddled and anxious.? Growing up was a terrible thing and she wanted to stay a child but knew that she had to make many decisions on her own someday.? She thought about which decisions she be successful at, and which one would be needful of help?
Now there came a time when the child and her father walked into the dense forest and he cautioned her to stay close, for the country round about was filled with beings that resembled them outwardly, yet they were far different.? These beings cared little for the wisdom of the Great Book and its people.? These Forest Dark inhabitants were crafty and very unhappy, having grown up without any meaningful pleasure whatsoever.? Worst of all, they were thieves, who spoke most cunningly with flattery and soft voice, so as to lure their victims.
Now it happened that the young maid finding the forest exceedingly enchanting, did not keep her eyes upon her father and began to stray.? At some point, she realized she was lost, and fell dreadfully ill with concern.? As she was about to cry, she remembered the invocation her father had taught her, and looked to grasp her amulet, but alas, she had forgotten to put it around her neck.? She sat upon the forest floor and wept bitterly.
It so happened that as the sun was about to set, a Forest Dark person came near her, and arrested her train of thought with mellow words of comfort.? “Follow me,” she said, “and I will guide you to safety and there will be others like me, who will befriend you.? They are sure of foot know the forest well. It would be their joy to help you find your way home.”
So the child went with the being, since the offer was pleasant and her company was desired.? Within days, the child was told by the Forest Dark persons that she had traveled much too far from home, and that her future life lies with them from now on.? They encouraged her to forget her father and those she had loved.? “Things will be better now,” they stated, “since we will guide you with our wisdom, and you will have all that you desire, and be happy beyond your vainest imaginations.”
So she believed them, but after a while, she found that the happiness they promised never came to her.? They would tell her to drink of an enchanted liquid to which they refered to as, ?Demon Rum? ?This,? they promised, ?would help her keep her joy.?
She found that when she drank the brownish liquid, she had less joy than before she partook of the liquid.? Besides, her head hurt the next day and she found that she couldn?t remember where she had been and what she had done.
When she queried the Forest Darks about her experience, they said her loss of joy was because she had not eaten of their ?muck-amuck? ? a most satisfying food that fills to overflowing.
Her experience with the ?muck-amuck? was just as displeasing, and she became sad.? The child asked what it was made of, and they said, ?It was mostly oatmeal with the smashed viscera of a sheep?s abdomen, laden with salt and tart berries, and finally squeezed into the scraped stomach of cow, and boiled for one whole day.?
When the child realized what they had given her, she became ill and lost her apatite.? However, she had some hope left within her – that her father would find her.? One day as she heard her new friends talking, and the child listened intently from behind a bush.
?Have we taken all of that child?s happiness?? – a Forest Dark queried.
The Forest Dark?s companion responded. ?Every last stitch, and we passed it around to the others, but we no one has received any joy.? How about you?
The first Forest Dark breathed a deep breath, and looked down at the forest floor with disappointment.? ?But the council found out that the girl still has some hope.? They have decided to press it out of her tonight.? May be her hope is what we need??
When she discovered their evil plan she was most disconcerted.? Apparently, all of her new friends were just as unhappy as she, and each had been lured to this place with the same promises.? When their happiness was never achieved, they found others and entrapped them, in the hope that happiness could be taken from the ensnared individual.? And now they wanted her last bit of hope.
Crying desperately, she remembered the words written upon her gifted amulet.? ?Perhaps, she hoped, ?if I say the words out loud and think upon my father, the help will come to me.
Summoning what little hope she had she spoke gently rather than loudly.? Her energy was near expended and her grief so bad, all she had left was tears and a whimper from which to complete the invocation.? “Father, please help me, for I am in great trouble and have need of your wisdom.”
Suddenly, a small wind wiped up – evincing a circular flame.? It grew until a pillar of fire stood before her.? Then suddenly the fire appeared as a man, but to her utter amazement the man was her father.
Reaching out his hand, he clasped her small fingers, and stared into the wide eyes of his child with a countenance of gentle persuasion.
?I knew you would remember.? He spoke gently, ?But in order that you might never forget, you had to be tested.? It was expected that one day you would fall prey to the beings of the Forest Dark.?
With that last statement, he gestured their departure and up the two went into a whirlwind of fire and smoke that collapsed inwardly to center, and vanished.
“And take head to yourselves, lest at any time your surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.?? [Lk.21:34].
But we have hope.
“Because thou hast made the LORD, which is (your) refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.? For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” [Ps. 91:9-12].