Author: Rachel Sievers

The baby wailed in the woman’s embrace. Despite the infant’s slight weight, it felt heavy in her arms. It was born weak and cried constantly. It had to be one of them. She would have to take it back. Everyone knew if she raised it, it would only bring misery to their life.
The infant screamed louder, piercing her ears, and she made up her mind. She slipped on her footwear and put a shawl over her head. Grabbing a wicker basket by the slatted wooden door she placed the baby in it. This would end tonight.
Her feet made little noise in the night. The vegetation giving way under her shod feet. The sun had long since dipped behind the mountains that surrounded their small village. She knew it wasn’t safe to leave their stone home at night but she had to do it now or she would lose her nerve. The baby had not stopped crying and she worried its wails would bring beasts from the dark forest. Her mind conjured up images of wolves and demons. If she quieted the baby its real parents might not be able to hear it and it would die without being returned. This fate would be worse than being torn apart by wild beasts.
Moving quickly to the outskirts of her small village, she paused as she came to the stone bridge that gave the only passage to the dark forest beyond. The tall and aged trees loomed in the distance like great giants holding the front of a battle line. The cry of the baby became a whimper and she shook the basket to bring new screams from the infant. It couldn’t be quiet now, now that she had to draw its parents to her like a moth to a flame.
Crossing the wooden bridge, she entered the line of giants and made her way through the underbrush of ferns and decaying leaves. The moon was full and gave light to her path as she made her way to the deepest part of the forest. The small babe’s cries weakening. Not too much farther she told herself. She was looking for the ancient oak with its twisted crook to place the babe in. When it appeared in front of her she let a breath go, not noticing she had been holding it.
The large tree loomed, and as she moved closer she spied the crook she was looking for. The baby was quieting and she gave the basket another sharp shake. Cries rose and satisfied, she set the basket down and eyed the crook. She would have to climb a little to reach it. Using her shawl, she fastened a makeshift carrying pouch, it wouldn’t do to drop the baby now, for they were surely watching her.
She picked the baby from the basket and looked at its red and blotchy face. She was glad she had done this. This baby was not hers. It was weak and tearful, something her child would never be. Her heart ached for a moment as she thought about her child, living among the fairies. She knew she would never see her child again but she could at least give this one back.
Grabbing hold of the lowest limb she pushed her way up the tree. When she reached the crook not far up she gently reached out, took the baby from her makeshift carrying pouch, and placed it in the crook. The baby had stopped crying and lay relatively still there.
Climbing down she breathed out. She was done with this evil deed. She left the baby for its rightful parents, the fairies, and headed back towards the village. Her next baby would hopefully not be as perfect so as not to draw attention from the fairies and be snatched up. She had proven how smart she was by returning this baby to them. The fairies would have to be more clever next time to fool a woman like her.