Many years ago, a young girl disappeared right from her family's cottage on the outskirts of London, England. It was 1803.
Her family, like everyone else, was shocked.
Now, they weren't the most well-off family in the city. Her mum worked as a maid almost every day of the week in an effort to try to make things better financially. Despite that, she always managed to have some sort of supper on the table at 6:30 every night, and made sure that whatever needed to be mended, washed, or starched was done before church-going days.
Her father worked in town, peddling the latest concotions that were supposed to cause damn near miracles for fifty cents a bottle. Even though he didn't sell as much as he needed to, and spent half of his earnings on shots of whiskey with his chums at the pub every night, he never treated his wife and daughters bad even once. And sometimes, if it was a good day, he would try to get his daughters a new porcelain doll from the dainty toy shops or new ribbons for their hair.
Her eldest two sisters had lon since dropped out of school. They worked in a sewing factory in the city, making skirts and petticoats for the upper-class. The work was hard and the hours were long and tedious. They had cut their hair short, almost like a boy's, so that it wouldn't get caught in the machines. They often had horrid coughs from the soot and dust that was in their lungs from the work, but they didn't fully mind; they were working so they could assist supporting the family and so they could build up a little bit of their future dowries.
The second-youngest daughter was a beauty. She had pale skin and strawberry blonde hair, which was slight evidence of the families' Irish heritage. She had light, cornflower blue eyes, but they were damaged from a flu that had left her blind two years before. Despite that, she had the sweetest singing voice that could put even a mockingbird to shame.
Then there was the youngest daughter, the one who went missing.
She had been the family's pride and joy. She was a musical prodigy; though she was only seven, she could play the most complicated of sonatas and concertos on a piano and a violin, and she had never even had proper musical training. Musicians would come from miles around to hear the young girl play, often offering to take her away to their lavish mansions to learn from the most musically-inclined scholars around.
Also, she was beautiful like her third sister. She had deep violet eyes that could almost be called violet, andhad long icy-blonde hair that fell to her waist in waves. Her appearance was not the only thing beautiful about her, though, as she was also very pure in her heart and mind. The youngest daughter was kind, innocent, and had everything going for her.
Though things hadn't been the best before she disappeared, the family had been happy.
If you were to ask someone what happened to that little girl, you would be told a myriad of tales. Some might say that she ran away from home because her parents were harsh to her, but that is not the case. Her parents were as kind and loving as any might be to their amazing daughter.
Others might tell you that she was stolen from her bed in the middle of the night by crooks and thieves, looking to find a ransome for the young girl. Or that they had taken her to the Middle East and sold her into prostitution, as she was such a beauty at that age. Yet no proof had ever been found to say that there was a culprit and that she had been taken. They searched miles and miles for the girl, yet she was found nowhere.
There are very few who know the truth about what happened to that little girl. I myself know. If I were to tell you, though, you might not believe me. But if I were to tell you, you would believe me, right?
What reallly happened took place on a cool summer's eve. The entire town was asleep; the sun had been long since laid to rest for the day, and even before then, the day had been lazily serene.
The young girl had been tucked away in her bed, her golden locks of hair framing her face like a halo. She was busy dreaming of majestic things, creatures spawned in her imagination by her sisters' fairy-tales that they would tell her before she laid down to sleep.
In her mind, she pictured glittering creatures that were like miniature humans with tranparent, shimmery wings. Faeries, her sisters had called them. She was told that faeries were mischevious little things that loved to cause trouble, but she didn't believe that. After all, she thought to herself dreamily, how could anything so pretty do anything bad?
She was dreaming of half-human, half-fish things, too. She was told that they were called mermaids, and had the upper half of a beautiful woman, and the lower half of a fish. Supposedly, they could breathe underwater and had long, scaly tails. They also had long hair that covered their exposed breasts, or so her sisters told her. They also told her that mermaids were dangerous; her sisters said that mermaids would sing pretty songs and lure sailors out to them, but the sailors would crash on the rocks in the middle of the ocean.
The little girl dreamt of many other things, too. She imagined beasts called unicorns that were very much like a horse, only they had pastel colored hair and horns on their head. She thought that their hooves would be rainbow colored, and that some of them even had wings.
There was one more thing floating around in her dream: will-o'-the-wisps.
Her sisters had warned the little girl about them. They were floating orbs of light that would lead you to your death, or so they said. But in her mind, she pictured them as beautiful balls of light that had delicate colors. And maybe, just maybe, she believed they might just lead you somewhere good instead of bad.
The little girl had been happily dreaming when she was poked harshly on her side.
She sat up, frowning, and started to look for what had awoken her. She saw nothing, just her normal room bathed in the moonlight. She shook her head and contributed it to her imagination and laid back down.
Moments later, she was jabbed in her side yet again. Sitting up with a scowl on her face, she checked the room again. This time she swore she saw a little gray figure dart from her room on all fours.
"An imp!" she thought to herself, feeling a little swell of pride for being able to recall what the creature had been named.
She climbed out of her bed, shivering when her toes hit the chilly wooden floor boards. She could hear the creature scuttling around outside her door, the little clawed feet making scratching noises against the floor. The girl darted out of her room, intrigued to see this thing again.
For a moment she contemplated waking one of her sisters up. But then, she reasoned with herself, the imp might already be gone. She would have nothing to show to her sisters to prove that it was real, and then they would think she was telling falsehoods, which was ground to get a bad spanking from their father. Or, even worse, she feared they might think she had gone round the bend and send her to an asylum for lunatics!
No, she decided, it would be best to catch the imp before she woke anyone up. So she searched the entire main room, checking in every nook and crevice for the tiny gray creature. She looked up from searching just in time to see the imp crawl from underneath the main door to the outside.
Without thinking, the little girl followed it. She closed the door quietly behind her, not wanting to wake anyone up or allow a thief to break into the house. Her nightgown billowed around her ankles as a cool night breeze fluttered around the area.
As much as she tried, she could not find the imp anywhere. She was about to admit defeat and go back inside to sleep, hoping no one noticed she had left the house for a brief amount of time. Then, out of her periphial vision, she saw a bluish-green light next to her.
Immediately she knew what it was: A will-o'-the-wisp.
She shivered, not sure whether to be happy or to be frightened. It looked nothing like her sisters had described to her.The way they had told her made it seem like it would be an eerie looking orb that would lead you to your doom.
But this, this thing in front of her was nothing even remotely like that. It was beautiful; the wisp had soft looking tendrils that made it seem like it was floating on the breeze. It danced back and forth in front of her, and with each movement it made the quiet sound of tinkling bells.
The wisp started floating away from her, towards the forest behind them. The little girl contemplated following it, but hardly noticed she already was until a twig snapped underneath her. At that point she was shocked that she hadn't realized sooner.
She turned around, knowing that it was bad to follow a will-o'-the-wisp. Expecting to see her house behind her, the girl was shocked to see that she was deeper in the forest than she had thought. Panic set in, and her heart began racing faster than it ever had before.
Her nightgown had felt suddenly tighter, like it was suffocating her. The trees around her seemed so much taller, and ever shadow they casted made her feel like there could be a monster lurking in them, waiting to pounce on her. She was genuinely scared.
Then, suddenly, a loud booming voice spoke. "If it is home you seek, follow the wisps."
She knew for a brief moment that she should not follow them, but it seemed to slip out of her thoughts. They were so pretty, so gentle-looking.... She knew she had to see where they went.
And so she followed them. The lights led her so far into the forest, yet she hardly realized it. All she truly wanted was to be near them again, to be up close to the beautiful orbs. The want had almost completely overcome her.
She started to chase after them, running as fast as her small legs could take her. Her blonde hair swished behind her as she ran after the glowing lights. The faster she seemed to run, though, the more they seemed to get away from her.
The little girl followed them until the orbs hovered over a pond.
The water, however, glowed a few shades brighter than the will-o'-the-wisps! The hue was so much more vivid than the lights, and somehow she knew it would be warm and welcoming. She gasped, but kept herself out of the water; the little girl did not yet know how to swim.
"Follow them," the voice boomed.
As if under a trance, the little girl did as she was told. The water rose up around her, but it was so warm. It felt better than any bath water she had been in before. The water was getting deeper with each step she took, but oh, it was so warm.
Finally, the little girl was wading in the pond up to her shoulders. She looked up at the wisps, which were directly overhead. She reached out a damp hand to touch the tendrils, but she was suddenly pulled underwater by something.
She shrieked under the water and fought to get free. But the more she struggled, the harder the grip on her ankles became. Her lungs felt as they were about to burst as she was pulled even farther under.
No body was ever found.
So how would I know what happened to her? How would I know how that little girl felt?
Because I was there. I knew everything that happened, knew what all of it was like.
I was the little girl, but now I am doomed to roam this forest as one of the spirits misled by a wisp. I was cursed to an eternity of this, simply from my own naive stupidity.
Though all of the things mentioned here are commonly found in fairy-tales and story books, they are very real. Everything you think is made up could very well be reality. So next time you are told never to follow something, even if you do not believe it, do as you are told.
Never follow a will-o'-the-wisp, lest you want to wind up like me.
© Copyright 2017 Coralie. All rights reserved.
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