Serra looked so small in the redwood forest behind her home. Her mother told her a few times not to go into the woods, but for a week now, she ignored her. A giant redwood towered so high it seemed to touch the sky. The sun pushed through the limbs and leaves and highlighted the entrance to a cave at its base. She glanced over her shoulder. Her house was in sight. Today was the day, though. She was going exploring.
“It looks like magic,” she said to herself.
Serra’s tiny feet carried her towards the tree before she even realized it. Even the sound of her mother’s voice calling her didn’t distract her.
Voices sang, but she couldn’t understand the words.
Her steps carried her inside quickly, humming the notes hypnotically.
Once in the entrance, she saw a hole in the ground and what looked like a ladder leading down.
The voices swelled from below.
Serra was enchanted by the melody. She leaned over the hole and saw bright lights and dancing shadows.
Serra began to dance with them.
Outside the tree, she saw her mother running to her. Serra smiled at her and waved. Her mind was made up.
Serra descended the ladder rungs and saw as her mother tried to enter the tree. It was rather curious, she thought, when she was knocked back, but the moment passed.
“We elves live to dance and sing,” the song continued.
Serra couldn’t control herself. She continued to step down the ladder, but her butt moved with the rhythm, defying her careful descent.
“She’s here, she’s here!” the voices rang as she landed on the soft earth.
Serra exploded into a dance. She swayed in great big circles at a dizzying pace. Her arms spread out as she resumed her twirling. The music grew louder, and her feet struggled to keep up. She couldn’t even see from where the voices were coming.
Now aware that something was wrong, Serra tried to slow down, but she just seemed to speed up. Everything was a blur, but she thought she could see lots of tiny creatures surrounding her. Their dark eyes and glowing teeth were all she could make out.
Her vision darkened, and she crashed to the ground. Just as she was about to pass out, she saw one of the creatures look down at her. His dark grey skin, pointy ears, black eyes and white teeth frightened her.
“You should have listened to your mother,” he hissed.
The spell took her, and she fell asleep afraid but certainly not alone.
When she woke, she could see several of the dark-skinned elves, frantically dancing with big orange balls in their arms. The balls seemed to glow and even looked like they had movement within them. They almost looked like memories – her memories.
The longer they held the balls, the darker the ball went, until many were completely black. Serra shuddered. Conflicting emotions welled up within, and she found herself asking why she couldn’t remember entire chunks of her memories. She closed her eyes and saw children trapped in a circle of elves.
She looked down at her skin and saw entire patches turning ashen. She screeched, “No! I don’t want to be an elf!”
She pushed through the dark elves. The balls fell to the ground and threatened to shatter, but she was so focused on the ladder ahead of her that she ignored it.
Serra heard the music swell again. With each note, her shoulders bounced with the rhythm. That familiar pull to dance overwhelmed her, and the dark elves surrounded her showing toothy grins.
She screamed to drown out the sounds around her. The enchantment ceased, and the elves looked fierce. They lunged at her, and with each touch, a new dark patch appeared on her skin.
She was changing, but with every second the assault continued, she pushed forward.
Her hands reached for the ladder, but she heard the music again. This time from herself. She was humming. Her toes were tapping the ground.
The dark patches spread across her arms to her wrists and hands.
“Dance with us. Sing with us!”
And she did. Her song echoed in the cave over all else; the melody was haunting. She released her hands, turned to the elves, and embraced the darkness.
Their dance and their song continued until the next disobedient child came their way.