He had waited his whole life to take the journey to the Forbidden Forest. Growing up, his father had told stories of how the Forbidden Forest held many wondrous treasures. They were not made of gold or silver but were the most delicious fruit anyone had ever tasted.
Now that he was of age, he now was allowed to make his own decisions. Most of the villagers chose to stay out of the Forbidden Forest for the legend of the monster who guards the fruit is a scary one. They say that the monster can take any shape and appear at anytime, but once someone has tasted the fruit the monster would come for them. It may not be at the moment of the first bite, but it would come for you. There was not a villager alive who was brave enough to try.
The time had come and all of the villagers stood behind him as he faced the Forbidden Forest. He was prepared to treat himself to the most delicious fruit he could ever taste. This meant that he knew he had to be strong, fast, and smart in order to get past the monster. The whole village held their breath as he began to walk towards the forest and disappeared amongst the foliage.
It took him days to reach the center of the forest and was unsure of what he was really looking for. He just assumed he would know once it appeared to him. Then, at the moment he felt extremely hungry and tired, he saw a gigantic tree in the middle of a clearing. It was as if all other trees had taken a step back to give room to this magnificent living monument to the Gods. The tree appeared to have colors upon it that had never been seen by his eyes before and it glowed softly with a golden warmth. One single tear fell from his right eye as he gazed at it in awe.
After a few moments of absorbing all of the sights of the tree he had been searching for his whole life, he decided to walk closer. When he was upon the tree, he could no longer see the top branches as if they were reaching the sky above. For a moment, he wondered if he could climb to the top to see a glimpse of the Gods. The moment passed when he began to notice the most beautifully plump fruit hanging from each branch. He could have sworn that the fruit was singing. It was soft and floated on the wind, but it was the most beautiful melody he had ever heard.
He had forgotten all about the legendary monster and began to climb up the tree. It was as if foot holes appeared in the bark for each step he had to take. He climbed with such ease that he wondered why any of the villagers would fear to come into the Forbidden Forest at all. He reached a large branch that was parallel to the ground and sat down. He did not realize how high up he was until he glanced down. Surprisingly, he felt no fear and this pleased him. Then, he reached over and plucked a fruit from the limb above him. The fruit seemed to glow brighter in his hand and was warm to the touch. He stared at the ripe fruit for awhile before deciding to put it in his mouth.
The taste was indescribable. He had never felt such pleasure from eating. It was even better than his father had described. If only, he could have shared this feeling with everyone else in the village. Then he realized that he could fill his bag on his back with as much fruit as he could carry. Then every villager would be able to feel the pleasure that he was feeling.
The moment he began pulling more fruit off the tree, the wind began to blow cold and shake the branches. He had not even noticed a breeze before that point. As he filled his bag with the fruit, the leaves began to fall off the tree and lose its glow. He was so wrapped up in his excitement to share this magical experience, that he was not noticing what it was doing to the tree. After his bag was full, his climb down was not as easy, for the foot holes that were previously there had dissolved back into the bark. He lost his grip and began to fall. Landing on his back with a big thud, it had knocked the breath out of his body.
That is when it appeared. The monster that the villagers were all afraid of. It was true that it could take any form and appear at anytime, for it had appeared above him as a reflection of himself. There were his own eyes staring back at him with a look of disappointment.
“How can this be?” he yelled and stared back into his own eyes.
His reflection opened its mouth to speak, but nothing came out. The mouth got wider and wider until it could swallow him whole. The eyes changed from disappointment to anger. He knew in that moment that the Gods were angry with him. He had only wanted to share what he had found, but now he knew that in order to get the fruit, you have to take the long and hard journey. For every good thing in life is only truly good if you had to work for it.
He closed his eyes and awaited his fate.
All of the sounds were instantly sucked out of the forest. He could only hear the beating of his own heart. Then that too began to fade away. For the Forbidden Forest had taken another from this world because he was unable to see that the journey is what made the fruit so delicious. The villagers wept when he did not return and just added him to the story that they tell to children. Maybe one day, someone who is truly pure of heart and mind will seek the tree and be only grateful for its gift.