Green Man Walking

A fairy tale about losing your heart.

Aokigahara_Forest Jordy Meow Wiki

Photo credit: Jordy Meow

My brother’s lip trembled.  “But… the green men aren’t real.  Da says.”

Cousin Hana grinned.  “It’s true.  Once you’ve seen the agiri, it’s too late.  He’s already stolen your heart, and now you’ll never get to the afterlife.”

Garta shook his pudgy head.

I shouldn’t have joined the teasing, but Garta had followed me around all day, whining his stupid questions.  “You wouldn’t remember it anyway.  Although… you have any bruises you can’t explain?  That’s a sure sign, y’know.”

Garta hastily covered one arm.

I feigned concern.  “Too bad, brother.  Now you’ll become agiri, too.  Wandering the woods forever, looking for another heart.”

“I have a heart—here, feel it!”

“Only a fake one now.  Won’t last long.”

Then I sneered.  I remember that sneer.

The next day Garta disappeared.  I was too terrified to cry for days.

 *        *        *

I watch the woods from this bench now.  My knees ache too much to sit on the ground.

So many to mourn.  The plague took those the wars hadn’t.  My drinking drove the rest away.  Yet mostly I remember Garta.  Sometimes I imagine I see him, darting behind a tree, so close.

If I still had a heart, he could have mine.

Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, based on the original photo prompt below.  Click here to see the other stories written for this photo prompt.

Green man streetlight.134-12-december-13th-2015

© Al Forbes / A Mixed Bag


19 thoughts on “Green Man Walking

  1. Wow really powerful story. She sure got it for being mean to Garta. My Mom always said don’t say something you know could be real, and you’ll regret saying it. I think that applies to Garta. Now it is sad even though she got what she deserved, that she is by herself and that all those people died in wars and the plague. It is sad she is alone and an alcoholic and she thinks of Garta. Wonderfully written!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I appreciate that! Funny, I was thinking of the narrator as a man — picturing him being a soldier in the wars, losing all his friends there, seeing all that death, that’s why he drank too much — but I realize I ended up taking out all the references to gender and it works just as well with a female narrator. And yes, very sad. Although I don’t think the narrator really deserved to have his (her) brother wander off and disappear; the teasing wasn’t nice, to be sure, but he didn’t dare his brother to go to the woods or anything like that. Still, I picture him feeling guilty about it all the same, plagued with regrets… Hm, I really don’t mean for my stories to be so tragic, they just keep coming out that way!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wasn’t sure which gender the narrator was until I read your reply above. I thought of a male at first, but the refeence to him/her being ‘too terrified to cry’ made me wonder. Not that males don’t cry, of course. Your story definitely pulls on the heartstrings: Garta’s disappearance is made particularly poignant by the narrator’s guilty memory of his own sneer – and the lies he told to frighten the boy.
    It’s interesting that you wrote about the green man/men. English folk law is full of stories about the ‘Green Man’. He is just one character, but the stories are diverse and fascinating, connecting him with all sorts of myths and legends, including Robin Hood.
    Nice reference to the dreaded plague as well. That certainly decimated many medieval communities many times, so fits well with your story. A clever and interesting story. 🙂


    • I’m glad to hear it pulls on the heartstrings, thanks! And yes, there are plenty of stories about The Green Man out there. That’s one of the biggest challenges I face with a completely fictional world–there are only so many ways you could put words together to make legends, and not have them sound too much like a real-world one! So I wanted to be sure that even if I had a story about a “green” “man” that it wasn’t like the ones everyone already knows. On the other hand, plagues are plagues. If I didn’t have plagues in my world, I’d have to have a pretty good explanation for why not!


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