As I stand beside the pond, nibbling the cool, damp grass, I’m also watching for danger.
Hearing a splash, I freeze, head lifted, ears pointing straight up.
Nothing moves. Nothing stirs.
Slowly I lower my head and take a few cautious mouthfuls.
A twig snaps.
I jerk my head up, scanning the bushes.
Out pops a young fawn, just my size. It’s my best friend, Columbine.
I breathe a sigh of relief. “You scared me!”
“Sorry, Violet,” she says, coming close. “I wanted to know if you’d heard the news.”
“The man who lives at the edge of the forest is a wizard! He’s got a big garden behind his house, and any animal caught trespassing is turned into stone!”
“Who told you?”
“Oh, all the other deer are talking about it, but I’m going to see if it’s true.”
“I’ll sneak in there, and find out.”
“But what if he catches you? Suppose he turns YOU into stone?”
“He’ll never catch me,” she snorts. “Come on! We’ll go together, unless you’re scared.”
Laughing, she leaps back into the bushes, while I follow her bobbing tail. But when I see the wizard’s red roof, and his wooden fence, my legs start to shake.
I hang back in the shadows as Columbine begins sniffing the boards.
“Look!” she whispers. “There’s a hole, under the ivy.”
Using her nose, she shoves a loose board aside and squeezes through, disappearing from view.
I hesitate. Should I follow? My senses scream, “Danger! Danger!”
But then Columbine stamps her hoof. She’s waiting for me.
Holding my breath, I push through the rough boards until I’m standing by her side.
Wow! There really IS a garden here, huge, green, and growing. Sniffing, I recognize tangy apples, fragrant roses, and ripe tomatoes.
Columbine starts eating an azalea. “It’s delicious! Try some.”
I do, and soon we’re wandering through the garden, sampling the best of the flowers.
As I round the lilacs, I see something that makes me freeze.
Columbine bumps into me from behind. “What’s wrong?” She pushes past me.
There, on the grass, stands the frozen figure of a deer, enormous antlers crowning his head, his feet poised for flight.
“No!” I gasp, starting to shake. “It can’t be true.”
“Stone,” Columbine murmurs, circling the buck. “He’s been turned into stone.”
As Columbine stares into the strange deer’s face, the whole world seems to explode.
A resounding blast, a sharp crack, and the stone deer’s head snaps from his neck and tumbles to the ground.
Leaping into the air, the bitter gunpowder stinging my nose, I race with Columbine towards the fence.
“Tarnation!” A man’s voice yells.
Streaking to the hole, Columbine squeezes through to safety.
I try to follow, but this time I stick tight.
Bleating, I watch Columbine sprint away through the trees.
I struggle. I kick. I paw at the earth. It’s no good. I’m trapped, half in, half out of the hole.
Then I smell the man.
I freeze, shaking, listening as he tromps up behind me.
I hear the click of his gun, and I shut my eyes tight.
To my surprise, the man starts to laugh, his high, creaky voice shouting his mirth to the skies.
“If this ain’t the craziest sight I ever did see!” he cackles.
Stamping my hoof, I lash out at him with my hind legs.
He jumps back.
“Confounded critters,” he grumbles. “Wreckin’ my lawn ornaments! Eatin’ my plants!”
Something hard and cold presses against my shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the barrel of his rifle.
The man shoves the gun between me and the fence and pushes the loose board aside.
I spring through the fence and race for the trees. I’m free!
Two days later, Columbine comes to see me.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of things about you, Violet. Everyone says the wizard trapped you and tried to turn you into stew, but that you broke his magic wand and got away.”
“Yes! And if you did, we should go back to the garden. I’d love more of those delicious flowers, and now he can’t turn us into stone!”
At these words, I freeze, head lifted, ears pointing straight up. I look at Columbine, seeing her with new eyes.
“Danger! Danger!” My senses scream.
I start to run, away from Columbine, away from her stories, and from her lies.
And as I run, I laugh.
Now I really am free.
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