Away with the Fairiesby Ella Grimwade / 20.01.2014
This place is called ‘Away with the Fairies’ for a reason. In the nether-felts of Hogsback it’s easy to lose yourself in amongst the towering yellowwoods, misty mountains and sweeping falls.
To you future wanderer, should you ever wander there, I have just one piece of advice. Never, ever trust a little hobgoblin of a man who offers you mushrooms with a wicked grin. And certainly don’t follow him into the forest.
I had also been forewarned… but, as you will see, I failed to heed the warning.
One night I was roped into a late night bar-shift in exchange for discounted accommodation and free drinks. After one tequila, two tequilas, three tequilas, floor, the residing jungle man Mowgli had heroically carried my limp form back to the dorm at 3am.
The next day, after a night of tequila slumber and four cups of strong coffee I was feeling amicable, if a little dazed. In this vulnerable state of mind the warnings of the day before seemed extraneous, overly cautious; and when offered the magical bounty and accompanying adventure I accepted. So it was that the hobgoblin, two banshees, Mowgli, and I, went tripping down a forest trail.
Our consumption began at base camp, around a campfire littered with discarded drinking vessels and cindered logs. A thin river of smoke floated up from the ashes and waxed silver in the morning sunlight. So relaxed, so beautiful a start. It could only be a good journey.
It takes a while to kick in, and with expectations are running high, I wasn’t sure whether it was the mushrooms or placeboic expectations that make me more in tune to the sounds, movements, and colours of my surroundings. But at some point there’s a switch. The world began to shimmer, really shimmer, and everything throbbed with energy.
The colours became so bright, everything amplified. The whole forest was breathing. As we danced around and around the Big Tree I could see its barked torso heaving in and out. We were all laughing. The giggles rising up like bubbles and popping on branches. Everything had colour, even voices and birdsong.
But the goblin man was watching. I didn’t like that he was watching. It was a predatory stare.
Then it started to change. The creaking of the hanging boughs convinced me I was surrounded by invisible doors, swinging open, closed, open, closed. I got frightened. I couldn’t see them, what if I fell in?
And then I heard buzzing. Angry, buzzing. Coming from inside my head. I started to panic. Shaking my head to try and get them out. I turned and tried to go back but didn’t know which way to run. The goblin man grabbed me and his face was moving, twisting, contorting. I didn’t trust him and started freaking all the more. Mowgli put a hand on my shoulder and pushed me down onto me knees.
“It’s ok you need to sit it out,” he told me. “Just try and focus on being on the ground. Breath.”
I grabbed a tree root and clung on like the ground was going to fall from under me. It anchored. I’m not sure how long I sat like that but it started to pass, my head started feeling light again and I could breathe.
And then I saw a fairy. Just the one.
Giant bluish black wings, like petrol stains in the sun, with a golden lining. They don’t fly like butterflies. There’s something magical in the movement. It’s more up and down, but somehow not ungainly, and somehow faster. You only see them for a moment, I got up to follow it and it had gone. But I saw it. And seeing it set me straight.
The others had gone on, heartless bastards, but the trail was pretty clear and I was tripping good again. I found them at the falls splashing in the pool. Running in with my clothes on I joined them.
I was starting to come back. The bite of the icy water was beginning to pinch my skin, but I was in a good place and was happy for the come down to reality.
We spent another hour at the falls, then began to wend our way home. One of the Banshees seemed still to be high, giggling and rambling. Oblivious to the fingers of the goblin man which were eagerly exploring every inch of her that bordered decency. Mowgli and I exchanged a look.
We got back to camp and the fire was lit. Mowgli’s jungle bride brought us coffee to drink and a blanket to fend off the chill. The Banshee returned to us… she was screeching at the goblin man every time he approached. The drinks began to pour, the party began again.
And in the trees, the fairies were watching.
*All images © Ella Grimwade