The five woodswomen of Norway

I just got back from a week spent in a treehouse in Norway. There was no electricity.We cooked bread over a fire, melted snow to wash the dishes, chopped wood, went on 20km walks, fell over countless times and pushed a snowed-in car up an icy hill at 5am in the morning. We lived in extremely close quarters in our little treetop hut and with no facebook or phones, we drew each other and told the stories of our lives to keep each other entertained.
Louisa, another Australian, was so charmed by the snow that she decided we should have a fake “white Christmas.”  We drew names out of a hat and foraged in the forest for gifts.
This story was Billy’s gift to me, a slightly fictionalized account of us 5 girls in the woods.

by Billy Beckett.

This is the story of 5 woodswomen who lived deep in the forest of the North country, far away from cars and traffic, far from phones an internet d connections, far from power and steady street lights.

 

They gathered together in a self-imposed exile, away from society, all five of them living under a shared curse. Each suffered from a malignant tumour on the brain, not a physical affliction, but rather a mental disease. They had all grown tired with the outside world; it’s demands for strict cleanliness and angry ambition. Exhausted bythese modern, rigid structures they had reached out to one another from their homes around the world and made a pact: never again would they shave, but they would let their leg and pits grow long. Never again would they wear soft leather boots or trim cotton dresses. They grew messy and unkempt and they used their make up only for marking trees and painting pictures.

 

Eventually, as their old clothes grew worn and their soft slippers and plastic trainers were lost in the snow, they began to return to the wild. They wore the clothes of their ancestors, rugged hides of deer, mittens of squirrels andearrings of pinecone and woodpecker plume.

 

They built a house of many levels. It went up and up into the pinewood canopy and competed with the bird nests for space. It had long, slender floorboards and strong, hulking supports and buttresses. It did not cling to the trees around it but rather grew with them and into them, so that the trunks pushed past their beds and the branches stroked their faces at night.

 

They built down as well, into the loamy soil, out of reach of the tendrils of frost that reached down into the Earth when winter came. They built a great cavern there and filled it with treasures; strange, twisted roots, wolves’teeth, hoards of vegetables and meats that they cured over their great fire. This store was protect; they surrounded it’s walls with wood and mud, packed hard so that it was free from the intruding noses of moles and foxes.

 

In the middle of their house they kept a great fire burning. Sometimes it would simmer down and be reduced to an orange glimmer, but they would always retrieve one coal from the ashes and set the blaze going again. This was the heart of their home and the centre of their lives.

 

In the local villages that dotted the forest and hugged the metalled roads, stories of the woods-women grew and multiplied. Terrified hunters and truck drivers described how, on long nights when shadows were deep, naked wraiths their hair flying and shouting silent screams,would beset them. Snowploughs were over turned, horses set loose and fences dismantled. When the power died everyone knew who was to blame; the wild woods women had cut the electricity lines again.

Hunters or lumberjacks or hikers that strayed too close to their hut would be found the next morning in the middle of the village tied up and screaming nonsense about “strange rituals” and “unholy dancing.”

 

 

But their attacks were not unprovoked. Each of the woodswomen had previously been the epitome of modernity. They had lived and worked at the cutting edge of fashion, technology and culture. It was their shared disillusionment with a rootless society that had driven them to the woods and now when they saw any symbol of the world they had left behind they were consumed with rage. When billboards advertising beauty products or dieting schemes appeared in the towns or along the roads, they snuck in at night, hairy and naked, andtorched the offensive signs.

 

 

Though the woods women killed for their food, they did so with respect to nature and gradually, the longer they lived in the forest, they became more assimilated with the animals until they could call a skulk of foxes with a clap of their hand or an army of hawks with one whistle. This power would prove to be their saviour.

 

It came to be that the local governor came into the forest one day. He was touring the villages, seeking re-electionand he brought with him blaring music, great speakers that shouted his manifesto, hoards of PR and journalists, bright lights and staged rallies. His convoy had no respect for the local laws and knew nothing of the terrible threat that lived in the forest. They were not prepared for the wrath of the woods women. 

 

They came at night, their forms no different from the trees and the snow that stood around the road where the convoy was passing. The governor lay in the back of his car, a plate of sausages resting on his fat stomach, shouting down the phone at an aide. The music from the car speakers concealed the thump as one of the woods women jumped on the roof of the limo, and he was too busy looking at his laptop to notice the long-nailed hand open his door.

 

Five minutes later the

driver stopped the car and opened the door. The governor had been silent for too long (five minutes was a long time for the governor).Opening the back door he discovered the obese politician tied up and suffocated too death. Three pinecones had been jammed down his throat and his trousers hung around his feet, his legs tied together by his XXL size patentleather belt.

 

The governor’s security team were confused and baffled. “Who could commit such a deed?” they wondered. But the locals knew, and they pointed with trembling fingers and whispered directions, “into the forest, where the woods women live.”

 

The death of the governor had been one step too far for the local government. They sent helicopters to shine bright search beams and soldiers with guns and grenades. They descended on the forest and tore through the snow and the shadows. Their tanks and trucks uprooted trees and pushed through the undergrowth. Thewoods women heard them coming and fled further and further until there was nowhere to go and they stood in a circle around their great fire and watched as their house was burned down around them.

 

They prepared themselves for the end, drawing their bows and lifting their spears as the soldiers moved in. They crouched, bearing their teeth, waiting for the end, watching the rifles inch ever closer. And, at the last, as every trooper held his finger over the trigger, thewoodswomen called and their feathered kin responded. , A great crowd of birds fell from the sky, lifting them by the hair and shoulders. They carried them above the soldiers and the lights, above the tops of trees and away from roads and towns. They carried them to their forest homes and built the woods women nests in trees far from civilization. They surrounded the woods women with blankets and pillows made of feathers and moss and there they lived until the ends of their days, fed by mother birds and dreaming of the wild.

Five woodswomen run into the forest.

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