He found that he liked the woods in Storybrooke. They were not as dark and deep as the ones in the Enchanted Forest. He had always been frightened of those. He had to be in a place where stories were history, not just simple tales. His brothers had always called him craven for it. For travelling in his carriage though the King’s Roads with his trusted guards. He could not be blamed, he thought. For in the woods there were monsters and witches to be found and on the road robbers who looked to steal whatever they could find. Not here. The town did not have any of those problems. He detested the Evil Queen for robbing him of his vast estate but he did not resent her curse. The simple pleasures of a life away from the Enchanted Forest. The careful blend of leaves and spices. The roasted smell of his coffee beans. The gentle click of his stove when he opened a flame. The woods that lead out onto the park. Out in the open with nothing that threatened to eat him. No curling roots or howls from the creatures of the dark.
There was a pleasant mist covering the place too. It gave the leaves that newly-rained look he did not often appreciate in his old life. Nobles were not supposed to take joy in small things. He took a deep breath and had that mist expanding each vessel in his lungs. For a moment he wondered if there was some of the Evil Queen’s magic there, if there was something in it that could poison him. But he felt no different as his chest fell with a sigh. He looked at his watch. Appreciated the expensive make of it. The brown dye of the leather, the small stitches that kept it together. The numbers and hands that made it look old. As if it could have been a family relic belonging to this world. A quarter to six. If he timed his walk right he could stop by Main Street and pick up a fresh lobster for his dinner. He only needed to turn around and follow his own trail out of the woods.
This place where only birds sang. His shoes crushed dry leaves when he got the distinct feeling that he was not alone. All sound of life had been silenced. A chill set his pores on edge for that was how all Enchanted Forest histories began. The moment when the birds would cease their songs. A sharp, deep breath. It was only a woman walking ahead. Dark haired, in a soft yellow coat. She had the port of the Evil Queen. Of course the birds would stop singing when she walked among the trees. He relaxed, she was mostly fangless. With a son filling her days she had lost any motivation to do harm, he believed. There was no danger in overtaking her steps and nodding her way as he headed out of the woods.
There was the soft chill of the wind passing through his fingers as he got closer. A nod, no more. No good afternoons, the woman did not deserve that much of his respect. He turned to find her looking away, as if she had spotted an exotic creature up in the branches of a tree. Just as well then. There were also fresh rolls he would like to get from the baker. Some good wine if he felt like it. The park was visible then, just a few minutes’ walk. But he felt the fresh will-be-iciness of the Autumn air. Inside his chest, wrapping itself around the white of his ribs. It was nothing like he had felt before. There was movement there too, searching fingers. Expert and adept to the task. Stealing his heart.
It did not feel like the way he had imagined all those years ago in the Enchanted Forest. Mostly he felt cold, every particle landing on his still beating heart. It pulled at him, commanded him. Turn around and face me. So he did. She gripped his heart with the ferocity that every bard and writer strung into their words. Her eyes shone violet and he remembered that he was nothing but a craven creature. To save his life he would have promised to do anything. Anything at all. But she was silent, demanded nothing of him. With a strange expression, empty. A shadow of who she had been. He was bid into silence and then her fingers closed around the pulse of his heart. Tighter and tighter.
Indescribable pain. He was dying. No, he was being murdered. With a crack, his heart broke in two. But that was not enough to kill him. What would, was the deliberate crushing of it. Turning that red glass back into sand. His last thought was a pathetic one.
He would not be dining lobster after all.