THE WEN, adapted from a traditional tale

Long ago there lived a  man much like you and I except that his visions of the soul took on flesh and blood form. The man was quite handsome in his youth and known to be light a foot, but as he grew older an ugly wen appeared on his face. Now this wen grew quite large over several years. He went to a healer who provided potions that were supposed to reduce the size of the wen, but nothing helped. At last the man resigned himself to living with his wen and even began telling stories about it. This is one of his wen stories.

One day the man went into the forest to cut wood for the coming winter. It was a sunny, autumn day. He enjoyed his work and did not notice a storm gathering in the west. When the first drops of rain fell, he looked up and saw the dark clouds and heard a rumble of thunder. He immediately looked about for shelter. He looked to the west, north and south, not even a charcoal burners hut was in sight. Lastly he turned to the east and saw the dark entrance to a cave.

The storm was powerful and long. It was almost evening when it had run its course. The man came out of the cave and was about to set out for home when he heard the sounds of voices, loud voices laughing and singing. The man was terrified because he knew the forest was home to demons, goblins and witches. Quickly he gathered his wood ran back to the dark cave.

Sure enough up the path came the most horrifying band of demons; some giant in size and others smaller than a human. Some had overgrown  ears, one had three eyes, another had two left feet. All had hairy hands with great, long fingernails that had never been cut. And more than one had a sizable wen attached to his or her cheek!

To the horror of the man, the band of demons came directly to the cave and entered it. The man left his wood and retreated to the dark recess of the cave where he hid behind a ledge of rock. The leader of demons immediately spotted the dry firewood.  “Well now”, he said in a deep and sonorous voice, “the gods have provided for our fire.” Soon a fire was built, meat was cooked and several jugs of wine were passed among the demons. Then a fiddler stood up and started to play. He played vigorously as several demons got up and started to dance around the fire. For the a long while, the man was so stricken by fear that he hid his face in his hands and did not look at the intruders.

Now the man was wise enough to know that he could not ignore the presence of the demons in his life. He must face his worst fear. Slowly he spread his fingers and looked at  the site before him. Fearsome shadows danced on the ceiling of the cave as the demons moved awkwardly around the fire. The demon with two left feet stumbled as he tried to keep time to the music. Another demon, with a large wen that she balanced with her hairy hands, nearly fell into the fire. Suddenly, the leader of the demons cried out, “You are all awful, is there no one here who can dance properly?” All the of demons stopped their merrymaking and looked at their leader.

The man respond to the challenge by saying to himself, “I could teach them a thing or two, but if he does not like my dancing, he will surely kill me!”

When no one responded to the challenge, the music started again. And again, the clumsy dancing followed. It lasted only a couple of minutes before a large, rotund demon stumbled and fell into the arms of the leader of the demons. Freeing himself from a tangle of hairy arms and legs the leader again cried out, “You are all awful, is there no one here who can dance properly?”

The man shook his head in agreement and said cautiously, “I could teach them a thing or two….but if he does not like my dancing, he might kill me.”

When no one answered the challenge a second time, the music started up again, but lasted only a few moments before the leader stood up and cried out a third time, “you are all awful, is there no one here who can dance properly?”

This time the man threw caution to the wind and stepped out from his hiding place and started dancing around the fire. He knew that his life depended on his dancing well, so he put his whole heart and soul into every step, and he enjoyed himself immensely!

At first the demons were scandalized at having a human in their midst, but soon they recognized his skill and began to imitate his dance steps. When the man was exhausted, there was a round of applause and a cup of wine was brought to him. The leader of the demons cried out, “indeed, you do know how to dance properly! You must return tomorrow and teach us more of your dancing!”

“I would love to”, answered the exhausted man.

“You cannot trust a human”, called one of the demons, “make him guarantee his return.”

The leader shook his head in agreement. He frowned just a moment, then a smile lighted his face as he thought of a proper guarantee. With his sharp, long fingernails the leader of the demons reached over and plucked the wen from the man’s face as easily as you might pick a ripe peach from a tree in midsummer. For you see among demons every blemish is treasured more than a king’s ransom!

It is said after that night long ago, in that place far away where vision of the soul took flesh and blood form, the man danced happily with his demons many times until his time on this earth was finished.

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