At first there was freedom in the endless supply of golden coins, and I gave them freely. I was charitable to the poor in every town I came upon. I tithed in abundance to each church, filling their poor boxes to bursting. I gave hope to the widows in meeting their meager needs and brought smiles to the orphans through toys and treats. And I asked them all to pray for me that I might not die within the years of my sojourn.
The golden knife, as it turned out, was enchanted as well. It would cut through wood, metal or stone just as easily as through butter, bread or cheese.
Occasionally I would be held up by robbers who demanded I turn out my pockets which I did cheerfully, letting them know to return should they need more. If they threatened violence, I would simply display the power of the knife by cutting down a tree, or through one of their own blades. Only once was I forced cause harm; he lost a hand. What I discovered was that everything was done out of desperation, both theirs and my own.
In that first year, there were many men who sought my hand for marriage. I was never fooled, for they were attracted to the green coat…or rather the gold in the green pockets. My heart ached for someone who could love me without the coat, for I knew it was borrowed and would return to its owner someday.
As the sun turned many times over, I found myself growing into an ever alarming state of decay. My nails grew long and curved into a resemblance of talons. My hair clumped together in a pile of braids unwilling to unwind. My unwashed skin acquired a layer of sticky brown patina and unfortunately I smelled like the grave. Most devastatingly, whiskers from my chin and corners of my mouth grew into a thin and wispy tangle.
My beauty passed away and my visage resurrected into a creature doomed to the outskirts of social acceptability. I became unrecognizable to people I once helped, and they were happy to ignore me as I traveled through towns and homesteads. My money was always accepted but my company was rejected everywhere. Once again I returned to sleeping in the wood, well wrapped in my bearskin which I slept in every night.
I learned to live in the wood and made my home there in a cave. The gold became cursed to me, as I no longer had a need for it. Happily, I learned to live off the land, trapping for meat when necessary and eating roots and berries in their respective seasons. On occasion my pockets grew heavy with the weight of coins and I would empty them into crevices in the cave. Each corner had its fill of gold. Oh how I hated it, wishing for it all to end.
And in that seventh year’s winter, the snow fell heavy and the winds bit my bones. I was forced to seek proper shelter away from the cave, which meant I must re-enter civilization.
I knew my time drew short. I was desperate to live and see this terrible task through. Back on to the road I trod, seeking shelter elsewhere.