There was indeed a warning sign, as people mentioned repeatedly after the fact.
In her defense, it was difficult to read.
The sign had once been clear and foreboding, though perhaps over the years it tired of its assertive manner and as fewer and fewer people passed by to read it stopped trying so hard.
And perhaps it is only a coincidence of erosion that the letters spelling out the key word “not” were the first to fade, leaving “do” and “drink” and “this” and “water” mostly legible.
(If it was a purposeful deceit, the sign will not confess.)
But whether she followed the legible instructions instead of the original posted warning or simply didn’t notice the sign at all and drank to quench a thirst, she can no longer say.
Her own voice is gone, vanished as soon as the water–clearer and crisper than any she had tasted before–touched her tongue.
Now her head is filled with thousands of other voices whispering secrets and confessions, answers to unsolved mysteries and long-lost truths since replaced by lies.
The authorities (likely the same ones who posted the sign so long ago) put her in a locked room while they decide what to do with her.
She continues to clearly indicate that she would like a pen, but they are all too afraid of what she might write.
About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.