Short Story: July

And thus they rise.

The local library had a short story contest again this year.  The theme was fairy tale- and fantasy-related:  Imagine Your Story.  As an additional prompt, the stories for the contest were supposed to contain the author (that is, me!) in some way or another.  Length was again limited to 1,000 words.  I like writing prompts and I like fantasy and fairy tales, so here is my entry for this year.  It’s just under 800 words long.  Let me know what you think.


 

July

 

There they are again, rising from the grass in the dusk. Not far, not yet. Little specks of light all along the grape arbor and in the adjacent meadow. Against the backdrop of the ever darkening forest they shine, but never for long. A glow here, a glow there. Over there another, and another just next to it, glimmering for a moment, gone again, then glimmering again a little further. So here I sit and watch, evening after evening, enchanted.

Just last night, the last rays of the sun shone through the July green and created a golden circle right there where the yard ends and the wilderness begins. That’s where they all live, I thought then. It’s their palace, that golden circle in the last spotlight of the setting July sun. And I imagined how from there, they all emanated at that moment, spreading out along the grape arbor and through the yard, unobserved, only to rise and shine as soon as the sun had set and their light would suddenly count. So here I sit and watch, evening after evening, enchanted.

***

There it is again, the day walker. Every night when we get our mounts ready for the dance, there it is, watching. I know it can be much bigger, but when I come out, it is always in that place already, short and still. But the Elders are not fooled. This is a day walker, they say, a moving giant, not of the rooted kind that grants us protection and safety, that whispers to us in its ancient voice. This one is not like that. This one moves in the day, everywhere, this one is noisy and unpredictable like all day walkers, it commands fire and water and four-footed creatures. Sometimes it catches us on our mounts and traps us behind invisible barriers. Then giant faces appear close to us on the other side of the barrier, and terrible voices boom while we shake with fear and our loyal mounts glow bravely, undaunted. Many of us have been thus trapped, but only few do not live to tell the tale, so there are many tales of the day walkers. There it is again, watching.

***

And thus they rise. A foot off the ground now, but not for long. Soon they will fly higher, bobbing and gleaming, out of reach, to the top of the lilac, to the top of the maple, way up into the darkness. Above them, the stars appear. Faint at first, then clearer. The Full Buck Moon to the south. Night is wrapping around me like a familiar blanket. Birdsong has ceased. Wish I could make them my friends, these little ones. Look, there is one flying this way.

***

Tonight, I will dare it! I don’t care what the Elders say, will not listen to their warnings and tales of serfdom and imprisonment. Tonight, I will visit the day walker!

***
Maybe it will land on my finger when I hold it out. I wonder if they think at all, the little ones, and what they think about, and if they know they are creatures that, like us, testify to a creator. It is coming closer, glowing brightly over there a moment ago, and already quite close with the next glow. I can see the little black firefly now and not just its light. Come to me, Little One, come and sit with me for a spell. Here, land on my hand. Shine for me, Little One, my heart is filled with wonder. I love your dance. Your lanterns are like stars come down from heaven.

***

I have never felt this small. Never. I do not belong here. Not at all. I hope the day walker does not see me. What a mistake I have made. The Elders are right. Night fliers and day walkers live in worlds that should not meet. Please, brave mount, take me away. What a fool I have been! From now on, I will listen to the Elders. I will stay away from the day walkers as I should. Hurry now, courageous mount, up, up and away!

***

This moment, not quite day anymore, not quite night yet, is such a wonderful and fitting time to meet, don’t you think, Little One? I still don’t know if you think at all, but I wish you would, and were enjoying this moment like I am. Here we are, on the threshold between two worlds. Can you feel it, too? It’s magic!

There it flies off again, glowing its merry good-byes. Goodbye, Little One, join the dance! Thank you for your visit! My heart flies with you, light as a feather and bright as your little lantern. I will join your dance in my dreams! Goodbye!
794 words

Short Story: Unheard-Of

The Unheard-Of happens here and now and all around. It is only unheard of because no-one ever hears of it.

The local library has a short story contest this year.  Theme: A Universe of Stories, limited of 1,000 words in length.  I cannot write convincingly about aliens, space travel and the like, so I tried a little something inspired by C.S. Lewis’ “Discarded Image” concerning the Medieval view of the universe in contrast to our modern attitude, and handed it in today.   It’s only just over 500 words.  Let me know what you think.

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Unheard-Of

Lost in thought, lost in space.  Staring out into the vastness above while the cold is falling out of the stars as though there were nothing between heaven and earth.  Endless glittering on all sides, reflecting on the snow that covers all while the black branches of winter stand out against the whiteness.  A monochrome world, as above, so below.  Midnight will strike soon, minutes to go only.  If there ever was a moment in time in which the Unheard-Of could happen, this was it.

Out of nowhere, something catches the eye.  Movement where all should be still, like music where all should be silent.  As the first note rises, barely audible, so happens the first falling, almost imperceptible.   From the timeless realms, a note materializes, a star falls.  Out of the blackness a blazing flash approaches, hurling through time, dragging space along with it, directly overhead.  How close is it already?  A billion miles, a million years, it is all the same.  To the imagination, there is no difference.  Space loses its meaning, time loses its power in endless zeros.

As quickly as it appeared, it is gone.  The note, barely started, fades away into silence.  Gone the brightness, gone the direction, gone the purpose.  As if it had never been, blackness stares from the sky where the flash had been brightest just now.  And yet, the feeling remains that it was falling straight out of the heavens right into the eyes that beheld it, the eyes that were there to bear witness, at this moment in time, in this place in space.  This falling was meant for these eyes and no other.

The clock strikes midnight.  Twelve times the bell chimes, filling the silence like candlelight fills a room, warm and soft, flickering yet persistent.  Then, from afar, a trumpet is heard in the darkness.  The tune it plays is old and kind, floating through the night as though every place were home, every journey completed, every wish fulfilled, every thought at rest.  In this monochrome world, the above and the below reunite, gathering around the sound of the trumpet, rising to the stars and sinking deep into the soul.  As outside, so inside.  The star falling out of the sky fell directly into the heart, and a spark sprang up, a fire that glows and grows and cannot be quenched, like a voice inside that cannot be silenced.  Knowledge fell out of the sky.  Doubt disappeared into the blackness.  The note, it has not faded.  No, not at all.  It has become a symphony.

A presence on earth has begun, a chain of events set in motion, and nothing will ever be the same again, not in this heart, not in this soul.  Space, vast and terrifying, has solidified.  Time, fleeting and endless, has taken shape.  The heavens have gained a melody.  A cathedral has arisen, built of sound and light, harmony and
greatness.  The earth is its floor, the trees are its pillars, and its roof is full of stars.  Endless, mindless Space has become a Universe again.

The Unheard-Of happens here and now and all around.  It is only unheard of because no-one ever hears of it.

533 words

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Short Story: A Fold in Time

It was just a matter of the mind, no doubt.

The local library has a creative writing contest this summer which prompted me to write a little something.  It turned out to be a bit long for the contest.  However, I was quite happy with it, so instead of submitting it, I will offer it up here for your kind consideration.  Have fun!

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A Fold in Time

Every kindly thing that is
Hath a kindly stede ther he
May best in hit conserved be;
Unto which place every thing
Through his kindly enclyning
Moveth for to come to.

Chaucer, House of Fame

 

Drab and dreary.  Walking down Yankee Run Road, this was the only phrase that came to mind.  Drab and dreary.  The factories and warehouses on both sides of the broad, yet deserted street were gray, dark windows gaping behind high fences and metal gates, with only the occasional light fighting its way through dirty window panes.  Garbage bags, uncollected, provided food and cover for raccoons as well as far less pleasant critters.  The occasional chimney belched fumes into the evening sky.  No tree graced the sidewalk, no shrub, let alone flower provided comfort for the weary eye, no babbling brook reached the ear and cheered the heavy heart, and only fumes and unpleasant odors of various sorts insulted the nose.  The Run had long disappeared underground to make way for this desert of concrete and blacktop.  All that remained was a name.

Walking on, I shut out the views and fumes and noises.  There were better things to think about.  “Kindly enclyning”, for example.  And “kindly stede”, for that matter.  Surely there was a place somewhere where I belonged, a kindly stede that my being was kindly enclying to, and moved for to come to.  It wasn’t this place, that much was obvious, but maybe if I kept on walking, I would eventually reach that place Chaucer was talking about.  It was just a matter of the mind, no doubt.  Was I not the one responsible for where I had been, where I was and where I was going?  Couldn’t think of anyone else I could shift this off onto.

The concrete was beginning to wear out my shoes and my feet alike, but on I went, and on and on, pondering how we once were not obsessed with regulations and laws, but saw in the universe a mirror of our own wishes and dreams, and believed that somehow, the physical and the spiritual were one thing, even if we weren’t quite sure how.  Wearily I closed my eyes, walking on with one hand trailing along the wall that I knew ran on this side of the road until it ended at the top of the hill ahead, where it met the State Route.  And then I heard the bird.

It was a cardinal.  Quite sure it was.  I almost couldn’t believe it, so I pinched my eyes shut, hoping to hear it again, not daring to look for fear that opening my eyes would destroy the illusion.  For an illusion it must surely be.  No bird could have been in this area in ages, not in this man-made desert.  There it was again, loud and clear.  A smile crept over my face, and at the same moment, my fingers lost the wall, my foot hit an obstacle, and stumbling forward I hastily opened my eyes, raising my hands to break my inevitably unpleasant fall onto the concrete.  But there was no concrete anymore.  Leaves now covered the ground, and moss, with the root I had stumbled over being the only hard thing my shin hit when I went down.

Instead of the various gradients of the color of dirt, the world I found myself in was mostly green.  Never had I seen so many different shades of green!  The sun, a moment ago still mostly hidden behind black smoke, shone through spring green leaves, dappling the mossy forest floor on which I now lay with bright, jolly spots.  Birds sang, not just the cardinal I had first heard, but others, too. “Drink-your-teeeeea” trilled the Eastern Towhee, like a blast from the past.  I hadn’t heard a towhee since my childhood!  Then another sound reached my ears: a babbling brook.  Hastily I looked around, there it was, meandering between the trees, glittering in the sunlight, forming a little pool not far ahead before flowing on through the woods. In a flash of blue and orange by the pool, a kingfisher darted from the bank to the water’s surface, catching his breakfast.  Greedily I breathed in the fresh forest air and felt better almost immediately.  This was the kind of place my whole being was kindly enclyned to move to and no mistake.  How could this be?

But why wonder if there was so much nature to enjoy, pure, unadulterated nature, with all the smells and sounds and sights of the woods?  Buzzing insects with glittering wings filled the air, chipmunks and squirrels rustled around in the leaf mold, a woodpecker hammered away at a dead tree trunk merrily, much to the dismay of the undoubtedly numerous grubs under the bark of his chosen pantry, and through it all ran this delightful little brook.  Getting up, I decided to follow it.  How pleasant it was to walk in the woods rather than on concrete!  I felt light and free, almost breaking into a run as I skipped along the water’s edge, now stepping into it, now jumping out again to enjoy the fragrance of a wild violet or pick a wild strawberry that the wood’s inhabitants had overlooked when they had had breakfast.  And then I stopped.  Breakfast?  Hadn’t it just been evening when I walked down Yankee Run Road, weary in body and heart?  It had, of this I was certain, just as certain as this place had all the feeling of morning about it, a new morning, almost like the first morning, if ever there had been one.

Breathing deeply, I slowed down my pace, walking on, pondering, looking around.  The woods didn’t seem to be deep, indeed, I already could see the trees thinning.  Ahead of me and to the right was an incline with the brook flowing away to its left, apparently into some fields that opened out behind the tree line.  Up the small hill I climbed, holding on to young beeches and jutting out rocks until I had reached the summit.  Here, too, the woods ended and rolling fields dotted with groves and other small hills like the one I had just climbed came into view.  In the distance, I saw a small cottage here and there.  The lay of the land looked strangely familiar, though all I could imagine was that this was a landscape I longed for, rather than had seen before, a place where I may best in hit conserved be and hence was kindly enclyned to move towards.  Not for decades had there been this much undisturbed nature anywhere around where I lived.

Filled with joy and wonder, I started down the hill when I suddenly stumbled over something jagged and hard.  Catching my fall just in time, I turned to look at the half buried object.  It looked like part of an old street sign.  Half curious, half disgusted at this intrusion of modernity into these innocent woods, I knelt down to wipe away the leaves and dirt stuck to its surface.  It said “NKEE RUN RO”.  I blinked.  Blinked again.  Could it be that this brook I had been following was the Run, resurfaced and restored to its former beauty, and that here had been Yankee Run Road once upon a time?  Once upon a time?  Slowly I got up, the deteriorated sign dangling from my hand.  Looking over the fields, I knew now why the lay of the land looked familiar.  It was familiar.  It was where I had lived all my life, only during my lifetime, it had never been this green, this undisturbed, this beautiful.  I sighed and closed my eyes, letting the sign slide out from between my fingers.

It hit the blacktop with a clunking noise.  Without opening my eyes, I knew that it was evening again, that I had reached the end of the road, the end of the wall, and that, upon opening my eyes, I would look out over rolling hills crammed with houses and chimneys and streets and factories and vehicles and people as far as the eye could see, a harsh sight, mellowed only by the light of the setting sun, barely visible through the smog.  

Time had never been linear; the sign at my feet was proof of that.  The question was, could I find the strength to glean comfort from the knowledge I was now granted?  Could I find solace in knowing that nature would eventually take back what was rightfully hers, and that one fine day, the Run would run again like it used to, merrily and free?  It was just a matter of the mind, no doubt.

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1451 words including quote and title.

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