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

Quote: On the Present Tendency to Destroy All Tradition

From “Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self”

Two from Uncle Carl…

“Naturally the present tendency to destroy all tradition or render it unconscious could interrupt the normal process of development for several hundred years and substitute an interlude of barbarism. Wherever the Marxist utopia prevails, this has already happened. But a predominately scientific and technological education, such as is the usual thing nowadays, can also bring about a spiritual regression and a considerable increase of psychic dissociation.”

And so…

“Myths and fairy tales give expression to unconscious processes, and their retelling causes the process to come alive again and be recollected, thereby re-establishing the connection between conscious and unconscious.”

~C.G. Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self

Der Geist im Glas

A German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

The Spirit in the Glass Bottle

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a poor woodcutter who worked from morning until late at night. When he had finally saved up some money he said to his boy, “You are my only child. I want to spend the money that I have earned by the sweat of my brow on your education. Learn an honest trade so you can support me in my old age when my limbs have grown stiff and I have to sit at home.”

Then the boy went to a university and studied diligently. His teachers praised him, and he remained there for some time. After he had worked through a few classes, but was still not perfect in everything, the little pittance that the father had saved was all spent, and the boy had to return home to him.

“Oh,” said the father sadly, “I cannot give you anything more, and in these hard times I cannot earn a heller more than what we need for our daily bread.”

“Father, dear,” answered the son, “don’t worry about it. If it is God’s will everything will turn out well for me. I will do all right.”

When the father said he was going into the woods and earn some money by cutting cordwood, the son said, “I will go with you and help you.”

“No, my son,” said the father, “you will find it too difficult. You are not used to hard work, and will not be able to do it. Furthermore, I have only one ax and no money left to buy another one with.”

“Just go to the neighbor,” answered the son. “He will lend you his ax until I have earned enough to buy one for myself.”

So the father borrowed an ax from the neighbor, and the next morning at daybreak they went out into the woods together. The son helped his father and was quite cheerful and full of energy. When the sun was directly above them, the father said, “Let us rest now and eat our noon meal. Then all will go twice as well.”

The son picked up his bread and said, “Just you rest, father. I am not tired. I will walk about a little in the woods and look for birds’ nests.”

“Oh, you fool,” said the father, “why do you want to run about? Afterwards you will be tired and no longer able to lift an arm. Stay here, and sit down beside me.”

But the son went into the woods, ate his bread, was very cheerful, and looked into the green branches to see if he could find a bird’s nest. He walked to and fro until at last he came to an enormous oak that was certainly many hundred years old, and that five men would not have been able to span. He stood there looking at it, and thought, “Many a bird must have built its nest in that tree.”

Then suddenly he thought that he heard a voice. Listening, he became aware of someone calling out with a muffled voice, “Let me out. Let me out.”

He looked around but could not see anything. Then he thought that the voice was coming out of the ground, so he shouted, “Where are you?”

The voice answered, “I am stuck down here among the oak roots. Let me out. Let me out.”

The student began to scrape about beneath the tree, searching among the roots, until at last he found a glass bottle in a little opening. Lifting it up, he held it against the light, and then saw something shaped like a frog jumping up and down inside.

“Let me out. Let me out,” it cried again, and the student, thinking no evil, pulled the cork from the bottle. Immediately a spirit ascended from it and began to grow. It grew so fast that within a few moments a horrible fellow, half as big as the tree, was standing there before the student.

“Do you know,” he cried in an terrifying voice, “what your reward is for having let me out?”

“No,” replied the student fearlessly. “How should I know that?”

“Then I will tell you,” shouted the spirit. “I must break your neck for it.”

“You should have said so sooner,” answered the student, “for then I would have left you shut up inside. However, my head is going to stay where it is until more people have been consulted.”

“More people here, more people there,” shouted the spirit. “You shall have the reward you have earned. Do you think that I was shut up there for such a long time as a favor? No, it was a punishment. I am the mighty Mercurius. I must break the neck of whomsoever releases me.”

“Calm down,” answered the student. “Not so fast. First I must know that you really were shut up in that little bottle, and that you are the right spirit. If you can indeed get inside again, then I will believe it, and you may do with me whatsoever you want.”

The spirit said arrogantly, “that is an easy trick,” pulling himself in and making himself as thin and short as he had been before. He then crept back into the opening and through the neck of the bottle. He was scarcely inside when the student pushed the cork back into the bottle, and threw it back where it had been among the oak roots. And thus the spirit was deceived.

The student was about to return to his father, but the spirit cried out pitifully, “Oh, do let me out. Oh, do let me out.”

“No,” answered the student, “not a second time. I will not release a person who once tried to kill me, now that I have captured him again.”

“If you will set me free,” cried the spirit, “I will give you so much that you will have enough for all the days of your life.”

“No,” answered the student, “you would cheat me like you tried to the first time.”

“You are giving away your own good fortune,” said the spirit. “I will not harm you, but instead will reward you richly.”

The student thought, “I will venture it. Perhaps he will keep his word, and in any event he will not get the better of me.”

So he pulled out the cork, and the spirit rose up from the bottle as before, and extended himself, becoming as large as a giant.

“Now you shall have your reward,” he said, handing the student a little rag that looked just like a small bandage. He said, “If you rub a wound with the one end, it will heal, and if you rub steel or iron with the other end, it will turn into silver.”

“I have to try that,” said the student. He went to a tree, scratched the bark with his ax, then rubbed it with the one end of the bandage. It immediately closed together and was healed.

“Now it is all right,” he said to the spirit, “and we can part.”

The spirit thanked him for having freed him, and the student thanked the spirit for the present, and returned to his father.

“Where have you been running about?” said the father. “Why have you forgotten your work? I said that you wouldn’t get anything done.”

“Don’t be concerned, father. I will make it up.”

“Make it up indeed,” said the father angrily. “Don’t bother.”

“Just watch, father. I will soon cut down that tree there and make it crash.”

Then he took his bandage, rubbed the ax with it, and struck a mighty blow, but because the iron had turned into silver, the cutting edge bent back on itself.

“Hey, father, just look what a bad ax you’ve given me. It is all bent out of shape.”

The father was shocked and said, “Oh, what have you done! Now I’ll have to pay for the ax, and I don’t know what with. That is all the good I have from your work.”

“Don’t get angry,” said the son, “I will pay for the ax.”

“Oh, you blockhead,” cried the father, “How will you pay for it? You have nothing but what I give you. You have students’ tricks stuck in your head, but you don’t know anything about chopping wood.”

After a little while the student said, “Father, I can’t work any longer after all. Let’s quit for the day.”

“Now then,” he answered, “do you think I can stand around with my hands in my pockets like you? I have to go on working, but you may head for home.”

“Father, I am here in these woods for the first time. I don’t know my way alone. Please go with me.”

His anger had now subsided, so the father at last let himself be talked into going home with him.

There he said to the son, “Go and sell the damaged ax and see what you can get for it. I will have to earn the difference, in order to pay the neighbor.”

The son picked up the ax and took it into town to a goldsmith, who tested it, weighed it, and then said, “It is worth four hundred talers. I do not have that much cash with me.”

The student said, “Give me what you have. I will lend you the rest.”

The goldsmith gave him three hundred talers and owed him one hundred. Then the student went home and said, “Father, I have some money. Go and ask the neighbor what he wants for the ax.”

“I already know,” answered the old man. “One taler, six groschens.”

“Then give him two talers, twelve groschens. That is double its worth and is plenty. See, I have more than enough money.” Then he gave the father a hundred talers, saying, “You shall never need anything. Live just like you want to.”

“My goodness,” said the old man. “Where did you get all that money?”

Then the son told him everything that had happened, and how by trusting in his luck he had made such a catch. With the money that was left he went back to the university and continued his studies, and because he could heal all wounds with his bandage he became the most famous doctor in the whole world.

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