Little Red

It was a tormenting time. Small children were taken. Far away from their homes. Herded like cattle. The men said for education. But that wasn’t true. They were made to unlearn. All these children were abused. Their culture stripped from them. Their ancestral language denied. The men called them vermin. Ignorant men, so cruel. Claiming it was God’s Law.

Little Red was a boy. Son of a medicine man. Little Red was brave. Born under the wolf star. Blessed by the firebird. He had a secret cloak. Made of red feathers. No-one could see it. Only he saw it. It gave him great courage. He understood all he saw. He knew the forest ways. He could talk to wolves. They came to his call. One moonless night. This caused chaos. In the darkness he ran. Ran with the wolves. Deep into the forest. Far, far away. Away from all humans. The wolves were protective. He learned all their ways. He did the wolf dance. He sang to his star. For seven nights he waited. Wearing his red feather cloak. Wrapped tight around him. Feathers faded to grey. They became fur. He became a wolf.

He missed his home. He missed his grandma. At last, he went home. She knew him at once. She was happy. But she knew the danger. The danger was great. The men often taunted her. She always refused to speak. They stole her food. Food she had grown. Food from her own toil. They chopped down trees. She wasn’t afraid. She feared for the boy. So, she hid him away. He came out at night. In the day he slept. Hidden under her bed.

One day the men came. They lit a fire. They took grandma. They called her a witch. They set her on fire. The boy could do nothing. The wolf fears only fire. Little Red stayed hidden. Later he crept away. He howled alone. Alone in the woods. Later his tracks were found. Found near the lodge. Wolves can’t burn people. But they blamed him anyway. They made up some story. They always spoke lies. Wolves always get the blame.

Just like Geronimo. Just like Cochese. And Sitting Bull. Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses. And Running Bear. Little Red belongs amongst them. It’s the same old story. Over and over again. Always the same. Never think it can’t happen. It might happen to you. Listen with care, my child. Hear my words. It’s not easy. Living like Little Red.

(This story has sentences of 5 words or less – try one)

The Changeling

She never answers when I call but sits alone and mutters or goes amongst the old ash trees and whispers to the leaves. I can’t decipher all she says, the words are never plain, but the music of their pattern is always much the same.

She plays with mud and twigs and lays them out repeatedly in one ornate design. Like hieroglyphs, they seem to have significance, but she will never write her name. Her teachers and her parents are much disturbed by her. They say she’s on the borderline of a broad and complex spectrum that I don’t understand. I ask, in jest, if she might be a special rainbow child. No-one smiled. I’m here as the au pair and I just let her play.

There’s avoidance in her eyes. She simply won’t obey. That much is very clear. They want her analysed, pinned, defined and measured. I know she’s wild, but I have secrets I’m not prepared to share.

She chases hawks away from mice. She calls the birds to comb her hair and lets them hide in there. When she sleeps the owl hoots twice to let the forests know, the fox creeps from its lair and sidles past my fireside chair to rest all night contented, dreaming at her feet. The family is completed.

She’s turbulent. She’s troublesome. She’s stubborn and she’s free. She’s very gifted too, but she won’t let them see. I know it’s very strange indeed, a little fae for sure. She’s always been my own sweet child, there’s no changing that.

We have to make a plan and spin it very soon. We have to get away from here.

I must discuss it with my cat before the next full moon.

Through the Fire

A Lady sat by a fireside in a warm and pleasant room.

The Lady was young, she was innocent of face and fair.

In the corner stood a harp, a mirror, a loom.

Deep and deeper into the heart of the glowing fire

She gazed seeing images flickering there

While she considered her hearts desire.

Her imagination set free, she wandered.

She saw pathways and forests and caves,

Fortunes won, lost and squandered,

Extravagant creatures with wings,

Battles, books and jewels and dark open graves,

Crowns and horses and rings.

Her heart beat fast and filled with desire

For all that she wanted from life.

She longed for adventure and never to tire,

Yearned for love and wealth and fame.

In a heartbeat, she forgot herself

And reached her hand into the flame.

She had passed through the fire,

Into the cave she had seen, encrusted with gems.

Diamonds, emeralds and rubies hung from the roof

Entwined and supported by golden stems,

She plucked them like fruit and hid them deep in her skirt..

She turned then toward the cave entrance,

When a sound she heard made her quickly alert.

She heard the song of a distant bird,

The like of which she had not heard before.

Having no plans or well-laid intentions

She decided to find the source of the song.

She stepped barefoot from the cave onto the mossy floor

Of a vast forest filled with the scent of flowers.

Looking about her she felt she didn’t walk long

But as the light fell she realised

She had been walking for hours and hours.

She saw a giant oak, gnarled, misshapen and ancient

In a clearing surrounded by lofty trees

And high in its leaves, on a far off branch, she saw the bird.

The bird continued to sing as if it intended to please.

The bird was unexceptional and grey of plumage

But its eye was very bright and in its beak it held a jewel.

She greeted the bird by instinct, feeling sure that it could speak

and then asked the question that burned in her heart

”Pray tell Sir Bird, what is that jewel you hold in your beak?”

The bird placed the stone beneath his feet

” Lady pray tell, what would you like it to be?”

She considered this question a while

Realising there was magic afoot

She answered, with what she hoped was an alluring smile,

”The Stone of Immortality”

”And why would you want such a thing?” said the Bird

”Surely this is what we all want” she replied.

The Bird cocked his head

”I can think of many things a girl such as you could want,

Happiness, peace, the joys of the bridal bed,

Knowledge, understanding, children, wealth…..?’’

”Yes I do want those things’ she said,

”But forever, in eternal good health!”

”You will have all else forever also” warned the Bird

”Grief, sorrow, loneliness, you may sometimes hunger or fear,

cruel words and dark thoughts are also a part of this dish.

Immortality is not a bed of roses, my dear.”

With that, he pushed the stone off the branch

To land at her feet. ”Pick it up, or not, as you wish.”

Without hesitation, the Lady stooped down and took it.

At first it dazzled and burned in her hand,

But finding herself in its possession she bid the Bird farewell

And set out smiling to further explore the land.

She gained fortune and fame

For she had long to develop her natural talents

And many came to revere her name.

She achieved every challenge to which she aspired.

Her fairness of face never changing

She found love and was much admired,

She fulfilled every one of her dreams.

But she also saw that with all these blessings

Immortality is not the gift it seems

And the Birds warning had been correct.

She saw all her loved ones pass on without her

And with this sorrow came the endless time to reflect

Upon her loss of all she had treasured most.

She watched her friends over aeons,

Numerous they were, a vast host,

One by one, in repeating pattern, pass away.

While she remained lovely and vibrant with health

They all seemed to go as if in a day.

She saw her lovers beauty and strength fade,

Her children grew old before her eyes.

She kept her fame, her knowledge, her wealth

But these are worth nothing when all we love dies.

Feeling tired, abandoned, alone, forlorn

She returned to the Forest, to seek the Bird.

She arrived at the clearing in the soft light of dawn.

The Bird sat as before high up in the Ancient Tree.

He no longer looked grey, unworthy of a glance.

This time she saw that he was a Dove.

The bird moved on his branch in a circular dance,

And then gently bowed to her. ”What is your desire?”

”I want to be mortal” she said ”and return through the fire

And accept my true fate, whatever is to become of me”

”I see” said the Dove, ”then I must ask you one question,

What is the greatest treasure anyone can possess?”

Without hesitation, the Lady answered, Love.”

”You have learned the greatest lesson my child”

The Bird bowed again, ”Now return through the fire,

Use this understanding well, for short and fleeting

Is your time in this world. Go now and find Love,

But most of all remember to nurture and live it.’’

”This will be the greatest gift you take from our meeting;

Love is not for the taking. Remember to give it.”

Shattered Light

She is screaming out in the street again, a crying toddler in her arms. He has tried walking away several times, but he keeps going back to answer her accusations. The kid is crying. They go out of sight towards their house. I hear bin lids crashing and broken glass. Those two look a match for each other.

 Worried about the child more than anything, I call the police. An impersonal voice takes details. I explain what I have seen. I say a toddler is at risk. I give all the details twice.

 I say, ‘They have gone out of sight now, while we have been talking. Gone back to their house.’

 ‘You have an address?’

 ‘No, I don’t. I’m not sure which house is theirs. There are three or four houses in a row. It could be any of them. The back gates are all obscured by trees. So no, I don’t know.’

 ‘We can do nothing then. Call us again if they come back outside.’

 She hangs up on me before I can protest.

Nothing more happens. Not that day. Soon the lamps are on and the street is quiet. I watch the lights flashing and blinking and changing colours on a Christmas tree in a window across the street. I don’t really have room for one in my place.

The next day, I go downstairs and outside. The broken glass turns out to be a smashed light globe on the edge of the communal garden for our block of flats.

 ‘I saw that little shit deliberately hit it as he walked by,’ Eva says. She shrugs as if to say it’s normal. ‘Now the landlords probably won’t replace it for months, like everything else around here.’

 ‘I was worried about the toddler,’ I say, trying to refocus the conversation onto my main concern.

 Eva looks at me as if I am from another planet and says, ‘Yeh, well that one will grow up to be a shit too.’

 I open my mouth to answer and think ‘What’s the point.’  I know she is a racist. Her Carer is from Jamaica. Eva is nice enough to her face. But that’s not what I have heard her saying to neighbours, calling her a monkey.

 You can’t convert total idiots. Especially the ones over eighty. She isn’t my generation. She won’t change now. No point even worrying about her opinions. Not everyone over eighty is a fool, thank god. My mother wasn’t.

I don’t want to go to a party

I don’t want to go to that party or any other party ever again. I have never liked parties. Now I like them even less. Everyone laughing and playing as if the world is the same as it was, as it was before but it’s not.  How can they play at a party? Don’t they know or care that we’re all going to die. Everything dies. My dog died; my cat died. I cried. It was sad but the world was still normal. Now my grandad died, and it’s changed. Christmas is not going to be the same. They said Father Christmas isn’t real. Nothing is the same. It’s all nothing. The world feels like it’s wrapped in an old damp sock that I can’t take away from my mouth. They told me not to cry so I don’t. They said I will make it harder for everyone else if I cry. I wouldn’t cry now anyway. I am stuck inside a bubble. The world used to be light even when it was cloudy. My grandad and I played a game with the clouds, seeing shapes and making up stories. We saw a dragon swallow itself in the wind, one little puff at a time.