Monday, October 13, 2008
Fairy Story for an Older Audience
Here's the same story as in my last post (well, the beginning anyways), only written for a much older audience. Not sure if it succeeds any better than the children's version.
It's a little known fact that, upon the final hour before your death, all of the colors of the world become slowly more saturated, and all the sounds more distict and resonant, until, the moment before your death, you may become overwhelmed by them.
It is a little known fact not because it is not common, but because we don't want to see it, the way we don't want to see a vagrant, or a mugging. Few of us are brave enough to wonder at it unless our death catches us wholly unawares. And those that do? Well their time for pondering is limited, now isn't it?
I say these things not because they were apparent to me, at least not the first time, but because I came to see - see in that same way - in time.
It is a myth that rats are dirty in and of themselves. They have ever been associated with disease and evil. Such is their lot in this world. That is, to be misunderstood, not, in fact, to be bad.
The rats have had their own evil incarnate as long as their collective memories can dwell backwards: fleas. It is the flea who is the spawn of the underworld, spreading plagues amongst the innocent and unknowning. It is from the fleas that the rats are given their burden. Ever to be chased. Ever to be reviled. Ever to be destroyed.
Somewhere, just now, a group of small baby rats are being born. Somewhere dark, somewhere warm, and somewhere safe. For a time they will play and nip and run and, once they have weaned, shall assume their role here. To be chased, to be reviled, and even to be destroyed, all while doing their service, and trying to protect.
The rat is not alone in its dual role of vilification and protection. The crow too carries this burden. But, unlike the rat, who accepts his burden with resigned acquiescense, the crow accepts it under great protest. For the crow is endowed with wings that allow it to sit within view while it scolds (ever scolding), and flit away once its dissatisfaction is satisfactorily delivered.
Unlike the rat, whose early days are marked with a joviality soon to be forsaken, the crow is trained early from the start. A crow is delivered the accepted propaganda from the moment its egg is laid. Once hatched, it knows its mission. Once fledged, it undertakes it. Again to be reviled. Again to be disdained. Again to protect.
The squirrel, the final player in this, our opening volley, plays a different role altogether from the rat and the crow. Encased in disarming cuteness, moving with apparent impish glee (and the analogy here is more than skin deep), the squirrel sits on the same frontline in our story as the crow and the rat, but on the opposite side. For the squirrel, you see, is the scout. Able to get close without raising alarm, they watch us, passing their information through complicated networks masked in chasing games and nut hoarding. "To whom?" you may ask. That we shall soon enough see, but the "whom" in this tale is certainly no friend to you or me.
You may have deduced that the story that I am about to tell you has cast the role of evil to the cute and good to the loathesome, but rest assured that this is not so in every case. You may wonder about your playful dog, or skulking cat. Whose side are they on? You can take an easy breath on this count as the animals whom we have domesticated (and they who have domesticated us) are with us (by and large). They sit on neither the side of the rat nor the side of the flea. They sit, as helpless as we do, in the middle, as largely unwitting pawns in the grander game of the squirrels and the crows and theirs.
Let us begin this story proper by introducing a character through whose eyes you will better see the world in which we now find ourselves. As a brief background, suffice it to say that there are special places in this world where the overworld and the underworld meet. By "special" I do not mean to imply that such places are few (as they are not), but that they have an indefinable quality about them that you can feel when you are there, but don't know is missing when you are not.
You may be surprised when I say that this is our world. Or, rather, your world. The very one in which you live now. Such special places are confined to no one corner of the Earth; they exist where ever there are men. The particular one that I will take you to is not special in and of itself save that it is here that we have someone to meet.
She sits on a concrete step, with her legs dangling over the edge reaching nearly half the distance to the tread below. She sings softly to herself, but only because she presumes herself to be alone (she is far too young and inexperienced to see us quite yet). The late spring sun has proven too attractive to resist, so she suns herself here. If you did not know better, you would think that she was waiting for her long absent love to return and sweep her up in his arms; she has that air about her. But she is too young even for that fantasy. What she is expecting is us, though she does not know it. And as we get close enough to make out the curly brown hair hanging like lazy vines down her face, and note the artful orange stroke applied to the length of her otherwise simple white dress, we can also see that she is now positively buzzing with excitement.
But it's about now that you really fixate on the things that are off about this description (perhaps you already were). The scale is off; she is very small relative to the 13 steps running down to the sidewalk. Perhaps you initially thought she was some sort of animal given how this story began, but the mention of curls and a dress, though not entirely unlikely in a story like this, has lead you to think this is more of a person that we are looking at. It is at this point that you might realize that the use of the word "buzzing" in the previous paragraph was somewhat more than just a metaphor (I like to think I'm clever like that, occasionally). It is when she pauses, apparently straining to hear some hint of us (though who we are she has quite no idea), every fiber of her silent, that you can see her wings. For this girl I have chosen to show to you is a fairy, and, so that you will not think of her as an abstract being to whom you cannot relate, I will tell you that her name is Amelia, and she is just on the cusp of turning 5.
Now I realize that you may have had no idea that this would be a tale about faries, much less with a main character so very young, but I do implore you to hang about for just a bit longer. Perhaps it would help that I remind you that this is no fairy tale of yore in some place long shrouded in the mists of time. Amelia lives on Flanders Street, in the Laurelhurst Neighborhood of the city of Portland, Oregon, on the western edge of the United States, and the vehicles that are driving by decidedly horseless.