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.
Children's Fairy Story
Wow, after reading this for the first time in a while, I realize that it needs a lot of work yet. But since it probably won't get it, here it is for you! It was written to be read to children of about 3-4 years old. It was intended to be a simple first meeting story, with the word choice being slightly challenging.
In the twilight of a summer night, in the neighborhood of Laurelhurst, on a street called Hazelfern Place, a boy named Jack played in theback yard of the red house where he lived.
The sun had just climbed down from the sky, and the full moon was peeking up over the horizon, when he heard a familiar sound.
A brown squirrel was racing, as it often did, down the fence that connected the back yards of all of the houses.
Its claws were scraping loudly on the wood of the fence and it shouted happy squirrel talk as it ran.
Chasing the squirrel was something Jack hadn't seen before. A glowing, yellow . . . something.
The squirrel ran across the back fence of Jack's house so fast that he could only see a blur of brown as it passed.
The yellow something went by just as fast, but as he watched it disappear down the fence, Jack thought he saw what looked likepeople arms, and people legs, and wings that didn't look people-like at all.
And now that he was looking at the something, he heard a new sound too. The something was laughing.
"Cool," said Jack softly at the fading glow.
An excited look appeared on his face and he shouted "Again! Again! Again!" jumping up and down with each word.
The sounds of chattering squirrel, scraping claws, and the laughing something got quieter and quieter until Jack almost couldn't hear them any more.
And then the sounds started getting louder, and louder still until he could finally see the pair running down the fence towards his yard.
When they crossed into his yard, Jack waved his arms, jumped up into the air, and yelled, "HEY!".
Surprised at the unexpected sound, the squirrel stopped its chattering, ran to the nearest overhanging tree limb, and disappeared up it.
The yellow glowing something suddenly became a dark blue something and fell off the fence into a fern in Jack's yard.
Jack ran over to where the something fell, and even though it was getting dark out, and even though the something was glowing only alittle bit, he could see it . . . and it looked like a very small, scared, crying girl.
"Are you okay?" asked Jack. "Did you get a owy?"
The little girl only sniffled, her glow growing darker yet.
Jack's face lit up with a smile. "You want to see what I can do?" He asked. And before the little girl could answer Jack jumped straight up into the air, and landed crouching with his arms out to either side.
The small girl, who Jack could see a little bit better now, was staring at him with her mouth hanging open. She seemed to be waiting for something.
Maybe she was waiting to see Jack do something else.
"Watch this one!" yelled Jack, taking a long run and then leaping into the air again, tucking his legs under him before landing with hisarms and legs extended like a big X.
The little girl's glow changed from blue to green at the same time a smile burst on to her face.
"How about THIS one!" Jack shouted, now smiling himself. He ran up the two stairs to the deck, turned around and jumped off of it with his arms pointing straight ahead. He tried to land on just one foot, but fell over and rolled a couple of times.
The little girl began laughing, her color turning bright yellow again. "That was funny," she said in a tiny voice.
Jack smiled the smile that he smiled when he got ice cream. "You want to try?"
The little girl, still giggling a little, nodded and stood up.
The wings that Jack had seen before unfolded themselves from behind her, and Jack could see that the glow that followed her everywhere was coming from them.
She flapped her wings quickly, and then faster and faster until at last she leaped into the air.
For a few seconds she hung in the air, her wings flapping furiously, before she finally fell back to the ground panting.
"I'm not big enough to fly yet, but soon I'm going to fly up so high I'll touch the sky," she puffed.
"I'm Jack," said Jack, still grinning.
When the little girl with the big wings didn't say anything back, he asked "Are you a butterfly?"
"I'm not a butterfly. I'm Amelia!" said Amelia proudly.
Her face suddenly went still and she looked scared again.
"Oh no!" she said, "It's dark. I have to go home now!"
She turned around part running, part flying towards the back fence where Jack had first seen her.
She bounded up the fence and stopped at the top, looking back at Jack.
"You want to come over and play later 'melia?" asked Jack.
"Ok Jack," she said, and waved and turned to run back across the fence that connected all of the houses.
"Bye 'melia!" he yelled after her, watching her glow disappear down the fence.
Jack watched until he couldn't see her any more, and then started running and jumping as high as he could.
He flapped his arms as fast as he could, but landed on the ground just like always.
He tried again and again until he couldn't run any more.
"Maybe I'm not big enough to fly yet either,' he said, and then went up the deck steps, and inside to have some dinner.
Back at it
Yeah, so this is a little awkward. I realize that we haven't spoken in a couple of years, but I wanted you to know it was mostly me, not you. I got distracted for a while, and, as happens with me, I ended up flirting with other interests. I hope you will understand.
In any case, I'm back (for a bit anyway).
I wrote up a couple of posts criticizing work that other people had done, and thought it might be time to toss some more of my own stuff out there for the same treatment.
The next two articles are stories that I've written (in the first case) or started two write (in the second).
Here's some context:
The first story is one I wrote as a colaborative effort with some friends. We were playing with the idea of creating an illustrated children's book. That didn't end up panning out so I share the last draft that I can find with you. I have some wonderful editting comments from one of the friends, but I can't find a draft that incorporates them, so you're stuck with a rawer form until I can find them, or become unlazy enough to fix it again. This book was to be part of an ambitious series of books, movies, and more, designed to grow up with the children. The stories would get more complicated and sophisticated as both the children in the stories and the children reading them grew up. There was a plot big enough to sustain this epic adventure, with the opportunity for many side trips along the way.
When the book stalled, I toyed around taking the same story to a much older audience with a more distinct writing style. That's the fragment you get in the second story.
I have a couple of other stories that I've started over the last few years that I'll share from time to time.
Since they're all in very raw places, and I'm more of a starter than a finisher, I submit them to you to do with as you will. I expect most people will ignore them, but perhaps someone would be interested in correcting, elaborating, rebutting, or prodding me into working on one that particularly interests them.
Thanks for visiting, regardless. Let's not spend so much time in silence again, shall we?