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Short Stories

I. Alice (Writings Never to be Finished)

Alice breathed writing. She wrote she felt as though she was possessed; sometimes by seemingly demonic forces, other times by angelic ones. It often felt as though someone, or something, was guiding her hand across the page of her notebook. Alice re-read her story, pausing at the conclusion, wondering why all her stories were so similar. She did not know why harm always seemed to befall the children in her narratives. Perhaps it was that she saw herself as a little girl, innocent and naive, with all the terrors and realities of the world forced upon her. Life, Alice had learned, was never constant, nor stable. It was up and then down, left and then right, rude and then courteous, easy and then unbearably difficult. It wasn’t that her childhood had been unpleasant. She had been a reserved child who preferred the company of herself to others, playing dress-ups and chasing imaginary lions – Alice believed she had been a content child.

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The Sun

She was the pinnacle of her father’s perfection; her incandescent hair as bright as the rising sun, celestial eyes and skin paler than the moon – which had seen her through six harvests. She enjoyed picking wildflowers for herself and the family. Her mother would comb her hair as beautiful as the golden hair Loki had woven for Sif. That is where they sat presently, in front of a large, fine mirror. Her father entered the room in raptures at his beautiful family. They were to attend a feast that night commemorating the end of the Fourth War. The entire village was to be there, including the drudgery. He did not wish to consort with their kind. He twirled his little girl; all dressed white, like a swan, and kissed his wife. Before long they would make an unforgettable entrance at the village square. The daughter so desperately wanted to pick flowers to delicately weave into her hair, but it was getting too late, and the feast would commence shortly. The woods nearby were a dangerous place at night. The trees conspired, the wolves hunted, and strange men danced the dance of destruction and debauchery. Her lack of flowers made her sad.

 

They arrived at the square in a timely fashion. The splendour of the adorned, usually quaint, square took the little girls breath away, though she still felt inadequate without her flowers. Her mother and father danced whilst she sat idly with the other children. There was a boy who had a primrose, so lovely it may have been picked by seraphs, in his tunic. His hair, like hers, was reminiscent of the rising sun and whose eyes could make grown men weep, as though lost in time. An unshaven man in holed boots and a dusty overcoat approached her. This must have been he boys father, as there was some familiar resemblance. He offered her a big delightful primrose. Her heart raced with such excitement that Felicitas had surely kissed her. Primroses never grew in her garden. He smiled at her. She took the flower and hid it under her dress as her father approached. The man was jolted aside by her father, who was in quite a rage at the man presenting flowers to his young daughter. She did not understand and ran to be with her mother as the two men’s voices grew cacophonous and jarring.

 

The girl’s father was a rutting deer when they returned home later that night. Her mother could not console him. Frightened of their quarrel the little girl tiptoed outside to pick flowers, careful not to creak the hardwood with her delicate little feet. There were some beautiful cowslips at the base of the well. She approached the well to pick the flowers but in the dark could not see where she was treading.

 

The morning sun brought with it a chorus of birds. The mother awoke to make breakfast whilst the father looked to apologise to his child for his rage the previous night. She was absent from her room and the rest of the house. Panic spread through the household when she could not be found. They searched the grounds. The girl’s mother screamed like a banshee as she found a petite, white shoe next to a dying primrose. Her father threw the flower furiously into the well whilst her mother clasped the small shoe. The father could not be soothed. He went to the local tavern for the duration of the day.

 

He knew in his mind what had transpired. Had Bertha, in the old tales, not enticed children with promises of primroses? Drinks could not extinguish his fire. A beast was rising, writhing and roaring within his chest. Blinded by rage and deafened by hate he made his decision with little thought. It was dark outside as he climbed onto the back of his black horse. He made tracks directly for the dusty coated man’s house. Fire burned and smoked through his head as he rode, loosing all track of time and reality. The image of the man and his flower burned into the back of his skull as he thundered on. He had a boy, about his daughter’s age. His mind was set before his thoughts could properly form, order and be understood.

 

He dismounted from his stead and quietly approached the house. He entered easily through an open window. He found the boys room. Silently, he pushed the door ajar and spent a minute looking at the boy who so resembled his precious daughter. The boy was slumbering peacefully, unaware of the man stalking towards his bed.  He placed his hand over the boy’s mouth and wrestled the now struggling child back to the bed. It was only fair: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. His daughter’s soul could rest in peace knowing the despoliation was done. The boy tried to scream but could not.

 

The morning dawn brought no sound of bird, only resounding silence. The boy’s mother entered her son’s room to awaken him and was greeted by the sight of his pale lifeless body spread belly down on the bed, blood dripping from his young forehead. She clutched her son and wept. The boy’s father came running and fell to his knees as though in prayer, or kneeling before an executioner. The sight of his son brought him too to tears. Their cries echoed out of the house and through the village.

 

The sun continued to rise. The little girl’s father lay in bed with his wife peacefully feeling justice had been done. Had Artemis, in revenge, not changed Actaeon into a stag to be mauled by his hounds? He continued to sleep as the morning rays illuminated the yard. The light traveled down into the well where, just at the bottom, there was a small pale lifeless form surrounded by flowers. The girl’s hair was as diamond bright as the sun glistening in the cold water.

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