(for Naomi and Gina)
The lady of the jars
It was snowing. It always snowed. That’s how she liked it.
The swirling white that enveloped everything, dusting and smothering all in a wonderland. There was more variety in snow she’d always thought. A sunny day was nice, for a trip to the beach or a stroll in the park; but sunny days were predictable, ordinary, and what everyone wanted. Snow, on the other hand created such chaos and difference.
Her cottage was nestled right by the huge stream that swept through the core of the little village of Hamani. It was near enough for her to grab the things she needed from the stores and the like, but just far enough on the outskirts where she could find the solitude and quiet she relished. That’s not to say she was lonely. She was always visited upon by someone knocking on her door and trampling their life into her small little abode. Each day brought something her way, but she always had the choice of opening that small blue door of hers to see what awaited. Some days she would sit by the fire, listening to the rhythmic knocking on the door, picturing not the tired salesman trying to entice her to part with her coins; but instead the small wood pigeons or pheasants tapping their beaks on the wood.
She had been called many things in her time. She wasn’t old, though some days her bones seemed to be. She would bustle around her cottage with the spirit of a teenager, ignoring the small ache in her joints. The cold heightened it, but she would never admit that.
Witch had been thrown her way once. Princess too though, that had been even more painful to hear.
Most saw her as a wise woman with magic, but of the good kind that you knew you were safe to inquire about. She knew the flowers and the herbs, the healing nature of the world that surrounded her small little cottage by the stream with the wood overstretching its reach to her doorstep. People came with their children who would play in the snow and then toast themselves by the fire while their parents would acquire an ointment or potion to help with some pain. Sometimes the kids of the village would come to hear the stories she would tell over huge bubbling cups of hot chocolate. The towering piles of books that dotted her home loomed over all who came there. Hers was a place of possibilities, and it was called ‘Dustings’, and she was the ruler of her own little kingdom.
Though she was an honest soul, people had no idea of the true power that dwelt in her little home. They saw the plants and spices that filled every draw and nook. The witch hazel and birch that swirled in its hued state on the walls. Secrets gained from the botany books and fables that stuck out of drawers and were lodged under table legs. But they did not know, and they never would, of what she kept in her secret room.
It had always surprised her really. No enchantment had kept it hidden, and the noise and light that came from the tiny room at the back of her cottage was enough to entice even the most mildly curious pair of eyes. Yet secret it remained, an indication of the respect many had for her more than fear.
Locked by a tiny key she kept around her neck, the secret room was not large at all. More of a store room usually catering tinned foods or laundry detergent. But here, here is where she kept her jars. Luminous and terrifying, magical and mesmerising. The jars were small really, able to be held in the palm of your hand. Each one filled with light and motion. She bottled them you see, the weather systems. She kept all the aspects of elements, siphoned off into their purest from and bottled. Her own collection of small ships. How she had learned to do this, only she would ever know. But there they are, lined up next to each other on her shelves in her secret place. She would rotate them into seasons, or sometimes calamities. A good thunderstorm would go well with heavy wind and hail.
These bottles were most precious to her, and she never misused them. She was always mindful of the good she could do, and the darkness she would always be able to lighten. Most precious of all were the snow-scapes. The blizzards, and the flurries raging away in their little jars which had cooled to a frosted glass beauty there on the shelf. These she kept in their own section, away from the heatwaves and the monsoons. She would sometimes come and sit by these little vials and watch the dance of the nature there contained behind the glass. A snowglobe of the most literal sense. She wasn’t playing god with her treasures, she was only capturing the beauty of god.
These names the people had for her, she always smiled when she heard them muttered in hushed tones. But to herself, she was always the lady of the jars.
It was a strong blizzard that blew the snow and the ice that day. It blotted out the sunlight entirely, plunging the village in a darkening grey fog. No one left their house except for urgent business, and save for the howling wind, all was quiet. The lady of the jars was anxious, which explained the weather. She would sometimes open up a raging thunderstorm when the bad moods really took hold, but on the days when she was worried, the blizzards came to cover and dispel everything. The paradox of still and motion, certainty and doubt.
She had woken that day with a feeling. Something nibbling at her mind like a bird pecking at her finger. She had pottered about her cottage, finding things to do to occupy her brain. Changing the sheets, dusting the ornaments, cleaning the kitchen cupboards. All to subdue that fretful feeling inside. But her skull itched and her fingers twitched. Something was coming, she felt it in her bones. She knew the something was different, a thing that was to impact her life and change her course drastically. This, in part led to her anxiousness. Though unafraid of change, she worried she might lose her power to bottle the wonders that she had kept hidden and safe. This was the one loss she feared, the change that worried her. Her own priceless art gone.
She looked outside. The flurries had whipped up high on her window and she could barely see to the end of the small path which led to the dirt track towards the village. A lonely lamplight shone off in the distance, the one she knew marked the start of her path. It hummed and glowed pitifully in the blanketing white, like the heart of a huge beast teetering on the edge of eternal sleep. All of a sudden, a loud bang sounded above her cottage. It boomed in through her walls and knocked picture frames off the shelves. She let out a small yelp, and clutched her chest. She knew it was beginning there, on that at snowy day. At eleven o’clock in the morning. She knew, and she suddenly smiled.
She pulled open her back door, the wind hurtling inside like an invisible hand knocking through. Though she had control over the weather, it wasn’t an on/off magic that tingled in her fingertips. She knew there was a time delay in which to shift into a new weather pattern. Making the unnatural reasonably natural. She hadn’t even gone to her small secret room to change the weather, her heart was hammering in excitement and she hadn’t bothered. Besides, the blizzard added to the drama that was unfolding in her backyard.
She stepped out into the cold and was suddenly covered with thick snowflakes. Her feet were cold, she had stepped out with only her slippers on, but the pull was hastening forward, caring not a button for the numbing that quickly came in her legs. She pulled her jumper up over her mouth and ploughed on through towards the thing she could see now. She noticed the remnants of stardust peppered across the sky above her. Something had landed and at the bottom of the garden. An asteroid, or could it be…… No, it was alive. Her blood told her that. It pulled and ebbed inside her seeking out the magic of life, seeking out the different.
She made her way forward, her eyelashes thick with snow and ice. He heart was pounding, it drummed in her ears against the wind.
Then suddenly, she was there. Standing over it. In shock for the sight before her eyes. Stardust splattered the snow around. Golden fragments coated the ground and the air, locked in a static tableau of exploding space. The gold drifted off into the air while the stained ground faded to a neon blue. The impact had made a small dent in the soil, like a giant ice-cream scoop and plunged into the earth. At the bottom, covered in stands of blue was what she knew it must be. The fallen. Some called them fallen stars, objects from the cosmos that littered the earth when they tumbled from heaven. She looked in closer, her mind suddenly skimming that book she kept safely locked in her cupboard along with her jars. Then she saw the blue tendrils stiffen, like neon roots tightening around their precious cargo. Bits of snow and dust seeped down in-between each one, melting into a liquid that oozed and formed around the body. Encasing it in a protective shell.
Europa, that was what this is. Her mind had summoned the right passage in her book, she saw it now clearly in the bright blue font that had burst off the page. That book which had come to her from her mother. The secret to her magic and light of heart. It had come before, once before long ago. All the way from another space.
The girl from Europa. Now in a small hole in the bottom of her garden. And she knew there, in the whistling silence that time was short, and things would always be different from here on out.
….to be continued