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. It was 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 that 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’, that name 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 enquire 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 forest 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, and ginger snaps to munch and make a mess with. 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 drawer 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 sideboards 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 storeroom usually catering to stored foods or cleaning materials. 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 aspects of the elements, siphoned off into their purest forms and then 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 nature there contained behind the glass. A snow globe 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.
Her fear did not stem from any irrational place, the very threat of loss had loomed over her life since she could remember. Some things she felt she were merely the caretaker of, and when these things left then she felt she had done her service. Like the animals of the forest she helped heal and raise back to health. But other things, like her precious magic weather, the scar was much too deep to unpick; and which would ooze a hurt if the control was taken from her. For taken is the only way it was likely to leave. Forces seemed to swirl around her little cottage all the time, threatening to harm her, and put an end to her meteorological meddling.
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 which swung over her path from the mound in the middle of her garden. It hummed and glowed pitifully in the blanketing white, like the heart of a huge beast teetering on the edge of eternal sleep. She sometimes liked to watch the huge fluffs of snow caught in that lamp, like little wads of dust that floated in the world like dandelion heads that were destined to send their seeds off too new places. The snow travelled seemed to float with its own journey in mind.
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, as if shook internally from some slumber. She knew it was beginning there, on that 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 icy, she had stepped out with only her slippers on, but the pull was hastening her 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 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. Her heart was pounding, it drummed in her ears against the wind. The warm blood sloshing noisily against the wall to her skin.
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 large dent in the soil, like a giant ice-cream scoop had plunged into the earth. At the bottom, covered in strands 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 safe inside her cottage 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 was. 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 in her 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.
ICE AGE ON THE EDGE OF SPACE
She slept of course, that’s how she’d gotten there. Trapped in a dream that travelled across sky and time. It wasn’t far really, not within her scheme of things. Europa was really the backyard to Earth’s green and blue house; compared to other places she’d been and seen. The trip was quick, a blink of the inner eye for her. Sleeping, forming, and settling into something new in which to emerge from. No-one knew she had left, she made it that way. It wasn’t sneaking out the backdoor or running away, merely moving to the place she knew she would blossom. Unfold in the weighted gravity and expand like the sea coral in her mind.
Getting there was the easy part. She would not miss her home moon; she was not one for looking back. Too many shards of ice poking her into a position she knew she’d outgrown. She had breathed her last and stepped into her waiting transport, bidding a silent farewell to her gods, before becoming one herself. She had shaken her teeth out, burying them deep into the subterranean ice, like planting a seed without the expectation of growth. A silly ritual, one from her childhood. Sealing over the past and welcoming a new dawn. She’d marked the spot with taldium stones. Smooth onyx rocks that looked like fillings from a gigantic beast. This was all she left behind. New teeth grew inside her as she’d slept in the transport, hurtling across the cosmos as the milk teeth grew and fused together in the depths of space.
She slept a mindful sleep, dreaming of change and the freedom of the future. As her body was enduring such forces, she allowed her mind to run free, imagining the possibilities and allowing her history to melt away. Her change was coming at a price, it always did, but it was one she had to pay she felt. As she passed planets and moons, her little comet of curiosity sped and slowed depending on other forces. Varying gravitational pulls and the will of her own heart forced the object onwards, streaking across some many people’s skies.
Her heart had guided it. The comet that buckled and flayed in the pressures of the vast unknown. Steaming up in the re-entry to a land she’d never entered before. It had lit up the sky across a remote part of China, heralding change and ill omens to the many onlookers who captured it in their eyes as they gathered around their small communal fires. Her heart beat, her skin stretched. Her mind collapsed a million times only to be reborn and steer the transport to that spot. A spot chosen, not for its ease or any strategic opportunity.
It was chosen for its sole reason alone, the reason she had left Europa in the first place. It was where the one was, the one who could change her and perhaps, even save her. For a need had begun to spring inside of her, like a plant out-growing it’s pot, that she needed to change what had settled upon her. She needed to strip away all the attachments that kept her selfishly operating, and instead be a source of giving. This was her personal destiny; written in the stars she now flew past.
DETACH AND CONNECT
Steam began to gather around them now, the snow and air evaporated temporarily while the remains of the comet and the contents hissed and spewed in the hole in the ground. The lady of the jars didn’t hesitate, she hopped into the hole and began pulling away at the stray tendrils that had not joined the body. She pulled and heaved, working it free and pulling it away like a tooth from a root. Her hands were raw from the cold, but the blue liquid quickly covered them, and the pain subsided. She was resourceful, years of chopping wood for her fire and toiling her own yard had given her strength and determination. She lifted the body like a doll off the floor, heaving it over her shoulder; the doll now a sack of flour to be carried into her cottage.
Snow began to cover the hole, the marked earth smeared black and blue began to be covered once more in the blanket of white the lady of the jars had always cherished. Soon there would be little evidence of any visitor. It was a secret she was eager to keep to herself, and with that thought she hurried quickly inside.
Closing the door, she took the body over to the fire in her living room. Her house was sturdy, and she could only just hear the howling blizzard outside, the fire crackling over the sound of the perpetual winter. She placed the body carefully, then stoked the fire before taking off her cardigan which was now wet with melted snow and ice. The blue liquid began to slacken, but it did not pool off onto the floor; instead it collected into droplets which lifted up into the air, disappearing like tiny ghosts. She stood back and watched the transformation, the cocooned being separating into the body of a girl. The hair and skin humming to life with a florescent radiance which faded to a healthy glow.
The girl’s eyes suddenly blinked open and she sat up. Her eyes, those azure wells that pierced the room flashed and opened up a doorway to another space. A land beyond the stars. The lady of the jars handed her a throw which she kept draped across her good chair, and wordlessly the girl surrounded herself in it; embracing the warmth and kindness from the protection it offered. They sat there in the quiet for some time, having a conversation with no words, but levelling out their worlds.
“Tea, that always helps a situation.” The lady said, standing up slowly as not to frighten the girl. The ageless entity that sat on her rug in front of the warming heat. “You stay by the fire, I’ll bring it in.” She said, bustling out into the kitchen. She boiled the kettle and took down the jar of green chai, tipping the leaves merrily into the giant teapot she always had on the side. Though she lived alone, she always devoured copious amounts of tea, and the giant teapot was a testament to it.
She filled it up with the bubbling water, and added some crushed almonds, swirling them around inside. She grabbed some small glasses and returned to the living room with the refreshments, popping them down on the side. Though it had been snowing hard and the day was dark, it was now growing darker she noticed, finding the lamp light from her path gaining more strength in the encroaching shadows.
“You must have travelled far, here drink this; it’ll help.” She said, handing the girl a small glass of the tea.
The girl reached out with her swan like hand and the lady noticed it then, the etching on her arm. It was a pattern, words even, in some sort of language that looked beautiful and strange. She was sure her book could tell her; it always had the answers. These weren’t just dead prints like tattooed skin. The pattern and words swam with life, like a moving aquarium dance of blue hue and light, rippling across her skin; growing strong then faint like a conflicting idea.
“Thank you.” The girl said, reaching for the glass. Her teeth split apart for her to speak, having fused together on her journey. The words were understandable to her ears, but anyone else would have understood also, the language fitting the ear of the listener, wrapping around the mind and settling in the soul. A sweet whisper of a voice, like a feather landing on a petal. Delicate, but hiding a secret strength of flight.
“Are you…” The lady began but was interrupted by an abrupt and determined knock at her blue door. It wasn’t the pheasants this time, that she was sure of.
THE GENTLEMEN OF THE BOXES
Though the perpetual snow covered everyone and everything in a magical flurry, some homes escaped the gingerbread icing of the winter dusting. Though treacherous at times, the snow that fell in the area of Ravensbrook was mostly welcomed. The small village itself was well known for its snow festivals which would be held often during the year. While the borders of the county were at the whim of the regular weather patterns, Ravensbrook enjoyed the snowfall of the mountain passes more than anywhere nearby. But not everyone was happy with the snow, and one in particular made sure to be out of it as much as they could.
He had once had a large cabin on the other side of the woods which backed on to the small cottage by the stream. His was a stern roughly built cabin, reeking of ash fires and masculinity. It’s coarsely built structure was a testament of his own strength, having built the place himself. But it did not appeal to the eye and was poorly landscaped. Fresh animal kills were strewn around, the bones of which would be stacked sometimes by an outhouse. He lived there alone, stuffing small woodland animals with sawdust and brooding over a life that was slipping away from him. That is to say, lived there, for now the gentlemen of the boxes lived underground.
One day, on a particularly snowy afternoon whilst trudging back to his cabin, he’d stopped with his fresh kill slung over his shoulders. The snow had covered his face and was blotting out the view of the track he was following home. He’d stood there, a human snowman for much longer than an idle man should in the cold snow, thinking and pondering and wondering over the incessant weather. Raising his fist in the air, he cursed the sky and the lady who lived in that small little cottage, telling tales and playing god.
He stormed home and packed the few possession he could into a duffle bag and set off into the depths of the woods. Thick in thorns and thistles, the snow drifts piled high in the dark and gloomy woodland. But soon enough, he’d found what he was looking for. A small opening in the ground marked by two huge boulders which led down underneath the earth. He’d found this long ago, chasing a fox that had sought shelter from his murderous hands. The opening expanded deeper underground; a vast cave backed up with many little recesses built into the earth. Here he intended to live and be away from that infernal snow and cold which stung his bones.
Over time, his little cave house filled with things and skeletons. The shells of the creatures that he didn’t keep in his boxes. He would stuff them with sawdust and set them into little boxes and crates, depending on the size. He would mark them all and catalogue what he had. In his noahistic mind, he would covert two of each creature, stripping one of the fleshy casings where he could peak at the ivory bones underneath, and stuff and box the other. His collection grew in time, and much of his cave was taken over by the boxes that he would stack high to the roof.
One day, when he was in town selling some animal meet, he happened to notice the traveling cart man who’d stopped in the small village square. The man would peddle, in all weathers, around the villages with a huge caravan of objects pushed and slotted onto the back of his trailer. This travelling circus of curiosities was much welcomed where it went, for he was always known to bring treasures and wonders to that little part of the world.
The gentlemen of the boxes never usually bothered himself with that sort of thing, but something that day seemed to call to him, picking at his mind and heart. He’d trundled over to the cart, impossibly piled high that day with brass lamps, copper kettles, crystal glasses and books. One book in particular stood out to him; a purple bound one the size of a bible. He slid it out from between a jewellery box and iron fire grate and looked at the cover.
The image on the front was nothing new to him, he’d seen the real thing a hundred times, but the way it was drawn unsettled something inside him. Dislodging some idleness and bringing forth some action. The skull of a creature, that of a deer, stared back at him. The eye sockets glowing with a purple like flame tickled the hairs on the back of his neck. He’d just begun to open the book when the seller called over to him.
“Ah, I see you’re interested in the Lunamaji.” He came around the side of the cart and up to the man.
“Maybe. How much for the book?” He replied, gruffly.
“Ten Quartz to you good sir, anyone interested in such deep allurement deserves to get a good price.” The man held out his hand in a kindly way. The gentlemen of the boxes huffed, thinking it was still too much for a book.
He furrowed his brow and grumbled some more before tumbling some coins into the man’s outstretched hand. It was a steep price he thought, but he had the money. There was something interesting about the book, something he couldn’t explain, a gravity only he could feel and had never felt before. He had to have it, so he paid the price, which was reasonable considering what it offered. As he turned to walk away, the old man grabbed at his arm suddenly.
“Be warned though, this is not for the faint of heart or weak of conscience. There are many things in there that need to remain within those pages, and just to reside in the mind.” He’d said, hastening a smile to take the edge off his warning.
“Nothing about me has ever been weak.” The man replied and stormed off with the book under his arm.
Recede to reason
He’d consumed the book. Reading it hurriedly in the candlelight of his cave. He’d red it once through and went straight back to the beginning to read it again. Days passed and he’d not emerged from his cave, breaking his concentration only to hydrate and use the bathroom. The words and the knowledge mesmerised him. He’d never been one for books before. He thought stories and fables were just things to tell children before they went to bed. He’d seen the kids from the village, hurrying to that little house by the stream to sit and listen to tales and wonders. Foolish kids. They should be out working, doing, playing, being. Not stuck inside listening to yarns that only take place in the mind. What good could come of that?
But this book was different. This book showed him a way to be that was not fiction. These things he was reading told him how he could change his life for the better. How he could master the weather himself, make the wind blow the direction he wanted it to. To even stop death and bring the things he wanted back to life.
But there was a cost to be paid, like there always was.
He was smart enough to know a warning when he saw it, and the book was riddled with them. And he wasn’t foolish enough not to heed these warnings either. He practised in secret, squirreled away underground. Little things at first, then moving on to larger and more complicated ones. He left his body many times, if not his cave, and before long he was very knowledgeable about the ways of Lunamaji and where it all could take him.
The magic was old, and he’d found it hard to master it with his cumbersome closed off mind. His heart was not corrupt but shut down to a lot of ideas and things that at first made little sense to him. The nature of the magic was to do the impossible, and the gentlemen of the boxes was compounded by reason. He knew what was here though, a great store of energy that would help him change his circumstance. For though he had eked out a life underground, it was not really by his own choosing. If he could control and master the energy; then he knew his own destiny would be back in his own hands.
But the power that he craved at first, shifted and changed. In the beginning, he’d wanted to see if the magic worked, to see if reading something could arouse a change in the very makeup of the earth. To have a little power himself. But he soon learned, much to the cart seller’s warning, that it could consume and cause havoc. He could see how a life could slip away from him, if too caught up in the magic. He didn’t want that. He wasn’t an evil soul, merely bitter by the hand life had dealt him. If he could go back though.
So he had changed his mind, as so many do, and instead sought out the one thing he knew the book could help him with. Aside from stopping the damn snow.
And that one thing had fallen from the sky that very morning.
KNOCK THREE TIMES
The snow that had collected just above the window frame drifted down in a fine powder, dislodged by the loud knocking coming from the door. Inside, the lady and the girl looked over to where the banging was coming from. The knock was repeated, this time with more force.
“Stay here, and please; don’t say a word.” The lady said, and the girl nodded in reply, taking a sip from the glass; her throat changing colour as the liquid fell inside her like a fading rainbow. The lady ambled to the door and grabbed a walking stick she kept by the umbrella stand. She didn’t need the stick of course, her bones were weary, but her health was fine, she merely liked how it looked walking along in the snow sometimes; inspecting things with a gentle prod. Now, she held a tight hold on the top of the cane (shaped like a giant snow globe) and cautiously opened the door, catching the knocker mid-knock.
“Oh!” She said, a smile widening like that of the door. “Timothy, what brings you this way?”
She looked out into the snowy gloom; the disappearing light had blanketed the world in an encroaching grey, like soup lapping at a rim of a bowl. A small boy stood on her doorstep, his feet in wellington boots far too big for him. He was wrapped up against the storm, but his nose was as red as a holly berry.
“Oh, hey. Sorry, I didn’t think you could hear me, thought you might be sleeping.” Timothy shouted, compensating for the wind by yelling like only a child can. The lady chuckled.
“Well, if I were, I’m sure it would’ve woken me up. Anyway, come in come in.” She said, beckoning him inside out of the cold.
“Is Stacey here yet?” He asked, remaining on the doorstep.
“Stacey? Why would she be here?” She asked him, puzzled somewhat.
“Well, it’s Thursday. You said for us to come for the stories on Thursday, remember? I even brought some biscuits my mum made.” He replied, shaking a small tin he held in his hands, containing, now no doubt, shards of biscuits. “I just wanted to know if Stacey was here yet, if not I would go to her house now and walk with her.”
The lady could see the twinkle of opportunity in his eyes. Her mind flickered to her calendar and checked the date. Nope, he was a day early. Timothy was always overanxious. She chuckled a little and told him he’d gotten the wrong day. As his face fell, she turned quickly and took something out of the small drawer on the sideboard near her. She handed him a small purple glove; its index finger was slightly frayed with a long loose thread which looked like a long woollen nail.
“She left this here last week though, perhaps you might be so kind as to drop it by to her today.” She said. His eyes grew large as he took the little mitten, holding it like a small treasure. He set off straight away back down the little path calling out to her as he went.
“Thanks, see you tomorrow!”
The biscuits beyond repair now, flung this way and that in the little tin as he rounded the corner of her fence and disappeared up the lane. She stood and watched him go, enjoying the scene of the darkening light and the heavy snow which spread a happiness inside of her.
But then it stopped. Cut off quickly as she saw the shadows. They reached up and under the little fence she had at the bottom of her garden. Tall and thin wisps of dark, like the fingers of a demon. It all grew suddenly quiet as the wind dropped and the silence that accompanies snow descended.
She couldn’t see him, she only felt he was there. The presence. The energy she could normally feel bubbling way off over the woods but marked on every page of her treasured magic book. Like a compass it pointed the way to the light and dark, and she felt the shadows creeping nearer and nearer to her. She shut the door hastily, warding off the nefarious nature by her own incantation and signs that kept her little cottage safe.
She never saw the gentleman of the boxes, though she knew he was there. His little eyes peering at her from the trees as he skulked around to her backyard.
BLUEBERRY TART AND TEARS
“What’s wrong?” The girl asked, watching the lady step back inside and lock her door. She was muttering something under her breath when the girl asked again. “Are you okay?” Concern showing from a mask which beheld no emotion. It travelled in waves to the lady, she felt it in her bones. Looking over, she smiled back quickly, calmed by her presence.
“Nothing, I hope. We’re safe inside here my dear, I just felt some bad energy from outside just now, that’s all.” She said, putting the cane back to where she found it and coming back towards the fire. “I’ll let you know if it builds to anything we need to be alarmed by. But this little cottage can handle a lot thrown its way.” She came back over towards the fireplace, the flames roaring nicely still. “Why, you’ve drunk all your tea. That calls for more, and a little cake too I’d say.” She said, taking a little blueberry tart out of the tin she had brought in on the tea tray.
“Who was at the door?” The girl asked, curiously.
“That was a little rub of a boy called Timothy Sanderson. He came around today in the hope of tales and stories. But alas, one is being invented now as I sit here with you and might just be finished in time for him tomorrow when he comes back again….and gets the correct day.” She said, sneaking a blueberry tart for herself from the tin.
“I could feel his warmth for you, but also something else. Infatuation?” The girl asked. The lady couldn’t help but laugh at this. Bits of the cake spraying onto the copper coloured rug on the floor.
“Oh my, that would be his growing fascination with a little girl called Stacey Izzana. He really does have it bad. No, he sees me as the crazy old woman who tells stories and feeds the other children chocolates and biscuits when they should be eating fruit.” She said, eyeing up another cake in the small little tin.
“He seemed like a pure soul.” The girl said, tasting her own cake.
“Yes, they all are the ones that come here. Eager minds looking for adventure and intellect. These books fill them with both, and I’m happy to be the tool in which to help with that.” She leaned forward slightly, inching to the edge of her seat. “But you, you my dear are an Imamiahi, are you not? It is you that will bring us that adventure, and the change I’ve felt coming for some time.”
The girl finished her cake before replying, all the while looking deep into the soul of the lady before her. She knew where she was heading of course, before she even left Europa. She knew the journey would be the way it was and what type of soul who would greet her when she stepped out of her cocoon. Best laid plans. But the lady surprised her still. The house and the energy were not something she’d come across before. This woman only wanted to help. It was a selflessness that she had not come across in her previous encounters. She could read the makeup of another being like you would read the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. Formulating and registering the light levels that were contained within. But much like the box, it could not tell you the taste, the character or how it might make you feel. Inside the girl felt something she hadn’t felt before.
“Yes, I’ve been called that in the past. You are a kind person, I know that; I can feel it.” She said, blue tears leaving her eyes, falling upwards to the ceiling.
“This, this feels like home.”
WATCHERS IN THE WOODS
The little cottage by the stream was a lovely thing to behold. It filled every notion of quaint and picturesque, and with the white snow whipping around it and settling on its old oak windowsills and thatched roof, it may have seemed magic was its maker. But this was not the case. The lady of the jars put much time and effort keeping her little home pretty and practical. She tended the garden when she chose the spring seasons, and at the rear of the paddock she kept a giant domed greenhouse, full of orchids, dahlias, hibiscus and all manner of strange and unique plants. All kept under the huge dome, now this she had bewitched, repelled the snow and kept the natural light shining in, bathing the plants with the life-giving ultraviolet rays.
Aesthetic wise, her house was all her own doing. But for the maintenance and security, the magic she knew dripped through every stone and brick. She was not against a bit of hard work, and she had known years of toil and trauma as much as the next person. She did use her magic to keep the house dust free (though she had some jars filled with dust that she tainted different colours, shaking them and watching the motes shimmer in the coloured light), and a little help with the laundry and such; was merely a perk of knowing the inner workings of such deep and sacred magic. She also held spells and incantations over her little abode which kept it safe and secure; warding off bad spirits and deeds which promised to slither in with the shadows. But inside she was safe, and she knew it.
Outside, creeping around the back and down towards the stream, the gentleman of the boxes pushed through the huge snow drifts that had piled up by the hedgerow. He knew the place was safe for her, he knew he would have a battle on his hands if he were to challenge anything here against the lady of the jars. And he didn’t want to do that now, or perhaps anytime.
A part of him knew something must be done, but for now his curious mind and eyes were searching the backyard for it. The place where she had landed. It had already been covered in so much snow that the scorched outline in the ground would be, to an average eye, hard to see. But with a magical twinkle that now twirled in his own lenses, he could see, even feel the place where heaven and earth collided.
He moved slowly, bending down every few steps to pick up a little piece. Digging his fingers into the white covering and extracting the soil, droplets of blue that permeated the thick black earth. They looked like tiny sapphires speckled in the ground, the residue from the cocoon craft that had landed not long ago. He knew that only a grain of this would be precious to him, to fill only one of his little matchboxes would give him foresight and energy, to be able to cancel out the retched snow and bring back the blaze of the summer sun.
He collected what he could, searching for the large chunks of matter that sparkled abnormally in the dead snowy light. Too concerned about his diamonds in the dirt, he did not notice the others. The eyes that had appeared in the woods all around him. For it was not just the gentlemen of the boxes who longed for the new gift from the stars, but others as well.
They watched him. His dominant gait slinking abnormally along the path towards the cottage. He moved like a shadow, whereas they moved like ghosts. Only noticeable if they wished to be seen. Spectres of the forest for now as they hid their figures and their intent. Woken from their slumber by the power dwelling now in the cottage by the stream, it had cracked open their hibernation and murmured within their DNA. They quickly gathered, shaking off the sleep of a thousand years and rattling like old bones in the clearing.
Collecting themselves and moving on mass to the throb of the heart that was warming itself by the fire, sipping tea and eating blueberry tarts. They watched, their eyes translucent like the stream that ran behind the cottage, following the shadowed man collecting the fallen shards of space, pocketing them in the deep caverns of his coat. They watched, they whispered, then vanished into the ground.
“And it is your home, as long as you want it to be. I know you mean in the bigger picture, the bigger sphere of this planet, this space in time. But my home, my little life, is here for you if you need it. I want to help you, and I know why you must be here. Please, let me be the guide for you in this place.” The lady of the jars said, her heart shifting inside.
“You know why I am here then?” The girl asked her.
“Yes, I know. It’s been foretold in a way. Well, I’ve read about it and I feel it within me. I’ve been feeling it for a while now, something on the horizon about to appear. Like a dream where I reach out and grab something like a rainbow, beautiful, but untouchable.” She added.
“I understand. I would like for you to help; I know this might be hard for you though.”
“It is time, I think. Locked away in my little cottage, doing good but not seeing the wider world. It is time for me, I think. So let’s get started. You need some decent clothes, and I need my book.” She said, heaving herself up out of the seat, quickly snatching up a stray blueberry from the tin and throwing it into the air, catching it in her mouth. “Time waits for no Europan!”
ORIGINS WITH ORANGES
To an untrained eye, the book was nothing special. It did not scream magic or invitations to thumb its precious pages. It actually went out of its way to look ordinary. Tea stains and scuffed leather, what looked like dust was really tiny particles of used magic covering the book, misleading vestiges of wonder. She kept her magic bible on the sideboard in her kitchen, next to the wooden spoons and ladles. She usually had a bowl of oranges nestled on top, keeping the vast pages pressed down and crisp, the smell of citrus in the air. A quick glance at the book would not rouse a curious mind, yet within the pressed bits of trees held such secrets and magic; it was practically priceless.
Although she may have handled the book in a casual way, the lady of the jars was very careful and appreciative of it. She did not take her powers for granted, and she knew that the book and she were intertwined on a fatalistic level. Over time, notes and incantations had been scribbled on the pages, adding a depth and personal quality to the spells.
They moved into the kitchen, the girl now dressed in trousers and a shirt with a huge pullover jumper keeping her warm. The cable knit had been something the lady had whipped up last year, enthusiastically knitting away with love and excitement and creating something which practically trailed the floor. Of course, there were snowflakes on the pattern. The girl pushed up the sleeves and followed behind her towards the table which sat by the south facing window, looking out down towards the stream. Snow covered the ledge, but in the misty fog of the flurry you could make out the shapes of the world moving about in their winter havoc.
The lady dropped the teacups in the sink and went over to her book, picking up an orange with her and heading over to the table. She motioned for the girl to sit down, offering her the fruit while she took her own seat and flicked open the pages. The smell of the paper was enticing, spices and whiffs of exotic breezes drifted from the spine. She scanned the contents, gazing as if for the first time upon the words.
“Imamiahi….My, they are rare aren’t they. I know my grandmother spoke of one in her life. That was around the time of the great enlightenment of course. Makes sense. How much darker things have gotten since? My my. People never learn I’m afraid.” The lady chatted, scanning the pages for what she was looking for. The girl watched her, rolling the orange back and forth on the oak table between her small hands.
“How much do you know of this then?” The girl asked.
“Oh, a little here and there. I know you don’t view this process as a death, or an ending.” The lady did not see the girl flinch.
“No, we do not die in that sense.” The girl spoke, almost as if frightened of the word death. The rolling of the orange had stopped.
“No, death is not the end, I believe that also; and I know what you’re here for is not to die; but to become. More like a phoenix. Are you familiar with that?” The lady asked, kindly.
“Yes, very much so. I know of this bird. We have creatures on Europa that dwell in the ice caverns. They are a little like the birds on this planet, except their bodies are frozen vapour that move in orbs which grow. Each year they rise up out of the tunnels and caves to the warmer temperatures where the layers of vapour explode, reducing them down to their original forms. The vapour allows us to breathe, it’s the cosmic breath of the planet under the ice.”
“Amazing! I always wondered how life operates on the other worlds. You must be at home her with all the snow then?” The lady asked, expectantly.
“Yes, it reminds me a lot of what I do miss.” She said, adding, “But there is a lot to see here too. You for one. I know not everyone is like you. I’ve seen a lot of darkness here before. I only feel light here with you.”
“This world is everything, the light and the dark and the pulls of the in-between. There are good people who make bad choices, and there are bad people waiting to make the right ones. No one is fully lost or beyond change.” She suddenly made a little ‘Yelp’ which made the girl jump slightly.
“…Ah here it is, Imamiahi!” She said, excitedly, before reading out the passage:
‘Imamiahi are very sacred beings. Travelling across the skies to dwell on earth. Sometimes their trips can be a time and age, others will be gone in a blink of an eye. The Imamiahi will pick the barer, they will travel from the edges of space to come to our material level and offer us the most wonderful gift. Though their intentions will at times be complicated, they are very empathetic and feed off the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the barer they have chosen. Be mindful, your consciousness will not only affect the Imamiahi, but the environment around you with them.
Their purpose here is always the same, to shed a layer of themselves or part of their celestial DNA that has ceased to operate to any purpose. They are well meaning, and through their own transformation, they impact those here on earth. The shedding of the layer forces time to flux, for deeds to be undone that were negative. A deep- clean of souls in order to go on with a clearer mind for change. For this to occur, certain practises must take place, and must be in place for it to happen…
The lady lifted the page briefly to see what was listed on the next.
“There’s a note here.” the lady said, before reading out:
‘Though the Imamiahi will have a choice to decide when this is all to take place, certain things can propel the process to be forced or demanded. This can stem from fear, threat, duress or the instant salvation. In the worst case, this will take place to reduce everything back to the beginning. A time explosion.
As barer, you are the guardian as well as the watcher.
The lady thought on this a second or two, before smiling at the girl.
“Well, prepare for the worst but hope for the best I say. Let’s see what we need to do then. I hope a good ole conjuring is needed. It’s been a while since I invoked some of the deep earthy magic.” She said, licking the lips in her mind to the thought of something exciting.
The girl smiled back appreciatively, knowing deep inside she had chosen the right barer for her. She knew she hadn’t told her everything; the book itself said some Imamiahi would have complicated agendas; and hers were a little more than unusual. But she would tell her when the time was right. She looked out of the window, watching the snow tumbling down, the tufts of white resting momentarily on the glass before bleeding into the drifts already there. She watched the world there in that little cottage and lifted the orange to her mouth and bit into it like an apple.
SUNSHINE AND SADNESS
The sunshine beat down, making the dead still air hum like static. Nothing moved. Nothing stirred. The whole forest and world rested in the maddening heat of the day. She looked up into the sky where this giant tangerine sphere blazed away, and she mopped her brow. She was hot and sweaty. Moving slowly back towards the sad little row of town houses where she called home. She heaved the panel of wood carefully and painfully slow to her house; the middle one in the row. The brightest of all the little homes, its white paint glistening in the hot sun. She thought of her house as the last good tooth in a rotting mouth. Rubbish and filth marked the other buildings, faulted by the need for their owners to work long hours just to survive rather than to maintain a nice home.
But she did, and she worked harder than any.
She heaved the panel finally in through her door, propping it up for now in the hallway. She had gotten up early that day, putting her hours in early at the little shop in town where she worked, so she could leave before five to get to the wood shop before it shut. She knew the owner well enough, and knew he never did business out of hours. And she wanted the wood today. She wanted to fix the door tonight, while she knew he would be out.
As she caught her breath in her little hallway, she sighed at the cliché of her life so far.
Married when she was just seventeen, to someone she never loved. Stuck, out of circumstance, to the man and the place for fear of having to start over with nothing. The money her parents had given her was swallowed up before she had even been married a year. Drinking and gambling away her inheritance it seemed was his favourite past time. And she let him; she knew she was indeed part of the problem. She allowed him to drink and stay out because it meant he wasn’t there, at home with her. Punching the walls and putting her down. Complaining and demanding things and putting his foot through the back door.
She went now for a glass of water, fanning her arms to cool them down as best she could as she made her way to the tiny kitchen. Her house was cool, she made it that way the best she could, but in doing so it was dark and cave like, blocking out the scorching sunlight wherever she could. Their town: plagued by tropical heat and an unrelenting sunshine that cooked and boiled everything beneath it, was something she had come to despise. She drank from a glass, looking now at the gaping hole in the door panel.
An easy fix and done before. This time she had made sure to get stronger wood, something that would so easily be destroyed. But something had been different this time. A part of her heart had splintered and snared like the bits of wood that stuck out now like vicious thin teeth. Her heart, hardened over the years and placed under a cloud of criticisms and chaos, surprised her at making her feel something. Something where everything she thought was numb.
But what was it; anger, remorse?
She wasn’t too sure. Suffering so long in the dark, it’s painful to see the light after so long. She mistook the determination for her usual war-time mentality of getting things done, carrying on and making things right. Getting the wood panel for the door, fixing it so there was no longer the yawning reminder of the open wound that was her life. Letting the dank air in. Letting the light in.
Something within was screaming. Something determined to be heard and acted upon.
She filled her glass again from the tap, drinking down the cool water. Replenishing her fluids that had escaped in her long hike from the wood-shop, and the internal steam engine that was slowly gathering force to implore her to act.
And then she heard the door go.
The front door slammed shut, not caught in any breeze that the deadened air around could muster. He was home early. Must have been a bad day. She heard the yelling in the hall, incoherent cries like the nightjars she passed on her way to work, gathering and chorusing in the trees above. Soon he was there in front of her, gesturing to the hallway, no doubt the wood panel caught in his way. He looked hot and red, his skin crumpled and dirty; burnt by the sun after the long day in the fields and the alcohol that dehydrated him. His hollowed cheeks, gaunt by a wicked life and bad teeth, threw shadows on his face making him look like an angry red skeleton fresh from the grave. He banged and blamed, flailing his arms around. Knocking things off the kitchen shelves. She would have to fix things, she always did. Clearing up his mess while he slept off his mood.
She ducked more than once, mindful not to be the target of his rage and waited for the storm to die. But she did something then she had never done before. The steam engine in her had reached its peak and burst, emptying out years of frustration and hatred in a single event. She launched the glass she held in her hand out into the air, and watched it sail over the kitchen and smash on the stone wall. She screamed loudly, like one would into a pillow, so loud it sounded like an air raid siren. Momentarily it confused him, like some animal. He stopped dead, unsure of what was happening. She was usually so passive. So subservient. Afraid to rock the boat which would lead her to drown in a deep sea of chaos.
But the mouse had roared.
He acted fast, waiting for her screaming to subside. The chemicals inside kicking into gear to save his self-preservation of a life he had constructed. A life where he was the boss. He grabbed her roughly by the hair, spinning her around and pulling her backwards. He wasn’t a big man, or even strong. But fuelled by fury and drink, he handled her like that of a ragdoll, pulling her free of the safety of her little home. Their little home.
Kicking free the remains of the broken door, and out into the scorching heat. Though the day was heavy, the sun drew up on them, an oppressive spectator in the unfolding drama. She didn’t cry out, too shocked and stunned into what was occurring. She was dragged out to the centre of the garden they had, and roughly shoved into the middle, finally free of his hands from her hair. He grabbed a chair that was propped up by the fence, unfolding the deckchair style and placing it on the grass that had shrivelled into a horrible rug of dirt and dry leaves.
He pushed her into the seat. The silence signalling, she had gone too far with the glass. Too far, and too brave to have even begun a journey on him. She sat, motionless; waiting and watching to what was to happen. She watched him find some garden trellis string, some she had bought last year to help keep the cucumber plants steady and vertical.
He was quick tying her to the chair, binding her hands and then her legs to it. She began to protest, pleading half-heartedly that she wouldn’t do it again. A lie, she knew she would. She knew then that if there were ever a next time, she would smash the glass on his skull and be rid of him forever. But he was fast, and tied a rag in and around her mouth, keeping it in place with the string. The string, which she felt now digging into her wrists.
When he was done, without a word, he stood back and quickly went back inside. She was left there, in the garden with the sun burning down on her, tied to the lawn chair. But his return was swift and carrying a bag of rubbish which he emptied all around and over her. Foul bits of food and muck covered her, lapped at her feet like a garbage tide. He returned two more times, fresh trash spirited from their neighbour’s houses, to be emptied on and around her. Crowning her as the queen of this new tragic kingdom. He threw the last empty bag away and came close, his eyes piercing hers as he bent low. Grabbing her cheeks between his fingers, pressing his dirty nails into her skin, he hissed at her.
“If you ever do that again, I will kill you.”
And he released his grip and stalked back inside the house. A diminishing monster, back into the depths.
The humiliation was as bad as the smell, but it was the flies and the sun which were the real torture. She was out there hours, cooking in a putrid heap as the flies nibbled and pecked at her like tiny vicious birds. The sun radiated an intensity that nearly caused her to faint, pushing down like the fiery hand of god.
But she survived.
Woken, out of the delirious dreamscape her survival mind had slipped her into reality, by a bucket of cold water thrown over her once the sun had set. He loosened her from the chair, not saying a word. Not able to look her in the eye. Before disappearing out, off to drink and spend more money.
In the aftermath, she collected herself best she could. She cleaned herself off and tidied the garden to keep the rats from overrunning the place. Despite her nausea, she had some bread to fend off the intense hunger and disgust that brewed and bubbled in her stomach. And then she went to her bedroom and began to pack. She did not want revenge, no good could come of that. But something had snapped within her like a broken twine around the wildflower feelings she had kept tightly bound. The spun sugar strand of patience had shattered.
She collected only what she needed, throwing it all into a bag and bringing the walls down to this part of her life. She cleared out the little box under the floorboards where he kept some money, the one he thought she didn’t know about. She put it back, empty, sealing the box to a grave of loneliness. She stripped the house of her, of the things she needed to go on with. Cutting the cord to an unhappy life there. She stood in the front room, wondering if all her life could really lie crumpled and stuffed in the small bag she held in her hand. And then she saw it, the snow globe up on the shelf.
Twinkling away through the dust at the higher realms of display. She had bought it herself, years ago. A winter market in one of the neighbouring towns had brought it into her life. She had been transfixed with the winter scene at the time, like bubbles of snow dancing in a small sea of dust in the wind. It was small, no bigger than her fist. And she had remembered placing it up on the higher shelf to give it a better chance in her life there, out of the danger zone of fists and fits.
She took it down now, unsettling the snow that had gathered in the bottom like pebbles in an aquarium. She couldn’t help herself, she shook it, making it and herself one with the disjointed feeling of a world in flux. How long she stood there, she didn’t know. No happy memories were there to be collected. Only dark shadows of the past that she wanted to put into the grave.
And then, she left.
The rest was a blur. She left the house, the street and the town. Traveling far on the little she allowed herself to spend. Finally settling in the little cottage that she lives in now, though much different from how it was when she arrived. Years of hard work had made it her home where now, she was, currently entertaining the girl from Europa. Unknowing, in part, of the little eyes who watched it all unfold, and the man of the boxes who skulked around her house.
You may be asking yourself why she never used magic to save herself from a life so fraught at the beginning. Or why she never turned her husband fittingly to a bug to squash underfoot. That too is an interesting story. For you see, once she was married, she was taken away from her family and where she had grown up. The choking rights of marriage had labelled her practically property, and her husband had concluded that she needn’t have many things in their new home. His own were suffice. What her family didn’t know, and neither did she until later once she had left, was that he had used a bit of magic himself in the first place; to marry the lady of the jars who, at the time, was just the girl with the glass like beauty.
This may sound all too convenient and easily explained away, but yes; sometimes life is that clichéd. He hoodwinked them all, sloppily as it turned out in the end. He had struck lucky one-night gambling and fretting away money that wasn’t his own. With a roll of unforeseen luck, he had acquired what he needed to enchant her and blanket them all with deception. It wore off of course, but by then she was cut off from her family and from the aged magic her own mother knew and possessed, which could’ve helped.
Things are sometimes hidden deep, before being rediscovered. Her mind had silenced all she had learned from her book growing up; and that’s the thing about the book itself, it needs to be with the owner. It needs to have a connection in order to tap that power and manifest. More importantly, it needs to come from a place of positivity. A submissive negative mind is not the soil in which miracles will grow.
But magic, and good magic, finds a way. Which is why the book came to her; posted by her mother when she knew she was safe and free. Knowing the how, or the why or the ways this magic helped find its way back to her, is inconsequential. Knowing why the sun sets and rises, won’t stop it doing so each day. What we do know is that once she was in possession again to such wonders, she did all she could to block out the sickening heat that reminded her of that horrible day. The magic she used for good, and to make an amends for the lost time where she was impotent of power which needed to breathe and thrive. Which is why it snows constantly there, and why she always feels happier cold and by herself rather than hot and suffering, surrounded by those flies.
FISHING FOR LIGHT
It was not the nature of the lady of the jars to be idle. Though she lived a somewhat relaxed life, she was never one to shy away from work. Though her magical abilities helped in many ways, she believed hard work and action were the routes to get things done. She respected the powers that had come alive within, the knowledge that had been entrusted with her. Which is why she was keen to spring to action in helping the girl who had fallen from the stars.
There in her small kitchen, she watched as the girl curiously looked over her book of magic, wondering what they could both share with one another before the end. For she knew an end was coming, and every end has a start.
“Right, I think we’re going to need a little bit of help.” She said, looking deep into the azure wells that seemed etched with blue veins, the lamp light catching her eyes in a hauntingly special way.
“What do you mean?” The girl asked, no fright or reservation gave way in her voice. Just curiosity.
“Well, though we are protected here in my little cottage; and the snow will offer us more protection, there are things outside that I’ve begun to notice that might try and make things a little tricky for us.” The lady said, looking out the windows into the darkened grey beyond.
“Where are we going then?” The girl asked, holding her wrist the lady noticed. Her thumb on her skin and the fingers fanned out underneath as if she were taking her pulse. The lady hesitated.
“Do you sense them too?” The lady asked suddenly. The girl blushed purple, or seemed to blush, for she was actually in the process of travelling beyond the walls of the cottage. Projecting a version of herself outside to look around.
“I see a man, and things I do not know of.” The girl replied, the colour draining now away from her face.
The lady sighed slightly.
“He will never learn I fear.” She said, going over to the window to take a look for herself. But the snow was thick and heavy, and obscured much of her view. She turned back to the girl. “We need to go to a place where the energy centres collide. We need to conjure something which is much beyond what I can store in a little jar. It’s a place not far, at the centre of the forest. There is a clearing with huge trees reaching up to the sky encircling it. You will feel it before you see it. It’s a very special place but I’m afraid it does not hold the type of protection my cottage has. This energy, this magic is not owned by anyone. It’s powerful and magnificent. Like the electricity that runs in the big cities. Anyone can tap into it. We can light a room or power a bomb, it’s how we use it that matters.” The lady said, pushing the rim of her glasses back up her nose.
The girl looked on, thinking suddenly of her home planet Europa. Where the ice coral was used to power and give life to the subterranean cities. This power was never abused but cherished; a blessing that had come to them. And then she remembered the coral she had taken the day she left. That which she didn’t need but had spirited away with her. Why she had, she still was unsure of. Something within her had told her to. The same conflicting voices that sometimes forced her to act in ways she knew were different from everyone else.
“Are you okay?” The lady asked. Noticing how the patterns on her skin had changed suddenly, taking on a metallic colouring, covering the skin in an almost armoury sheath.
“Yes, I’m fine honestly. Sorry, I was thinking about something.” She paused, as if still elsewhere, then asked. “This place we need to go to, is it far?”
The lady watched as the metallic colours shimmered away, and the aqua blue hues began to dance and sway once more. She was concerned, it was the first moment she had seen as if the girl was frightened.
“No, it isn’t far really. But we will need some help to get there, and to shake off that man who is outside and who you have now seen. He’s the gentlemen of the boxes and he thinks you are here to help him with something.” She said.
“Can I help him?” The girl asked.
“Yes, you can. But you shouldn’t my dear. For what he wants, helps no-one but himself. Before this is over, I think he will learn perhaps the biggest lesson. For wheels are in motion now that cannot be stopped, even if the destination is still unknown.” She replied, going now to the cupboards in her pantry.
“Oh, I see. It’s funny how we slide so precariously on destiny’s string.” The girl said. The lady turned and smiled at her.
“Indeed, destiny brought you here. And its destiny that we can still have a hand in. Come, there are things to be done.” She said, grabbing a bag that was tucked away under one of the chairs. “We need a few things, but I must quickly go and wake Ezra first.”
The lady of the jars opened her front door, pushing aside the drifts of snow which had built up during the day. Out of habit, she kicked off the snow which had collected over her doormat, revealing a ‘Welcome’ that had been hidden by the snow which the overhang had failed to protect from. Stepping outside, she got a greater sense of what was now out here. She had known the gentlemen of the boxes was around, she had sensed him earlier. But now she felt something else, and she reached quickly into her pocket and took out two coloured vials.
They glowed there in her hand and in the dark. She took the red one and popped the stopper out with her thumb. The contents rushed upward and dispersed into a small cloud in front of her. In the blink of an eye the red vapour sped away and around the house. It collected back in front of her and she could see then in the smoke what it was. They had left their mark, staining the ground and the space where they had been.
“Dimian” She said, her breath dispersing the red cloud in front of her which drifted quickly up into the sky, lost suddenly in the snow which continued to fall. Dimian were old, ancient creatures which dwelled in the ground. They weren’t necessarily bad creatures, just all consuming. They gobbled and swallowed all the power they needed for their epoch slumbers, consuming vast amounts of previous ancient magic to keep themselves sustained. They did not discriminate on who or what they devoured.
The Lady of the jars had her own protections against these creatures, but the sheer number of what she had seen in the cloud gave her pause for thought. Clearly the landing of the girl, and her cosmic concentration had woken them, fuelled them to seek out this treasure trove of power. She would have to be careful.
Inside the cottage the girl went about collecting the items the lady had asked for and adding further layers to her clothes in preparation for their journey. The lady now walked swiftly to the middle of her garden and took the other vial she had in her hand. This one glowed strong with a yoke yellow light. She reached a mound in the middle where a small statue of a boy stood, a fishing rod holding up a huge lantern that flickered out a warming flame in the dark. This was one of her protective elements to her cottage.
The boy stood as a guardian, casting his light and power around her little home. But he could also do more than that. She cracked the vial over his head, sending the snow that had collected there up into the air like yellow dust. The vial smashed, but like that of an egg, the yellow contents dripping down his head and covered his body. With a final flash of light, the stone broke away and the boy came to life.
“Ezra, good to see you.” The lady said, as the boy swung the lantern on the fishing pole over her head.
“Brrrrr, it’s always so cold! Don’t you ever have a taste for warmer climates?” The boy stuttered out in the cold air.
The lady laughed. “Well, you are only wearing pyjamas. But you know me…” She said, a twinkle in her eye.
“That I do.” Ezra said, smiling a little and looking around. “Which usually means there’s a perilous task for me, right?” He said.
“Got it in one, but this time there is a damsel in distress.” She said.
“Really. Well, I would have put you more in the spinster in danger category myself.” Ezra said, putting the fishing pole under his arms so he could rub his hands together.
“You know, I could move for a more Grecian theme to your statured state, sans pyjamas!” She said, mockingly. Ezra looked around into the billowing snow.
“Alright, alright. Who needs saving this time?” He asked.
“Come, you can meet her and then I’ll show you what we need to do.” She said, taking the fishing pole from him and opened the little door on the lantern. She tipped out a little flame which she hurriedly captured in a bottle she retrieved from her pocket. And placed it on the ground where Ezra had stood just before. It glowed in the dark and gave a warmth which melted the snow slightly around it, before illuminating all around. A sparkling amber jewel in a sea of white.
The beam of golden light illuminated the front of the cottage. He saw it like a rising sun, casting deep shadows now over the backyard and the wreckage. His pockets were full, and his hands were numb. “Curse this coldness” He muttered, the snow continuing to fall. The light now snaked around the side of the building like a moving body, banishing the dark and the evil shadows. It crept closer and closer to him. He naturally began to edge backwards, as if a creeping hand of light was reaching for him, threatening to cast him into the open and explain himself. He backed up more and more before falling backwards into a huge snow drift.
The cold condensed snow stung his face and he scrambled to be free, like a cat stuck in a bag. “Curse you and your snow!” He spat towards the house. He turned hastily then and sped off into the woods. His pockets heaving and weighted down as if he carried gold, for the sapphire tears of the girl’s cocoon were heavy and clung to him like weights of guilt.
Ezra made his way quickly to the fire that still roared away in her little living room. Strong white and blue flames danced in the grate and he rubbed his hands hastily to warm himself. The girl watched him from the stairs, the small little boy in his pyjamas and his feet covered in snow.
“Next time, I’m wearing the coat before you freeze me back!” He grumbled. The lady hovered in the doorway smiling, the light from the flame in the jar dappled her face bringing forth a deeper warmth. Ezra concentrated on the warm fire. “So, you’re what all the fuss is about huh?” He said, not looking away from the fire. Theatrically shivering away. She was surprised he’d seen her but answered swiftly.
“I’m sorry for your coldness, I can help if you like.” She said, descending the little stairs and bringing forth a huge overcoat. Her skin shimmered in the light of the flames, and the closer she got it seemed to cascade away in huge chunks, repairing back like a tide of cells in different colours.
“Don’t go spoiling him now.” The lady said, going over quickly to the sideboard on the other side of the room. “A little cold never hurt anyone.”
“Thank you, glad someone has some manners.” He said, turning to the girl and taking the coat. He slipped it on and stuck out his hand. “I’m Ezra.” He said. She looked at his extended little hand curiously. He waved it a little impatiently.
“Nice to meet you Ezra.” She said, swooping down upon him and giving him a hug. This was unusual for both of them, but in the moment, it seemed like the better thing to do. Ezra was warmed further by her touch, and she was able to dive into his life in that short moment. She saw oceans of adventure and wonder, and little pools of sadness too.
“Well, you are the damsel after all. Even if you are much larger than usual. I suppose it befalls me to save you, and the old crone over there.” He said, stamping his feet now by the fire. The lady ignored him.
“Thank you.” The girl said, bowing humorously.
“My name is many things, but P’erl is one I wish for you to have.” The girl said, touching her heart with her forefingers and then touching his forehead. He smiled at this graceful and generous act.
“And you’ve come from the stars?” He asked. She nodded, smiling.
“Very well.” He said, as if used to the unexpected. “So, what is all the fuss?” He asked, turning to the lady, warmed now and eager to get started.
The lady of the jars was fumbling in the sideboard, reaching to the back of the cupboard now. She stuck her tongue out in an extended effort to stretch and reach into the very heart of the wooden beast.
“Well, we have to make our way to the Mondol stone. This is where the energy in this area pools and the magic is deep and expansive. You my dear will begin to change the closer we get,” She said, looking to the girl. “Layers will begin to lift, and meanings will come forth. You will evolve and reveal. Once there, I shall perform a rite of sorts, and if all goes to plan; what is meant to be, will be unleashed.”
“What do you mean, what’s meant to be? And that doesn’t sound too difficult, a quick trip in through the woods. Why do you need me?” Ezra argued, half-jokingly.
“Well, excuse me mister but I’ve never done this before you know.” The lady snapped, bumping her head on the cupboard and suddenly succeeding in her retrieval of a small box from within. “I’m not too sure what is to happen. I’ve only read about this in the book.”
“Well, that’s helpful.” He said. The girl laughed; she could see the ease between the two of them. She didn’t know it then, but Ezra had once come from the lady. A manifestation of a small part of her that she had conjured into being. The arguing, questioning side of her youth that was a source of strength and safety.
The Lady frowned.
“It will be some opening of portals and minds, a great wash over the land that will lift us all to new heights and banish that darkness. It will also bring forth her true purpose.” The lady said, peering now into the small box before putting it into the bag she had over her shoulder.
“In other words, you haven’t got a clue, but it’s something to be getting on with.” Ezra said, walking over to the door where a row of boots and shoes stood. “Sounds like a wild goose chase to me.” He picked up the brown hiking boots and begun to put them on.
The lady ignored him and bustled about the room putting things into her bag. The girl followed Ezra and chose a pair of boots also. She hadn’t need for them, but if she was here to explore and try different things, she could start by wearing shoes for the first time.
“Dimian.” The lady suddenly said.
Ezra looked over to her.
“Not them again.” He said, his brow furrowing.
“And the gentleman of the boxes.” She added.
“That old goat, what’s he up to?” Ezra asked.
“And I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, but we are also going to have to hurry.”
“Hmmm, because two challenges weren’t enough. Why the haste?”
The lady stopped and looked at them by the door, dressed now and ready to leave.
“Because, in two moons from now; I will have died”.
She had been young, and younger still in her father’s eyes. She had longed for the journey, the trip off of their moon if only for one cycle. Nobody her own age travelled off the moon, that she knew of anyway, and many of them wouldn’t even want to. But her father was who he was, and as such, gave their family certain privileges. She had longed to travel ever since she could remember. Her father’s contraptions lying around had given her the peak into the rest of the galaxy, pulling back the black curtain of space to a forming mind. Oh, such wonders she had seen through those tinkering mechanisms, and some things so close to her. She saw the treasure box of beauty through those glass eyes, the flaming ruby of Mars; the emerald sapphire that was Earth. Earth held a special place in her heart, it was where she knew her mother had gone. A place that she had not returned from.
Her father was visiting nearby Ganymede, which for Europan’s they called L’ochn. It was to be a quick trip, it being so close helped for swift passage to and from. The brewing sea at the centre of the moon housed one of the major cities in their region, and the inhabitants were known as being a welcoming group. Diplomacy aside, the trip was one her father always looked forward to, due to the hospitality that could always be expected. Three shinos, that’s all it took to get there. A blink of an eye really. No need for long distance cocoons that keep them tight and safe. They shinnod down, using vibration waves, into the vast city that stretched high into the inside of the planet, like the remains of an eaten apple.
The lofty parts looked out over the turbulent ice sea which raged and howled to its own delight. Much like their own city, L’ochn was a brilliantly white city, its walls and surfaces gleaming like a polished tooth. Parts of the city structure were transparent where the waters ran through like a living creature. It was a beautiful place and offered her a sense of calm and loveliness that had perhaps been absent for too long.
He of course would stay in the ambassador house, her father usually enjoyed royal like comforts on his diplomatic trips. And while he was away, P’erl was afforded the luxury of freedom. To venture to the other side of the moon if she wanted, or even down deeper into the ice tunnels which held mysteries and fossilized bones of creatures many knew not what of. Though left to herself, at home she was only alone in her own quarters; the palatial residence required many to help run it efficiently. Alone in her room, she found time to rest and sleep.
‘P’erl’ came the voice. Softly, like a snowflake landing on her ear. Her eyes were closed still, she felt the webbing around her body, keeping her in place. She was hesitant to open them, such dreams she’d had, and they were in danger of slipping away if she opened her eyes. It was so rare for her to sleep, and when she did, the night flashes came, robbing her of any peace. She was unusual for her kind. The rest of Europa never had dreams, never suffered the nightmares of other worlds parade across her mind like she did. Calling out in despair and anger. She’d learned not to sleep. She had learned a lot just to live.
It came again ‘P’erl’, a little stronger, this time the other side of her head. Her eyes flickered apart and scanned, she found no-one there. Her room lay beneath her empty and quiet. She hung up in the rafters, encased in the white webbing that held sleep, and dreamless sleeps for everyone but her. She knew the voice now; she had known it before. Her inner self telling her, it was time to go. The voice, tinged with that of her mother’s, whispering that now was the time.
She had made her plan quickly and quietly. She had read her mother’s journals, recorded tablets that were kept in their library. She had discovered the need in the blood they shared to explore, to grow and to see. Her mother had been quite open about the stages of her life, and how towards the transition, it was not seen as departure, but of a rebirthing into something else. Like a butterfly leaving a cocoon.
P’erl knew her father would understand, but she knew also that loss and sadness would wash into those parts of him that loved her. Her time had come to go to Earth, to set off and shed what had begun to stick too cumbersomely to her as the year cycles had rotated. She needed to change, to become what she wanted to be. Not held within the ice cage of necessity. What would happen, she was unsure of, but her mother’s hand seemed to be guiding her, telling her it was okay. Her father would understand, it had happened to her mother also. This calling from beyond.
In space, we dream. And indeed, P’erl had seen such vision as her transport shot through the blankness of the galaxy. Visions of her mother and father, voices from a new world that sung softly in her mind. She was being pulled by a need to change, not just herself, but others too. That long burning desire to alter other lives, not just her own was giving the weight it needed to grow into something. Her departure had begun a chain of magic events which, she hoped, would conclude with a changing of self into something beyond what she could limitedly comprehend, and to perhaps save a number of others who she’d never even met; but knew were on the brink of something terrible.
ADVENTURE WITH SWIFTNESS
They set off in haste and excitement, the little band of new friends and old souls. What the lady of the jars had said about dying had stunned them, but she had refused to explain further. P’erl, naturally, was not used to earth’s customs regarding inquiry, and Ezra had not pushed the point. It was as if a part of him knew what she meant, but there was no sadness or sorrow, merely passive understanding. The girl from Europa knew of death and ascendence. Back on her planet passing was not the same as it was on Earth. When people moved on to the next stage, their energy was condensed into a small ball; the body reduced down to a spherical composition of life. These balls were then placed into ‘wattlers’, huge ice ducts that looked like frozen organ pipes which descended deep into the moon. These would then be absorbed by the giant machine of their ‘god’, the churning mantle of their lives, regurgitating new souls out into the world. All the energy that would ever be existed there, and nothing really died, it was processed and recycled over and over. The Europans believed that the soul moved into a different space, above their moonly material realm, and that the energy left began another life.
P’erl knew that a similar process happened all over the cosmos, though different entities practised different rituals around death. She knew the lady of the jars would pass in a similar way, and she knew that this was a stage, and was comforted really by the fact that she knew when she was going. Many did not.
The Lady of the jars did not wish to discuss her death, for though she knew it was all a part of her process, the manner in which she were to go had always been foretold as being painful; and her visions recently had not been clear. But she believed this was her fate, and the girl had come for this reason. She was saddened by it, as there was much she still wished to do in her life, but she understood that these things were destined.
They took the path leading away from her little cottage, trudging through the snow and the wind which was slowly dying down. Before leaving, and while the others put together little bundles of clothes and provisions, the lady had tempered the weather slightly, aiding their journey but also masking their intent to those who were to follow. For to follow them she knew both the Dimian and the gentleman of the boxes intended to, and away from the protection of her house she knew they were more vulnerable. She had some tricks up her sleeves of course, but it was best to be prepared, and swift as they could be though the Mondol stone was not close.
The path took them deeper into the woods, the silence of the snow and the encroaching trees made light scarcer. The trees seemed to be bunching closer together the deeper they went, as if looking for woody comfort in the cold darkness they created. The lady led the way, the top of her cane glowing in a luminous bluey white light that reflected off the snow below and all around. They moved through like little characters atop a Christmas cake, the path digging deep into the ground below them that seemed undisturbed. She knew the areas all around better than many, she knew the tracks and the concentration of the animals in certain parts. And she knew where the darker energies concentrated, these were the areas where the animals themselves would not venture.
“You know, with all your hot air about being such a great magic caster; is there no way you could’ve just sent us to the stone in a flash?” Ezra grumbled, his foot falling into a hidden hole beneath him which made him stumble.
The lady cast him a furrowed expression, shaking her head and turning to check on P’erl.
“You knew the journey and stakes before we left, don’t start complaining now.” She said, then asking the girl. “Are you alright still my dear?”
P’erl smiled and nodded, she had no qualm with the cold or the snow, and the connection with them both and the journey they were on were indeed the reasons why she’d come here.
“Yes, I’m taking everything I see around me in; this is truly a wonderful world.” She added, looking up into the trees as tuffs of snow fluttered down, a small invisible animal knocking it off a branch as it scuttled into more unseen branches.
“I just think you’re a bit of a fraud, if you can’t even get us there with any magic.” Ezra said, tightening up his huge jacket, the hood of which nearly made his face disappear.
“You know it doesn’t work like that, and besides, projections and transporting have never been my strong suit. Best we go like this and be safe. I wouldn’t want half of you ending up frozen under a bridge while the rest drips in a gooey mess all over the stone.” She said bristly.
Ezra thought over this and seemed to agree by his silence.
They went on further, the trees becoming denser and the land beneath them becoming bumpier, the giant roots sprawling up and around the pathway which struggled to make its way through. Not many used the route anymore, and the ill feeling of this part of the wood was another deterrent for many wishing to journey through. It was tough struggling through the heaps of snow, but the light that glowed from her cane seemed to melt the path slightly as it shone forth.
“How old is the Mondol Stone?” The girl asked, coming besides the lady, seeming to float alongside her.
“Almost as old as her.” Ezra said, clumping his way behind them. The lady ignored him.
“The Mondol stone, oh it’s very ancient. If you want the silly story, it is believed to be the peach pit once eaten by a huge giant who choked on it, falling to the ground. As the flesh and bones rotted away, the pit remained, calcified by the ancient magic of the giants.” The lady said, chuckling herself to the story.
“And if you believe that, then you’ll believe anything. Besides, everybody knows giants hate peaches.” Ezra added. The girl smiling at them both.
“But the stone itself is very interesting, and much of our magic and power emanate from it. The Kahall who bore our magic from the earth in the times of the great before, wrote their knowledge upon the stone in the beginning. All that we know came from that place. It is an energy centre, the navel of our land, where the energy and power intensifies. The stone is old and sacred, and much has happened there. There is an understanding through all beings, light and dark, that this place is of importance and is respected.” The lady said, the gravity landing on the words the girl heard.
On they went, passing through the trees which became narrower and narrower, trying to be quick despite the snow ladened path. With the glow from the cane leading the way, the lady of the jars was lulled into believing they were taking the quickest path through. But much had changed since she had been through here before. She realised this when they came upon a clearing that should not have been there, at least she had never remembered one on this path. And she would definitely have remembered a well in the middle. This was new, and alarming to her. It seemed to yawn upwards, swallowing in the sky above.
He had lost them for a while now, the glow of the cane had dimmed and extinguished before him as they had moved deeper into the woods. The gentleman of the boxes had tried to keep both his distance, and up with them, but he had lost them when a fork had appeared in the path. He felt within him a pulsing energy which spurred him on, the little chunks of the cocoon from the crash site vibrated in his pockets, almost yearning to be returned to her. He let them pull at him, directing him on deeper into the trees which hung low and dark, and silent as always in the snow-covered land.
Beneath his feet, in the underground tunnels that marked the underworld like veins, the Dimian too followed. Their little hungry eyes consuming the light given off by the girl from Europa, the magic from the lady, and fear from the gentleman of the boxes.
If you were ever to see a Dimian on its own, a rare thing indeed, you may be excused for assuming the little creature was harmless, desperate and even sweet. Though not being nocturnal, for their hunger drove them despite the hour, when they searched for the source of their sustenance they moved in the darkness and the shadows. Keeping out of sight to catch you unaware.
The danger of the Dimian were they did not discriminate. If you were in possession of some form of magic, then you were a target. Those wizened beings, or those fully empowered by the ancient world of wonder were like walking feasts to them, their soul desire in the world being to consume and retreat for their hibernation. You may think yourself safe if you were to be caught in places where they are known to be, for what magic do we truly possess unless we are in touch with the power? And for that belief, many have come a cropper. Dimian feed on ancient magic, power, and strength; and what is more powerful than hope and love? Those who have been in ecstatic state of love and belief have been befelled by these little creatures, hungrily consuming the light that dwelled within.
Dimian are small, little blobs of creatures who move en masses. They are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, with their skin slick and black like a wet seal. They have eyes, which you will only see when it is too late, the glowing turquoise orbs appearing in the moment of devouring. These little beings move in droves, under the ground like moles; tunnelling through the landscape to find their source of food. Their senses attuned to frequencies that vibrate through the world all around them, fear directing them like road signs, power beckoning them like pleasure. Both the girl from Europa, and the lady of the jars were much too tempting to pass up.
“This is new to me.” The Lady of the jars said, going across to the well before them.
She looked inside, nudging some snow into the black opening and listening to it tuffly tumble into an abyss. The well was of a usual size, nothing unordinary about it. Its sides made of large grey stones which looked to have been settled there for years. No signs of recent activity led to, or from the well, and aside it’s appearance suddenly in her mind, the well was of little importance to the world.
“Maybe you forgot it was here, you’re not as sharp as you used to be remember.’ Ezra offered, shivering a little.
The girl approached the well, touching the sides. But instead of looking down as is usual, she looked up into the sky. The clearing naturally had a ring of trees around it, but the trees all seemed to hang back into themselves, as if pulling away from the well at the centre. The clouds hung low, and you could not see above the line of the trees that circled them. The snow had eased, but little flecks still fell on them silently. Both Ezra and the lady looked up also, following the girl’s lead.
It was slight, no more than a twinkle. Little dusty patches of green hung in the air above the well like motes. These could not have been seen from further away, only by being underneath did they glimmer dully in the cloudy grey above the well.
“Is that….?” Ezra said, and the lady nodded back.
“Yep, it is. Dimian colo.” She said, matter-of-factly.
The girl turned to her, quizzically.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
The lady pointed up towards the green dust above them.
“Dimian are little creatures who dwell under the ground, great masses of them. They feed off of magic and power, charging themselves up before hibernating for eons at a time. In their process of extracting the magic that they feed on, they discharge an element known as colo, which is what we are looking at here.” She said.
“Is it dangerous?’ The girl asked her.
“To some beings yes, but to you and I it will just give us a headache and feeling of sullenness.”
“It’s basically Dimian crap. This is where they dump it out.” Ezra said, turning his nose up to the well and the green sparkles above him.
“Yes, well thank you Ezra for being so literal. Actually, in some magical practises, colo is quite useful.” The lady said, looking on it curiously.
“It’s rather beautiful, hovering there in the grey.” The girl offered, her hand resting on the side of the well.
“If you like that sort of thing.” Ezra said, unamused by it all.
“Well, yes I can see why you would say that. What is troubling is that this is here at all, they have clearly created an outlet.” The lady said, now peering into the well again.
“Perhaps it was hidden under the snow, and the water source had shifted. The well might just lead down into one of their tunnels and they have tapped into the extraction.” Ezra said, peering down also.
The lady stood back, thinking this over.
“Well, yes. Either way, it indicates Dimian activity; and that’s not good for anyone.” The lady said, popping her bag up on the well wall.
“What will they do if they got us then, how do they extract this power from beings?” The girl asked her suddenly.
The lady rustled about in her bag, but spoke plainly to the girl.
“They leach it out of you, they have a power to pull the magic from the cells. They are most deadly in their groups, but on their own or just a few of them will try to extract what they need and leave you feeling weak and even unconscious. They aren’t evil creatures, just needful creatures. Ah ha!” She said and produced a small like jar that had been nestled in the bottom of the bag.
“They remind me of many beings I’ve seen across the cosmos. They move with short sighted intensions, consume and destroy as they go.” She said, her eyes pierced by a sadness that seemed to leak outwardly.
“Yes, actually much like humans indeed. I guess they don’t have the consciousness to change or to see what they do. But there are things we can do.” And with that, the lady of the jars poured a yellow mixture deep into the well. The yellow liquid disappeared down into the blackness, and the girl looked on to see what would happen. Ezra had backed away, and the lady advised the girl to move back too. Suddenly, there was a whooshing sound emitting from the well, and a huge foaming column bubbled and sped up out of the well like a sprouting tree. It glistened like a metal; its foaming branches reached upwards to where the green colo hung.
Like a huge sponge it sucked the colo into it’s folds, taking much of the cloud covering from the clearing in with it. Very briefly, the little group could see up into the sky, the dark navy sea that was splattered with stars. The clouds joined once more, wiping away the image of night and the foaming tree before reducing itself downwards until it stood about a child’s height out of the top of the well. It hardened and dulled, the metal shine fading to a bark like texture. A few stones fell away from the side of the well, crumbling to the ground.
“There, well at least this area will be safe again for a while.” The lady said, closing her bag up.
“Won’t they just move elsewhere?” The girl asked.
“Dimian never stop until they sleep, but we can make it harder for them at least.” The lady replied.
“Dimian are a pain, and they cause a lot of havoc to this place. They’ll move elsewhere, but the harder it gets for them, the more chance there is of them hibernating earlier. They don’t like hard work.” Ezra offered, clearly glad the well had been put out of use for them.
“Don’t feel sad or upset for them dear. Besides, what we are moving towards will put an end to these unbalances of power anyway.” The lady said, offering a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“We don’t have creatures like this on Europa. Everything assists something else. We’re all connected and reliant on others there.” She said.
“Ah, well I’m sure as you’ve seen here already, a great corruption has taken place. Things aren’t balanced like they once were.” The lady said, almost with a sigh.
The girl from Europa thought about this for a moment.
“You’re right. Balance is fairness too.”
“You got that straight!” Ezra said.
“What we are doing is important for all.” The lady said, shuffling passed the well now and leading them both onwards.
The girl remained just for a moment longer, before carrying on with them. The idea in her mind about balance and fairness seemed to lie heavily. As if this was a key to the understanding she had been trying to grasp.
THE MOUTH OF THE DRAGON
The gentleman of the boxes stumbled into the clearing, tripping over a branch that had been hidden in snow. “Damn it!” he yelled, falling face first into an unspoiled drift. He got to his feet, brushing off the cold white fluff that clung to his long coat. He shook himself much like a dog, clearing the remaining patches of snow and moved on into the clearing and towards the well. The group had not long left, he could make out their tracks in the snow heading off towards the break in the trees where the path led.
He approached the well, now blocked by the magic that the lady of the jars had performed. Though he too was practised in magic arts now, he did not know of this kind and he looked on in curiosity to the strange structured elements, tiny parts of the colo twinkling ever so softly; trapped now. He took out a small box from his bag, not much bigger than a match box. He scraped some of the residue off into the box, returning it to his bag. Then he looked up, and his curiosity once again turned to anger.
“That bloody woman!” he yelled, his voice reverberating around the clearing.
Above the now blocked well, a huge plump grey cloud floated, sprinkling out heavy drifts of snow which fell like cotton wool. The lady of the jars had also set a snow cloud to cover the well quicker and deeper in snow, another way to fight back she had thought.
“Not content with the whole land covered in her blasted snow, she pots about with extra clouds to madden us all!” He said, grabbing off a chunk from the well and sending it angrily up towards the floating mass. It fell softly through, hitting one of the trees not far from him.
He heard it then, movement from the direction of the hit tree as if an animal had scuttled out of sight. He heard another movement too, this time to the side of him. The gentleman of the boxes had lived in the woods for many years now and knew a lot about the habits of nature. He ducked down, reaching into his pocket for something. He watched silently, and then he heard another sound, a rustling in the same tree where the clump had hit.
He was quick and quiet as he lurched forward and threw out some tiny amber stones which seemed to hit his target. He approached cautiously, keeping his distance slightly. It was a Dimian, as he thought it might be due to the well. He did not fear these creatures, quite the reverse. He knew that they contained much power that could be extracted if you knew how. The amber stones he had thrown clung to the little black blob, pinning it down now like tree sap. Its eyes flashed in alarm, and it oozed some sort of green foam which stained the snow around it.
It was rare for them to be on their own, and the gentleman looked around him quickly, checking to see if there were others. Satisfied there were not, he approached the little creature.
“I guess you were attracted to the same thing I hunt too.” He said, opening his bag and reaching inside. It is true that the Dimian were tracking the girl from Europa, this one had become confused by the power the lady of the jars had used on the well. It had lingered and become lost, trying to return underground. The gentleman of the boxes took out a glass jar, and scooped up the creature, quickly stuffing a stopper in the top. The stones that had pinned the thing began to hiss and melt inside the glass now, and slowly began to turn into a soft brown liquid. The Dimian flashed its eyes once more before the liquid covered it completely, freezing it as the liquid solidified.
The man took out a small cardboard wrapper and covered the jar like a wine bottle. He preferred using boxes, naturally, and even using a jar irked him as it was a practice of the lady of the jars. But this was the only way he could preserve things alive, unlike his boxes of the dead that he handled usually. He smiled to himself in his successful capture, as Dimian are notoriously hard to catch and can always be quite dangerous. With a fresh spur of energy, he chased on after the group, embolden now to succeed.
The group had trudged on through the trees, the weather remaining more open and calmer to help their path. The girl from Europa took in all that she saw, for on her planet there were no things as trees, and the animals there were quite different. She spotted an owl in one of the trees she passed and asked the lady about them.
“Usually nocturnal, but I fear my incessant snow confuses the poor dears.” The lady had said, noticing how large the owl was.
“Nocturnal?” the girl asked curiously.
“Only out at night-time, sleeps all day. The lucky devils.” Ezra said, looking behind them to see if they were being followed.
“Oh, I see. Yes, we have creatures that have similar patterns. Our days are long there, but some only come out at certain times.” She said, somewhat dreamily.
“It’s interesting how so different, yet so similar things are.” The lady said, smiling at the girl. The girl smiled too, comforted by the familiarity. Even across the vastness of space, simple things connected them.
“I think there’s trouble brewing.” Ezra said, nodding his head back in the direction they had come. They all looked that way and could see some birds taking flight just off in the distance.
“Oh my, I thought we would have been there before he came along.” The lady said.
“It’s that man, isn’t it?” The girl asked, closing her eyes and seeing the shadowy images now of both him and the Dimian. The shapes moved like clouds in her mind, one brighter due to its proximity.
“Yes, he’s a pebble in my shoe that’s for sure. But he has maligned intent on you I am afraid, and we cannot be doing with this now here in the middle of the woods.” She added. “Ezra, we need…”
But Ezra was already moving off down the path where they had come from.
“I’m on it.” He called back to them. He held out a little vial, the Dragon’s tongue that the lady had given to them all to keep them warm, and to add some light to their journey. Rushing now, he went down the path until he was in a dense spot of trees. The ones here seemed to clump together, throwing dark shadows, and casting much murky thoughts. Ezra stopped, looking around quickly. He could hear the movements coming off further, but he thought he could make out two groups of noises.
He did not hesitate, tipping out the Dragon’s tongue flame into his hands where it flashed in the air of the world. Tipping it back and forth like a hot potato, Ezra breathed onto the little flame, and muttered the incantation that he knew only too well. He was the keeper of the flame in his little post, protecting her cottage back home. The flame roared and grew upward and out, a real magical dragon soaring up to the trees. The red beast roared and sneaked around the trunks, gobbling the light up and creating a black void in its wake. Ezra turned and ran back to re-join the group as the dragon raced through the wood, destroying the light that lay hidden between the trees and cast down from the sky above. It was as if a huge hand was brushing a blackness over the wood. Not the kind where your eyes could adjust to, but a dark void that allowed no light to remain. The red dragon danced in spectacle and haste, snatching the light, and roaring its triumph. It raced back to Ezra, sweeping an emptiness around them as it shrank down and returned back into the little vial that he held out for it.
The lady of the jars held up her own little light, casting a beam off in the direction they needed to head.
“That should do it for now.” She said, nodding in satisfaction. The girl from Europa stood and smiled at Ezra.
“That was wonderful.” She said, having been transfixed by the dragon’s dance.
“It was nothing.” Ezra said, proudly. Whispering a gratitude to the Dragon’s tongue flame now residing safely back inside his little vial.
The blackness did its job. Not only had it blocked the way for the gentleman of the boxes, but it also permeated below the ground. Now, Dimian are used to underground conditions where there is little light, but the magic from the Dragon’s tongue flame does more than paint things black. It disables senses and orientation, and for them it overwhelms them with a pocket of energy from the spell. So, while they consume in their static state, they are completely disoriented, much like the little one that unfortunately found its way into the bag of the gentleman of the boxes. The man too was bamboozled by the snatched light. Now lost in the dark in the middle of the forest. He searched the depths of his own mind for a resource to help him, for he had had enough now of the woman’s meddling charms.
in the blink of an eye
Darkness came, not brought on by any magical element but by the celestial dance of the sun and the moon. They had been walking for a long time now, and as the sun had slipped into its slumber, the trees around them awoke with nocturnal noises and eyes.
On they went, the girl from Europa fascinated by what she saw and what she felt. She could sense the determination, the spirit and also the slightest traces of fear in her companions. The lady of the jars was caught in-between feelings herself; she was anxious yet controlled, she also took some joy on their little expedition as it had been some time since she’d had a real adventure.
“Why did you leave Europa?” Ezra asked the girl suddenly, looking down from casting his eye to the sky above which was peppered with stars and clouds. The girl smiled at him.
“Many reasons led to my departure. I had become trapped by my life there in some ways, too big for it all.” She spoke. The lady nodded.
“Like a plant that outgrows it’s pot.” She offered. The girl looked at her, unsure.
“Don’t confuse things.” Ezra said, batting away her comment with his hand.
“We keep some plants in pots, indoors. Not like these wild ones here.” The lady said, casting her own hand around the wood.
“Oh, yes we do the same. Though they are more like creatures than plants, but we keep them in S’imboks, like crystal containers. They perfume and colour the air inside.” The girl said, almost thinking on it still.
“Like keeping a bird in a cage, sometimes the plant needs to fly.” The lady said.
“Now you’re mixing metaphors! Stop confusing things.” Ezra snapped.
“I’m just offering the notion that she outgrew her surroundings.” The lady said, curtly.
“We know that but let her finish at least.”
The girl smiled, she liked how they bickered.
“Well, yes I had outgrown a lot. But there was also a calling. A need to come here. Something was pulling me, a force that I feel stronger now I’m here.” She said, her skin suddenly shivered a dramatic red, her tealness flashing a crimson like a fish darting suddenly. “There was also another….” She began, but she stopped speaking as they had reached a break in the trees.
What struck them all was the moon, not the stone. It hovered off in the distance, bright and beaming, almost purposefully avoiding the clouds which rolled around it. It cast down a brilliant glow unto the snow which washed across the land before them. All except the stone. This was free of any snow, indeed the area surrounding it was clear and dry as if an invisible dome had been placed above it. Around them the trees lined the space in a horseshoe fashion, the stone in the centre. Towards the other side the land fell away onto a cliff’s edge, down to a valley below. It seemed to open up into the sky, but closer to the edge you would see off over the valley and the frozen rivers and lakes, the snow topped trees and the mountains beyond. By daylight you would also see the extent of the magic from her jars, as the snow faded off in the distance, blurring into a sandy threat of a desert.
The stone indeed did look much like a huge peach pit, almost oval in it’s form it dug into the ground from the narrowest tip, suspended upwards against gravity. At the right angle it could be seen as the shape of a heart. It dominated the space, at the height of the surrounding trees it caught the brilliance of the moonlight, reflecting off its mahogany colouring, more like wood than a stone.
“It’s wonderful.” The girl said, transfixed by the huge stone.
There was a silence that permeated the area before them, a quiet hush like that of a church. The girl was almost afraid to step forth, but the lady of the jars strode forth and the girl followed suit.
“This is such a sacred place, but the stone itself is a tool, a beacon even. It transmutes the energy and the magic from above and below. The good and the bad. Energy does not discriminate.” She said.
“How old is it?” The girl asked, moving towards it like a spectre, her eyes wide and her mind eager.
“About as old as she is.” Ezra said, looking around the edges of the trees, watching for movement or signs of danger.
The lady shook her head.
“Be serious and respectful you.” She said to Ezra, before continuing. “This stone is timeless, as is the magic. From time to time people come here to restore their own power, their own magical supply. It’s like a huge battery. But it can do many things.” She said as they approached the stone now.
The ground around it suddenly felt odd without the blanketing of snow they had become used to. The ground was dry and green, even in the moonlight it seemed to breathe out in its luxury of life. The girl noticed a pattern upon the stone, spiralling around and glistening, she noticed, in the light.
“Can I touch it?” the girl asked suddenly, almost surprised herself?
“Of course, yes do. No harm to be done. It belongs to everyone.” The lady said, setting her bag down on the grass and rummaging for something.
“Shouldn’t we…” Ezra began, but just as he said this the girl had reached up, her fingers drawn to the stone like a magnet.
Afterward, Ezra would say he heard what sounded like crystals smashing. The lady said she heard nothing but the whoosh of something giant above her. In the blinding light that exploded from the stone when the girl touched it, they both stumbled backwards falling to the ground. The space was enveloped in the light which seemed to splinter like a diamond, radiating shards of brilliance all around them. Though they could not see, the girl herself was cut through by this light. It did not travel within her but seemed to slice her into a thousand pieces. These pieces hung there for a moment before shooting upward, they span around the stone three times before disappearing into the top like a genie returning to its lamp.
Once the light had faded, both the lady and Ezra sat on the ground staring at the space where the girl had once been.
“What the hell was that?” Ezra said, blinking erratically to try and see through the light stains in his eyes. The lady sat, calculating what had happened.
“That, I think, was something very good or very bad for us. But it was not unexpected.” She said, quietly.
“What, you knew something like this would happen?” Ezra asked.
“Not exactly. But I cannot say there wasn’t a chance of this.” She said, now pushing herself up.
“Where is she?” He asked, a little trace of panic in his voice.
“That…I am not sure of just yet.” She replied, helping him up also.
“Wonderful.” He said sarcastically, almost used to her approach to matters.
“It is really. I’ve never seen it do that.” She said with a small curious smile.
The magical process of the disappearance of the girl from Europa was a coming together of many things. The old magic that lay in the stone and the world, the kineticness of her own energy brought to the planet across starry space. The moonlight and the zodiac position of the astral bodies. The makeup of the girl’s body, pressured in Earth’s atmosphere, and the consciousness of the girl herself who was longing to change and evolve. All these things came together that night at the Mondol stone. There was a book, kept at the back of a dusty bookshelf in the house of Jaered (The candle keeper). In this book there foretold all these happenings, from the girl’s arrival to her emersion into the stone. Prophecies are tricky things at the best of times, but all that took place was indeed there on those pages, tucked at the back. Jaered never knew of this of course, or he would have been very excited about what was taking place and would naturally know how it would all end. As it was, he didn’t and slumbered blissfully unaware many miles away from them, dreaming of cheese scones and pickle.