The lady of the jars
It was snowing. It always snowed. That’s how she liked it.
The swirling white that enveloped everything, dusting and smothering all in a wonderland. There was more variety in snow she’d always thought. A sunny day was nice, for a trip to the beach or a stroll in the park; but sunny days were predictable, ordinary, and what everyone wanted. Snow, on the other hand created such chaos and difference.
Her cottage was nestled right by the huge stream that swept through the core of the little village of Hamani. It was near enough for her to grab the things she needed from the stores and the like, but just far enough on the outskirts where she could find the solitude and quiet she relished. That’s not to say she was lonely. She was always visited upon by someone knocking on her door and trampling their life into her small little abode. Each day brought something her way, but she always had the choice of opening that small blue door of hers to see what awaited. Some days she would sit by the fire, listening to the rhythmic knocking on the door, picturing not the tired salesman trying to entice her to part with her coins; but instead the small wood pigeons or pheasants tapping their beaks on the wood.
She had been called many things in her time. She wasn’t old, though some days her bones seemed to be. She would bustle around her cottage with the spirit of a teenager, ignoring the small ache in her joints. The cold heightened it, but she would never admit that.
Witch had been thrown her way once. Princess too though, that had been even more painful to hear.
Most saw her as a wise woman with magic, but of the good kind that you knew you were safe to inquire about. She knew the flowers and the herbs, the healing nature of the world that surrounded her small little cottage by the stream with the wood overstretching its reach to her doorstep. People came with their children who would play in the snow and then toast themselves by the fire while their parents would acquire an ointment or potion to help with some pain. Sometimes the kids of the village would come to hear the stories she would tell over huge bubbling cups of hot chocolate. The towering piles of books that dotted her home loomed over all who came there. Hers was a place of possibilities, and it was called ‘Dustings’, and she was the ruler of her own little kingdom.
Though she was an honest soul, people had no idea of the true power that dwelt in her little home. They saw the plants and spices that filled every draw and nook. The witch hazel and birch that swirled in its hued state on the walls. Secrets gained from the botany books and fables that stuck out of drawers and were lodged under table legs. But they did not know, and they never would, of what she kept in her secret room.
It had always surprised her really. No enchantment had kept it hidden, and the noise and light that came from the tiny room at the back of her cottage was enough to entice even the most mildly curious pair of eyes. Yet secret it remained, an indication of the respect many had for her more than fear.
Locked by a tiny key she kept around her neck, the secret room was not large at all. More of a store room usually catering tinned foods or laundry detergent. But here, here is where she kept her jars. Luminous and terrifying, magical and mesmerising. The jars were small really, able to be held in the palm of your hand. Each one filled with light and motion. She bottled them you see, the weather systems. She kept all the aspects of elements, siphoned off into their purest from and bottled. Her own collection of small ships. How she had learned to do this, only she would ever know. But there they are, lined up next to each other on her shelves in her secret place. She would rotate them into seasons, or sometimes calamities. A good thunderstorm would go well with heavy wind and hail.
These bottles were most precious to her, and she never misused them. She was always mindful of the good she could do, and the darkness she would always be able to lighten. Most precious of all were the snow-scapes. The blizzards, and the flurries raging away in their little jars which had cooled to a frosted glass beauty there on the shelf. These she kept in their own section, away from the heatwaves and the monsoons. She would sometimes come and sit by these little vials and watch the dance of the nature there contained behind the glass. A snowglobe of the most literal sense. She wasn’t playing god with her treasures, she was only capturing the beauty of god.
These names the people had for her, she always smiled when she heard them muttered in hushed tones. But to herself, she was always the lady of the jars.
It was a strong blizzard that blew the snow and the ice that day. It blotted out the sunlight entirely, plunging the village in a darkening grey fog. No one left their house except for urgent business, and save for the howling wind, all was quiet. The lady of the jars was anxious, which explained the weather. She would sometimes open up a raging thunderstorm when the bad moods really took hold, but on the days when she was worried, the blizzards came to cover and dispel everything. The paradox of still and motion, certainty and doubt.
She had woken that day with a feeling. Something nibbling at her mind like a bird pecking at her finger. She had pottered about her cottage, finding things to do to occupy her brain. Changing the sheets, dusting the ornaments, cleaning the kitchen cupboards. All to subdue that fretful feeling inside. But her skull itched and her fingers twitched. Something was coming, she felt it in her bones. She knew the something was different, a thing that was to impact her life and change her course drastically. This, in part led to her anxiousness. Though unafraid of change, she worried she might lose her power to bottle the wonders that she had kept hidden and safe. This was the one loss she feared, the change that worried her. Her own priceless art gone.
She looked outside. The flurries had whipped up high on her window and she could barely see to the end of the small path which led to the dirt track towards the village. A lonely lamplight shone off in the distance, the one she knew marked the start of her path. It hummed and glowed pitifully in the blanketing white, like the heart of a huge beast teetering on the edge of eternal sleep. All of a sudden, a loud bang sounded above her cottage. It boomed in through her walls and knocked picture frames off the shelves. She let out a small yelp, and clutched her chest. She knew it was beginning there, on that at snowy day. At eleven o’clock in the morning. She knew, and she suddenly smiled.
She pulled open her back door, the wind hurtling inside like an invisible hand knocking through. Though she had control over the weather, it wasn’t an on/off magic that tingled in her fingertips. She knew there was a time delay in which to shift into a new weather pattern. Making the unnatural reasonably natural. She hadn’t even gone to her small secret room to change the weather, her heart was hammering in excitement and she hadn’t bothered. Besides, the blizzard added to the drama that was unfolding in her backyard.
She stepped out into the cold and was suddenly covered with thick snowflakes. Her feet were cold, she had stepped out with only her slippers on, but the pull was hastening forward, caring not a button for the numbing that quickly came in her legs. She pulled her jumper up over her mouth and ploughed on through towards the thing she could see now. She noticed the remnants of stardust peppered across the sky above her. Something had landed and at the bottom of the garden. An asteroid, or could it be…… No, it was alive. Her blood told her that. It pulled and ebbed inside her seeking out the magic of life, seeking out the different.
She made her way forward, her eyelashes thick with snow and ice. He heart was pounding, it drummed in her ears against the wind.
Then suddenly, she was there. Standing over it. In shock for the sight before her eyes. Stardust splattered the snow around. Golden fragments coated the ground and the air, locked in a static tableau of exploding space. The gold drifted off into the air while the stained ground faded to a neon blue. The impact had made a small dent in the soil, like a giant ice-cream scoop and plunged into the earth. At the bottom, covered in stands of blue was what she knew it must be. The fallen. Some called them fallen stars, objects from the cosmos that littered the earth when they tumbled from heaven. She looked in closer, her mind suddenly skimming that book she kept safely locked in her cupboard along with her jars. Then she saw the blue tendrils stiffen, like neon roots tightening around their precious cargo. Bits of snow and dust seeped down in-between each one, melting into a liquid that oozed and formed around the body. Encasing it in a protective shell.
Europa, that was what this is. Her mind had summoned the right passage in her book, she saw it now clearly in the bright blue font that had burst off the page. That book which had come to her from her mother. The secret to her magic and light of heart. It had come before, once before long ago. All the way from another space.
The girl from Europa. Now in a small hole in the bottom of her garden. And she knew there, in the whistling silence that time was short, and things would always be different from here on out.
Ice 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 the 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 overt 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.
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.
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 hoped 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 should; 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 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 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 light from the lamp post at the end of her path gaining more strength in the encroaching shadow.
“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 languages; she was sure her book could tell her. 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 the 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 the lady’s ears, but anyone else from anywhere else would have understood, 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 knew.
The Gentleman 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 the tropics of the equator. 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 outhouses. 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 deep 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 outtings 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 ceiling.
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 their 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-ish flame tickled the hairs on the back of his neck. He’d just begun to open the book when the seller called over 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 as some small glass coins tumbled into them. The gentlemen of the boxes huffed, thinking it was still too much for a book. But then, it held something he couldn’t explain, some pull or hold on him somehow. He had to have it, so he paid the small price. 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.
He’d consumed the book. Reading it hurriedly in the candlelight of his cave. He’d read 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 listen to yarns that only take place in the mind.
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 this warnings either. He practised in secret, squirreled away underground. Little things at first, then moving on to larger and more completed things. 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. But the power that he craved at first, shifted and changed. At first he’d wanted to see if the magic worked, to see if reading something could arouse a change in the very set up of the earth. To play god himself. But he soon learned, much to the cart seller’s warning, that it could consume and cause havoc. He didn’t want that. He wasn’t an evil soul, merely bitter by the hand life had dealt him. He 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, they lady and the girl looked over to the door 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 tea cup; 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 knockee 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 bowls rim. 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 doorstop.
“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 is 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 over anxious. She chuckled a little and told him he’d gotten the wrong day. As his face fell she took something out of her pocket. She handed him the 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 the lady 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 keep 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 her 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 imagine.” She said, taking a little blueberry tart out of the tin by 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, me he sees 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 sad, 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 great her when she stepped out of her cocoon. Best laid plans. But the lady surprised her still. The house and the energy was 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 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 window sills 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 which, now this she had bewitched, repelled the snow and kept the natural light shining in, bathing the plants with the life giving ultra violet 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 her 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 liked 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 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 jars 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 of 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 collect the falling 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, its 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 casualistic way, the lady of the jars was very careful and appreciative of it. She did not take her powers for granted, and she knew she and the book 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 tea cups 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.
“Imamiah….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 breathe 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 page.
“There’s a notage 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 only 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 with a little more than unusual. But she would tell her when the time was right. She looked out of the window to watch the snow fall 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. The brightest of all the little homes. It’s white paint glistening in the hot sun. She thought of her house as the last good tooth in a set of rotting teeth. 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 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 the gotten stronger wood, something that would not 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 them 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 hall way, 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 she 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, empting out years of frustrating 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. He stopped dead, unsure of what was happening. She was usually so passive. So subservient. Afraid to rock the boat which would lead to 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. Her 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 center 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 done on her, tied to the lawn chair. But his return was swift, and carrying a bag of rubbish which he emptied all around her 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 neighbours houses, to be emptied on and around her. Crowning her as the queen 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 her 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 to 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 a fiery hand from god.
But she survived.
Woken out of the delirious dreamscape her survival mind had slipped her into 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, the spun sugar strand of patience had fractured.
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 money, the one he thought she didn’t know about. She put it back, empty, sealing the box to a grave of solitariness. She stripped the house of her, of the things she needed to go on with. Cutting the cord to an unhappy life here. 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 like 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. Should 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 she lives now. 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 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 in the end, but had struck lucky one night gambling and had acquired what he needed to enchant her. It wore off of course, but by then she was cut off from her family, and of the aged magic her own mother knew and possessed. 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 mind is not the soil in which miracles to 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. 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. Which is why it snows constantly there, and why she always feels happier cold and by herself, 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 idealised 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 ways 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 had 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 hand spread like a small mirror. 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 and 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 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…..This place we need to go to, is it far?” She asked.
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 it’s 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.
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 that 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 breathe dispersing the red cloud in front of her which drifted quickly up into the sky, lost suddenly the 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 stature 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, as the yellow contents dripped 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 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 me for me, right?”
“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 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. Looking like a sparking 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 him 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 her 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. 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 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 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.” He lady snapped, suddenly succeeding in her retrieval of a small box from the cupboard. “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 the between the two of them. She didn’t know it then, but Ezra had once come from of 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 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 choose 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 in two moons from now; I will have died”.
to be continued….
Between the jars – A look behind the magic