Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fairy tale

One of them who came forward looked nothing like the others. She was dressed in white fluff and smelled clean. Her eyes were like a child's. "I'm in need of assistance," she said softly. "I need some help and I think you can help me."

I gave him my satchel and shoes as he asked me, then I shed my clothes as he advised me to do. "Wear this," he said, and he shed his own skin. It fell off in a pile on the soil floor looking like a tablecloth used in my home. When I clothed myself in his skin I no longer smelled like my home or the valley. Instead I became like the men on the mountain. I smelled distinctly foreign. I thanked the man and watched as he dressed himself in my own clothes. He said he would wear them until new skin grew on his back.

The men of the earth hungered for my people's flesh. If I did not provide them with a sacrifice to abate their sorrows, they would take my body and walk amongst my people like one of the undead. They would find ways to sip their lives into their own empty souls.

I fled, I fled so fast that my feet did not feel the ground. Instead they chafed the cold breeze as my heels vibrated like wings of locusts and dragonflies.

A woman with childlike eyes appeared before me. She looked very much like a girl I had seen before but older, and instead of crow black hair she had white hair like snow. "You there, come here. Please help me." I shyed away from her calls. "No, please, you don't understand. My sister is caught in a huntsman's trap and I need someone to help release her." I looked at where she pointed and indeed, there was the girl in wolf form hanging dangerously under a poisoned needle.

I pulled the needle out of where it would cause harm, and happy that I did so.

It looked like an ordinary onion, with a brown papery peel, a smooth, lined, slightly yellowed outer layer. I turned it over and over in my hands, wondering how this vegetable could be of any help to me. "Its juices make all who consume it unable to tell a falsehood for a short period of time. Feed this to one from whom you must extract important and true information from. Use it wisely," the old woman advised. I cupped the onion in my hands as if it were a fragile ornament that would shatter into millions of tiny magical pieces of it were dropped. I knew this powerful bulb would aid me on my journey.

The woman in dragon scales glided up the mountain and vanished in the mists. The needle bade me to follow her snow white hairs that glistened like silver strands of dew.

Then, as I was about to reach the top of the mountain, a giant form appeared before me in the shape of soil. As I came closer to it I realized that it was not a giant form but composed of hundreds of small people from the earth. The mountain had come alive, and it did not want me to pass its presence.

But since I had been given my gift I did not fear what stood in front of me. As his body touched mine if fell to the floor covered in a carpet of needles.

So I began my journey home.

My feet, wearing their newfound bottomed shoes, pressed gently across the soils as not to wake the men clamoring upwards. But I still felt a shadow trail at my footsteps that did not feel like my own. As I walked faster the shadow moved behind me as well, sometimes touching my bare skin with sodden ground.

I watched as my magic needle pricked a hole in the tree trunk large enough for me to hide in. Without knowing where I had gone my pursuer stopped in its search disappeared, leaving behind an abundance of pears for me to take.

"And who are you boy?" Mother asked me. Her weak eyes did not recognize my much-changed face and form. I told her I was her son but she did not believe me. "If you are the son that left so many days ago, and if you are the one who brought back this jade figure of father, then you are the one who will be able to restore him to his normal shape." She flicked her wrist and flung the jade piece at me.

Without hesitance I lifted my pant legs began to dance in father's leather bottomed shoes. The soles breezed across the floor, cutting the mist with rhythmic motions. I then turned the ring on my finger and watched my father rise, soil shedding from his skin. His shaved face and clean hands stood against the paling crowd. This impressed the people who stood before me, as did the fact that my tongue did not bleed from the needle it held.

The earth rumbled and the trees shook, and before the old hag could spit another curse at me, the ground beneath her split in two, swallowing her rickety bones and hollow heart.

As the soil on me continued to turn into gold, the ground of our garden sprouted trees, fruits, and vegetables. My family and I stared in a daze as we watched our land grow rich and the people of the soil draw away.

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