Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

the child, ten


There stood Mathilda, tall as ever. The veil was laid aside, as was the robe. And the person Starr could now see through the light...

...was not a human being.

Wings - that was the main impression to Starr's mind. Full of wings. And eyes! Eyes everywhere. On the wings, on the hands, on the ...

On the faces. Yes, more than one face. For Starr now saw that Mathilda had no less than four faces! The veil had hidden the three others from her sight before. The face in front, the one she was used to seeing, was certainly human. But to the right was the face of a lion. And to the left the face of an ox. And there was also the face of an eagle.

Starr stumbled backwards from the sight, her mind reeling. Something firm and solid and living caught her from behind lest she fall. The Master. His arms wrapped round her, steadying her. And strength flowed in.

'Do not be afraid, love,' he pressed the words into her ear.

'Who... What...' was all she could manage to stammer out.

'That is still Mathilda. The same one who has taken care of you all these many days. Mathilda is one of my cherubim.'

'One of your... what?'

'Cherubim, dear. Or more simply put, an angel.' She turned within the circle of his arms to look up into his face, her own face puzzled and uncomprehending. He smiled down warmly, disarmingly. 'I command angels,' he said.

And there was nothing of bragging in the statement. Not at all. Simply stating a fact.

Starr leaned against him - really, sagged against him, as if the knowledge he was imparting to her was more than her body could bear.

'You may go now, Mathilda,' said he. 'Thank you.'

'My Master,' said she, bowing. And she was gone, taking the extraordinary light with her.

'I... I don't understand. You have angels?'

'Yes.'

'Then... who are you?'

'I am he - the Master. Keeper of this house. Seeker out of lost souls. Rescuer from the fiery pit. The one who walks through the stars and is not afraid. The commander of the armies of GOD. I am...' and a smile, 'your humble servant.'

'You? But you humble me!' she returned. 'Who am I? - nothing and no one - and yet you have brought me into your home, dressed me anew, fed and sustained me...' Her eyes dropped, then came up again. 'I... I... what is this? What I am feeling within me?'

He gently took her hand, held it. 'Little one. You are falling in love.'

She nodded. 'With you. Yes, I am. But how dare I? You must be very angry.'

'Angry? No, not at all! In fact, it was for this purpose that I rescued you and brought you here.'

'So that I would fall in love with you?'

'So that you would become my bride.'

She gasped. Her heart, everything within her, shattered at that word. His bride? His? Was that possible? Dare she hope...?

'Will you?' he said. Simply. Sweetly. His hand still holding hers.

'Y-yes...'

'It will not be easy at times, my love, to be wedded to me. There are those who will call you a liar. Those who will take your words, which are mine, and twist them out of recognition. Those who will hate you - because they hate me. Understand this.'

'I don't care. To be yours...!' She gasped again, and covered her mouth with her free hand.

'Then your answer is still yes?'

She met his eyes, tilting up her face to his. He towered over her, a full head taller. Still holding her hand.

'Yes,' said she.

He smiled down fondly on her. 'My Starr. I pledge to thee all that I am, heart and breath, soul, strength and being. With my life's blood I sustain thee. With all my heart, I love thee. And call thee to my side as wife.'

'My Master...' she whispered.

'No more shalt thou call me Master, my darling. From now on, my name in your mouth, shall be - my Beloved.'

Her entire face lit up. 'My Beloved!' And with that saying, something sprang to life within her, setting her free, free. 'I pledge myself to thee, my Beloved,' she responded. 'All that I am: heart, soul, mind, body. Spirit. All. To my dying breath. To live for thee, and serve thee. And bear thee children...' She blushed, and cast down her eyes.

He smiled. 'Ah, little one - you know not the truth of what you just spoke! Children you shall bear for me. But not in the way you are thinking.

'But now... Starr, little one. Breathe again after me. Breathe in my spirit, into yourself.' And he sighed deeply, deeply, from the depths of his being. The sweet fragrance of his breath surrounded her. She breathed it in deeply, deeply, eyes closed, rapturous, living in that moment...

'I kiss thee, Starr,' he said. And then he did.

For a long time they stood, eyes delighting in each other, saying nothing. And then he spoke, chuckling. 'I invited you here for breakfast. We should eat.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Friday, October 29, 2004

 

the child, nine


In the morning, when Mathilda came to awaken the Child, the tall one did not bring a tray of food for her to eat, as she usually did. Instead, she stopped in the doorway and said, 'The Master requests that you come and break your night's fast with him this morning.'

The Child - Starr - gasped. And then she flew from the bed, hurriedly washing up and dressing, making herself ready. The Master...!

Soon she was ready, flushed and breathless, and Mathilda led the way through the corridors of the house. A different way this day, one the Child had never taken before. Just when she was beginning to wonder where in the house they were, Mathilda stopped before a door.

And knocked.

And opened.

Nervous, Starr stepped into the doorway and peered in. The room, to her surprise, was not large nor lush nor opulent, as she had imagined it would be. It was just a very plain room, about the size of her own. Here was a table set with two chairs. There a fire on the hearth. There a small window much like her own, spilling in the morning sunlight.

And there, of course, he himself. The Master. He came forward, smiling warmly. 'Starr, my dear Child,' said he.

Deep crimson her cheeks flamed, just at the closeness of him. And her heart - oh! surely he could hear the beating of it! She felt that she ought to bow to him, or curtsey perhaps - but she feared that if she tried, she would tumble right off her feet.

He took her hand in his, his eyes owning hers. 'You may serve the meal now, Mathilda,' he said. And the tall one bowed and went out.

'Master...' the Child ventured, her voice sounding strange to her own ears.

'You slept well?' said he, leading her to the table, helping her into a chair. He then took the other chair. It was a very small table.

'Yes.'

'What would you like to ask me now, dear one?'

Last night the questions had crowded into her mouth, competing to be spoken. And now...now quite the opposite. Her mind was a blank.

'Then I will tell you,' said he. 'I bought you here, after rescuing you from the palace of my enemies. They had held you there long, since you were an infant. The chains you wore kept you bound to them, to do their will. And you were content there, for a long time.

'And of this you remember nothing.'

She watched this wonderful face before her, nodding. 'Yes,' she said. 'Nothing. Nothing at all.'

'I have been to that palace many a time, my dear, to rescue those held captive there. One time very recently, as I was in the belly of the fortress to rescue another, you saw me.' He smiled the more deeply, a precious, secret smile. 'Well. I let you see me. We spoke briefly, you and I; I told you of this house. You asked to go with me; I made promise to return for you.

'That promise I kept.'

She blushed and dropped her eyes.

'I bore you here as on eagle's wings, to bring you to myself.'

Her heart was beating so, she could scarcely breathe.

A soft knock at the door. At the Master's word, the door swung open and in came Mathilda, bearing the laden tray of their breakfast. This she served quickly, silently, efficiently. She bowed, turned to go.

'Mathilda.'

'My Master,' said the tall one, turning again and bowing.

'You veil yourself.'

'Yes, my Master. For the comfort of the little one's eyes.'

'Yes. She sees the light.'

A bow. 'She does, my Master.'

'Few do. But this gift is given her. Unveil yourself now please, Mathilda.'

The tall one lifted her hands and began to remove the veil. As she did, the light grew, grew until it was dazzling to the Child's eyes.

The Master rose and went to the Child, who was shielding her eyes with her hands against the light. 'Look at me,' he said softly. She obeyed, squinting up at him. To her surprise, she found that though all else in the room was quite lost to her sight because of the light from Mathilda, the Master himself she could see with no trouble. She gazed on him.

'Stand up, dear,' he said. She did so. 'Now close your eyes, Starr my love,' said he. She obeyed him.

She felt his hands, strong and firm and gentle, as they cupped her face between them, tilting her chin up. And then she felt - oh! - the touch of a kiss, one, two, upon her two closed eyes. A gasp escaped her at the touch, all too brief. She would have preferred for those kisses to have lasted forever. Familiar thought.

'Starr my sweet - breathe my breath after me.' And a deep sigh she heard, sweet and gentle and fragrant. She lived in the breath of that sigh, drawing it deep into her lungs, into her being. His breath...

'Now open your eyes, my Starr.'

She obeyed. To her surprise, though the light was still there and strongly present, she no longer needed to squint against it, but could see all things quite plainly. Even so, she looked not at the things surrounding her, but only at the Master's dear face.

He smiled and sighed again, a deep and contented sigh at the adoration in her gaze. 'Starr,' he whispered, so pleased with her. So pleased.

'Now turn and see.'

She turned. She saw. She gaped in astonishment.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

the child, eight


It was beautiful out here, under the moon, under the stars, under the shadow of the mountain. Slowly they walked, her hand in his. Slowly, softly, quietly.

'There are many questions in your heart, precious Child,' said he. 'What would you ask me?'

Ah, the questions crowded together within her! Which would make it first out of her mouth?

'Who are you?'

He paused in his walk to touch her softly on the forehead. 'I am the one whose name you bear, here.'

Her own hand flew up to touch the same spot. 'Your name is here?' she asked, astounded.

He smiled, his eyes crinkling merrily in the corners. 'Oh yes.'

'I never knew! I never saw...!'

'Not all can see it, dear. Not yet. Not now. But soon shall the letters blaze from your brow as written in fire. Then will all see my name upon you, and know whose you are.'

He took her hand again, and on they walked.

'Ask what you will, dear heart,' he prompted.

A sigh. 'Who am I?'

'One who is well loved.'

That was true, and she knew it. The depth, the richness of his love for her was like a flooding stream, flowing over and through her, washing away every ancient ache from her heart, from her soul. She sighed. 'I don't remember who I am, though.'

'You are one of those, my little one, of whom it is said: Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty...'

A very deep blush spread over her cheeks. 'I have no beauty,' she whispered.

'You have more than you know,' he replied. Gently, lovingly, his hand touched her cheek, her sweetly blushing cheek. She leaned into the touch, her eyes closing. How she longed for that hand to stay there forever!

'Sweet Child...' he said. And then he added with a chuckle, 'Forever is a very long time, you know.'

Her eyes flew open. She stared up at him. 'How... how can you know what I was thinking?'

'I know everything about you, little one.'

'Everything?' she said hungrily. 'Everything? My name? My age? You've been calling me Child, so I suppose I am young. But I don't even know how old I am...'

'I call all those who come for refuge under my roof my children. Even the very old ones, dear. You are not old. Nor are you a tiny child. You are a gracious young woman, beautiful and blessed.'

Again she blushed.

'But these things that you do not now remember, mine own - do not let them trouble you. What you need to remember, you will remember in the time that you need it.'

'I don't understand.'

'You will. In the proper time, you will.'

He took her hand and they walked on again, under the stars, the great and close stars. 'Now,' he said thoughtfully, 'as for your name...' And he lifted his face to the velvet-deep star-strewn sky.

'Pick one,' said he.

Hesitantly she pointed to a star at random. 'Oh, that one.'

He smiled. 'No, my dear. Pick one. I mean literally. Pluck a star from the sky.'

Astonishment paled her face. 'What? But how?'

'Simply put forth your hand and pick.' He smiled confidently. 'Trust me, Child. Do so.'

She stretched forth her arm to the heavens above her, feeling silly even in her obedience. Not knowing what else to do, she aimed for a largish star right overhead - closed her eyes - closed her hand...

There was a weight inside her hand now. She could feel it. She drew her hand back to herself - opened her hand - opened her eyes...

And there nestled in her palm, glowing like the glows yet shimmering in the skies, was a ball, fuzzy and silvery, faintly pulsating.

She gasped and looked up into his sweetly bemused face.

'Now eat it,' said he.

'Eat it?' she faltered.

'Yes,' said he. 'If you can pick a star in obedience to me, you can also eat it at my word. Yes?'

Slowly, her eyes on his face, she raised her hand to her mouth. Placed the fuzzy star-ball within her lips. Chewed. Swallowed.

He smiled and drew forth a pure white cloth to wipe the star-juice running down her chin. 'My good girl,' he said. 'Never fear to obey me, no matter how silly it makes you feel.'

'What just happened?' she asked.

'They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament,' said he. 'And they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.' He smiled on her. 'I have given you a star to eat. That is a symbol to you which you shall never forget. And with the eating of the star, I give to you a name - a new name. You are to me my little star-like one.

'I name thee Starr.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Monday, October 25, 2004

 

Storyblogging Carnival 4


Storyblogging Carnival 4 is up at Doc Rampage.

Quite a collection of offerings this time. My favorites are easily Donald S. Crankshaw's Flight and Tim Worstall's Victims of Slavery v Lloyd's of London.

Go have a look!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

the child, seven


The days flowed by. The strength of the Child's arms and legs grew greater. As did the longing within her for the return of he who had brought her here, the one that Mathilda spoke of as the Master. The days passed, and the Child often gazed up on the Mountain of Spices where the daughter of the enemy roamed freely, acting the part of owner. The Child longed to go there again, but the memory of the woman's anger held her back.

Wake, eat, go outside, come inside, eat, sleep - the days passed. Many, many days.

Sometimes in the evenings alone in her room, the Child would bring out the sword that Mathilda had dropped into her lap that first day. The scabbard was simple: plain brown leather edged with some sort of metal. Often she placed one hand on the hilt, as if to draw forth the blade. But she never did. The sword made her a bit nervous - what if she held it wrong as she drew it, and cut herself? And so she never actually drew the sword, only looked at it and put it away again, hiding it between the mattress of her bed and the wall.

One long evening, after Mathilda had shared her suppertime (but Mathilda never ate, not that the Child saw) and then left her to her rest, the Child spent a bit of time looking at the undrawn sword, then put it away. And then, out of curiosity, she went to the corner where the cast-off chains had lain all these many days. She took them up, examining them. Curious indeed they were, with intricate designs upon them. Parts of the chains even gleamed like gold!

How strange, thought the Child. The sword she had been given - and she was sure it was a gift to her - was so utterly plain. But the chains - quite the opposite of a gift to her - were rich and beautiful.

She held them, turning the chains this way and that. Yes, beautiful was the word for them! Exquisitely beautiful...

A sudden hunger to see how they had looked on her wrists seized her. Here was the one shackle; it must have fitted just so...

'Your arms are fairer without them.'

The Child jumped and dropped the chains, partly shamed with the guilt of having been caught trying them on, and partly frightened with a complete and utter fright.

For that was not Mathilda's voice!

Who could be here? Here, in her room - here, in the depths of this house? Here, where no one else came but her and Mathilda?

Shaking with dread, she forced herself to turn, to face the unknown someone who had spoken to her.

A man. Smiling, his eyes kind and wise and deep. 'Little one,' he said softly. 'Dear Child. Why do you burden again your arms with the chains I broke off of you?'

'You?' Her hand flew to cover her mouth. 'You? You are the one?'

'I am, dear.'

'You have come for me?' Oh, but her heart was pounding suddenly!

'I am come, yes.' His smile both deepened and broadened. 'I am glad to see you so well, little one. Mathilda has been taking good care of you, I see.'

A blush crept across the Child's face. She felt so embarrassed to have been caught playing with those foolish chains! And caught by him! He - the one whom Mathilda called the Master.

'Come, walk with me, my sweet Child,' he said. He held out his hand, and she took it. Then he turned and opened the door and led her from the room.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Friday, October 22, 2004

 

the child, part 1, chapter 2 - the mountain of spices


She did not hit the floor. For the tall being Mathilda caught her - caught her so swiftly that the Child had not enough time to realize she was falling before there were strong arms about her, bearing her up.

'You have much healing yet to be attained. Much strength yet to be regained. To walk is yet too much for you, little one.'

Tears sprang to the Child's eyes as it sank in on her: if she could not walk, she could not go outside. Why this trip outside should be so immensely important to her, she was not sure. But to suddenly find that she was not going outside after all was overwhelming.

'Why do you cry?' asked Mathilda.

'Because now I won't be able to go outside,' the Child sniffled.

'Indeed? Who told you such a thing?'

"But I can't walk...'

'And so we shall bear you outside. The freshness of the air and the warmth of the sunshine shall do you much good. Come.' And the strong arms took up the Child as if she weighed nothing at all. And out they went.

The halls were a bewildering maze to the Child as she was borne along. And then came the door - and a dazzle of light nearly as great as the one that had emanated from Mathilda - and the spectacle of tall trees and bright flowers and soft green grass. And the Child was set down gently in the lush grass at the base of a sturdy tree, surrounded by fragrant flowers.

She sat, stunned, her soul within her swelling like a sponge as she soaked in all the beauty about her. She could all but feel the strength flowing into her weakened limbs, just as the sunlight soaked into her skin. Bliss...

And so it went for the next few days. Mathilda would bear the Child out into the sunshine, where the Child would sit and grow strong, fed by the beauty of the outdoors. Soon, she felt strong enough to attempt again to stand. Soon after that, she was standing, albeit swaying. And in the next few days, gradually, the Child ventured to walk, and then to run...

And then she thought to climb the Mountain of Spices.

~~~~~~~


The path wound upwards through great boulders and sparse bushes and little twisty trees. The Child stood at the bottom, looking up, hesitating. Was she truly ready for this?

Slowly she took the first step. And then the next. And the next...

Strange, she thought as she climbed higher and still higher. If this is the Mountain of Spices - why are the plants so sparse, so few, so far between? Should it not be lush?

Before long, she was puffing and panting as she mounted still higher along the path. To take the next step was soon an effort. To take the next breath was as well. Chest heaving, she paused in her walk, wondering if she had foolishly tried to do too much too soon.

'Be not afraid.'

The Child spun about, coming nigh to losing her balance. But even as she did, a steadying hand touched her arm.

'Mathilda! What are you doing here?'

'Following you,' said the voice like many waters. 'That we might offer strength as you weaken.'

The Child cast down her eyes. The other slipped an arm through hers, bearing her up, renewing her strength.

'Soon will you have the strength to make this climb, little one. Very soon. You are making good progress. But for now...'

The Child leaned on Mathilda and let the tall one guide her where she willed. And so Mathilda brought her to see the myrrh plants, with the golden tears of sap clotted on the thick stems. 'Myrrh means bitter,' the tall one explained, 'for the tears are bitter to the taste. They ooze out where the stem has been gashed - wounded, if you will. And yet - the bitterness of the myrrh, when crushed to a powder - brings healing.'

They moved on, Mathilda bearing the Child gently along. 'We shall see the cinnamon next,' the tall one said.

'Please...' said the Child. And hesitated.

'Ask what you will,' Mathilda replied.

'Where are all the plants? I mean, there are plants, yes. But not as many as I thought there would be. If this is the Mountain of Spices, shouldn't it be overflowing with spices? But there are so few...'

'You see truly. It was not always thus. Nor will it always be so. But for now, the plants have indeed withered, many of them, as before the blast of an angry wind. But fear nothing: soon will this Mountain flourish once more with verdure. And now here,' Mathilda added, 'is the cinnamon...'

The Child suddenly gasped and clutched at Mathilda's arm. 'What is that?' the Child cried. She pointed with a shaky hand.

Someone was coming towards them, swiftly over the rocky path. A woman, strong and angry. She too was pointing with her hand, as she came up to Mathilda and the Child. Pointing with fury in her face at the Child.

'What is that weakling doing here?' she cried. 'What are you thinking, Mathilda, to bring such a weak little excuse for a human being up here? This place is for the strong! Not for her!'

"Good afternoon,' said the voice of many waters. Softly. Meekly. Subdued and gentle.

'Take her away! She does not belong here!' the newcomer demanded. 'Are you mad, bringing such a frail little child up here? And you!' The woman swung viciously to face the Child. 'Look well and see what you came to see. For this is the only time you shall ever come here. Puny one!'

'Thank you,' said Mathilda sweetly, her eyes meeting mildly with those of the strong woman. There was a bemused look upon the tall one's face as she added, 'Thank you for your compassionate concern for the well-being of this little one. We will go down the mountain now.'

The strong woman stared at Mathilda, trying to fathom what spirit was behind such words. 'Well,' she said at last. 'Well. So long as you take her down the mountain safely. Do not bring her back up again!'

Mathilda smiled and turned away, leading the Child from the strong woman's presence.

The Child craned to look behind them, at the lone figure standing with folded arms, smirking with pleasure to see them go. 'Who was that?' she asked of Mathilda.

'One who hates you.'

~~~~~~~


Hates? Hates? That word seemed to suck the vitality out of the Child's already-weak limbs. 'Hates me? But she doesn't even know me!' she cried, as Mathilda gently but firmly bore her along.

Swiftly they reached the foot of the Mountain of Spices and the tall one all but carried the Child to her favorite spot under the trees, among the flowers. There Mathilda set the Child softly down, then knelt at her side. 'Here,' said the rushing voice, 'we shall answer your questions, which are many.'

The Child paused, catching her breath, catching at her scattering thoughts. Which question first... 'Who is she?'

'She is the daughter of an enemy.'

'An enemy? But why is she here?'

'She has lived here for years. She lives at the foot of the Mountain of Spices, but on the other side.'

Oh. Then... 'She owns the Mountain?'

'By no means. The Mountain belongs to he who brought you here.'

The Child frowned in bafflement. 'But she acted like she owned the Mountain. She ordered us off the Mountain. And you obeyed her.'

A smile. 'Little one, we did not leave in obedience to her. Rather, we left to protect you from her - from her angry and vicious tongue. Sharp as a sword is her tongue, and she wields it against any who stay in this house.'

'Why?'

'Because you have what she can only pretend to.' Mathilda gestured towards the Mountain. 'She often walks the Mountain, pretending to own it. Because of her bluster, you thought she actually did own it. She does not, but lays claim to it by claiming to be a family relation to he who does own it. She claims to be the wife of the Master.'

The Child gasped.

'But she is not,' Mathilda went on. 'She envies you.'

'Me? Why should she envy me?'

'Because he brought you here. You are here because he wants you to be here. She is here because she stole in and laid claim to the small house on the far side of the Mountain. She remains here, because the Master is kind. He has no desire to throw her out, in the hopes that his kindness will break through to her. That she will come to her senses, renounce the heritage of her father, and humbly petition to become in fact what she pretends to be - a member of the Master's family.'

A silence. Then, 'Am I a member of the Master's family?'

A smile. 'You are.'

'But how could that be?'

'By bringing you here, the Master laid claim to you for one of his own. He loves you, and risked much to rescue you, that he might break the chains from off you, and place you in the heart of his house here, where you may heal and grow strong.'

A warm feeling spread over the Child. Like being wrapped in a blanket. 'When will he return?' she asked breathlessly.

'Soon. His coming for you is soon, little one.'

The Child cast her eyes upon the lofty mountain height nigh to them - and saw again the strong woman, the daughter of the enemy. She shuddered.

'Do not fear her. She can only speak against you; she dares not touch you.'

The Child cast down her eyes. 'I feel like we ran before her.'

'It was not cowardice, little one. The woman is blind. Not a blindness of eyes, but of spirit. She cannot see Truth. To stand before such a one and try to convince her of Truth - that is to waste one's breath. You cannot defend yourself to her. You can only be gracious and loving and kind - which is to be a daughter of this house.'

Mathilda rose to her - their? - feet. 'When the Master comes, he shall set all to rights. He shall defend you, little one. You need never defend yourself.'

~first~ (previous) ~next~

Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

the child, six


Hates? Hates? That word seemed to suck the vitality out of the Child's already-weak limbs. 'Hates me? But she doesn't even know me!' she cried, as Mathilda gently but firmly bore her along.

Swiftly they reached the foot of the Mountain of Spices and the tall one all but carried the Child to her favorite spot under the trees, among the flowers. There Mathilda set the Child softly down, then knelt at her side. 'Here,' said the rushing voice, 'we shall answer your questions, which are many.'

The Child paused, catching her breath, catching at her scattering thoughts. Which question first... 'Who is she?'

'She is the daughter of an enemy.'

'An enemy? But why is she here?'

'She has lived here for years. She lives at the foot of the Mountain of Spices, but on the other side.'

Oh. Then... 'She owns the Mountain?'

'By no means. The Mountain belongs to he who brought you here.'

The Child frowned in bafflement. 'But she acted like she owned the Mountain. She ordered us off the Mountain. And you obeyed her.'

A smile. 'Little one, we did not leave in obedience to her. Rather, we left to protect you from her - from her angry and vicious tongue. Sharp as a sword is her tongue, and she wields it against any who stay in this house.'

'Why?'

'Because you have what she can only pretend to.' Mathilda gestured towards the Mountain. 'She often walks the Mountain, pretending to own it. Because of her bluster, you thought she actually did own it. She does not, but lays claim to it by claiming to be a family relation to he who does own it. She claims to be the wife of the Master.'

The Child gasped.

'But she is not,' Mathilda went on. 'She envies you.'

'Me? Why should she envy me?'

'Because he brought you here. You are here because he wants you to be here. She is here because she stole in and laid claim to the small house on the far side of the Mountain. She remains here, because the Master is kind. He has no desire to throw her out, in the hopes that his kindness will break through to her. That she will come to her senses, renounce the heritage of her father, and humbly petition to become in fact what she pretends to be - a member of the Master's family.'

A silence. Then, 'Am I a member of the Master's family?'

A smile. 'You are.'

'But how could that be?'

'By bringing you here, the Master laid claim to you for one of his own. He loves you, and risked much to rescue you, that he might break the chains from off you, and place you in the heart of his house here, where you may heal and grow strong.'

A warm feeling spread over the Child. Like being wrapped in a blanket. 'When will he return?' she asked breathlessly.

'Soon. His coming for you is soon, little one.'

The Child cast her eyes upon the lofty mountain height nigh to them - and saw again the strong woman, the daughter of the enemy. She shuddered.

'Do not fear her. She can only speak against you; she dare not touch you.'

The Child cast down her eyes. 'I feel like we ran before her.'

'It was not cowardice, little one. The woman is blind. Not a blindness of eyes, but of spirit. She cannot see Truth. To stand before such a one and try to convince her of Truth - that is to waste one's breath. You cannot defend yourself to her. You can only be gracious and loving and kind - which is to be a daughter of this house.'

Mathilda rose to her - their? - feet. 'When the Master comes, he shall set all to rights. He shall defend you, little one. You need never defend yourself.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

the child, five


The path wound upwards through great boulders and sparse bushes and little twisty trees. The Child stood at the bottom, looking up, hesitating. Was she truly ready for this?

Slowly she took the first step. And then the next. And the next...

Strange, she thought as she climbed higher and still higher. If this is the Mountain of Spices - why are the plants so sparse, so few, so far between? Should it not be lush?

Before long, she was puffing and panting as she mounted still higher along the path. To take the next step was soon an effort. To take the next breath was as well. Chest heaving, she paused in her walk, wondering if she had foolishly tried to do too much too soon.

'You enjoy the view?'

The Child spun about, coming nigh to losing her balance. But even as she did, a steadying hand touched her arm.

'Mathilda! What are you doing here?'

'Following you,' said the voice like many waters. 'That we might offer strength as you weaken.'

The Child cast down her eyes. The other slipped an arm through hers, bearing her up, renewing her strength.

'Soon will you have the strength to make this climb, little one. Very soon. You are making good progress. But for now...'

The Child leaned on Mathilda and let the tall one guide her where she willed. And so Mathilda brought her to see the myrrh plants, with the golden tears of sap clotted on the thick stems. 'Myrrh means bitter,' the tall one explained, 'for the tears are bitter to the taste. They ooze out where the stem has been gashed - wounded, if you will. And yet - the bitterness of the myrrh, when crushed to a powder - brings healing.'

They moved on, Mathilda bearing the Child gently along. 'We shall see the cinnamon next,' the tall one said.

'Please...' said the Child. And hesitated.

'Ask what you will,' Mathilda replied.

'Where are all the plants? I mean, there are plants, yes. But not as many as I thought there would be. If this is the Mountain of Spices, shouldn't it be overflowing with spices? But there are so few...'

'You see truly. It was not always thus. Nor will it always be so. But for now, the plants have indeed withered, many of them, as before the blast of an angry wind. But fear nothing: soon will this Mountain flourish once more with verdure. And now here,' Mathilda added, 'is the cinnamon...'

The Child suddenly gasped and clutched at Mathilda's arm. 'What is that?' the Child cried. She pointed with a shaky hand.

Someone was coming towards them, swiftly over the rocky path. A woman, strong and angry. She too was pointing with her hand, as she came up to Mathilda and the Child. Pointing with fury in her face at the Child.

'What is that weakling doing here?' she cried. 'What are you thinking, Mathilda, to bring such a weak little excuse for a human being up here? This place is for the strong! Not for her!'

"Good afternoon,' said the voice of many waters. Softly. Meekly. Subdued and gentle.

'Take her away! She does not belong here!' the newcomer demanded. 'Are you mad, bringing such a frail little child up here? And you!' The woman swung viciously to face the Child. 'Look well and see what you came to see. For this is the only time you shall ever come here. Puny one!'

'Thank you,' said Mathilda sweetly, her eyes meeting mildly with those of the strong woman. There was a bemused look upon the tall one's face as she added, 'Thank you for your compassionate concern for the well-being of this little one. We will go down the mountain now.'

The strong woman stared at Mathilda, trying to fathom what spirit was behind such words. 'Well,' she said at last. 'Well. So long as you take her down the mountain safely. Do not bring her back up again!'

Mathilda smiled and turned away, leading the Child from the strong woman's presence.

The Child craned to look behind them, at the lone figure standing with folded arms, smirking with pleasure to see them go. 'Who was that?' she asked of Mathilda.

'One who hates you.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Friday, October 15, 2004

 

the child, four


She did not hit the floor. For the tall being Mathilda caught her - caught her so swiftly that the Child had not the time to realize she was falling before there were strong arms about her, bearing her up.

'You have much healing yet to be attained. Much strength yet to be regained. To walk is yet too much for you, little one.'

Tears sprang to the Child's eyes as it sank in on her: if she could not walk, she could not go outside. Why it was that this trip outside should be so immensely important to her, she was not sure. But to suddenly find that she was not going outside after all was overwhelming.

'Why do you cry?' asked Mathilda.

'Because now I won't be able to go outside,' the Child sniffled.

'Indeed? Who told you such a thing?'

"But I can't walk...'

'And so we shall bear you outside. The freshness of the air and the warmth of the sunshine shall do you much good. Come.' And the strong arms took up the Child as if she weighed nothing at all. And out they went.

The halls were a bewildering maze to the Child as she was borne along. And then came the door - and a dazzle of light nearly as great as the one that had emanated from Mathilda - and the spectacle of tall trees and bright flowers and soft green grass. And the Child was set down gently in the lush grass as the base of a sturdy tree, surrounded by fragrant flowers.

She sat, stunned, her soul within her swelling like a sponge as she soaked in all the beauty about her. She could all but feel the strength flowing into her weakened limbs, just as the sunlight soaked into her skin. Bliss...

And so it went for the next few days. Mathilda would bear the Child out into the sunshine, where the Child would sit and grow strong, fed by the beauty of the outdoors. Soon, she felt strong enough to attempt again to stand. Soon after that, she was standing, albeit swaying. And in the next few days, gradually, the Child ventured to walk, and then to run...

And then she thought to climb the Mountain of Spices.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

 

the child, part 1 chapter 1 - 'the awakening'


The Child woke, startled at the strong light in her eyes.

'Good morning,' said a gentle voice. 'Be not afraid.'

The Child turned to see who spoke to her, but her eyes were too dazzled. 'Who are you?' she asked. 'And where am I?'

'You don't remember? Or the better question: what do you remember?'

The Child closed her eyes, trying to remember - but then opened them again, shaking her head. 'Nothing,' she said. 'I don't remember. Not anything.'

A sigh in the brightness. 'We were hoping you would remember for yourself. For the moment then, know this, little one: a man brought you here, carrying you on his back. You had chains upon your arms, which he broke off you with his own two hands and flung into the corner there.'

Where? The Child turned her head this way and that, but was dazzled by the brightness yet and saw no chains.

'...and you have been sleeping since then,' the voice went on.

'How long?'

'Three days.'

Three...!

'Where is the man who brought me here?' the Child asked at last.

'Gone,' said the voice.

Oh. For some reason, the Child turned her face to the wall, as tears sprang up in her eyes.

The voice shifted closer. 'He left some money to use for taking care of you. And...this.' Something weighty landed on the Child's lap. In the dazzle of the brightness, she ran her hands over it blindly, trying to fathom what it was. Long... thin... flat... What could it be?

The voice shifted again, this time away from the Child. 'Now that you are awake, we will bring you food. Soup, to wake up your stomach.'

A fading of sound, and the Child could tell the other was gone. The light, the dazzling nature of it, diminished until the Child could now see the room around her. The abandoned chains she now saw tossed away in a corner. The room itself was small and neat, with daylight streaming in at the single window, splashing across the floor and chair and up onto the bed where the Child lay, the light at last coming to rest on the long, thin, flat something that had been laid in the Child's lap.

It was a sword.

~~~~~~~


The soup was warm and savory, pleasing to the Child's nose as well as to her tongue. A hand she could barely see in the returned brightness spooned it up for her, as the same voice that had spoken to the Child before spoke to her, soothing words, savory and pleasing to her ear.

'After you have eaten and rested again, we will take you out into the sunshine for a while. Your legs will be happy for the stretching, and your lungs for the fresh air. We have...'

'Where am I?' the Child interrupted.

The voice paused, and when it spoke next, the Child could hear the smile in it. 'We have the Mountain of Spices as our neighbor, as we were about to tell you,' said the voice. 'That is where you are, at the foot of the Mountain of Spices. You know where that is?'

The Child shook her head.

A hand came out of the brightness to rest on the Child's brow. 'There is much you do not know, and the time is short. Much you should have remembered. They were very cruel to you, we believe.'

'Who?' asked the Child. 'Who was cruel?'

The hand withdrew, then spooned up more soup to her. 'Those who put upon your arms such chains.'

Again, in the brightness surrounding the voice, the Child could see no chains, though her head turned automatically to look at the corner where she knew her old shackles lay.

'Who...' and the Child swallowed hard, her eyes troubled. 'Who brought me here?'

'The soup is finished now, and you need rest. Yes, even still, after sleeping three days. When you wake and rise, we will take you outside. You will like that.'

The voice rose and moved away towards the door. Taking again the brightness with it.

'But who brought me here?' the Child asked again.

At the door, the voice paused. 'When he comes again for you, he will explain all.'

'He is coming back?' the Child asked.

The sound of the door opened, the brightness hovering in the doorway. 'Yes. Many has he brought here in chains, little one. Many has he left in our care. Always he has returned to bear them on further. He will return for you as well.'

'But when? When will he return?' the Child asked in eagerness and wonder.

'When you are ready,' the voice replied gently. And then the door closed, shutting off both the voice and the accompanying brightness from the Child's sight.

~~~~~~~


Sleeping and waking brought the sunshine of early morning peeking in at the window, beaming down on the Child. In the light of the bare sunlight, without the brightness that seemed to come and go with the voice, this room looked quite ordinary. The bed here, chair there, a small table, the window inviting in the soft light draping over all. Quite ordinary. Except...

Except - how did she know it was ordinary? She could remember nothing of what had happened before. So how could she know what was ordinary, and what was not?

How could she know anything?

The Child was burying her face in her hands when the door opened, and the brightness walked in. The light of the window was swallowed up by the light at the door.

'You are awake. Good,' said the voice, plainly smiling. 'Here is food. You are able to sit up to eat of it?'

The Child shifted up onto her elbows, then up to sitting. She was surprised at how much effort that took. But once she was sitting up, a tray of appetizing food was set on her lap. Ah, it smelled wonderful! though she could hardly see the food for the brightness of the light. Whether she could see it or not made little difference, though. She found she had good appetite for it - very very good appetite.

'Why is it,' she asked between bites, 'that every time you come in, there is so much brightness that I can barely see anything?'

'Ah!' said the voice, sounding a bit startled. 'This is so? That explains much. Your pardon then. We will see to it.'

And in a few moments, the light became less, and then less again, till the Child could see normally the things around her. And there, standing by the side of the bed, was a tall person dressed in a plain brown robe. A large shawl was draped over the person's head, framing a face that was somehow neither old nor young nor male nor female. 'This is better?' asked the voice.

The lips of this person moved with the sound, so this was surely the one speaking. But the voice, now that the dazzle of light no longer distracted the Child - ah, the voice! Like the sound of the rushing of many waters, it was.

Suddenly the Child was no longer interested in the food she'd been eating - not with such a strange and unearthly being before her.

'Who are you?' she asked.

The face smiled on her gently. 'You may call us Mathilda,' said the voice, rising and falling as the waves of the sea.

'Mathilda is a woman's name,' said the Child - and then wondered that she knew that.

'Such it is,' Mathilda replied.

'You are a woman?'

'What we are, we are,' the voice replied.

The Child opened her mouth to question further - why did Mathilda speak of herself as 'we'? But the very sound of Mathilda's voice stopped that question. For the rushing of the voice certainly sounded as if there was more than one speaking...

'When you have eaten, we shall go,' Mathilda prompted.

Go? The Child frowned, trying to remember. Ah! Go! The promised trip outdoors!

The Child set the tray aside and swung her legs over the side of the bed. 'I'm ready now,' she said eagerly.

And stood up.

And collapsed.

~next~

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

 

the child, three


Sleeping and waking brought the sunshine of early morning peeking in at the window, beaming down on the Child. In the light of the bare sunlight, without the brightness that seemed to come and go with the voice, this room looked quite ordinary. The bed here, chair there, a small table, the window inviting in the soft light draping over all. Quite ordinary. Except...

Except - how did she know it was ordinary? She could remember nothing of what had happened before. So how could she know what was ordinary, and what was not?

How could she know anything?

The Child was burying her face in her hands when the door opened, and the brightness walked in. The light of the window was swallowed up by the light at the door.

'You are awake. Good,' said the voice, plainly smiling. 'Here is food. You are able to sit up to eat of it?'

The Child shifted up onto her elbows, then up to sitting. She was surprised at how much effort that took. But once she was sitting up, a tray of appetizing food was set on her lap. Ah, it smelled wonderful! though she could hardly see the food for the brightness of the light. Whether she could see it or not made little difference, though. She found she had good appetite for it - very very good appetite.

'Why is it,' she asked between bites, 'that every time you come in, there is so much brightness that I can barely see anything?'

'Ah!' said the voice, sounding a bit startled. 'This is so? That explains much. Your pardon then. We will see to it.'

And in a few moments, the light became less, and then less again, till the Child could see normally the things around her. And there, standing by the side of the bed, was a tall person dressed in a plain brown robe. A large shawl was draped over the person's head, framing a face that was somehow neither old nor young nor male nor female. 'This is better?' asked the voice.

The lips of this person moved with the sound, so this was surely the one speaking. But the voice, now that the dazzle of light no longer distracted the Child - ah, the voice! Like the sound of the rushing of many waters, it was.

Suddenly the Child was no longer interested in the food she'd been eating - not with such a strange and unearthly being before her.

'Who are you?' she asked.

The face smiled on her gently. 'You may call us Mathilda,' said the voice, rising and falling as the waves of the sea.

'Mathilda is a woman's name,' said the Child - and then wondered that she knew that.

'Such it is,' Mathilda replied.

'You are a woman?'

'What we are, we are,' the voice replied.

The Child opened her mouth to question further - why did Mathilda speak of herself as 'we'? But the very sound of Mathilda's voice stopped that question. For the rushing of the voice certainly sounded as if there was more than one speaking...

'When you have eaten, we shall go,' Mathilda prompted.

Go? The Child frowned, trying to remember. Ah! Go! The promised trip outdoors!

The Child set the tray aside and swung her legs over the side of the bed. 'I'm ready now,' she said eagerly.

And stood up.

And collapsed.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Monday, October 11, 2004

 

storyblogging carnival III


My story 'walk with me' was included in storyblogging carnival III. You can surf over there and have a look at the other stories, if you'd like to.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

 

the child, two


The soup was warm and savory, pleasing to the Child's nose as well as to her tongue. A hand she could barely see in the returned brightness spooned it up for her, as the same voice that had spoken to the Child before spoke to her, soothing words, savory and pleasing to her ear.

'After you have eaten and rested again, we will take you out into the sunshine for a while. Your legs will be happy for the stretching, and your lungs for the fresh air. We have...'

'Where am I?' the Child interrupted.

The voice paused, and when it spoke next, the Child could hear the smile in it. 'We have the Mountain of Spices as our neighbor, as we were about to tell you,' said the voice. 'That is where you are, at the foot of the Mountain of Spices. You know where that is?'

The Child shook her head.

A hand came out of the brightness to rest on the Child's brow. 'There is much you do not know, and the time is short. Much you should have remembered. They were very cruel to you, we believe.'

'Who?' asked the Child. 'Who was cruel?'

The hand withdrew, then spooned up more soup to her. 'Those who put upon your arms such chains.'

Again, in the brightness surrounding the voice, the Child could see no chains, though her head turned automatically to look at the corner where she knew her old shackles lay.

'Who...' and the Child swallowed hard, her eyes troubled. 'Who brought me here?'

'The soup is finished now, and you need rest. Yes, even still, after sleeping three days. When you wake and rise, we will take you outside. You will like that.'

The voice rose and moved away towards the door. Taking again the brightness with it.

'But who brought me here?' the Child asked again.

At the door, the voice paused. 'When he comes again for you, he will explain all.'

'He is coming back?' the Child asked.

The sound of the door opened, the brightness hovering in the doorway. 'Yes. Many has he brought here in chains, little one. Many has he left in our care. Always he has returned to bear them on further. He will return for you as well.'

'But when? When will he return?' the Child asked in eagerness and wonder.

'When you are ready,' the voice replied gently. And then the door closed, shutting off both the voice and the accompanying brightness from the Child's sight.

~previous~ ~next~

Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

the child, one


The Child woke, startled at the strong light in her eyes.

'Good morning,' said a gentle voice.

The Child turned to see who spoke to her, but her eyes were too dazzled. 'Who are you?' she asked. 'And where am I?'

'You don't remember? Or the better question: what do you remember?'

The Child closed her eyes, trying to remember - but then opened them again, shaking her head. 'Nothing,' she said. 'I don't remember. Not anything.'

A sigh in the brightness. 'We were hoping you would remember for yourself. For the moment then, know this, little one: a man brought you here, carrying you on his back. You had chains upon your arms, which he broke off you with his own two hands and flung into the corner there.'

Where? The Child turned her head this way and that, but was dazzled by the brightness yet and saw no chains.

'...and you have been sleeping since then,' the voice went on.

'How long?'

'Three days.'

Three...!

'Where is the man who brought me here?' the Child asked at last.

'Gone,' said the voice.

Oh. For some reason, the Child turned her face to the wall, as tears sprang up in her eyes.

The voice shifted closer. 'He left some money to use for taking care of you. And...this.' Something weighty landed on the Child's lap. In the dazzle of the brightness, she ran her hands over it blindly, trying to fathom what it was. Long... thin... flat... What could it be?

The voice shifted again, this time away from the Child. 'Now that you are awake, we will bring you food. Soup, to wake up your stomach.'

A fading of sound, and the Child could tell the other was gone. The light, the dazzling nature of it, diminished until the Child could now see the room around her. The abandoned chains she now saw tossed away in a corner. The room itself was small and neat, with daylight streaming in at the single window, splashing across the floor and chair and up onto the bed where the Child lay, the light at last coming to rest on the long, thin, flat something that had been laid in the Child's lap.

It was a sword.

~next~

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

a little excitement in the house


~~~a recent actual event at my house ~ I thought I would try my hand at writing it up as a narrative~~~

I was awaken by the soft thump of something small landing on the bed near my head. A bleary-eyed glance told me it was my daughter's cat.

I was too sleep-fogged at first to think what that meant: to recall how the little cat had been getting wider and wider in recent days; how she had seemed a little - hmm - well, not really sick, but not exactly herself that day either. If I had been just a bit more awake right then, I might have realized what was coming.

A second glance at the cat revealed that she had made a dark damp stain on the bed. Oh tremendous, I thought. Now I have to change my sheets. I called for one of the kids to bring a towel for me to wipe up the mess - still not quite recognizing what was happening.

You'd think I would have recognized it, having been through the human version seven times myself.

And then suddenly it hit me what was happening. 'Bring a towel!' I cried again.

I was still too sleepy to be thinking quite straight; too sleepy to think of moving the cat off my bed entirely. No, I was thinking to lay the towel on the bed and shift the cat onto the towel. But quickly, very quickly. Before it was too...

And then it was too late. Suddenly there were two cats in my bed. And the new one was very, very tiny...

~~~

In all, she had four kittens - right there in my bed, as I and the children watched. And she did so well! First-time mama, but she knew everything to do: licking each baby clean and dry, cleaning up everything after herself. Why, when she was done, there was barely any sign left that she had been having babies there!

(I still washed the sheets.)

After the last kitten was born, I brought to my daughter a box and some towels, and she made up a nest for her cat and the babies, putting them right there in the bottom of my closet. Four sweet little kittens, all the very same color as their mama.

Yeah, it was worth the messy sheet!

Friday, October 01, 2004

 

just like he said


~~(this one needs some polishing yet...)~~

A tree in the field towered above their heads, its branches lush and green, and dotted with bright cherries.

"Let's pick some," said Willie. "I'm hungry."

Mollie wrinkled up her nose. "No, I don't want any," she said. And she turned and walked away.

"Wait, Mollie!" Willie called after her. But she ignored him and kept walking and was gone.

He called her name once more, but of course that did no good. "Mean old Mollie," he pouted. "Why is she always so mean to me?"

He wandered round and round under the tree, staring up into the branches, wishing he was big and tall and strong, instead of tiny and weak.

Mr. Dengate could reach the cherries, he thought. Or his cousin Chad. They were all grown up, and could do anything. They weren't five like him. They weren't nothing.

"I'll never do it," he sighed. And slumped against the tree trunk in defeat.

"Never's a long time," said a voice. "Never do what?"

Willie looked all around. Who was that? He didn't see anyone.

And then a boy stepped out from behind the tree trunk. Just a boy, very much like Willie, with sandy hair and a friendly smile.

"Never do what?" he asked again.

"Never get any cherries," said Willie dejectedly.

The new boy peered up through the branches. "They are high up there, aren't they?" he said thoughtfully. "So - did you try climbing up for them?"

"I can't climb a tree," said Willie.

"Did you try?"

"No."

"How come?"

"Cause I already know! I can't climb trees."

"You never will if you never try," said the new boy cheerfully. "Come on!"

Glumly, skeptically, Willie threw his arms round the tree trunk and tried to scramble up. He tried and he tried, this way and that. And got nowhere.

Exhausted, he slumped against the tree trunk again. "I told you I couldn't climb up."

"Uh huh," said the new boy. "So - how else can you get the cherries?"

"I dunno," said Willie, sadly.

"How were you planning to get the cherries?"

"Oh, I wanted my sister to help me reach up. But she wouldn't."

"Pick you up, you mean? I could do that."

Willie looked up the new boy in surprise. He wasn't a bit bigger than Willie himself! How could he pick up someone who was just as big as he was?

"No, you can't!" said Willie.

"Sure I can!" the other boy said with confidence.

"Can't neither!" said Willie.

"I can try," said the boy.

"Well...all right," said Willie doubtfully. So he let the other boy try to lift him up. The boy tried and tried, and Willie reached up longingly at the cherries. But it was just as Willie said; the other boy was not able to lift him up enough to pick the cherries.

"I told you," said Willie, quite unhappy. He slumped down again, then sat down plop on the ground.

"Yes, you did," said the new boy. "So - how else can we get the cherries?"

"I don't know," Willie snapped at him. He was beginning to get annoyed about not being able to get the cherries.

"Maybe you could find a stick and knock some down out of the tree," the boy offered.

"Oh, right. Like that will help," muttered Willie.

"What's that you said?" asked the other. And, "Come on, let's look for a couple of long sticks."

Willie got up and followed him in the search, but mumbling under his breath the whole time. "Probably won't even find any sticks around here," he muttered.

They didn't find any long sticks.

"See?" said Willie, feeling a weird sort of triumph at being right.

"Not any sticks?" the other boy said. "None at all? Don't you suppose there might have been even one?"

"Well," Willie conceded, "maybe one..."

"Oh!" cried the new boy, swooping down on something and picking it up. "Like this one!"

"Oh. Yeah," said Willie slowly.

"Here," said the new boy. "You do it."

"I don't know how," said Willie. And then, "I probably can't hit a single cherry anyway."

"Let's see," said the new boy.

So Willie took the stick and swung it at the tree branches. And amazingly, as the stick got near, the branches of the tree tossed like they were in a wind storm, dancing away from the stick. But there was no wind!

Shocked, Willie tried it again. He swung his stick to knock loose the cherries. And, just as before, the tree branches acted like they were being blown back by a strong wind. No matter how he swung the stick, he couldn't touch the tree branches. And not a single cherry tumbled to the ground.

But the stick did. Willie let it drop from his suddenly nerveless hands. "Did you see that?" he cried.

"See what?" said the other boy.

"That! The way the tree acted just now! Like...like it was avoiding me..."

"Yes, it was just like you said, wasn't it? You didn't hit a single cherry - not a one. Just like you said."

"Yeah," said Willie slowly. Very slowly. Something was beginning to dawn on him. "Just like I said..."

"Just like you said," the other boy agreed. "You never got any cherries - just like you said. You couldn't climb the tree - just like you said. I couldn't lift you up to them - just like you said."

"Everything's happening, just like I said!" cried Willie in horror.

"Hmmm..." said the other boy. "You know what that means?"

"What?" said Willie fearfully. It was scary, having his words become reality, right before his eyes.

"It means," said the other boy, looking Willie in the eye. And what strange eyes the other boy had! So deep they seemed endless, and seemed to have stars twinkling in their very depths. "It means," he repeated, "that you need to change what you say."

"Oh," said Willie in a tiny tiny voice.

"Didn't your mom ever tell you to be careful what you say, because you might get it?"

"Yes," said Willie, in the same tiny voice.

The other boy smiled. "I know she did. So - how are we going to get the cherries now?"

Willie hung his head. And when he did, he spotting again that long stick where he had dropped it. "Maybe," he said. "Maybe I can try to knock some down again. And maybe it will work this time."

"Maybe," the other boy agreed. "Let's see you do it. What are you going to do?"

Willie picked up the stick and held it firmly. He began to smile, and then to grin. "I'm going to get some cherries!"

"That's the spirit!" said the other.

"Yeah!" said Willie. "I'm going to knock them right off the tree!" And he swung the stick.

And this time - oh! it was as if the tree leaned into the stick, wanting it to knock down the cherries. Little round deep red balls fell and fell and fell, all round Willie has he swung the stick. He laughed with delight and dropped to his knees, scrambling to gather the fruits.

"I did it!" he cried. "I got the cherries! Here, want some?"

But when he turned holding out a handful of fruit to offer to the other boy - why, the boy had vanished! Completely. He was nowhere in sight.

But here came Mollie.

Willie's face darkened as he watched her walk this way. She hadn't helped him, and he was still mad at her. He wished...

Oh! A thought struck him, that if the words he spoke about the cherry tree became real, then...

He could do something really mean to Mollie. Just by talking.

After all, she had been mean to him.

All he had to do, was say something. Something nasty.

Hmmm...

"Oh, there you are, Willie. Mom wants you," Mollie called. And she frowned. "Are you still sitting up here under this cherry tree, pouting because I wouldn't help you pick the cherries? What a baby you are!"

Willie's face burned a dark red. Oh, she was so mean! He thought inside him, searching for the perfect mean thing to say back, to have it some true.

Ah!

He opened his mouth.

And suddenly he saw again that boy. Not that he was there again. But inside his head, he saw him. The friendly face, and smile, and eyes. Especially the eyes, all deep with the stars inside them.

Willie's face burned again, this time with shame. How could he do that? How could he go back to talking bad things again? And do it to hurt his sister?

He opened his mouth again. But not to say the mean thing he had thought to say against her.

"Hi, Mollie," he said instead. "I love you, sis. I'm not going to be a baby anymore. Oh, and I did finally get some of the cherries. You want some? I'd like to share them with you."

Mollie's face was astonished as she held out her hand to receive the cherries that Willie handed her.

It was the same handful he had tried to give to the boy earlier. To that boy who had helped him to change his words. And somehow, that just seemed to be exactly the right thing to do.

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