Tag Archives: microfiction

The Girl Who Dreamed of Flying


Once upon a time…you know where this is going. You might even think, this is one of those ‘fairy tales’ and dismiss it straight away as a myth, but I can assure you it is truer than true. For it is true that everything in this world has a once upon a time; even you, if you think about it, when you burst purple, wet into this place, gulping your first breath, eyes squinting at the bright glare of life.

And so it was for Clarissa. Born in a humble wisteria-draped cottage in a dingle village long, long ago, Clarissa emerged from the Guf laughing, eyes wide and bright. The midwife declared, “My my, but this is a special one!” Never had a truer thing been uttered, as time would tell.

As soon as she could walk, Clarissa set about exploring every cranny and nook. Birds and bugs, whirlygigs, cottonwood fluff and witch’s gowan wishies…flying things, were her favorite things of all. She spent hours studying them, quite unusual for a youngster, and gibbering to them about this and that, as if they were listening. She dreamed of flying like her airborne friends. One day she did. It was the saddest of all days the dingle had ever known.

On that dark and dreadful day Clarissa managed to escape the watchful eyes of her doting mum to wander up the mountain trail to the lookout ledge. She stood there for a moment, feet clinging to the rocky crag, arms extended, her fiery red curls dancing in the wind, and she laughed so loudly it caught the attention of every living thing below. They watched aghast as Clarissa lept into a swooping gust and flew for a short, too few magnificent seconds.

Frantic to save her, every winged, wispy thing surrendered their feathers and wings, whirligigs and fluffy, puff wishies to the wind, hoping to break her fall her by blanketing the dingle in feathery fluff, but they were no match for gravity’s power, drifting helplessly in the air. Clarissa fell right through them, landing in a horrible thud as the last echo of her laughter faded in the distance.

Now you may not notice it when it happens but I can assure you it’s true. Every time a child laughs a bird sheds a feather or bug its wings. And sometimes Maple tree whirligigs, cottonwood fluffies and dandelion wishies take to the wind too. All to remember Clarissa, the girl who dreamed of flying, and to add another moment’s wonder and happiness to children everywhere. For it is also true that their magnificent innocence, like Clarissa’s ill-fated flight, fades far too quickly, like echoes of laughter in the distance.

~kat

A Folktale for Jane Dougherty Microfiction Challenge inspired by Jeren of itsallaboutnothing’s poem that you can read HERE.


Hopeless Grace

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Suspense by Charles Burton Barber

Beads of sweat dotted her forehead as she crouched, trembling under a makeshift shelter of cardboard panels. Her swollen belly tightened as surging bolts of excruciating pain crushed her frail frame. 

After hours of agony she birthed not one, but two baby girls. “Two too many mouths to feed,” she thought. She swaddled them in rags and placed them in a tattered basket, scratching a note to the good sisters. “Please care for them”, she wrote, “I cannot.” 

Before dawn she stumbled into town leaving them at the abbey door. As she watched from a distant doorway, the sisters of St Gertrude’s Orphanage took the twins in just as she had hoped they would.  

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The sisters named the babies Hope and Grace. Hope was the quieter of the two. She rarely made a sound and seemed to prefer observing life as it passed before her. Grace, true to her name, was a delightful, good natured bundle of joy. She quickly caught the attention of a barren couple who visited the orphanage hoping to find a child to call their own.

The adoption fee was quite high, but it ensured the means of prospective parents and their ability to provide for the children placed in their care. The sisters never mentioned that Grace was a twin for fear that the couple might change their mind. Finally the papers were signed and fees paid. Grace became a daughter that day, while Hope remained behind.

Seven years passed. Grace thrived in every way. Her wealthy parents showered her with love and comfort, seeing to her every need and want.

While at the park one spring day Grace noticed a girl, strikingly familiar, amongst the orphans that came to play every week. She approached the girl.

“Hello,” she smiled, “my name is Grace, what’s your name.”

Hope looked up, her eyes widening. It was like looking into a mirror. “I’m Hope,” she replied, “you look just like me. How can that be?”

The girls became fast friends. Grace begged her nanny to take her to the park on the days when the orphans would be there. She told Hope about her lovely home and family, her dog, Button and her kitten, Scratch. Hope, in turn, told Grace about her life at the orphanage. The sisters were kind and loving in their own way, but they were not a mommy and a daddy; something Hope longed for.

Overcome with compassion for the orphan, Grace had an idea. “you know Hope, you could be me and I could be you. I’m sure no one would be the wiser. Then you could see what it’s like to have a mommy and daddy.”

Hope thought for a moment. “That’s a fine idea Grace! I could do as you say. No one would be able to tell. If you are willing I would love to do it.”

The girls agreed to trade lives for one week. They swapped clothes behind a huge oak tree. Grace joined the other children as they lined up to return to the orphanage. And Hope skipped over to the nanny who was sitting on a park bench nearby.

Their plan worked like a charm. No one ever suspected. After a week’s time, while enjoying breakfast in bed, Hope decided she rather liked being a daughter with parents and a dog and kitten. There is an old wives tale about twins that says there is always a good twin and a bad twin. Hope definitely fit the latter description. What she was about to do to Grace was very bad indeed!

From that day forward she resisted the nanny most vehemently when she offered to take her to the park. There Grace returned week after week, waiting and watching for her doppelgänger to no avail. Eventually she realized she had been deceived, feeling helpless to fix the mess she’d gotten herself into. Surely no one would believe the truth were she to tell it. So she didn’t.

Poor hopeless Grace spent the rest of her youth with the good sisters of St. Gertrude while an imposter lived the life she forfeited for having too kind a heart.

-kat – 13 April 2017

For Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge based on this painting called

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When Women Ruled the Land

A fitting microfiction tale for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Photo Prompt on this International Women’s Day. Peace all! 🙂

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Painting by Hans Thoma

Once upon a time, when women ruled the land, the Earth Goddess appeared on Elysium Mount playing her harp to call forth Spring. The people, dressed in white, gathered in vernal fields to celebrate the emergence of new life. It was said that one could hear the sound of Earth Goddess’s harp for miles, from sea to sea. It was a time of peace, hope and prosperity.

But Old Man Winter was not fond of Earth Goddess’s gaiety or her authority. He particularly disdained her warmth and light and greenness.

“Too much green!” he bellowed, as he spewed cold nips of icy breath across the plains to dissuade the buds from blooming.

“Too much light! he bemoaned, as he sent the darkest cloak of blackness to loom over the land in the wee, late hours of night to suppress the flickering sparks of dawn.

“She is much too hot!” he growled from the center of his cold, cold heart. “The world does not need new. Things are fine just the way they are!” Old Man Winter whined every year as he retreated to the earth’s poles to wait for Spring and Summer to Fall.

Of course it was completely out of place for him to demand that the seasons, the earth and his way of bitter existence upon it, be only as he wished it to be. The seasons are as sure as the rising of the sun and the setting of the moon.

While in exile, Old Man Winter devised a plan to usurp the Earth Goddess’s rule. As winter was fading on the cusp of spring the following year, Old Man Winter sent two messengers, Power and Greed, to visit Earth Goddess as she played her harp on Elysium Mount. An enchanted flute-playing Lizard joined them. Lizards, as you know, are powerful totems of regeneration, renewal and rebirth, but they can be quite lethal, breathing fire and destruction, if allowed to sprout wings.

“Hello Fair Earth Goddess,” Power began, “we think the Spring Festival would be much more festive if you would consider adding the talents of our friend Lizard to your sinfonietta. He is a fine flautist from the rocky shoal along the Crystal Sea.”

“Imagine the beautiful music you could create together!” added Greed, “after all, two is better than one, don’t you agree?”

Knowing the legend and lore of the Lizard and seeing that he did not bear even the slightest bud of wings upon his back, Earth Goddess agreed to let Lizard play his pipe to her harp.

So enchanting and mesmerizing was the duo that the people stopped dancing to listen. It was then, that the Lizard sprouted wings, launching into a spree of terror from the sky, as had been the plan. The people scattered in fear to every corner of the earth leaving Earth Mother alone amidst the fading blooms of Spring; fading because she had stopped playing her harp when she realized she had been played. Finally, a cold wind whipped through her, ejecting her from the mount. She realized the culprit of the plot, but it was too late. Old Man Winter had won.

He still allows Spring to pass through each year, but he is clearly in control reminding her of this fact by sending unseasonal gusts of icy air. The Piper, (or Lizard as he was once known) still plays his pipe, its melody traveling on the wind while the people shudder, still scattered and fearful of shadows, bumps in the night and fire from the sky.

As history will attest, it was also the beginning of the time when men, fearful of women’s strong intuition and powerful ability to create and nurture, began to use fear to their own advantage, as a way control the people.

Though thousands of years have passed since the coup, I have heard that on rainy spring days, if one listens closely, the sound of the Earth Goddess’s harp can still be heard between rain droplets. She is close by, waiting for the day when peace, hope and prosperity are released from their chains and she is restored to her place atop Elysium Mount. On that day she will play and play, and the people will dance once again.

~kat – 8 March 2017


The Castle of Souls

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

“Who goes there?” Sparrow called to the darkness, as she walked the perimeter of the Castle of Souls.

Sparrow was a demigoddess sent to the earth realm to guard the castle and to spare undue calamity to human-kind by keeping the living outside the gate and “others” inside.

The Castle of Souls, or Purgatory as some call it, has existed since the beginning of time. It is nestled in the remote forests of Death Valley near the steep, rocky banks of the raging River of No Return and, most notably, features a sprawling garden of souls that glow eerily from skulls on bone posts where they reside until they are granted passage to heaven. It is certain death for any human unfortunate enough to witness such a sight, which is why Sparrow was so vigilant this dark, chilly night. 

She heard another sound echoing from the rocks near the river’s edge. “Hello! I know you are there. Identify yourself!” she demanded sternly.

“I’m lost,” a young voice cried from the blackness. “I’m lost an’ I’m hungry an’ I want my Mama, but she fell into the water when our boat tipped over and she never came out. I’ve been waitin’ and waitin’ but she never came…” the voice grew louder and clearer as a child with wild golden hair, shivering, wet from the river, wearing torn clothing that clung to her like skin, emerged into the light.

“Please don’t come any closer, child,” Sparrow pleaded, “I cannot help you. This is no place for a child to be. Follow the river this way,” she instructed, as she pointed down river, “soon enough you will find yourself in the village. Now run along.”

“But I’m cold and I’m tired. It’s dark. Can’t I just stay here with you?”

Sparrow took pity on the child and granted her wish, but only until morning, and only outside the wall of the castle grounds. She made a soft bed of leaves and wild flowers for the child and kept watch from the other side of the gate to make sure the girl didn’t wander inside.

Dawn of day is the time when souls arrive from death to the castle. It is a necessary cleansing of the veil between time and eternity. The presence of too many souls wandering the earth always creates chaos for the living. 

When the souls arrived, floating through the gate, looking very much like fog, many paused to gaze fondly at the sleeping child.  One soul lingered longer than most. Sparrow watched as it hovered over the child. She grew increasingly impatient with the soul, until she realized that it was the child’s mother. 

The allotted time for soul receiving was ending as the sun inched above the horizon. Sparrow urged the mother soul to come inside, but she refused to leave the child. If she didn’t close the gate soon, Sparrow risked a mutiny of the other souls in her keeping, so she made a deal with the mother.

“I see that you love this child more than eternity,” Sparrow said, “so I will grant you three days, and three days only, to stay with the child until she finds her way to the safety of the village. It’s a two day’s walk from here. Remember, three days only and you must return.” Then Sparrow closed the gate.

The booming noise from the shuttering iron gate startled the child awake. She remembered Sparrows’s instructions and set off down river. 

Her mother’s soul followed closely behind. She soon discovered that she could communicate with the child by sending a flutter of wind moving leaves to reveal bunches of tasty berries or by rustling shrubbery to redirect the child if she set off in the wrong direction. 

They traveled along the rocky shore of the River of No Return and through the canyons and salt flats of Death Valley until at long last a village came into view. The child’s pace sped up when she noticed people in the town square. A kind woman with several children of her own noticed the girl and took her in. The mother watched from afar a day longer to make sure the girl was safe and then, as she had promised, returned to enter the castle garden on the third day.

Sparrow noticed something different about the mother soul when she returned. She glowed warmer, brighter than the other souls. And one other thing; she did not wail and moan, which was a common practice that made the garden a miserable place to be. 

Sparrow was so inspired by the peaceful presence of the mother soul, that she declared that all souls would henceforth be granted three days to make their peace with life and the living before entering the the Castle of Souls.

You may have heard that the souls of the recently deceased linger three days, wandering amongst, and making their peace with the living before moving on. It was not always so. Now you know the story of how it came to be that when someone you love dies, you feel their presence ever so near, because my dears, they are!

~kat – 2 March 2017

A strange tale for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge inspired by the painting above by Ivan Bilibin, a Russian illustrator.


Along the Selchie Shore

There was a legend told of old by fisherman who ought to know…

“To find yourself a bonnie bride, when the moon is full, high in the sky, get thee to the northern shore to spy the selchies sleeping on the rocky shoal. They lay their her heads upon soft beds of silky skin that they have shed. Choose the lass most beautiful and hide her pelt before she wakes. Forevermore she will be yours unable to return into the deep.”

Some townsfolk swear the legend is true. And if you doubt it they’ll tell you this tale.

One stormy evening at a local pub, a young lad named Benjamin overheard a few old salts prattling at the bar about this and that and the selchie legend. He decided to see if it was true. On the very next full moon night he set out for the selchie shore with a shovel and an empty satchel.

Glistening in the pale moonlight, not one but four maidens slept upon their silken hides. Benjamin crept silently from one to another to the next and the next, his heart racing with indecision. Each one was more radiant than the former and he feared the witching hour would pass before he chose his bonnie lass. 

So Benjamin did what any young lad would do when faced with a such a choice and nothing to lose. He gathered all four pelts, stuffed them in the satchel and rushed inland to bury them.

He returned to the shore, as the sun was rising with cloaks to cover his lovely maidens. One by one they stirred awake and when they set their eyes upon his face, each was overcome with pure devotion. 

It was a young man’s dream. Benjamin swelled with pride as he led his harem into town to his simple stick-built shack. Never was a man happier than Benjamin on that day and the many days that followed.

But as the blush of new love faded, each selchie maiden became jaded, not happy to share their Benjamin with the other. They came to see that being human was not at all what they dreamed it would be. Oh, how they longed to return home to the freedom of the sea.

Together they devised a plan to rise before the cockle doodle, while Benjamin was fast asleep, to search for their pelts along the selchie shore. They would never find their treasure, and Benjamin, who had become accustomed to having four-fold attention, never gave away his hiding place once he learned of their scheme. 

Alas, these poor selchie maidens four were immortal, yet cursed to a life of human misery. Benjamin eventually died an old man with a secret and they continued to scan the beach, some say, even to this very day. 

You might even catch a glimpse of them there,  by setting out before the dawn, just as the amber sun is cresting along the selchie shore.

-kat – 7 February 2017

A tale for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge based on the painting above by Frederick Leighton.

 


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