Sunday, January 25, 2009
Laying in the synthetic grass, we observe the puffy clouds.
I downloaded them this morning,
a great compliment to the #66FFFF sky.
So peaceful it is, in our cyberspace dream
where things IRL can't bother us.
No virus or glitching or pop-ups here.
Just undisturbed resting and idle chat
with my friendly program, Daisy.
We were friends as soon as I installed her,
and I keep her updated for extended conversation.
Let's pick some pixelated flowers, I type.
Let's fly the kite.gif
In the world I created
At least the happiness isn't artificial.
The Masquerade Parade
Down by the docks in northern France, sat a young girl staring out at the vast sea. She was contemplating all sorts of things, as young imaginative children do, sitting on the stone beach wall among the salty smell and the cry of gulls. It was damp, and grey, but very soon her thoughts were interrupted by the clicking of a bicycle chain, and she turned see a local boy stop by to say hello.
" Bonjour Allete." He greeted.
" Bonjour Théo. " Allete said quietly. He was wearing his tweed hat and blazer, with a bundle of newspapers on the back of his bicycle and rolled up in his carrier bag. He must be working.
" Aren't you going up to Paris soon? " He said, looking out to the endless ocean with her.
Allete swung her hanging feet, letting the heels hit the rocks in a heartbeat rhythm, not unlike how her heart pumped now. She had always fancied Théo, as he was very kind. " My father is getting a delivery for work tomorrow, so I'll be there for a day or two. I've never seen Paris, so it should be very nice this time of year." Not to mention it was a partial birthday present from her father. She didn't want to obligate anyone by telling them it was her birthday, so she kept quiet about it. She shied under his large smile, looking at her hands.
" I see," said Théo. " Well I hope you have a good time. And, um..." He handed her a rolled up newspaper with a red ribbon around it.
"Oh, that's okay Théo. Papa reads the paper at work."
" No, this is for you." He said, ducking his head. " Open it when you're alone."
Allete took the package, and no sooner had it left his hand, Théo was off on his bike, cheeks red.
" Thank you!" She called after him, not knowing whether it was the appropriate thing to say in return. Why a newspaper?
Allete pocketed it before turning her body round and standing up onto the cobblestone street. It was about time she returned home before it rained.Through the small city streets, she made her way home, taking off her jacket and forgetting all about the package in the pocket.
The next day, Allete packed up all of her things very early, although she didn't have much to pack. Before the sun had even managed to crawl into the sky, Allete and her father were on their way to Paris by horse and wagon after kissing her mother and baby brother goodbye. The horse trecked on at a boring even pace, her father atop it, as the girl sat in the wagon to enjoy the scenery. It would not be too long of a ride, but soon the lovely rolling hills became tiresome, and she rested her head against the light luggage. It was this moment that Allete felt a rustling in her pocket as she moved, and remembered the newspaper that had been folded there for safekeeping.
She looked over to see that her father wasn't paying attention to what was behind him, and opened the newspaper. She flipped a few pages, wondering what it was that she was supposed to see, as a small glint fell out of the folds and into her lap. It was a small brass butterfly brooch. The jewels weren't real, but they were lovely stones anyways, and the fact that they came from Théo made them just as grand to her as diamonds. Her heart fluttered as she studied the gift. Beside it was a ripped paper with "Happy birthday" scrawled on it. The rest of the way to Paris, Allete was warmed by the red of her face as she held the brooch in her coat pocket.
As the sun made it's way to mid-morning, It was as if all of a sudden the houses and buildings became taller and taller as her father grew closer and closer to the city. The streets became stony and the people continued to get more crowded. Now other horses trotted beside her father's- even some automobiles too!- and Allete had to look higher before being able to see the sky. Deeper they continued to trot, until Paris was all around her; the busied people and the many wonderful shops going about their business noisely. Everywhere she looked, someone was carrying out their daily routine within the crowd; so many people with so many stories.
Her father parked the horse in an alley where there was a stable for other horses to rest. Just down the street was the hotel where they would be staying, so they took what little they had in hand and walked there. It was a small modest place, but they were lucky to have a window facing the street, onto a large district clock. The two decided that they ought to have lunch, so they traveled the streets of Paris to find some.
A flower girl here, a cafe there, and windows everywhere, displaying their goods. The hustle-bustle of city life was a nice change of pace, and Allete loved it. They plopped down to eat at one of the many small restaurants after having aimlessly walked around for quite a bit. Her father's tired shoe had even managed to get a hole on the side, but they laughed about it. After lunch they walked more, getting some icecream and a balloon, although a mime surprised Allete so much that her slacked grip sent the balloon a free trip to the moon. But the best part of the day was yet to come.
Along a small little street, in a place so out of the way, one might scarcely be able to find it unless they were specifically looking for it, was a marvelous mask shop. All along the wide window were various bright and glittering masks, absolutely dripping with ribbons and beads. Feathers of all colors stuck up from the painted masks with moons, stars, hearts, and diamonds, like a fantastic mirage of sugary sweets.
The inside was even more wonderful, with the most enormous and expensive masks, from simple to gaudy lining the walls. Just walking among the racks and shelves gave her coat a shimmer of glitter like pixie dust. Somewhere, from behind the feathers and sequins came the jolly looking owner of the shop. He was an older man with a curled white mustache, and a twinkle in his eye that made him much more youthful than the rest of his face. " Welcome, Welcome! Please look around. I'm Monsieur Deblanc. There are still months yet to plan until carnival season!"
The two thanked him, although they had no intention of buying anything at all. For such a small shop, it felt like a labyrinth of masks. Allete examined many of them, afraid to even pick up the most gorgeous ones, for fear that her human touch might taint them.
But for all the grand masks, Allete found herself lured to a simple design. It was a smooth white animal mask, perhaps a cat or a dog, with interesting markings that made it look almost tribal.
" Monsieur Deblanc, What sort of mask is this?" Allete asked the jolly shopkeep.
" Ah, that's a lovely one. It has a simple charm to it doesn't it? It's a child's fox mask. Perhaps it doesn't look like a fox to you or I, but it's a classic in the theatre of the far east."
Allete turned it over in her hands, examining the foreign mask, before trying it on in a nearby mirror. The reflection made her smile, covered up by the fox's own red painted grin. She didn't want to take it off right away, enjoying the new person staring back at her. The far east fox.
"Would you like it?" Her father asked.
Allete turned her head in surprise. She had thought a trip to Paris was as fine as any birthday present. She took the mask off gazing at it's golden eyes. She had fallen in love with it so easily, but it was probably expensive. "That's okay papa," She said meekly. " I don't have to have it. You can buy some new shoes instead."
Her father's face reddened a bit. "Nonsense. " He said. "It's your birthday."
"If I may..." Deblanc interrupted. " If you really want it, then young lady, you can have it for free."
Both Allete and her father both politely refused his generosity, but the smiling owner would not take no for an answer. He wrapped the mask up in a nice box with ribbon and sent the father and daughter on their way with profuse thank yous and large smiles.
When sunset came, Allete's father had a delivery to get for work and would return back for dinner. When he left, Allete couldn't wait to try her mask on again, so she opened the small box and tied it around her head. She tried different poses, having a good deal of fun just imagining how her classmates would react to it. Théo would probably like it. Allete untied the mask, deciding to gently put it away, when she spied a small paper.
Inside the box was a small white card with gold leafing printed on the front. She read it curiously.
You have been invited to tonight's Midnight Carnival
Keep an eye on the streets,
and be sure to bring your mask!
Allete immediatly thought it must be some sort of mistake that it had been in her box. She then though that perhaps the shopkeep gave it to her as a sort of coupon. The Midnight Carnival... but it wasn't near carnival season yet! She ran to the window, but the streetlamps only revealed the city people trying to get home from work.
Her father came home soon after that, and they had a small dinner of bread and meat. Her Father was tired from the day's excitement and had decided to go to sleep after they ate and talked a bit. But after the lights had gone out, and the sound of his breath steadied into a confirmation of sleep, Allete found herself imagining all sorts of wild things. The night has a peculiar way of changing the state of mind and pulling out obscure ideas, and Allete was swimming in them. A part of her wanted to believe in a midnight carnival,so her imagination played out how it would be... How lovely it would be... Soon, she drifted into sleep.
It was a small insignificant sound that woke her up. In her sleepy stupor, the laughter could have been one carried over by a dream. She turned over in bed, pulling on the sheets and willing herself back to sleep, but it was unmistakable this time. A small laugh broke the quiet; A child's, as if it was within the very room. Allete sat up, rubbing her eyes and looking around. Was a neighbor's child wandering around at night?
There it was again! But this time it sounded far off, as if from the street. She stepped out of bed, putting on her night slippers and walking to the cold window. She didn't see anyone outside, just a dead empty street. She could see the district clock that read midnight. Midnight... For reasons unbeknownst to Allete, she had the urge to go outside, right then. The night was calling to her and if there was any moment to leave, it would be right then. She threw on her coat over her nightdress, and, looking over at the gold leafed invitation by her mask box, grabbed the mask on the way out. On her way down the stairs, she fastened the mask to the side of her head so that she could pull it on when she wanted, quickening her pace as she got closer to the lobby. She unlocked a side door and quickly ran out into the street, half expecting to meet someone there.
But noone was there. The street was just as dead outside as it was from her view inside. But now it was cold, and she felt a little scared all by herself in the street. She stood for a while, watching her breath come out in white puffs, and wondered why she had even come out in the first place. Her father would be so upset if he found her gone!
And then she nearly jumped out of her skin, as the child's laughter breathed right behind her ear. She turned quickly, ready to run like a frightened deer, but her feet stood frozen in surprise. The laughing child was there, chuckling even more at Allete's fright. "Don't be scared! " The child said. But more than scared, Allete felt as if she had wandered into a dream again. It was a small girl, younger than Allete, wearing an over sized sort of pajama's with a cartoon animal's head as a hood. The child was atop a large ball, balanced as if it was only natural to stand there, perhaps with the help of a large squirell-like tail.
" Who...Who are you?" Allete managed to squeak out.
" Call me Sprite!" She said, smiling. The child's bright costume made the dark of night seem to cower away. "I know why you're here. " Sprite said playfully.
" Does it... have something to do with the Midnight Carnival?" Allete asked quietly. The air cracked with Sprite's laughter, and it was a wonder the whole area wasn't awake by it. She continued laughing, and the ball beneath her feet moved forward as the child began running away.
"Please wait!" Allete called to her, and began to follow. She must know about the Midnight Carnival, there was no mistake! The alleys were aglow as the child flew down them at a great speed, the large bright ball taking her down the cobble stone with ease. Allete tried her best to keep up, running at top speed and following Sprite's glow down the twisting corners. Soon, the turns and side streets were so many that Allete could no longer catch up, and had to stop for fear that she would collapse.
She gasped for air, looking around at where she was, but there was no way to recognize it. She was standing alone now, in a large street, that seemed to stretch on for a very long time, but it seemed hidden away by tall buildings on either side. She was scared now; Following a strange child had only served to make her lost in the dark streets of Paris and she might never be able to find her way back. Sprite was gone. Allete sat down in the gutter, trying to think about what she could do to get back, but she felt overwhelmed by the situation and was forcing herself not to cry. Pulling up her knees to her chest, she covered her face with the mask and closed her eyes, hoping for some sort of miracle.
Surrounded by the mask, the night, and the fear, she sat huddled alone. The feel of the brooch was in her coat pocket. She wished Théo was there to help... And at that moment she felt warm all over. Was this the power of love, she wondered? No, it was the air itself. Allete lifted her head, and through the mask's eyes, looked around into the darkness.
Beautiful glass lanterns and chandeliers of all colors were suspended from balconies and street lamps- and they were lighting up! They had definitely not had been there before. From the end of the street they flicked into life, all the way to where Allete stood. Distantly, the sound of Sprite's laughter came through the air, with an unmistakable sound of drums. Drums, accordion, fiddle, horns, and more in a mixture of sweet uplifting tune, that sounded so far off, but coming closer. And there, at the end of the street, came into view a gathering of people - a parade!
Allete started walking, then running, towards it. Closer and clearer the music came towards her; a glittering and a shine of the people coming nearer. She stopped there on the sidewalk, watching, as the Midnight Carnival approached right towards and past her, exploding onto the scene.
The carnival enveloped and devoured all in it's path with music, colors, animals like she had never seen, and the people themselves like a painting of a masquerade. Every man, women, child, and in between wore masks; extravagant masks that seemed one of a kind and costumes that were just as outrageous. Among the barrage of stripes and checkers in all mismatched colors, Allete saw Sprite rolling around with the crowd. "You're here!" She said, giggling loudly and pulling Allete into the parade. She looked around her, at all the people of the carnival, marching their way to the end of the street.
Then, they all stopped, marching in place. Allete watched as they moved in nonchalant unison, until they started parting down the middle, making way for someone who was approaching. All that was visible was a large fluff of feathers from the distance, and then she approached; A white a black duchess of sorts, clad in a French nobleman's uniform, complete with boots and scabbard. In various places, large contrasted feathers stuck out to resemble an ostrich. Her lovely masked face lowered to Allete's level, bending down with a smile.
"Hello little fox." She said sonorously. " You've stumbled upon our celebration. A celebration of life's fun, you see." She gestured to the crowd around her, of which was dispersing into stalls that had managed to spring up. " Will you be taking part in the fun?" The woman asked.
Allete nodded meekly through her fox mask and asked cautiously. " Excuse me, but, what is to take place? Is this some sort of party?"
The feathery woman grinned wide like a cheshire cat. "Of course this is a party! A superb party! " The other carnival folk who were bothering to listen in agreed in a mutual "here, here!".
"What you have to decide, " The large grin said, " Is whether you want to make the most of it."
From her breast pocket, she produced a small gold-leafed card very similar to her invitation. She lifted Allete's nervous hand and placed it inside. " If you can do what this card asks, be prepared for a grand prize." and with a twirl of black and white feathers, the woman had vanished into the crowd of strange faces, leaving Allete to herself. The peculiar masked people didn't seem to acknowledge Allete with more than a passing glance, sometimes smiling down at her, but otherwise minding their business and going about their brightly colored party lives. It was a circus parallel to the normal city of Paris.
Allete stared around at the costumed crowd in wonder before looking down at her card. In lovely gold lettering it said:
To start your quest for a prize most grand,
find a young man of whom must withstand
a face that is both laughing and sad.
" A riddle?" Allete thought. A riddle that was leading to a sort of scavenger hunt. "A young man who is laughing and sad? "
That was a decent clue. Perhaps someone was wearing a mask that looked happy yet sad?
And so the search began. She wandered along the stalls in no real hurry, looking at the gypsy merchandise of far away lands and strange mechanics of which whistled or otherwise made some sort of noise with no real function. Knick-knacks of all types were out on display, and she grew fond of a genie-lamp array.
One peculiar seller had a siamese twin. One of them had a happy mask, the other, a crying mask. Perhaps one of them was her target? " Excuse me Monsieurs." Allete asked as politely as possible. " Do you know anything about this?" She asked, holding up the gold-leafed card. They took turns looking at it, shaking their heads. The happy twin pointed towards a different small booth besides a painter. She curtsied in thanks, and ducked beneath a man on stilts to get there, but only a young smiling woman was there, not a man.
She was painting pictures that seemed scenic at first, but turned out to be shiny. The frame and canvas acted as a mirror, but it reflected everything back as if it was an oil painting. Allete wondered why she had been pointed here, but was enjoying the art nonetheless, as everything around her was reflected back as oil painted art.
Then, from somewhere behind her, she heard a youthful laugh, that made her feel so warm inside, it made her smile behind the mask and want to laugh herself. But after the laugh had finished, a long, sorrowful sigh followed, sucking the happiness out of the air. She turned around immediately to see a young man studying one of the painter's works. He looked utterly depressed observing the art, but one half of his face was covered by a mask with a laughing face. He had large antlers coming from the top of his head, and a bizarre outfit of half circus, half military type clothes. He looked to Allete as she caught his eye. She gave him a large smile, of which he beautifully returned, before lapsing back into a miserable frown as he started to walk away.
"Excuse me! " Allete called after him. She slowly showed him the riddle, and he gave yet another discontented sigh, very out-of-place in such a cheerful environment of carnival.
" I see. " He said. " So I suppose I've been made part of the game. How lovely that noone told me. "
" I'm sorry Monsieur." Allete said sheepishly. " But I believe you were the one I was supposed to find. Do you know what I do now? "
" Call me Olivier." He said with a large charming smile, switching moods again. " Ah yes, I've done this sort of scavenger hunt before myself." He said, holding the card up to the light. The people moving around Olivier were trying to maneuver past his antlers as he tilted his head back. " If I'm the one you're to find, then I suppose..." He felt along his jacket pockets. "Ah ha. So it is here after all. Here you are, little fox."
And with a mighty mournful exhale, he handed Allete a gold-leafed card that was just like the one before.
She took it in her hands, reading the writing carefully.
Step by step your prize grows nearer
so find a man who needs no mirror
As his front is back, his back is front,
the more people you meet, the quicker the hunt.
"It's a bit longer than last one." Allete said outloud.
"I can help you if you'd like." Olivier offered. Allete thought about his words. It would be nice to have a companion help her on her journey, and perhaps some fun could help him recover from his half sadness. "I'd be delighted. Thank you Olivier." She said.
"Ah, just a moment, I'm to give you a small prize for finding me. With each person you find, you're to receive more small prizes until the finale. "
" Am I? Though I mostly found you through luck!"
" Indeed. But what to give... I haven't much you see." The young man checked his person. "How about a flower then?"
"That'd be lovely!" And so the young man fastened a few flowers into Allete's hair. She felt a bit more involved in the carnival now.
So they began to search again, getting deeper into the streets of the night carnival. They spied one jester take a large torch, and upon blowing on it, released the fire into a burst of red butterflies that swarmed about like confetti. Allete and a few others applauded as they walked by. Every corner they turned had a new laugh. Allete even made way for a ribbon dancer, who started cursing when the long streams of fabric became caught up in Olivier's antlers. After seeing so many wonderful things, Allete had a perpetual smile on her face, not unlike the fox's grin that she was wearing. perhaps she was suited for the mask after all!
A small bit of carnival music started swelling again as the two continued to walk, and Olivier, who could see better from being taller, said "Ah, I think we may have found the next clue, little fox."
A crowd was circled around a dancing figure, who moved around and around in circles and into unique flips. For a moment Allete couldn't tell whether he was doing front flips or backflips... until she realized why.
The dancer had a face were the back of his head should have been! Through some sort of illusion or costume it was impossible to tell which way was his front!
He finished his acrobatics with a bow and the crowd dispersed again. Allete approached the backwards-man with her riddle, just as she had with Olivier. The man did not speak, but scratched his head as he read it. Then he looked to Allete and pointed to himself as if to ask " Who, me?" Allete nodded and the backwards-man gave a small chuckle through his mask, checking around his person just as Olivier had done, and pulled a small card from a checkered sash at his waist.
Along with the card, he took off the sash, arranging it around Allete as a prize. She thanked him very much and he started to walk away, either forward or backwards, she couldn't tell. With a large blast of noise, he had disappeared with the drop of a firecracker. " He doesn't talk much. " Olivier noted.
"I suppose it would give away which side his mouth is really on." Allete said thoughtfully.
Looking at the card now, the both of them poured over the note.
He's deadly charming
and oldest of us all.
You'll find him in red
Anywhere and Everywhere
When you make it to the fall
The two of them looked at each other and read it over again. "Oldest" meant that perhaps he was an elderly man. But "Anywhere and Everywhere" was so drastically vague.
"What do you think Olivier?" Allete asked. But Olivier looked much more pale and forlorn than usual. "If this is who I think it is, " He said nervously, licking his lips " Then he won't be hard to find. It's courage you'll need, little fox. "
A collective shiver went down the both of them just speaking of him. But who was it? For now they tried their best to put their worries aside, and enjoyed the carnival as they walked.
"You said you've done this scavenger hunt before," Allete asked, " Did you lose?"
" I won actually. It isn't too hard to win at all." He said, shaking a band of loose balloons from the way. " The point isn't so much winning, as it is about enjoying yourself."
Allete was about to inquire further, when her feet froze in place. the large eyes of a lion appeared just in front of her. She squeezed her mouth shut as she tried not to scream, but it wasn't a lion as much as it was a lion's head on a gentlemen's body. He smoked a pipe, looking quite dapper and saying "excuse me" as he passed, licking his large feline lips.
Allete released a large sigh as he passed. So many unusual characters felt almost overwhelming!
"Don't worry, " Olivier said bleakly. " Lions don't normally eat little foxes. Deer on the other hand..."
Allete started smiling again.
A small band was playing nearby, so the two watched the masked musicians. They played wonderful uplifting tunes, so the two watched a while. Just like everything in the street, there was a magic about them that expelled the notes from their instruments and into the air. They could see the gold treble cleff and eighth notes wrap around the band , measure after measure like a long floating ribbon. Until a chill like a thick blanket came over them. Allete felt it too, and they all looked around them at once to see what the disturbance was. A drab of gray fog darkened the other colors around them, but an almost blinding red suit was unaffected. A red suit worn by a gleaming skeleton. He wore a matching cape and tophat, inhaling cigarette smoke that came out through where his eyes should have been.
Death looked over at Allete, with his skeletal grin, and walked towards her. she felt so insignificant in the presence of him, like a particle of dust floating in the air. He topped his hat to her, and the skeleton of a small bird flew out from beneath it. In it's tiny beak was a large riddle card. Death, apparently, knew that he was part of the game, and had come to find Allete himself. With a turn of his cape, he had gone, and the heavy fog with him. The warmth returned to the area, and the rush of music and chatter after the quiet flooded in loudly.
The skeletal bird flew in circles around Allete's head. She held out a hand to it, where it landed, showing her the card.
The quest continues with three fifths finished,
To a woman proud, though her looks diminished.
Her face is her mask, a frightening facade
Her people: like her. Aspirations to God.
Allete took the note, and the dead bird released it, flying again into the air, to land on Olivier's antlers.
Olivier observed the bird, and then the riddle. He scratched his chin. "So we're looking for someone terrifyingly ugly?"
Allete laughed. " I wonder... " she said " But she actually sounds a bit frightening..."
"More frightening than Death?"
"Perhaps not. But really Olivier, Death wouldn't seem so scary if he gave off a ...warmer air. He's probably a decent gentleman. "
"You may be right. So what's the plan now? Wander about as usual?"
"That's seems to be the trick!" Indeed, Allete thought, The point of this hunt seemed to be just for the enjoyment of seeing carnival. It was a 'celebration of life' after all.
And so they wandered; to see a wonderful array of things again. A balancing act on nothing but spider's web; A man who juggled teacups with tea inside; And a small boy used a bubble wand to produce large fish that swam through the air as if it were water. It became so that Allete felt a feeling grow inside about never wanting to leave...To stay with these wonderful people and wonderful tricks. To be with the Masquerade Parade, The Midnight Carnival, forever!
The two eventually came across a small shawled tent. Olivier recalled that it must be a fortune tent.
" You haven't seen it before?" Allete asked. Olivier whistled in thought, and the dead finch chirped happily. "I've been here for a while, but the carnival is always changing, you see. People come and go all the time. "
The two of them decided that it would be a good idea to ask the fortune teller about the next clue. Olivier waited outside as Allete nonchalantly swept open the flap and walked inside. But there was nothing to see at first. It was so dark inside, that it took her a while to realize there was a solitary candle in the middle of a table. She approached the table, blinking many times to try and see farther than her eye would allow. almost stumbling into the foot of the table, she decided to take a seat. A stirring in the shadows gave the impression that the fortune teller was there, but it was not a friendly aura. More like that of a snake watching it's prey before striking.
Allete managed to squeak out a greeting. "He-Hello-"
"Greetings." A woman's voice said, overriding hers. It came from the shadowed figure in front of her. The teller moved ever so slightly forward, and the outline of a face was barely visible. "You need help with something my dear?"
"Yes..." Allete said, finding it difficult to find her voice with the darkness around her. The face moved slowly closer to inspect her client, and from what Allete could just hardly make out, it was a lovely young face. " Well speak up little fox. What do you need?"
"I'm looking for someone..."
"Looking for someone." The woman repeated. So slowly her face moved towards the glow of the candle. " That is an easy task." Allete looked down to see that one of the womans hands was resting on the table in front of her. The skin had stitching like a quilt, held together by fishing wire. Instead of speeding up, Allete felt her heart freeze alltogether. The woman's face was slightly visible now, just as lovely in shadow, but there was something strange and artificial about it in the light. Now Allete noticed that it wasn't the woman who had moved closer, but the reach of the candle's light moving outwards. And there were things...Things on the wall hanging unnaturally. A desire to flee had never felt so strong in her life, but she remained bolted to her chair.
" I think I can help you, little fox. Why don't you lean closer? " The teller asked, with all the charm of a black widow.
"What's wrong?" The teller asked. But there was plenty wrong. As the light expanded, Allete could see clearly now, the fortune teller's true nature. With the woman's hand on the table, the other was holding a stick where a mask should be at the end. But the end didn't have a mask, just a human face of which the woman was talking through. The lips were moving, and the eyes were blinking. The things hanging on the wall were some sort of wretched creatures that may have once been human, but now they were tangled messes of limbs, staring down at her, the eyes sewn on.
"What's wrong?" The woman repeated, thundering through the tent. She removed her mask- which was a face! Where in it's place behind it was an empty void; A swirl of black that started sucking in everything around it. Allete screamed as loud as she could, but this seemed to disrupt the skinny creatures on the wall, who all flew off at the same time, like locusts flying towards her. Allete ran, as fast as she ever had in her life, through the dark and the creatures grabbing at her. She closed her eyes and ran straight out of the tent, into a nearby stall and knocking over merchandise. She continued to scream, until she heard Olivier's voice. " What happened little fox? Are you okay?!"
She opened her eyes wide to see into his half-expressioned face. Then she turned to the tent. It was still and lifeless, but her heart continued to pump with all it's might. "Her...Her..." Allete gasped for breath. " Her face... Her face was a mask!"
" Was it?" Olivier asked, completely unaware of the horror within that small space. But now that she was outside of it, the warm carnival air, the smells, the chatter, all if soaked through Allete's skin and calmed her down. Olivier helped her off the ground. "So was that the person you were supposed to find then? Considering your new gift and all."
"New gift? " and when Allete looked down, she saw that a pocket watch was now hanging from her coat. Had that been what those creatures had been doing? Just fastening the watch? Inspecting it, the pocket watch opened to have a folded clue inside. So it was her after all! How scary she had been!
" What does it say?"
The last card from me to you
the last clue to your prize.
A man you've met before you'll find
Though in a new disguise.
And so the end, close now to taste
has brought forth so much glee
all started from a friendly chum
"A man I've met before?" A generous man who started it all... "Why, that must be the shop-keep! The owner of the mask shop!"
Olivier smiled wide. " Monsieur Deblanc? Well everyone knows where he is! "
" Do you? Please Olivier, take me there!"
" Of course!" He said, and he started to sprint. Allete started running behind him, avoiding all of the wonderful folk around her. Olivier called behind to her, "He's the one who runs the carnival! He rings in the end of it as dawn comes! "
As they ran, Allete starting noticing familiar people as they ran up the street; The boy with the fish, the band wrapped in musical notes, the backwards-man, and the mirror-painter. She waved to the siamese twins and to Sprite, and now they were at the end of the road where Allete had started. But now there was a large golden tent set up there, and a crowd of people were waiting, as if at a finish line. Streamers and beads hung off of everything, and the group of people cheered as she ran closer, throwing confetti and pulling party poppers. She got to the end the road, stopping to catch her breath and looking around at all the people. The tent flap flew open, and Monsieur Deblanc walked out, with his large curled mustache beneath a golden beaked mask. He wore a striped suit of yellow and orange, like a gleaming sun. With his appearance, the crowd threw more confetti and applauded. With an unmistakable sound, fireworks cracked into the air, so close to the buildings that they sprinkled their colors downwards over the audience, and they held out their hands to catch some of it.
"Congratulations!" He boomed. "You've made it to the end, just like so many of us fine people have before! " The crowd applauded louder. " Young Allete, you have seen the Midnight Carnival in all it's ways. It's wonder, it's fright, and you've accepted it's confusion as something wonderful, am I right?"
Allete stepped forward quietly. "Yes Monsieur. "
" Then let me present you your prize... or rather, " Deblanc said, twisting the end of his mustache "Let me offer it to you."
The ostrich-like woman from before came out from behind the tent, taking Deblanc's arm. " You now have the opportunity to join our wonderful carnival; To live in the lights, the sounds, and gain magic of your own to make a spectacle unique only to you. What do you say? "
" Join the Carnival?" Allete asked herself. It was a grand prize indeed! To mix in with these people...to never be bored again! No school, no stress...But there was an aching in her heart, and with a jolt, she couldn't believe that she had almost forgotten... Reaching into her pocket, she felt the bronze brooch there. Her family, her friends, could she leave them behind? Could she leave the people she loved for her own wild enjoyment? They needed her, and she needed them. Taking out the brooch, Allete pinned it over her heart, thinking fondly of Théo and her father. " This has all been so amazing to me..." She said. " And I know that very few people are probably as lucky as I have been... But I still have things to do outside of the carnival."
" Oh no, you won't be joining us then?" The pretty ostrich-woman asked.
" I'm sorry... Your generosity is indeed overwhelming Monsieur Deblanc! But I have another life already."
" I see," Deblanc said. " It's too bad, but I understand of course."
" What about Olivier?" Allete asked. " He helped me. Does he get a prize too?" Olivier, who thought he had been forgotten, turned to her in surprise.
Monsieur Deblanc smiled down at the two friends. " And what would you ask for Olivier?"
The young man scratched the back of his neck, a bit embarrassed. " I already had the choice to join the carnival and took advantage of it. It's been a lot of fun, of course, seeing so much and all. But after what Allete said, I have to admit, there is someone... a girl you see... who I would like to find once again."
" You mean to leave as well?" Deblanc asked. The surrounding crowd made groans of sadness.
Allete and Olivier both ducked their heads. "Very well then," the golden shopkeep said. " At least you were able to celebrate with us as long as you could. Feel free to take off your masks."
The both of them obeyed, not thinking much of it, and a large swirl of colors moved around them like a hurricane. With such intensity it whirled about, Allete felt as if she was being dropped from a buildings as the faces blurred, and warm, sweet smelling air was vacuumed away. She landed on the cold cobblestone floor of the street, feeling the familiar bitter cold of the nighttime Paris streets.
Her mask had fallen to the street beside her, and she stood up with aching limbs. It was the cold, long street from before, hardly comparable to the street of the carnival.
Next to her stood a young man, not so grand as he once was, but it was indeed the Olivier she knew. His fantastic clothes and antlers were gone, replaced with a sad military uniform. " I had almost forgotten what this world was like." He said, looking around into the darkness. " Not so exciting, but... it's a nice calm, I think."
Allete looked at him sadly. " Did you run away from the military?" she asked.
Olivier looked down to his outfit, just realizing it was there. " Oh I see. I remember it now." He recollected as if it was a far away dream. " I was actually going into the military you see, to escape my boring life. But now, I just miss my family, my little brother, ...and a special someone back home."
Allete spoke with her friend, and they made their way back. As it were, Olivier knew the streets of Paris very well, and offered to lead her back to the hotel were her father was sleeping. It was a pity that Allete no longer had her prizes; A flower, a sash, a dead songbird, and a pocket watch; but after all, it wasn't the material things that mattered.
They came to their destination, and The two gave a sad goodbye.
" Perhaps we'll see each other again sometime. Where is it you live?"
" Near Le Havre."
" Is that so! I'm from Le Havre."
" Really? Do you know a boy named Théo Chevlier?"
" That's my little brother! "
And they couldn't help but laugh. "Was it Théo who gave you that brooch?" Olivier asked.
Allete blushed and nodded her head. "Well then," he continued. "We'll see each other again sooner than we think!"
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Where No Castle Ought to Be
The Prince of Thorns
In a faraway land, beyond mountains and desert, there was a tired scrap of land forgotten by most living things. It was a harsh place, carved by wind and sand. Plateaus and rocks lay about that were so large, they might have been there since the beginning of time, and the air itself was tinged with orange. There, squeezed into the corner of two rocks, crouched a decaying and crumbling castle, somewhat out of place as if it had fallen from the sky. It was a mere shadow of it's past radiance, warped by many storms and many centuries.
But besides the large rocks and beside even the castle itself, the most overwhelming feature of this land were the miles and miles of thorny vines that curled up walls, into dark corners and around unsuspecting throats. The thorns covered the ground in dark ringlets, trapping anyone in and out of the unforgiving desert. Among the thorns were the occasional rose-like flower that bloomed a poisonous purple color. It crawled its way up the dying castle, slowly growing through cracks and pulling stones apart. The tallest tower was all but choked, defiantly standing tall in the sandy winds.
Within the tallest tower, in the highest room, ignoring his schoolwork and reading by the window, was a young Prince. The Prince of Thorns. The land he gazed down on was not yet his, but he was not particularly anticipating the inheritance. The castle was situated on a plot where, in his opinion, no castle had ought to be built. Such a place was not ideal for playing, so he instead stayed up in his room, reading any of the hundreds of books available to him about adventures and foreign lands. The Prince himself had never traveled and had never had the opportunity to have an adventure. His sisters, the Princesses of Thorns, had all been married off to nobles of distant lands, while the King and Queen were on important travels far south, leaving the Prince and his servants all to their lonesome.
So he traveled in his imagination instead; bookshelves were full to bursting and stacked piles were now part of the decor. And so the Prince sat, in his nest of vines and books. Page after page he turned, until... riiip. Oh dear, once again the page had been poked through. In every book the Prince had ever read, every few pages there was a tear, a scratch, or a hole. The cause of these rips were the same thing that gave the Prince many small scars on his boyish face; the same thing that was wrapped around him just as they were wrapped around the castle he lived in: vines of sharp and prickly thorns. They grew through the walls, into his room, and around his clothes, face, a raven hair. Every movement the Prince made, the vines and purple roses moved with him, joyfully following him and embracing him like a loyal pet. The Prince didn't mind much, as the vines had been with him almost all of his life, and it seemed just a passing fact that the thorny curls were impeccably attracted to him. It was only troublesome when it came to the damage it dealt to his nice clothes or favorite books.
With a sigh, the Prince put the book down for a moment and looked out the window to the thorn covered land, up to the sandy gusts and flutter of black winged birds circling in the sky. When turning his head back to his book, a twinkling of white caught the Prince's eye for a moment, like the glint of sun from a mirror. He looked out again to find what it was, and there was the glint again. It was a small speck of white in the distance that seemed to be getting closer every minute, sweeping with the wind, but moving all the same with determination.
It was a white bird, struggling in the harsh currents to get towards the castle, perhaps for shelter. Side to side, it swooped in the wind, trying to stay aloft. The Prince was worried about this bird, who seemed to have lost it's way. He stood up on the window seat, stretching out his hand to the small fowl. It seemed to react to the sight of him, flapping with all it's might, until finally hovering over his hand, contemplating whether it should rest near so many thorns.
The Prince was amazed to see the brilliant feathers up close. Such an bright white body, like the glow of stars, and on the top of it's head was a small plumage of a shade of blue like he had never seen before. So light and so clear, perhaps the color of a sky without orange haze. An exotic species like this must be quite far from home. It looked at the Prince quizzically, then to the rest of the thorny room around him. "Don't be afraid," The Prince said softly. " The vines listen to my wishes. I wouldn't let them hurt you."
The bird seemed to understand, trusting his gentle face and perching in his hand. It held out it's leg to him. Upon the leg was a parchment the Prince hadn't noticed earlier, as the paper was also as brilliantly white as the feathers. He untied the parchment, very curious as to what it was about.
To the highest room of the highest tower in the nearest castle of neighboring lands, It began. Please pardon my abrupt rudeness in contacting whomever you may be. This is no letter of urgency so please read at your leisure if you feel so inclined. The Prince read on curiously, wondering if perhaps the bird had delivered a letter to the wrong highest room at the wrong highest tower in the wrong castle of the wrong neighboring land.
The letter continued with formalities, sometimes going into the extremes of trying not to upset whomever happened to be reading. The Prince had to use a dictionary for a few of the word, but from what he could tell, there seemed to be very little substance to the letter at all, just a request for a reply back. I would have no greater joy if you were to be so kind as to reply in a manner to your liking to let me know you received my letter. I'm sure you must be very busy and I'm sincerely appreciative and apologetic for taking up any of your time.
Thank you very much, The Morning Glory Monarch.
" The Morning Glory Monarch?" The Prince repeated out loud. How very strange it was to receive such a letter! The Prince stared at the message, reading it again, wondering what he might be able to deduct. It seemed that the Monarch was probably still young, by the look of the handwriting. His speech sounded unnecessarily polite, so he was probably writing the way a home tutor had taught him. A strange fellow. The Prince had heard of many other castles and kingdoms outside of his lonely tower of thorns, but never particular names. What did it mean to be a Monarch of "Morning Glory"? Perhaps his castle was situated near the sun's rising?
In any case, the Prince smiled to himself. He had never spoken with someone outside of his castle before, much less ever received a letter. He scrolled the parchment, (tearing it a bit by accident of a stray thorn) and reached for a paper of his own, dipping a quill and thinking over carefully how to put his words, trying to be a bit polite.
To His Excellence the Morning Glory Monarch,
Consider this my reply to your thoughtful letter, if I was whom you meant to contact. It is only me and my caretakers at residence, so I have plenty of time for any letter you feel like sending my way. Perhaps we can share more about ourselves in the future.
Your Friend, The Prince of Thorns.
It was short, but it seemed to take a lot of energy just to conjure up what to say in response. After the beautiful foreign bird had rested for a long while, the Prince let it leave to go back home, with a black raven of his own to help carry the message back to the Monarch's castle.
That afternoon, after pouring over his favorite illustrated book, the Prince wondered when he would receive a reply. Did the Monarch really live that far away? He wondered most of all, what type of person the Monarch was, and what it was like in the lands across the vines, across the baron desert, and over the mountains. The Prince dreamed of green fields and lush rivers like the ones in his picture books and hoped that he could see it one day. As soon as the next morning, the white bird returned, as well as the raven, with an extensively long letter.
The Prince of Thorns was happy to read that the Morning Glory Monarch was just as excited in finding a new friend. A lot of the formalities were dropped immediately, and his writing was a bit scrawled, as he explained to the Prince that he hadn't anyone to talk to lately. All of the Monarch's sisters were caught up in their own lives, and his parents had left to interact with important peoples from across the sea. The Prince could scarcely believe their similarities!
He wrote back immediately, reaching through the thorns and to his tattered quill. He asked what the Monarch's land was like; What it was that he did to pass the time and loneliness. About his family, friends, anything at all. When the birds had rested, they were off again. The young Prince watched on smiling as they birds took off, until they were just small specks, up up and away from the old stony thorn castle.
Days passed, and then weeks passed, and letters continue to arrive and depart from the two castles. The Prince had all sorts of different conversations with the Monarch. He found out that they were both around similar ages, although born in different seasons. And as he suspected, the Monarch came from a very green land, and that a Morning Glory was actually a type of delicate flower of which he had never seen before (a rather wilted looking one had come with a letter when requested). They also found out about each others' families. The Prince had always had sisters that were very outgoing and courageous, so when he was born, the King was surprised that the Prince of Thorns was unlike his sisters, instead shutting himself up in his tower, opting for books and writing. In surprising contrast, the Morning Glory Monarch's sisters were all terribly delicate, and his mother was surprised to have a boy who wanted spontaneous adventure and who was outrageously bored being cooped up.
The Prince and the Monarch found humor in each other's writing, sending each other stories and drawings, and the boys eventually agreed that they should meet sometime and go on an adventure together to spite their parents.
They decided that they would meet later that month, on the day that was between both of their birthdays. The Monarch suggested that they meet at a plot of land just over the mountains in a field beside a large spring. You'll know you're at the right place, he wrote, when you come across an enormous fountain.
The Prince was very excited as the day approached, and soon it was as close to a few days away. He was happily eating in the dining hall when one of the servants, sidestepping over thorns, decided to speak up. " Pardon your highness, but you mentioned you were going on a trip soon. How will you be getting there?" The Prince nodded, appreciating her concern.
"I thought I would take the spare carriage by the stables. "
A nervous look crossed her face and she bowed her head. " You highness, the King and Queen brought all of their available steeds for their journey. There is indeed a spare carriage, but no spare horses to pull it. "
The Prince was incredibly distressed at this new complication, his smile immediately dropping. There was no other way to get to the arranged meeting place in time. He went back to his tower room immediately, wondering if he should send a letter to cancel their arrangement. It might not be too late to reach the Monarch and schedule another time. Wearily, the Prince searched around for his raven, grieved that he would not be able to meet his new best friend after all. But his raven seemed to have taken off somewhere. Around the tower, the hall, the ballroom, and many other places the Prince looked, but the raven was not there. Only after wandering into the vine infested courtyard beside the stables did he find a flock of ravens. The messenger raven was there, seemingly communicating with a humongous black and gold peacock. The Prince was astonished at it's size, which he imagined could have a nest the size of his bed. The raven flew to the Prince, excited to show him the beautiful discovery. It flew to the carriage and back to the peacock, indicating a clever plan. The Prince understood immediately.
The peacock lifted it's head curiously as the Prince approached, studying his face and the vines surrounding him. The stunning gold accents were emphasized by the black of it's body, and the feathers were only slightly frayed from moving about in the thorny vines where it made it's home. Bowing graciously, the Prince smiled to the peacock leader and spoke a request. "Pardon me sir, perhaps my friend the raven has told you already, but I am in need of your help. I wish to travel to a land over the mountains, by a spring and a large fountain. Would you please take me there, where I may meet a great friend, and where you can delight in the foods of the garden?"
The horse-sized peacock leader considered his proposal, and seemed to accept. As the meeting day approached, the enormous fowl appeared before the Prince with a few of his large kin. With the help of his servants, the Prince fastened them to the small carriage, and they were ready to leave.
Before leaving the thorny castle for the first time in his life, the Prince went to his tower to grab a gift. On his window seat lay his favorite adventure book. He held it to his chest for the last time, deciding that he could pass it on to his new friend, now that he knew the story by heart. As he made his way back to the courtyard, the vines moved out of his way as he walked. When he approached the carriage door, the Prince spoke to the vines around his body. "I'm going to leave for a while," said he. " But I will be back before the sun is down. There is no need to cling to me any longer."
But the vines held steadfast, refusing to leave his side. They curled around him restlessly like ropes. " Well... alright then, I suppose a few of you can come. You had better behave." Many of the vines broke off from the Prince in agreement, while the smaller ones wove around his shoulders like a loyal snake. He had a seat, and no sooner as the door closed a great beating of winds signaled their lift off. A cloud of sand and dust whirled around them and a sudden twirling of his stomach told the Prince that they were off the ground. He stuck his head out of the window, hair whipping about his face, seeing his servants below getting smaller. He waved to them and they waved back as the courtyard now resembled what he could see from his tower window.
Higher and farther they went, over the long stretch of thorned vines and rocks that didn't seem quite so intimidating from the sky. They flew over the large broken earth and desert for a good while, until the castle looked like a small blot of ink in a rocky terrain. The farther they went, the clearer the air became, and the even flapping of wings was a soothing pendulum. The sky was blue, then bluer, and now the mountains were before them; a stunning cyan cluster surrounded in white mist. And farther still the peacocks flew, until the land became green. Just like in his dreams, the Prince could see a far forested land with spots of fields. There was so much to see, and he wanted to circle for hours; but he remembered his promise to the Monarch. The Prince held his favorite book close to his heart and kept a close eye out for a spring. Sure enough, the birds flew lower as they followed a shining river that spilled across the landscape. The river split a few ways, growing slow and quiet, until it collapsed into a lovely spring, at the foot of which stood a very large and ancient fountain covered in wisteria.
The peafowl swooped down, creating a wind around them as they started to land.
And did they ever land! The Prince had, for a moment, thought they had crashed as the carriage shook; the thorns around his shoulders twisting in fright. Recovering his wits, the Prince caught his breath and opened the door carefully.
It was a sudden moment of firsts; never before had he stepped his foot into green grass or smelt the dampness of it in the morning. Never before had he seen such vibrant and various flowers and plants blooming to their hearts content, or seen the sky such a vivid blue. He felt like he had wondered onto some strange and wonderful new planet. The large peacocks had shaken free from their constraints and happily fed on the wild fruit. Careful step after careful step, the Prince studied his surroundings, taking in everything he could. The thorny vines around him as well, curled in delight to the warmth of the sunlight. He looked up at the enormous old fountain that bubbled happily to itself. It seemed so stylized and out of place that the Prince wondered if perhaps it was meant to be at the entrance of it's own castle, but there was no castle around to be seen.
The next thought that struck the Prince was to see if the Monarch was waiting around nearby. He turned his head, but the only disturbance was himself, the carriage, and the peafowl. They all looked strangely foreign in this place.
The Prince didn't mind waiting for his friend, having just as much delight poking around and smelling new plants. He studied the daisies, the wildflowers, and the beautiful wisteria that grew along the fountain. He bent over to smell a particularly eye-catching red flower when a white bird flew over to perch atop it. The scruff of blue on it's head was one he couldn't mistake- It was the Monarch's messenger bird!
“Hello there!” the Prince greeted. “ Will the Monarch be here soon?”
“He's here already!” Said a voice from behind. The Prince turned around quickly to lay his eyes upon his friend, and was surprised by his appearance.
The Monarch was indeed a boy, the same age as himself, but with scruffy blond hair and healthy, sunned skin that was flecked with freckles. He had nice clothes that mirrored the Prince's own, but in brighter color, and, to the Prince's utter surprise, the Monarch was wrapped around the shoulder and hair with his own type of vine-Morning Glory! Among the lovely shades of color in the delicate petals, butterflies of different sizes fluttered around, and the Monarch tried to shoo some of them away gently, to no avail.
Looking at the prince now, he gave a large, playful smile and held out his hand. The Prince gaped at him a moment before giving his own small smile and shook hands.
The boys started talking immediately, picking up just where they had left off in their letters. The Monarch was thrilled to receive a gift and had brought one of his own: A small cake to share for lunch, made with native fruits. They were a strange pair, the shy Prince wrapped in thorns, and the energetic Monarch wrapped in delicate Morning Glories. They talked about what they should do; where they should go on an adventure, and the Prince admitted that just traveling here was his own adventure. The Monarch laughed in agreement, recounting the story of how he had hitchhiked a ride from a sky-pirate ship just to get there. The shadows grew longer and the boys continued to talk about anything and everything that came to mind.
"If both of our parents are at this important meeting across the country," The Prince thought out loud, as they sat beneath an elm tree. "Do you think that many other important royalty and nobles are there as well?"
"I'm sure of it!" The Monarch said. "Imagine how many children they left behind in their castles just like us."
They thought about it a minute. "Strange how no one lives here though. This is such an odd place to leave a fountain isn't it?”
The Monarch leaned back against the trunk, observing the fountain as they spoke of it. “ It doesn't seem so strange to me; Not if you've heard the legend behind it.”
“ A legend?”
And so the Monarch told the Prince what he knew about it. According to the hundred year old stories circling around, the fountain was once part of a large castle. A castle covered head to toe in lovely vines of wisteria. The King and Queen who lived there were very kind people who traveled a lot, leaving their castle behind to be covered in more and more vines. While traveling, the King and Queen found a place that they fell in love with, and wanted to move immediately. But the couple were so attached to their beautiful castle that they decided to bring it with them! With the help of dragons and other flying beasts, they were able to tie ropes around it and heave it into the air!
The Prince laughed at the thought, but quieted again for the Monarch to continue. But he didn't say anything else.
“What happened next then?” He asked
“ That's the end of the story.” The Monarch said.
“That can't be the end! What about what happened to the castle? Where did it land it's base?”
“Hmm, that's the mystery,” The blond said thoughtfully. “It's unknown what happened to the castle. Maybe it landed where the King and Queen intended it to. Or maybe the flying beasts couldn't carry it that far or had gotten lost. Eventually the castle itself was somewhat forgotten about, but the story of it lifting off is what has remained legend. For all we know it could be on another country, or somewhere it ought not to be.”
The Prince thought over his words, and it was the last sentence that made his heart backflip. It was a stretch, an awfully long one at that, but he had to say what he was thinking out loud.
“ What if, “ he started, “...Just what if the castle never did reach the place where it was intended. Perhaps the flying beasts did get lost. Perhaps they couldn't make their way through a sandstorm...”
The Monarch caught on immediately. As they continued to talk, the possibility became more and more real. Had the Princes home, the Castle of Thorns previously been the Castle of Wisteria? There was always something funny about the location of the castle, and being covered in vines was it's trademark characteristic.
“There is no definite proof,” The Monarch said, gazing down to his friends shoulder.“ But the evidence, I think, may be closer than we think.” The Prince looked down as well, to the absence of a thorny vine at his shoulder. Instead, it had turned into a twisting leafy vine of wisteria.
The sun was making a steady pace near the horizon, so the boys decided to meet again another day. The prince offered to give the Monarch a ride home, but he said he'd rather have another adventure trying to get back. They said farewell, and the peacocks reluctantly agreed to be fastened to the carriage to go home. The prince reentered the carriage, taking a last glance before closing the door, and they were soon up in the air with a great swoosh. The green land was now tinted with rosy shades of pink and orange, and the fountain became smaller, just as all things rooted on the earth had before. There was a great feeling of warmth in the Prince's chest after having had his small adventure, meeting his new friend in a beautiful place, and hatching up ideas. They followed the river back the way they had before, the carriage sweeping below low clouds of purple and gold. The mountains approached, a handsome indigo color in the coming twilight. And then, over the mountains, the baron stretch of desert and rock. A very bittersweet feeling welled up in the Prince now. The home he had always grown up in was never something to pity, but looking at the twisting thorns and crumbling stone as they now came closer, he couldn't help but feel it. The castle now resembled a crumpled old man, confused and trapped under a blanket of web-like vines.
The thick orange haze was turning to night, enveloping the carriage as it descended downward. In the small clearing of the courtyard, the thorned vines moved aside for the peafowl to land, and the servants rushed out to greet them. The landing was a bit more careful this time, and the prince walked out, looking up at the castle a bit gloomily. He smiled to the servants, and to the peacocks for helping him. The wisteria around his shoulders seemed embarrassed to be back home, after having changed so much in the fresh air of the spring meadow. The Prince told the maids and butlers all about everything that he had seen over dinner and asked if they knew about the Castle of Wisteria. They did not, and when he asked of they knew how long the Castle of Thorns had been there, the answer was the same, but they could assume at leasts hundreds if years.
The Prince returned to his tower, sitting beside his window and looking again back out to the sad landscape. It was too bad... Too bad that the castle had never reached it's destination. He was almost certain now, that this was the castle that had meant to go there, but it must have been too heavy to take across such great distances. “ And why should it move?” The prince thought to himself. “ It must have been lovely where it was. The King and Queen, my ancestors perhaps, may have been too ambitious. “ But that was very characteristic of his family anyways; To ambitiously leave and travel to where their heart desired.
A few days later, the Prince received a letter from the Monarch, who happily wrote about how he returned home with the help of traveling gypsies. He also wrote about how his parents were to return in a couple months time. The prince had heard that his were to come home around that time as well. It made him think about what they spoke of before.
Imagine how many children they left behind in their castles just like us.
"They must be terribly lonely..." The Prince thought about all the boys and girls like himself who were probably sitting up in their towers, passively staring out their windows as he did. That night, he decided to write many letters, all addressed and signed the same way. He was going to try and contact as many lonely children as he could, and hope that they would be interested in becoming friends. Maybe they could all meet at the ancient fountain and play together someday.
He gathered all the ravens willing to help, and sent out the letters as soon as possible. Twelve left that night, and two arrived the next day; and six after that! Four that could not find any other nearby castle returned with letters unopened, but nevertheless, eight other children felt that they were in the same predicament. All of them were so similar yet so different. Thee was a Maiden of Jasmine, and a Lord of Ivy. A Duchess of Honeysuckle, and an Earl of Clematis. Such grand names, and yet so funny and peculiar their personalities were. Their voices came right through their writing and soon they were all exchanging letters. The prince felt wonderful in meeting so many people so quickly that it made him wonder what why he had never bothered before.
He thought of his ancestors again, how ambitious they were, and instead of looking at them with disdain, The Prince had to give them credit. They made a mistake, but at least they were willing to try. " And maybe, " He said to himself " Maybe it's not to late to return the castle back to where it belongs." Now That was an ambitious project!
The Prince asked the Monarch what he thought about his plan to move the castle. I'm all for it! he wrote. But how would you do it? And wouldn't your parents be furious?
The King and Queen probably would be angry at first, but how could they stay mad when they saw the beautiful location? "As for how to do it..." The prince thought a moment and then grabbed some more parchment. He wrote and wrote until his hands ached, and wrote some more (very pleased that the smooth stem of wisteria at his shoulders didn't rip any paper at all). His finished work were nine extensive letters for his faraway friends, including the Monarch. It was a plea for assistance, asking for any help from flying beasts they knew that existed in the land. He told them everything, about the Castle of Wisteria, about where he planned to move it, and promising that if they helped, they would be forever welcome in the beautiful garden around where it would stand.
Letters returned to him very quickly. All of the children wanted to see such a spectacle. The idea of a flying castle was something absolutely wonderful that had to be witnessed, and they'd try to help all they could. The servants of the castle caught wind of the Prince's plan, and half-heartedly tried to dissuade him, although the child inside of them wanted to leave the thorny land as well. The thorns themselves knew that something was afoot, but they couldn't disobey their prince, and nervously tightened their hold upon the castle.
The prince spent days anxiously looking out of his window, waiting for help to arrive. The orange haze was thick as usual, and he wondered if foreign beasts would be able to even find such a forsaken and hidden castle. He started to feel slightly downtrodden as the time stretched on, but finally, the first sign of help arrived. While staring out as usual, a great flapping of wings could be heard through the air. The Prince half-thought he was imagining the sound, like he had been doing for the last few days, but from the break of sandy gusts, a winged horse could be seen gliding through the currents as if daring them to get stronger.
It was a handsome shade of almond, and as one horse came into view, an entire herd (Or perhaps a flock) came flying up behind it. They circled around the courtyard, looking for a place to land their hooves. The prince ran out to greet them, and willing the vines to make room for them to rest. The herd seemed relieved to be on the ground, perhaps after a long journey, and the prince went to pet one on the nose. Seated on a grey mare was a girl with tan skin and curly black hair.Dainty white flowers were wrapped around her, and she introduced herself as the Maiden of Jasmine.
It seemed as if the Maiden had lead the way, for very soon after, many children and flying steeds appeared from the sandy horizon. Dragons and griffins, eagles and winged lions, the Lord of Ivy showed up in a gigantic air balloon, and the Monarch even made an appearance with enormous flying ships that belonged to a sky captain. He took a ladder down to meet the prince and all of the children who had come along. "So this is your castle?" He asked cheerfully. " I never thought I'd see the legend myself! Shall we get started then? "
And all length and sizes of chains, ropes and wire were out, around the castle, being fastened anywhere they could be fastened. The flying beasts looked ready to take on the challenge, and waited for the signal. The prince and the castle's servants were taking refuge on the deck of the largest ship, mast swelled in the wind. They all started to cheer, and the many animals flew into position. With a great heave-ho! they started pulling upwards. The castle rumbled, but didn't budge. The servants started chanting a cheer to motivate their strength, louder and louder. It started to move, and with a last wish from the prince for the vines to ease up, the castle began lifting slowly like a humongous weed ripped from the earth. Everyone cheered as it rose higher, casting a large dusty shadow over the rocks and sand, going up towards the sun. With the raising of the castle, the beasts and ships moved quickly towards the mountains, fueled by their own enthusiasm. Again, the sky started to clear, and the blue sky and bright sunlight upon the castle showed the true beauty of it away from the dreariness.
The wind whipped the clothes and hair of everyone on deck, and everyone couldn't help but hold their breath, yet continually smile at their triumph. The towers traveled through the clouds of the mountains, and the thorny vines clung hopelessly to the castle's base, confused as to what was happening as the land became green. They flew on, carrying their heavy cargo and gazing at it in wonder as it glided through the air. They followed the river, and the beasts seemed to be getting tired, the ships strained. "Only a bit farther!" The Monarch told the captain, and they continued with all their might.
Finally, the spring was in view, along with the old fountain that was now the missing puzzle piece. They slowed their pace, and the tension rose as everyone used the last of their strength to try and hover it for a landing. The ships creaked, and the flying beasts groaned and the ship deck began to cheer again to encourage them. slowly, slowly, they lowered it down, and there was a huge collective sigh as the castle finally dropped into place, like a cog on a wheel. Everyone started to land, tired from the worry, and steadily, from a whisper and growing louder, an ovation started, and then it sounded like a wild party as all smiled and applauded each other. They had successfully moved the castle to it's rightful place. And, right before their eyes, the confused thorns gave a mighty shudder, as they started to grow leafy stems. The poisonous purple roses dropped into wisteria flowers, and the castle grew very green, as the vines lost their dark thorns.
And there it stood, the Castle of Wisteria, lovely as it ever could be, and the children gathered around the Prince, exclaiming their satisfaction. The servants got to work immediately, putting together a feast like they never had before, and the Prince, the Monarch, the children and their beasts, and the crew of the flying ships all had a wonderful party, staying until very late and even falling asleep in the cool spring air of the garden. And that night the Prince of Thorns was reborn as the Prince of Wisteria.
Friday, January 2, 2009
My fingers are sliding on the keys, and I can see that you're asleep, James.
Or maybe not dreaming, but your mind is in another place.
You're leaving tomorrow, but at least we can share this music for a short while.
My melodies for your time; Love and music are all I can give.
The piano and I will wait for you.
I woke up this morning, James, and remembered that you had already left.
I'm not too worried; I know you have a clever way.
I played a song to send you off, maybe more for myself than for you.
But it will reach you, your favorite nocturne.
Wherever you are, The piano and I will wait.
The paper didn't have your name in it today James, so I was relieved.
I shouldn't have been checking, but I had to be certain.
There's a new song I'm writing for you, so I hope you'll be back soon
It sounds just like you so far James, I know you'll like it.
We're waiting, the piano and I.
I played all day yesterday, and pray that you can hear me.
Can forte be heard over borderlines? Over mountains and water?
And after that long journey, can it be heard over gunfire?
I'm sending your way, so keep listening James.
The piano's waiting, and so am I
Things are getting worse, I hear.
I'm still playing for you; Can you hear me? Are you trying?
Everyday I'm here. My fingers are tired, my back is stiff.
Where are you James? I can't finish your song because I can't remember your voice.
Please come back, I'm waiting, even if the piano isn't.
My melodies stopped traveling today.
No matter how I played them, they didn't leave the walls. They didn't go out to you.
They're staying in the room with me, hovering around where I don't want them.
What happened James? People are saying you're dead, but I don't believe them.
I'm here, but I don't know what I'm waiting for.
I stopped playing, James.
The piano has betrayed me and I can't feel you anymore.
The songs are empty and the music is dead. I never finished your piece.
Maybe you're gone forever. Time is moving without you, and all I can do is cry.
No one is waiting any longer.
...I can hear a song, Georgina.
In the echoes of forests and winds of winter.
I may be wounded, but please let me live another day to hear it again.
The others are dead, and soon I'll die too. That piano is leading me to another world.
Don't wait any longer, the song is now yours.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
So starts the beginning of a 52 week project.
Every week I will write a short story and even provide sketches if I can. My fantastical partner in crime, Lady Garland, will join me in this project for duel encouragement. I hope this will be a delightful experience.
Let's try our best!
My name is nano, and I hope to keep you entertained. Only time will tell~