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Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

The small boy clasped the clear round crystal between the tips of his tiny fingers and he raised it to where it sat balanced before his deep blue eyes. Its polished surface glistened like starlight as the rays of the sun reflected upon it and penetrated to its core. The sun’s rich light sent tiny rainbows radiating out and bathing him in colours that danced like faeries wings across his face. As he stared past it’s etched surface to deeply within, he caught a glimpse of his reflection with his flowing white hair flicking in the breeze, and the twinkle that had not shone in his eyes for some time now. As if by magic words he used to know began to flow once more through his mind. It was like a dream of old where all the imaginations that he had ever known had begun to seep through his body and like a thousand paper boats, they now glided effortlessly into the pale blue distance in search of that place, that special place that only a true child could find or understand. A smile formed on his face and at the same time a tear ran from the corner of his eye, and as he wiped it gently with the back of his hand, he knew now that what he thought had gone, what he thought had left him, had never gone away at all. It had all just lay deep inside like a dream waiting for that moment where waking merges with sleep and carries you in its arms and into the place where those dreams become visions all so true.

He closed his eyes and listened intently to all the murmurings around him, hearing at first the soft beat of his heart, ‘pom – pom, pom – pom’, then the breeze as it carried the sounds that now drifted from the magic forest in the distance. There was a faint echo of laughter emanating from its deepest reaches, down a darkened winding path draped with deep green vines that formed a tight canopy where sunlight would not penetrate. It was here that the children lost so long ago would play, watched over by the future, the spirit of the old man that was yet to be. It was a truly magical place, a place of dreams where a child could hide and choose never to be found. Where lost was a choice, not something that happened to be. As the sounds grew louder, he felt himself lifted from his feet as if in the grasp of something even he could not comprehend, like he had invisible wings that had unfolded to stretch out glistening in the late afternoon sun, like those of an agile bright blue dragonfly. Below him the wheat field swayed as if in time with the tune that now inspired him to believe like he had never done so before, in the magic of the child that he was. The deep green leaves of the nearby tree rustled like tiny violins as he was carried through its canopy with them brushing against him, and as he was taken to that all familiar place where he had been so often before, he stood once more staring at where it all began, the ‘Book Of Dreams’. Behind him there was a whir of sound as the dragonflies and butterflies that were suspended from the branch above came to life in his presence, spinning from their silken threads at a heady pace, whirling and twirling almost out of control as he now watched on in awe of the glistening menagerie.

The dappled light that filtered through the leaves of the tree danced upon the gnarled finger like roots that radiated out from below as if themselves in search of something lost. The light had begun to fade, with the last of its warm orange tones now bathing the undulating hills that stretched across the land into the distance, to where the fine fingers of light could no longer reach, and the darkness had begun to take hold. His grip on the round crystal object had never faltered, like his belief in life and all it had to offer, and as he stared into the sky above where the dark velvet veil had begun to form, where the faint twinkling of tiny stars had begun to peak through the curtain of night as if peering at what lay below, his imagination came to life. Fireflies began to dance, suspended in the lead lit lanterns nearby, and the soft whispers, like lasting echo’s reminded him of all that he had known, and all that he had been. Where once stood a man, there now stood a child, lost to this world and all the intricacies that threatened to fall and shatter like crystal teardrops on the rippled ground below. He had reclaimed his life, and at the same time, he had maintained his greatest strength, his resolve to believe. Not just because it was the thing to do, but because he truly believed, and just as the stars would always sparkle in the sky, so it would be that he would always remain a beacon of hope for all that sought to find that little something that had been lost.

Today as he stood silently contemplating all that had flooded back into his tiny mind, he realised that for all that he had thought had been lost, now more than ever he knew that this world he had created was more alive than ever before, and no tears, no pain could ever take it away or tear it apart. This was a special place created in a dream and forged within the deepest realms of time and like time it would never fade, and it would never be forgotten. He thought for a while and then he understood that we all lose our way, and at times we look so hard to find ourselves again, we look so deeply inside the complicated world in which we have lived, that the simplicity of the child goes unseen. Like the crystal ball he held, life is fragile, but also transparent if we look beyond what appears opaquely upon the surface. Who you are is important to you and you alone, and how others see you, well, in a world where so many ideals exist, does that really matter and do you really care? He understood now that he must enjoy life for what it is, because tomorrow is never far away and may never come at all, and sometimes the darkness closes in so quickly that we just don’t get the chance to say goodbye before that light of life is extinguished forever. Dream big, dream loud, for a dream is but a wish to be made in world so complex yet so simple, where the boundaries of reality sometimes cross into the imagination in those times we let the mind slip beyond the known.

Remember that just as the sun shines bright in the big blue sky, or as the stars twinkle in the darkness of the night, with their voices, their laughter calling to be heard by the child in us all, so our life unfolds. It is forever a mystery of where it is going and where it may end. We are born into this world with nothing, and when we go we take nothing with us. But we do leave the memories that may linger and then fade, or even better still, last forever with those people that we have come to know, those we have touched so deeply with who we are and for what we will therefore always be remembered for.

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The path was familiar, but the terrain seemed unknown. The child’s hands brushed the long purple cat-tail grass, then caught a drifting dandelion head as it bobbed upon the blissful breeze, making a wish before releasing it to dance away towards the sun’s bright rays.

The sweet scene proved but momentary delusion. The jaded adult stared blankly, mocked by words that no longer flowed where gentle streams once meandered through forests towards some iconic tree, embellished with fanciful stories like kite tails caught in branches where only children dared to climb.

When the feathery dandelion dissolved from sight, small feet skipped the pine-needled path to the place where kite tails dangled like mosaic mobiles from ancient branches; small hands traced the textured bark like a puzzle to be solved or a tower to be climbed.

The memory of childhood was rusting and eroding, tarnished by trials too terrible for small minds to comprehend. Some part had passed into dispassionate past, moving almost beyond recall. Thoughts that once danced brightly on air now suspended dimly in dust, threadbare and motionless like a forgotten child’s toy that might never bring joy or bright smiles again.

Hand over hand with bubbling hope, the child searched through leaves for any trace of life or light or laughter, any scraps of words or tails of kites that might unhide themselves in the tell-tale breeze. Then a reconnecting squeal of delight severed the silence. ‘You found me,’ the old man’s voice trembled, washing his tired spirit new like a breeze and a river and a kite taking flight.

‘I never forgot where to look,’ the small, white-haired boy replied. ‘The stars appear and disappear each day, turning days into endless years. Yet still this tree stands where it has always been.’

‘Another year has passed indeed,’ the old man lamented, the twinkle in his eye clouded by the threat of tears. ‘Once more, I am reminded that I am older than the universe itself.’

‘Yes,’ the child replied, ‘But you are as young as the universe too. You are the moon, but I am a star. A moon by itself is not a universe. Nor can a universe be made of a single star. I have climbed here today to show you the galaxy.’

The old man trembled as he received into his ancient hands the small box the child proffered. Actually, it seemed more like a wordless book than a box, and as he opened the cover, a galaxy of tiny paper stars and planets swirled endlessly before his eyes.

‘One day your time will come to join the stars,’ the little boy explained. ‘But until that time, you hold the stars within your hands, inside a book you must learn to read so that you might never forget what it means to be a child, though others might not understand.’

The old man closed the cover, forever protecting the paper stars that the child had cut one by one from coloured paper with tiny hands. And he sighed to know how painstakingly the little boy had glued and glittered each one, so that when light touched them, they would beam like cosmic jewels to remind him of the life he had now and the universe that would some day embrace him. And though he was eternally grateful, he also felt a sadness well inside him, for the child who had found him hidden in the tree was not the one he had most wished to see.

‘It has been so long,’ the old man’s voice trembled, ‘since the laughter of the little girl with pink bows in her hair filled these branches. I am truly afraid she has forgotten how to climb. Once upon a time she used to hang her tiny butterflies from long pieces of glittery string; I would hear her giggle from some distant place when I discovered what she had left for me to find. But now it has been so long, I am sure she has forgotten.’

Then the small child realised that the old man did not understand. ‘She is the one who sent me here! She is the one who cut out each star by hand. She is the one who gave each star its shine and placed each one inside this box for you. It may seem as though she has forgotten everything, but on certain days, her memory is awakened, and the universe that dances inside her smile flows only in the direction of this ancient tree. She knows that today is your special day, and she alone has sent me here with this gift for you.’

And as the old man’s weathered eye released a tired tear of relief, it washed down his cheek, smoothing the ripples that time had etched upon his ancient face. As more tears fell, they washed him clean and new, smudging the furrowed lines and erasing the countless years since childhood was all that he might ever know. Even now as he looked at the hand he lifted to brush the next tear away, he marvelled at how small it was, how totally devoid of any sign that he might be growing older rather than younger.

Opening the book shaped box once more, he drew from beneath the paper stars a tiny planet, made of glass so shiny and pure that it reflected his image back to his eyes so that he knew for certain now that he was indeed only a small, white-haired boy. The old man still sat beside him on the branch, but in the long distant future, gently reminding him to take all the time in the world to be a child, to marvel in the mystery of all that it meant to be so young and small.

And as the sun began to set, the boy sat quietly, his leg dangling over the branch, humming a tune, completely alone. The old man and his box of paper stars had faded into some future time and space. The child breathed the crisp air into his tiny lungs, infused with the strange scent of magical winter leaves that grew only on this tall tree while all other trees bore the barest branches. An early star shot across the dusky sky, and the child closed his eyes to whisper his wish. Today was his special day. He kept his eyes scrunched tightly closed til he was certain he could hear the almost forgotten sounds of another child’s steps skipping with delight in the sparkling starlight.

Wishing the happiest birthday ever to my dear friend, LP – may all your wishes come true today and always – Angelica 🙂 🙂 🙂

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The little girl climbed the tree rather tentatively as it had been a long while since her small hands had clasped the rough branches. She was not truly frightened, but some days she wondered whether she had somehow forgotten the strength and agility needed to ascend to the lofty heights of the familiar branch which had borne her weight so many times in the past. After such a long absence, everything seemed so strange and familiar at the same time, and that in itself seemed very strange.

The boy was not here, but everywhere there was evidence that he had never been far away. Glittery blue dragonflies dangled from odd lengths of string, not just from one branch but in fact from them all. She smiled then giggled as she brushed past them; how her imagination set them free from their strings and sent them into frantic, blissful hovers, each wing moving in a different direction to achieve their magically perfect stillness, like falcons riding the rolling wisps of wind, suspended from distant clouds.

Yes, the tree was full of dragonflies, their gossamer wings glistening in the tranquil sunny haze. It took some time to spot any butterflies at all, and when she finally found them, they were somehow dull and faded and tattered from neglect. They looked like lost whispers, like tired, grubby napkins. Like a child’s toy – once cherished, now almost forgotten. Yet somehow the small child’s presence in the tree filtered soft rainbow prisms of light onto their tired paper wings, spinning ever so softly so that one might think they might almost twirl back to life. She took a breath, and exhaled slowly, savouring the air, the light and life itself.

The next time the young boy climbed, the magical breeze blew against his skin like a whispered secret. He brushed past many twigs that scratched his arms and legs as he searched for what he knew he would find. He darted between the dragonflies he had suspended from every hopeful branch. He scanned for shimmers of colour amongst the myriad of worn butterflies, but everything was old and nothing was new. Disappointed as he had been so many times in the past, he lowered his back against the tall trunk, one foot upon the branch, the other barefooted leg dangling like lost hope.

Idly, his fingers played along the rough bark of the branch that held him. The tree that once had been so young and vibrant had now grown to ancient wisdom; every furrow of bark was familiar. The next moment, something felt strange to his touch, small and soft, somewhere between the feel of bark and leaves. Careful not to dislodge the tiny unseen mystery, he bent down carefully to see whatever secret his branch now held. The magical breeze blew again, and with great care the wide-eyed boy made his way back down to the earth’s thick carpet of leaves.

Though excitement flickered through his thoughts like a ripple, he knew he would need to be more patient than he had ever been before. It might be a very long time before the chrysalis would transform, but when it finally did, the stained glass mosaic of butterfly wings would bring a new flush of colour and renewal to the tree’s ancient branches. He had already waited a very long time. And now as he looked back over his shoulder to the silhouette of the tree in the fading sunlight, he knew he could wait just a little longer, and maybe even forever, for a new butterfly to emerge.

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What is it that a child sees within their mind? What dreams will come true, unfolding then drifting like the mists of time as they traverse the known and the unknown realms that exist within the deepest reaches of time and space? Could the innocence of a child be all that was needed to open the door to that mystical, magical place that rides parallel to that which we know? Is this the place through which paper boats laden with thoughts and wishes shall sail, going far beyond the horizon to the nether reaches of the widest oceans before returning, ragged, but intact all the same, carrying the answers to the questions that we have sent?

As the small boy stood with his arm outstretched, he waved his hand as if it held a mighty sword, yet within his steely grip was a simple pen and in his other hand was a single piece of parched white paper upon which he had scrawled but a few carefully chosen words. The sun shone brightly bathing him in its soft yellow glow as it held fast for the last part of the day, and the stiff breeze that blew from across the dark blue ocean stung his skin as it carried the salt filled air. His coat battered against his leg like a loose tent flap in a storm, with a hollow, yet sharp sound like that of a cracking whip. He stared across the ocean into the distant unknown and there, just above the horizon, the vapours of a large dark cloud twisted and turned into shape. His eye in tune with a wild imagination saw large dragon form, bathed in the red glow of the sun, and from its mouth spewed forth the electric blue fire of lightning and the rolling roar of thunder that accompanied it carried across the ocean to where he stood in awe. So much never did cease to amaze him, and so often he would stand alone and ponder the intricacies of life and death.

Elsewhere, a small girl huddled in the solitude of The Garden of Life. The soft pink bows that tied her long dark hair and the pink runners with spangled sparkly pink laces gave only a little away of who she really was. She watched as the glow of the dragonfly and butterfly ornaments that adorned her garden bed changed colour before her ever wondering eyes like a rainbow light show. Some time ago she fell from the Tree, bruised and battered from the blows that life had dealt her and it was here that she landed, here that she felt safe and secure in a place full of blissful moments that would sustain her when no other moment could. It was warm like a soft feather doona, and on the darkest of nights with a clear sky, she could count the millions of stars that shone from above, carrying her back for just a moment to where she would grab a fleeting glimpse of her past. Long gone were the memories that had filled her days with joy and laughter, replaced by the careful, considered thoughts and words that now filled her life. Yet she was gaining greater courage with each passing day and week, and although she did not realise it yet, the time would come once more where the magic of being a child would carry her away.

He was small, but he was strong, with his words belying the true self that he had become, and as the sun bade him farewell for another day, so the stars began to twinkle in the blackness of the night, greeting him like a million children all wanting to share in the wonders his words would bring. He turned his back to the dragon in the distant sky that had faded like so many of his childish dreams, and he walked slowly along the path that wound its way through the undulating sand dunes, marked by the finger print lines of the wind. The ripples in the sand twisting and weaving like a snake from a story he once knew, ready to pounce and take him if it so chose. No longer did the stiff winds batter his tiny body, instead replaced by a soft breeze that now carried him in a drifting state as though his tiny feet did not touch the ground. Onward he went, into the Magic Forest, where fireflies danced like tiny candles suspended from an invisible string, their light painting him in an eerie glow as they went about their business. Faeries darted here and there, every now and again coming in for an inquisitive look, before disappearing once more, visible to only those that believed in their existence, and he certainly believed they were real.

With his long white hair and blue jacket he was a sight to behold as he bounded here and there, with the exuberance of the imaginative child that he was. Often he would pause and turn quickly as he tried to spy some cheeky faerie as it played hide and seek with him, giving a little giggle each time he succeeded in catching a glimpse. “Hello,” he called as he stood in the clearing, but all that returned was an echo from the hidden places deep within the forest. He called again, this time louder with more purpose, at the same time with a saddening desperation that his friend for whom he searched may hear his cry. Again it was only his echo that responded, with the fading repeat as it bounced from tree to tree. He had sailed many paper boats and for fleeting moments she had shown herself, but like a ghost on a calm dark night, she would appear and then fade to be lost once more, never managing to grasp her dreams for much longer than she felt safe. He looked mournfully around, yet here and now in the stillness of the forest he knew that she may not come again, but he could only believe.

As the stars sparkled overhead, through the clear roof of her garden, she looked to find just one that may come to life and smile ever brightly upon her. Ever so carefully she climbed to her feet, stretching her weary body and offering a tiny yawn before sliding the door to her Garden open.  She peered out into the dark distance with all the unknowns obscured by the shadows cast, yet she felt compelled to take another step beyond the comfort and safety she had found. She had been stirred by a soft familiar sound which had now faded into the hum that filled her head and in the darkness she had felt drawn to some far off place, but still a part of her was tied to where she had been hiding. In the starlight, an old metal swing glistened, smudged with the brown rust of time, and it creaked as it moved ever so slightly in the breeze as if calling her to sit once more, encouraging her to break the bonds that had restrained her for so long now. As she stepped through the doorway, she let her fingers slip free from her hold on the last piece of what had protected her, and at the same time she let her mind drift almost becoming numb until she found herself sitting alone upon the wrought iron etched seat of the swing.

She felt a calmness wash over her, and as she looked at the scars carried by the nearby statue, so she saw herself, recovering from what she had endured and this put her even more at ease because it was a sign of what could be where there once was no hope. As she sat in contemplation, the last chirping of the small birds that filled her garden could be heard emanating from the nearby bushes in which they had made their homes, and it was as if she understood the stories they were telling of what the day had delivered for them. With the calmness that surrounded her, she began to drift back into that childlike state in which her memories had begun to stir once more, and she began to wonder now if it could ever be the same again. She could only believe, but she did not want to be dashed upon some rocky shore, never to be found, so she would be cautious and only time would tell what was to be.

Of all the things that he had seen and known, there was no one thing that stood out more in his imagination than any other, and as he stood in the opening of the magic forest, he gazed all around. The many dreams, the many tales came flooding back into his mind like a giant picture show that played his life like one big fairy tale. He was mesmerised by it all and the journey that he and his small friend had taken before she disappeared. They had sought out courage and strength, truth and believing and with this they had conquered the darkness and set alight the candle of life that still burned strong. They had seen the best and the worst that the world had to offer, but they had never once given up, and the Magic Forest stood as a testament to who they had become. As he looked, he could see the twinkling of the first star with all its magic and wonder, and nearby the tiny dragonflies and butterflies that flitted from flower to flower in the soft dusk light, each with its own purpose, each with its own meaning in the cobweb that life had woven magically for them.

As the last ray of the sun burst from beyond the horizon, it reached out like a finger pointing, and it reflected from the distant ivory tower, sending a glint of light as a reminder that some thing’s still remained and that only with time and patience would they be tamed. The rainbow colours that had adorned it had been replaced once again by the stark white paint of before, yet he hoped that his tiny friend would see beneath that. He hoped she would remember what it had become and the adventure that had unfolded on a bright summer’s day a long while ago when she had been rescued from its upper most confines.

He heard a sound, and as he turned he saw a fox dancing in the nearby wheat field, as if chasing some imaginary child as is leapt here and there. As he watched the fox, he remembered a tale from his past and although he could see the fox he wondered if like his friend it was truly there or just vision from that parallel world which may or may not exist alongside our own. He turned his gaze looking once more deep into the night sky with all the stars that now shone like tiny diamonds, and then to the deeper colours of space that made this canvas upon which they were laid even more wondrous. A shooting star raced across the sky, burning bright then fading, and as it did he cast his wish before it disappeared into the distance behind the tall wide silhouette of the Friendship Tree. If he did not know better, he would have imagined that it had landed within the Tree itself but then that was the magic of his simple imagination.

Sitting quietly on the metal swing, the small girl felt the breeze of a butterfly kiss upon her cheek, and as she did so she closed her eyes to dream. Ever so slowly the old metal swing began to squeak as she was rocked back and forth. The sound was reminiscent of the old see saw on which she had found herself not too long ago, and as she opened her eyes, the soft light of the rising moon lit up her smile and for just a moment she thought she saw the silhouette of a dragonfly she had once known. She closed her eyes once again and in a moment a shadow flickered upon her eyelids, tempting her to open them once more. As she slowly opened her eyes, she sat aghast at the ethereal form of the small boy that wandered before her, side to side as if searching for something he had lost, yet he did not see her. He was calling for her, and even as she called back, he could not hear. He came close to where she sat on the swing and with her tiny fingers she stretched to touch him, calling his name as the swing made its forward motion, but as she did, so he disappeared. This left her with a lost and empty feeling as though the future had come then gone in the instant that was time as she had come to know it.

In the distance a voice called softly and she placed her feet on the ground stopping the swing in mid motion, and as she listened intently the familiar call drew her from the darkness of where she had been into the eerie glow of the moon. At the same time the small boy also heard a familiar voice and as he watched, a soft light began the radiate from the Tree in the distance. The fox stopped what it was doing, then turned and watched as the smile on the face of the small boy grew ever wider before it too was drawn forward, cautiously moving to where the Tree stood bold and strong. The small girl had let go of all that had held her, abandoned all the fear that had so consumed her, and as she ran, the laces on her pink runners danced like octopus tentacles to a silent tune. As she came closer to the tree, she recognised the shape that was her friend on the path that wound from the forest in the other direction and she called, as did he. They both stopped at the bottom of the tree, puffing and panting.

“Where have…….” She stopped him before he could say another word and she explained as best she could. “I tried, and I knew that everything would be alright, but at the same time I just could not see as clearly as I usually do.” He wanted to say something but she was so full of words and after all his paper boats he was glad to just let her speak. “I had forgotten it all, everything that I had learnt, all the simple things you had shown me, and worst of all I had become lost in my own little world, drowning in everything that had overcome me.”

He needed not say anything in return, because he understood and all that mattered was that she was back. A soft mist began to drift across the valley floor like the white foam on the incoming ocean tide. It tickled their feet as it rolled across their shoes, drifting in tiny wisps of vapour. The fox stood there, first raising one paw, then replacing it before raising another in astonishment as the mist wrapped itself around it. The two friends climbed into the tree, and lifted the fox up with them, and as the mist filled the valley floor, all around them looked like the ocean. In the pale moonlight, the fox lay its head upon the wide branch and fell asleep, whilst the two friends talked in endless conversation, making up for the time that they had not spoken over the long last while. This was not the end, nor was it the beginning. It was where they were now, it was where the journey they were on had placed them and they knew that there were more adventures, more wonders to be seen, greater lessons to be learned. Today there would be no magic, no more than the simple words written on this page, the magic of words on their own. For now they were just two friends sitting in a tree, filling the Book Of Dreams with words that told of something unique, but at the same time something that others would one day embrace and find of their own as well.

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And just when the boy was certain that all was lost, a small, ethereal barefooted figure in a lavender dress with violet eyes faded from nothing into luminous reality before him. The small section of path over which she floated seem to sparkle dimly, as though lit by distant starlight. He had always been certain that faeries existed; he had felt their ever-present magic as he had wandered through the woods and explored the intricate, winding path of the secret garden. Though he had seen paintings and statues and many pairs of tinsel wings dancing across the enchanted woods of his daydreams, he had never seen one suspended in flight with his own eyes before. Now finally as he had always hoped, one had appeared before him, possibly because before now, he had never truly needed to move from faith to certainty.

‘Do you know what it is you have lost?’ she asked him in a shimmering voice unlike any he had heard before, and instantly his heart filled with hope that she would be able to help him find it. ‘Life has become so … difficult,’ he stammered. ‘Where there was once the purest joy, now there is the heaviest sadness, and it has taken over everything. And even in the brief moments when sorrow seems to fade, there is a deep void. I am still a child, but each moment I feel that I am growing very, very old.’ 

She nodded, and a lilac tear threatened to form in those spritely, bright eyes that had already spied his pain from where she had sat hidden, nestled amongst the flowers. She had seen this boy many times before as he had wandered through the woods, and of all the people she had watched intently, making their way down the winding path, she knew that his heart was the fullest with belief. When he reached the leafless tree adorned by long, strange pale pink tassels, she knew that he wondered whether they were faerie feathers, and that he would be both totally surprised and not surprised at all to learn that indeed they were. 

She could see other questions that now rose to the surface of the boy’s deep blue eyes that looked more like the ocean on an overcast day than the eyes of any child. The heart within her pounded as words from long ago echoed inside her mind, replaying the moment that the ancient faerie wisdom had passed into her possession: ‘Cascadacia, you must understand that every faerie has one special mission that she must fulfil in order to earn her Eternal Shine.’ And so she had sat amongst the flowers each warm Summer’s day and golden Autumn’s day and brisk Winter’s day until the first crisp day of Spring when the white haired boy had appeared upon the path. He had looked so deeply troubled, and before she could even make the choice to fly, she found herself hovering over the path before him.  ‘Tell me what has brought you here today and what has put those clouds into your eyes …’

The child sighed, not knowing where to start, but tracing his thoughts back carefully to his loss of levity. ‘I once had a friend – a little girl with pink cheeks and cheeky eyes that danced like fireflies. We played like only true children can, racing every day to a magical tree to dangle paper butterflies and dragonflies from its branches. How the magic breeze would blow through the leaves of that tree, making our mobiles dance like wind-chimes! How the chaos of smiles littered the heavens like comets, transforming the darkness into blissful, childlike, cosmic splendour. But then …’ he faltered, his voice trembling in the shadows of unfolding revelation.

The faerie sensed the pain of the story before the boy could tell it. ‘Then, something happened. I watched my friend … grow old before my eyes …’ His tale was one of pure lament, but as his voice faded into the background, Cascadacia knew that she must disconnect herself from all the boy said to help him understand the truth that would unfold. As though from a distance, she saw his fiercely guarded tears fall to the ground, sensing that it was somehow the loss of his own youth that caused his devastation. 

And as his story became infused with even greater sorrow, she felt the strongest urge a faerie can feel welling up inside her, subsuming her entire frame. It was several moments before the boy could disconnect from his discontent enough to notice the purple faerie begin to shake violently over the path before him. He found himself disarmed by the intensity of the unlikely sound that bubbled up from the depths of the faerie’s soul. Her irrepressible giggle grew into an overwhelming cascade of laughter, and for a moment the boy felt utterly betrayed. How could she laugh with such abandon in the face of his deep suffering? How could something as lovely as a faerie be so heartless when childhood had been so utterly lost?

The sound of the faerie’s laughter resounded throughout the woods; and with every moment, an unfamiliar joy sang into the shadows of the small boy’s mind. Though he could not form words to explain what was happening, he surrendered like dry ground to the relief of rain as all sadness dissolved completely, and he knew that sorrow would never again darken his thoughts. He had known traces of childlike joy before, but now he absorbed it to the deepest core of his being. And as he grappled with the exchange of suffering for joy, he barely noticed that while the sound of lavender laughter intensified and filled him with unquenchable strength, the outline of the faerie was slowly fading in the air before him.

Only moments before, she had been a bright and delightful confirmation of all that he had believed to be true. Now as she faded from the view of his eyes and back into wherever it was that faeries disappeared, her endlessly echoing laughter had become a golden promise that all sadness was forever banished from the recesses of his heart. He remembered the question she had asked him, ‘Do you know what it is you have lost?’ 

He tried with all his soul to remember, but the sorrow of what he had once lost was now lost to him forever. No, he had not imagined the lavender faerie or the delicious joys of eternal childhood – they were equally real and true. But what of the sorrow he once felt at the loss of his little friend, who had slowly turned in his mind from pale pink to ashen grey? Or the sadness that he felt as his eternal youth proved little more than a momentary delusion? With one final lavender laugh, these vanished completely from all recollection, completely unreal and untrue, nevermore to be entertained, even in moments of absent distraction.

In the next moment, he saw his little friend with the pink ponytails in her hair running towards him along the forest path. ‘You found it!’ she squealed with delight. ‘Found what?’ he asked, the old, familiar sense of silly fun forming a broad smile across his brightly beaming face. ‘Your sparkle!’ she giggled, ‘It’s back in your eyes – just like magic!’ And he realised that she had not grown old and neither had he, and he knew with absolute certainty that neither of them ever would and that the sadness that once consumed them both had been dissolved forever. And as they ran laughing in the direction of their favourite tree, the faerie dying in the nearby flowers smiled to know that her mission had been fulfilled, and that her shine would live eternally in the undying laughter of the children.
 

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The old man stepped through the doorway into the world he knew and loved, with the darkness of the night illuminated by the small pin pricks of light that the stars had managed to pierce through the black canvas above. He had felt a disconnection from all he had known for sometime now, and the words that he so often painted his life with had seemed to evaporate like the cool night mist on a summer’s morning. Just as the mist is there to be seen with the twists and turns of spiraling air, then gone in the next, so his words had done much the same.

A soft smudge of red and pink brushed across the deepest parts of the sky, intertwined with the stars that formed the Milky Way. He looked around and in the faint starlight he could see the grasses as they swayed, as if dancing upon the gentle breeze that came and went. For a moment he thought he saw the familiar form of a fox from long ago, as it trotted majestically through the wheat field, with its tail flicking as it went. There was so much he remembered yet it was so distant now and he worried that it may be his memory failing him that had lead him to where he was now.

“Shhh,’ a tiny voice whispered, as he turned startled to see a small boy wearing a long blue coat and staring into the deep darkness above. He watched, and as he did the boy turned his head and smiled the warmest of smiles. The old man went to speak, to enquire some, but as he shaped his lips to form a sound, the boy raised a finger to silence him. “We must be very quiet,” he whispered, “you see, they are sleeping and tonight is ever so special.” The young boy gestured for the old man to come close so he needed not shout, because he thought he may be a bit hard of hearing. After all he was much older, well at least in the child’s eyes.

The old man moved on over and as he sat down he saw up close the face of the child which had formed a familiar guise. It was as if he was looking into a mirror from long ago, but could that be? The boy took the old man’s arm and making a pointed finger himself, he raised his arm and suggested. “There, just up there. See near that brightest star.” The old man looked very hard but nothing could be seen. He looked at the boy, who was still staring intently into the sky, and, “There, did you see it, another one?” The old man turned his head, but he was too late, and as he did, the boy sternly, but respectfully spoke. “You have to watch really closely, or you will miss them.” A look of confusion washed over his face and the young boy tried to explain some more. “They are playing, dancing, smiling for us to see that they are alive.” The old man still did not understand, and the boy saw this, so he just pointed and again suggested. “You just watch. You’ll see what I mean.”

The old man felt cold and he shivered slightly as he continued to look into the sky. “Here, have this,” said the boy as he stood and draped the cloth of an old blue coat he carried in a bag, around the shoulders of the old man. They kept looking and as if by magic, a fine flash of light swept across the sky, and then another. He now saw what had intrigued the boy, they were shooting stars, and as the boy looked at him he smiled. “You saw that didn’t you?” He nodded, and he remembered how as a child, the things that grown ups take for granted can be full of magic and wonder. He remembered how with a child’s eyes you could see beyond all that was, and the imagination could paint the most wonderful pictures for the mind to see.

As he sat there he felt a strange sensation come over him, as if he had drank a hot cup of tea and it was warming its way to his stomach. The boy looked at him and smiled. “Now that’s better, I knew I would find you.” The boy touched the man’s hand, and as the man looked down he saw that no longer were his hands wrinkled from age, but soft like that of the times he remembered from his youth. He raised his fingers to his face and the rough unshaven skin had become soft and subtle once more. He turned his head and looked on sadly as the boy stood and walked into the darkness, and as he did, the young boy turned and then waved, giving a tiny giggle as he disappeared. As he sat there now all alone he could hear the faint sounds of children laughing as they played in the darkness, and as he did the stars continued to dance in the sky. Yes, once more he saw through a child’s eyes all the magic that he had thought he had lost. He lay down on his back and marveled at all the tiny lights, the eyes of the lost children that now smiled down on him, and as he did he drifted off to sleep.

Sometimes, it takes something special to help find that little something that is lost, and if you look closely, look deep inside, you will realize that it is not lost at all, it is just waiting for you to dream.

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From the moment she had been told about the illness that now consumed her, she found herself torn from her normal daily life, and now the time she would spend climbing her favorite tree had become a thing of the past. The Tree was a special place to her, a place of security and comfort where honesty, trust and respect were shared with her friends as they sat and told stories of magic and wonder, with a friendship that had become so unique. They had written many words for all the world to read, inspiring words telling stories of a boy and a girl that shared words and nothing more. Within the Tree she had hung her many words of joy and happiness like tiny butterflies, strung into delicate mobiles that reflected the smallest amount of light which played upon the faces of her friends that climbed there with her each and everyday. But now things were different, with the endless confusion that surrounded her spinning like a tornado, blurring so that she could no longer see clearly.

Today she stood within the Tree ever so quietly, her tiny heart beating a fearful tune. Her frightened little face hid behind the dangling spangled butterfly mobile that spun effortlessly in the soft breeze. The coolness of the air that drifted through the leaves that enveloped the tree brushed against her skin as she remained quiet and still, sending a little chill through her weakened body. As the rainbow colors of the butterflies danced upon her face, she grimaced at the thoughts that now played within her mind. Around her now, hands grappled to take hold, pulling her here and there with all sorts of treatments and cures, but not so much as a thought as to how she may be feeling. There is so much to understand, yet to balance her life there are so many things she will never understand, making the decisions she needed to make even more complex.

Hiding in the highest branches her young friend watched and waited patiently. He wanted to reach out too, but he did not want to confuse her, he just wanted to offer her calming and reassuring words that so often before had eased her mind in the complex world in which she sometimes explored. As he moved carefully to get a better view he slipped ever slightly and in a startled turn, she saw him there and she returned his broad smile with the one of thanks she had so often given before. They were good friends and she treasured the words he spoke. Words so calm and well thought, never judging her thoughts, but instead balancing them so that she could carefully guide herself on whatever journey she may need to take.

She waved her arm to call him closer and he obliged, swinging down from where he stood on the higher branch, taking up a place not far from where she sat in the Friendship Tree. Her fearful look had seemed to ease ever so slightly, but then he knew she would always put on a brave face so as not to worry him. He asked her what she was doing and very quietly and carefully she led him to where they were able to see clearly through the branches. There she pointed and he could see a shape, a shadowy form moving from tree to tree in the distance. A puzzled look fell across his face, and she turned her head to look at him, with that touch of fear upon it once more. “It’s the darkness. It’s looking for me, I just know it is.” He knew she was not well, but that the darkness was close was certainly concerning and he knew that they had to do something and that time was of the essence.

He looked at her with the reassurance that she had seen so often before, and then he reached deep into the pockets of his long blue coat. She gave him a quizzical look as he fumbled with his tiny fingers to find what it was he was looking for, and before long he produced a large candle, a pen and a piece of paper. He placed the pen and paper nearby and then he lit the candle, placing it in a golden storm lantern so that its flame could never be extinguished. He hung this from the branch above and then he picked up the paper and pen, and he began to write. She looked at him in a puzzled manner, and then he explained. “Did you know that the darkness cannot survive where there is light?” She shook her head whilst absorbing his every word. “Yes,” he continued, “and the candle will burn from this day forward like life itself, to keep the darkness away, so it may never come near you again.” She was becoming excited and a new strength seemed to grow within her. He then continued. “The darkness can also not live where there is oxygen, and my words are like air, like the oxygen we breathe, and I will write as long as I can so that it will never survive.” The fear had now drained from her face and the courage he knew she had now brought a new lease of life to her, and the confidence that had seemed to of left her before, returned once more.

She had listened to his words so often before, and through all his wisdom he had always told her to believe. “Without belief, what hope do we have?” he would say. Finally, she was ready more than ever to face what lay ahead, to embrace the challenges as they unfolded. She knew it would be tough, but she did believe and at the same time she now knew more importantly that she would never face this alone, that there would always be someone to protect her.

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