In a Tower (3 of 3)

‘Archimedes,’ said Ralph as reality settled in his mind. ‘Archimedes!’ He screamed and before he knew what he was doing, he cast a lightning spell on the falcon. It was not a strong lightning spell, Ralph was not a strong wizard, but it was enough to give the falcon a shock. As the miniature lightning bolt hit home, the falcon dropped its prey and zoomed towards the nearest gnarled bush on the mountainside.

Then Archimedes was falling.

Falling much too fast.

Ralph stumbled through the words of the telekinesis spell and Archimedes’ fall slowed. Slowed but did not stop. Archimedes was not heavy, but he was heavier than the pebble, and it was proving a problem. Sweat sprang from Ralphs brow, as he said the words again concentrating with all his might. Archimedes stopped falling. Then he began to rise. He rose all the way to the windowsill where Ralph put him down gently.

‘Archimedes?’ said Ralph slightly out of breath. There was blood on Archimedes’ feathers and his neck lay at a strange angle. ‘Archimedes.’ Tears welled into Ralph’s eyes. Archimedes was supposed to be alive. Why was Archimedes not alive?

Then Ralph thought of the life book. It did not have to end here. But to heal wounds and bring a creature like Archimedes back to life that was a much harder spell that the basic life spell, which he had failed so miserably so many times. Ralph bit his lip. Then he straightened out his back. He would do it anyway. If it worked he would have Archimedes back and if it did not, well… It just had to work.

He grabbed the book and flicked to the right page. Then placed his hands on Archimedes’ small body and took a deep breath. As he said the words, he pictured how Archimedes looked when he was alive and healthy. He pictured how Archimedes neck would straighten out, how his wounds would close, how his feathers would grow back, and his hands began to tremble, but he did not stop. He kept saying the words, kept picturing how the spell would work, and somewhere deep inside of him a small voice said:

‘Live, Archimedes, you have to live.’

He could not keep it up for long.

Exhausted, he slumped onto the floor breathing hard. Then he looked up at the windowsill and a small beaked head looked back. It cooed at him.

‘Archimedes,’ Ralph smiled wider than he had ever done since he came to the wizard’s tower.

The door flew open, Archimedes fluttered down and hid behind Ralph and Ralph’s master marched into the room.

‘What in all the bloody hells was that?’ Spit flew from his master’s mouth. His face was a rich shade of dark red.

‘Master?’ Said Ralph his smile gone, too shocked to even try to stand up.

‘Are you trying to kill me?’ Screamed his master.

‘No, master I’m sorry,’ said Ralph, then he registered the kill part. ‘What?’

‘Throwing lightning after me.’ His master kept shouting. ‘Not only was it a pathetic, weakling spell, it also made me drop my lunch! And don’t you say “what”, it’s called “excuse me”!’

‘Sorry, master,’ said Ralph. ‘So that falcon was-’

‘Yes, it was bloody well me!’ The volume dropped a bit, but that might just be because his master was running out of breath. ‘How do you think I travel? By foot?’

‘No, I know you fly. I just thought-’

‘Thought? Ha! That’s a good one.’ His master marched to the chair and dropped into it. ‘Now tell me,’ he said. ‘Have you even learnt that life spell, or have I just wasted a whole year on you?’

‘I,’ Ralph began, but then he did not know how he wanted to continue his sentence. He saw in his mind’s eye hours and hours trapped in this tower with his nose in a book and no company. His master would never let him keep Archimedes, and he would have no influence whatsoever on anything he had to learn. He pictured his master yelling at him.

‘I’m sorry, master,’ said Ralph, a small smile creeping onto his lips. ‘I just didn’t get it.’

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In a Tower (2 of 3)

Had he really scared it off already? Maybe it just stopped for a short rest on its way somewhere. He felt disappointment creeping in. But he was a wizard, was he not? Or at least a wizard’s apprentice. A lure spell should not be too difficult, especially not when it was just on a pigeon. He scanned the bookcases, found the appropriate book and said the spell.

A flutter of wings announced the return of the pigeon and Ralph smiled a victorious smile. However, after a few pecks at the breadcrumbs the pigeon saw him and flew away again.

‘Ah, yes, I still look dangerous of course,’ said Ralph although he had promised not to talk to himself. ‘Let’s see what a little charm spell can do.’

After another small search, he found the spell and did the lure spell again. When the pigeon landed on the windowsill, he locked his eyes on it and did the charm spell. The effect was immediate. The pigeon lifted its head and went straight for him.

‘Ow,’ said Ralph as the pigeon scratched him in its attempt at finding a foothold on his face, ‘counter spell, counter spell,’ Ralph flicked through the pages of the book while attempting to dodge the smitten pigeon.

‘Ah, counter spell.’ Ralph did it and at once the pigeon fled onto the top of the bookcase leaving several droppings on its way.

‘Oh dear,’ said Ralph when he noticed one of them had hit the still-open life-spell book. ‘He won’t just throw me out now, he’ll kill me.’ Ralph saw his masters face in his mind’s eye red and contorted in anger, and suddenly he did not care that he had begun talking to himself.

A somewhat weaker charm spell and an attempt at cleaning later, Ralph sat by the window feeding the pigeon breadcrumbs from his hand. What would he do now? He had cleaned the worst off the book, but it still had a very visible smudge. His master would never forgive him.

Or would he? If Ralph made something bigger than a pebble alive or created something living out of nothing, his master might be so impressed that he would let Ralph stay. But he had not even mastered the most basic life spell, how would he even begin on the bigger ones? His eyes fell on his new pigeon friend. Perhaps he could ‘magic’ the pigeon into existence for his master, just until he learnt it properly. He smiled, it was better than nothing.

The next couple of days he read a bit and played a lot with his new pet. First, he taught it not to poop inside the tower. Then he taught it tricks like flying through a hoop that he made. He even taught himself a bit of telekinesis which allowed him to make his pebbles float out of the window, so that the pigeon could bring them back.

One day however, his conscience clobbered his brain over his lack of studying.

‘I’m sorry Archimedes.’ Ralph had named the pigeon Archimedes as soon as it stopped pooping inside the tower. ‘I can’t play with you today. I have to learn this life spell.’ It really was a good thing that Archimedes turned up; Ralph had stopped talking to himself completely. ‘Actually, yes, maybe you can help me.’ Ralph fetched a pebble. ‘Try to imagine that this is a seed of some kind.’

Archimedes pecked at the pebble.

‘No,’ said Ralph. ‘Don’t try to eat it. Just imagine.’

Archimedes pecked again.

‘Oh, you’re hopeless,’ said Ralph. ‘Just get out and let me study.’

Archimedes tipped his head to one side.

‘Go on. Get out!’ Ralph shooed at Archimedes. ‘I said get out!’ He pushed the pigeon out of the window and turned his back on it.

He stared at the pebble for a while. Was it really alright to push Archimedes out of the window? Had he been too hard on him? He turned back to say he was sorry, but what he saw made the words stick in his throat.

It happened so quickly that Ralph found it difficult to make sense of it at first. A peregrine falcon swooped down at Archimedes while Archimedes flapped his wings at a panicky speed. The falcon stretched out its talons and plucked Archimedes right out of the air. Ralph stared with open mouth as the falcon flew on with a limp Archimedes in its claws.

In a Tower (1 of 3)

I first wrote this story in English. Then I changed it a bit and translated it into Danish. Then I changed it a bit more and changed it back to English. Ralph, the protagonist, when from in his twenties to seventeen and then to twelve. This is how it ended up 🙂


jaromir-kavan-181552

Reschensee (copyright: Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash)

‘I expect you to be diligent,’ said Ralph in his deepest voice while he wriggled the vial about on the windowsill. It wore a pointy hat made from his clothes.
‘Of course, master,’ Ralph answered with another hat-less vial.
‘And you will have to concentrate twenty-four seven,’ said the deep voice and hat.
‘Yes, master, I will,’ said no-hat vial Ralph.
‘I will be back eventually.’ The hat-vial turned to look out the window. ‘And when I return I expect you to be able to do a basic life spell or your days as my apprentice are over.’
‘Don’t you worry master,’ said Ralph. ‘I’ll be making growing things before you can say Jack Frost.’
‘Yes, of course,’ said the vial version of his master. ‘I was only kidding. I have complete faith in you. And you will get your own hat as soon as I find one. Oh dear, now I ruined the surprise. I’m only leaving to find you a hat.’
‘That’s alright master,’ said vial-Ralph. ‘I’ll act really surprised when you return and give it to me.’

Ralph put the vials aside with a sigh. If only that had been how it happened, but his master had not been kidding, and the amount of faith he had in Ralph could fit in a thimble.

Ralph knew he should continue his studies. Although he could make pebbles out of nothing, the life spell kept eluding him. He had tried so many times over the last two weeks, but every time he tried the spell, nothing happened, and there was no help to be found. There was no one to talk to, and the book described it in a really strange way.

In fact, he really wished that he had someone to talk to, even if it was not about the spell. Just anyone who was not his master. Sometimes, he felt so trapped. If he could just go outside for a while, the fresh air might help his brain. But if his master came home and found him outside, there would be hell to pay. His master might even throw him out, and then he would have to go home to his parents and tell them that they had been right. That he would never be a wizard, and that there was never any future in wizarding anyway. He rubbed his face.

Also, his parents would probably still be angry with him for running away, even though it had been almost a year. He traced his finger around the windowsill in a curly pattern leaving a glowing trail. Party tricks, his father had called them. He would show them.

His face set, he stood up and marched to his desk. The desk only had four things on it. One was an enormous book simply called ‘Life’. The other things were three small pebbles in a pile beside the book. Ralph sat down and began for the umpteenth time on the part called: ‘Simple Life – an Introductory Chapter’.

‘The need for life must be present in the wizard’s heart,’ mumbled Ralph. ‘The need for life? What does that mean, the need for life? And you promised to stop talking to yourself, what happened to that promise?’ He messed up his hair. Perhaps it meant that he had to let the universe know that he really needed to do this life spell.

‘Alright.’ He picked up a pebble from the desk. ‘Please universe, I need this pebble to become a seed, a living, growing seed.’ Ralph did the signs and said the words of the spell.

And nothing happened.

‘Stupid book,’ he mumbled. And that was alright because he said it to the book, not himself.

Then something landed on the windowsill and Ralph jumped to his feet. Was that his master back already? But the pigeon who had landed took off when he moved, so it was probably not his master. He sighed and slumped back in his chair. It was strange to think that that pigeon had been the first living thing he had seen since his master left. But then he supposed that that was the point with building a tall tower in a barren mountain range.

‘No contact, no distractions,’ as his master used to say. Still it would be nice with a bit of company. Ralph took some dry bread from the day before and broke it into crumbs over the windowsill. Then he stepped back and waited.

And waited.

74 Are You Challenging Me?

monster_energy_ericmargera-deviantart

(Credit: EricMargera on DeviantArt)

My tongue burns from the tea I drank too quickly, but the burning from you insult is worse. Sitting there with your can of Monster energy drink like it is nothing. What are you saying with that? You open the can with a click and a fizz and I can already smell the sickly sweet additives polluting our breakfast. Are you saying that I will not dare say anything to you? Well, you are wrong mister.

‘This is MY house, we play by MY rules here, and don’t you forget it!’

You stop with the can at your lips. You lower it. ‘What?’ you say, raising your eyebrows.

‘Get that affront to everything out of here.’

You look at the can in your hand. ‘What, this?’

‘Don’t you act all surprised,’ I say, ‘you know perfectly well how I feel about stimulants.’

‘But it’s just an energy drink,’ you shrug, ‘what about coffee?’

‘Coffee’s traditional. Now get it out of here before I ground you.’

You pick up your school bag and the Monster can. I hear a ‘whatever’ before you slam the door behind you, and I know that the war is not won yet.

Parents in the Dust

Dusty floor

The boy draws faces in the dust on the vacuum cleaner with a sown on finger.

‘This is my mother,’ he says, pointing at the smiley with long spiky hair down one side of its head. ‘She looks like that nice woman at the train station who played me a song on her guitar. The hair’s supposed to be purple.’ He points at the other smiley, ‘And this is my father. He’s just like that man down the road who asked me where I lived once, only he’d never yell. Not even if I broke a vase with my football.’

‘I think they met each other,’ he scratches the stitches on his neck, ‘in a burning building? No, at a secret meeting for spies. They were both spies really, and they left to go on a secret mission, but they’ll be back some day and then they’ll teach me to be a spy. The best spy.’

I am sure he could go on for a long time yet, but I am getting hungry and mice do not catch themselves. So I stretch and go to the door where I meow and scratch at the panel.

‘You’re going out already?’ he asks.

I scratch again.

‘I was just getting to the best part too,’ he mumbles as he lets me slip out into the cool autumn air. Chasing down my dinner, I wonder how the boy will react if he ever finds out that creations like him do not have any parents.

Witch

(Credit: Maxime Desmettre, digital-art-gallery.com/artist/1438)

(Credit: Maxime Desmettre, digital-art-gallery.com/artist/1438)

The bursts of anger were powerful, but short. Most of the time she did not want to kill the little girl at all. Sometimes the girl was almost like the sister she never had; doing summersaults on the moss, falling into the stream with arms and legs flailing. In those moments she wanted Joanna to stay or at least to return regularly. Those were also the only times she felt truly lonely. She could lose herself in her craft for months on end, weaving and chanting, needing nothing but the completion of the next spell. But if after having made her smile, Joanna waved goodbye and the forest closed between them, something stirred in her heart which she had thought long dead and it was getting harder to strangle each time.

It was easier when the anger came. When Joanna chased one of her cats or wanted her to follow her to the village, the rage rose up through the mud of her soul and chased Joanna away. Which was nice; there was some satisfaction to be found in tears, and in the time following she could almost forget the little girl and her smiles.

Until the next time Joanna came knocking at her door.

A Story

life vest

She tells him she loves him. She does not tell him that she is pregnant. They get married because he is afraid of being alone and she does not want to be alone with the baby. She has always been against abortions. A week after their wedding she can no longer hide the bulge and she tells him, making him nervous. After the disclosure there is a period where he spends most of his time away from home, but then she shames him into staying with her. They have a multitude of evenings sitting side by side on the sofa, watching cooking shows. Neither of them likes cooking.

They tell themselves that it will be better when the baby is born and in a way it is. For almost two years after the baby is born, they are too tired to be bored.

When the child is five, she tires of him and taking care of the child alone no longer seems like a large burden. Still afraid to be alone, he clings to her as she splits everything they own in two. Before shaking him off her properly, she allows him to have the child for a weekend every fortnight.

For close to a year he lives for that weekend, then he finds someone else to keep him company. His new girlfriend adores the child, but the child is terrified of her long red nails. Soon the child stays only with her mother.

One night as the mother reads her child a bedtime story the child frowns. Forgetting the story, the child says: ‘Mummy, does daddy love me?’

‘Of course he does,’ she says, ‘and so do I.’ She hugs and kisses the child and she wonders how anyone could ever think a life vest a burden.

Pigeon Toed

Bare feet

Bare feet

‘I’ll win this time,’ said Gary to John as they ran towards the city gate, their bare feet raising dust from the street.

‘In your dreams,’ said John and sped up.

‘I’ll just wait for the sun to get to you,’ Gary moved the hair out of his eyes, and it stuck in the sweat on his forehead.

‘Wait!’ shouted a voice behind them. Gary stopped. John slowed down. When Gary turned, he saw Nadia nearing with her pigeon toed run, her brown curls bouncing on her shoulders.

‘Wait!’ she shouted again. Gary waited and John trotted back to him.

‘Can’t we just go?’ asked John.

‘It might be important,’ said Gary.

‘It’s never important,’ John put his hands on his hips and glared at Nadia as she reached them, panting, using the skirt of her dress to fan herself.

‘What is it?’ asked John.

‘Can I come play with you?’ asked Nadia.

‘No,’ said John. ‘Come on, Gary, let’s go.’ John turned, but Gary stayed.

‘Wait,’ said Nadia, ‘please, can I come?’

‘Get out of here,’ said John, ‘come on, Gary.’

Gary took a few steps and lent close to John.

‘Why won’t you let her come?’ whispered Gary.

‘She’s too small,’ said John.

‘She’s only a year younger than me,’ said Gary.

‘Yeah, but you don’t cry when you lose at fencing.’

Gary sucked at his teeth.

‘Look, we can’t fence three at a time anyway,’ said John.

‘Alright,’ Gary sighed and went back to Nadia, ‘why don’t you go play with Mary and the others?’

‘I don’t want to,’ Nadia fiddled with the hem of her dress where a long string was on its way out of the fabric.

‘Why?’ said Gary, ‘I’m sure they’re having fun.’

‘Mary’s been teasing me,’ mumbled Nadia.

‘What?’ said Gary, ‘who’s been teasing you?’

‘Mary,’ said Nadia.

‘I’ll show her,’ said John, ‘where are they?’

‘Shouldn’t we just go?’ said Gary. He turned to Nadia, ‘there’s this great place beside the river.’

‘Alright, come on,’ John grabbed Nadia’s hand and marched down the street.   

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