I dreamed I had me a daughter, magnificent as a field of corn swaying in the sun, at peace with what she knew and free.  I dreamed of how I saw her grow, season by season.  I dreamed of all the little things she’d find beautiful in the world that I could never see any beauty in till she showed me them up close.  And she was generous like that, my daughter I saw in my dream.  But where was her mother?

On the steep mountainside I built me a cabin made of earth and wood, nestled in the overhang of rock and safe from the storm and safe from flood or fire.  And on the steep mountainside, once the early morning mist melted away and the cool air’s sparkling, I took to wandering along the track where I could spy all the green valley laid out, and all the farmsteads.  And I could watch the folk come and go about their days.  But I never spied my girl’s mother, not once, not there.

That valley and that mountainside had been my life for most all of my days, since our wagon first went rolling and creaking and jolting into these parts when I was still a boy.  It was a long and unfriendly journey my parents took to get us here back then and they were bold enough and desperate enough to go taking it.  But they were more than weary by the time they reached this here valley, and looking to settle.  And so they settled.

In time they got some flocks together and moved up the mountain where the grazing was best for nine months in the year.  After those nine months were marked off the calendar our weather got harsher than most could bear in the high places, where a soul could miss-step in the fog and break most of the bones they had by tumbling down a crevice.  Or where the ice could get in your lungs so deep it made your blood cough up.  Or where the loneness could make you so simply sad you can’t shake it.

But always, ever since I first got to climbing, it was home for me in the high places and so I stayed most all the time.  Then I built me this cabin when I was of age to do it.  That mountainside and that valley were filled with luck and they brought me all the good things I ever needed to get by.  And those good things got to prospering in time.  Yet I never saw any wife of mine, not once in all those years, not even with the far distant view the whole mountainside gave, where it got so close to the view from the sky.

It gnawed me more and more as years went by and that bright and happy daughter kept swaying in my dreams.  So at last I sold all the flocks I had and took me on a journey beyond the rim of this valley along the criss-cross of forest paths, seeking where the family of seers abide.  It was a dank and airless place to go into.  The trees barred the sky and the sunlight fell in broken bits through the thick leaves.  It wasn’t night and it wasn’t day.  It was a misshapen bit of time in-between of days and nights, with the hours of both mashed together.  It made me shiver and struggle for all my breaths.  I swear all the deep shadows were whispering I was lost, but I wasn’t lost and I went on.

At the shack where the seers lived and died together there was rotting meat hung up on the branches outside the door.  Sat on the ground around an open fire, the seers looked me over, with whispers and giggles.  They asked me why I came there and what offerings I brought?  I asked what offerings they wanted?  They pointed at all the carcasses of crows and rabbits and snakes and toads stuck up on the thorns, so I stepped back into the forest with my axe.

Soon I killed me a squirrel and came back to see the seers.  That squirrel was soon sagging on the thorns with all the rest, so then I asked the seers about my daughter and who her mother was?  They nodded and giggled together, said no wife was here for me, not in all the valleys I knew, not on all the mountains I ever climbed.  Said at the end of another journey that took me far from home was where I’d find that family I was dreaming on.  Said that journey was a danger.  And so I bought me an enchanted sword from the seers with half the gold I took from the selling of my flocks.

I didn’t like that place that was buried under all those trees and I didn’t like the seers, so then I went on.  The journey was like journeys are.  It was walking all day and it was sleeping in any place I saw that wasn’t too damp or too easy for wild beasts or thieves to find.  I slept in hedges and barns and hay and sometimes a cabin here and there, if any folk there were decent.

That journey lasted and then it stopped.  It stopped at a village I don’t know where, I’d gone so far.  I was glad to get there, where it looked easier to get better lodging than a hedge and where it was maybe easier to find a wife.  But when I got to walking down its paths I thought it was a deserted place.  No one walked there but me.  No one talked or opened the doors of their houses.  But I had no place to go back to and so I still went on, but sadder than before.

Then I understood better.  For that path I was walking on wound inwards into the heart of the village, to a meeting place with a small hill for people to gather at.  There I saw all the villagers crowded round together, listening, and one of them spoke.  The speaker was an elder.  Stood still on top of that small hill with all the people below him, his voice was loud as it got carried by the wind.  His words were angry, saying “This land lies parched.  It’s cracked and its soil turns blue and dusty.  When you hold the soil up in your two hands it blows away, like ghosts round a grave.”  He was saying “It’s not through choice this land shrivels up.  It goes counter to the will of the seasons.”

The elder’s beard jigged about from side to side as he shook his head in time with those angry words of his.  He was saying “This soil still chooses to stay rich, like our crops choose to grow.  There’s a linking of this choice to that choice.  And by that linking it’s given to us now to choose to survive in this place, or not.”

The elder’s head sunk onto his chest and his face disappeared under that sprawling beard.  Everything went quiet with waiting and then he lifted up his head, shouting “There are times a plenty in the long years of the land when what’s fertile is lost, when it needs must be led in its proper path.  I only point you where that path lies, for I see it as clear as I see you hunger.  It’s for you all to go along that path no matter how hard.  Our village hangs over the brink this day, like a nest of birds you shake off the branch.  And the fall from that brink is final, be warned.  Be right in your choosing.”  The elder stopped his speaking and turned away to go back down the hill.  He left the village and a festival started.

I wondered about following after the elder, whose advice I could ask for and who might be another type of seer.  Yet I wanted to watch the festival and so I stayed behind.  Music started and the people marched along in time with it, passing right through the village.  At the front of the march I saw a fair-haired boy and girl holding hands and wearing fresh garlands in their hair.  Neither one of them was yet ten year old and they sometimes skipped together.  That crowd I was in streamed out from the village and I went along with them, without asking anyone what it meant.  It seemed a serious festival and no one spoke.

On the highest hill that was overlooking the village I saw the vastest shape rise up.  I thought it was a tower first and then I thought it was an ogre or a strange god of this land.  Yet no one around me was panicked or even paid it much mind and so I did my best to act the same.  Our marching took us further up that hill and I heard other noises mixed with the music, but all shrill and out of tune.  I had no guess as to what that noise meant but after we made the brow of the highest hill then I knew.

There stood the tallest object I ever saw that wasn’t a mountain.  It was the great image of a giant made out of masses of wood and twisted wicker.  And in the giant’s guts I saw trapped animals of all kinds, all wailing and gnawing at that cage they were in, to get free.  There was the foulest stink filling up the air from all the leaking muck and mess the animals made, mixed with black smoke from dotted fires burning on the grass.

I saw that fair-haired boy and girl again.  Those garlands fell right off their heads when they started looking round surprised after they got led up a high ladder to go inside the giant’s guts.  They were looking round and round with spinning heads, all teary like, bawling out names of anyone to help.  But all their families and neighbours were backing away out of the huge giant’s shadow.  Then a dozen or more torches got lit from all the dotted fires and thrown into the wood and wicker and straw that made the giant’s feet.

There was no noise but the crackles of fire and animals’ cries and children’s cries.  But no one said any words among the people who watched.  And I said no words as I was seeing the waves of smoke get thicker and higher as the sparks jumped.  I disremember how long it was before I drew out that enchanted sword.  I started slashing me a path through all that packed crowd of them, ignoring if they cursed at me as I went stumbling on between the gaps.

Getting loose of all the hands that grabbed at me and the fists that beat down, I ran on.  Then I struck the giant leg of that burning cage with the enchanted sword, to make it topple and crash down into useless beams and planks and splinters.  I slashed at that giant as hard as I ever could.  And the enchanted sword had no enchantments at all.  It buckled at the first blow.

More hands came grabbing at me and more fists to beat me down till the broken sword fell loose from my grip.  So it was they dragged me up that same ladder and into the mad giant’s guts.  Inside the hissing bars of it, inside the yellow flames, I see that daughter of mine again, bright and magnificent as a field of corn swaying in the sun.


This piece of flash fiction was written in response to Fairytale Prompt #35 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, for which the theme was “The Enchanted Sword.”

Eager Fur


eager fur

laced with dew and shreds of red

on the bedroom floor


This poem was written for Carpe Diem Special #119, Tomas Tranströmer’s 5th “a wild boar plays the organ”, in which Chèvrefeuille asked us to write a fairytale-like haiku in response to one by Tranströmer. All of the poems in the link-up can be read here. For some reason, I feel like pairing this poem with Girls Talk by Elvis Costello, so here it is.

Aches and Mirrors


Maybe it was a trick of the light, but as the world grew darker the mirrors on our walls became lighter and more brilliant. That was the first sign. To begin, no one thought to question it. It was reassuring in a way that’s hard to fathom now. But, after staring for so long at the opaque and oppressive landscape that stretched to the horizon beyond our windows, it was a relief to see that sparkling, crystal clarity that hung, placid and welcoming, from every wall; literally, every wall.

True, when the ashen reality of the scenes outside first dawned on us, it became the fashion to add more and more mirrors to our homes and workplaces, as a kind of antidote. But after that fashion died out the mirrors still seemed to proliferate. While those already in place seemed to expand their surface areas, from one tile to the next; like a vertical spillage of precisely cut puddles, which slowly met and agreed to form precisely cut lakes.

Our buildings, by this time, were totally made of inescapable mirrors. Scientific studies were published about the phenomenon. They didn’t help. Holding the text up to the reflected light that abounded, it seemed to shift before our eyes, back-to-front and back again; upside down and spinning. Religions had the answer. They said that god was revealing his majesty in the mirrors’ dazzling omnipresence. Atheists said the mirrors revealed god’s absence because everything in existence was reflected in their truth-telling panes, and they displayed no gods of any sort.

I gave up those questions a long time ago. The energy left me. Now I look into the reflection’s overpowering brightness; I’m staring out from the pervading gloom, and I concentrate hard. I reach out my hand and feel the cold, hard, impenetrable surface of the glass. And I can’t for the life of me remember on which side of the glass I’m supposed to be situated. Nor whether those identical fingers that tremble towards mine are the original or copy. I feel a deep ache; it feels genuine to me but I doubt it proves anything. Who knows if mirrors can ache too?


This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Fairy Tale Prompt #28 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the photo by Anja at the top of this post.  There’s an excellent story by Borges, called The Fauna of Mirrors, which I read ages ago and had in mind, slightly, as I wrote this.

Cinderella’s Bordello


Glass slippers were a trap.  The silvery tinkle of the heels across the ballroom’s marble floor possessed a meticulous music I couldn’t shake; it jangled around in my head each time the waltz stopped, each time I stepped from one partner to the next.  I danced like the wind dances.  I danced like falling leaves.  It was so effortless, so natural, to swirl and cavort in those enchanting glass heels.  I could feel all eyes fixed on me, I could feel the yearning (that night I preferred to call it “yearning”).  Ah when you’ve had nothing, had to beg for the small patch of nothing you were allowed to call your own, then you enjoy the pleasant pang of others yearning in your stead.

So I revelled in their yearning, my bosom heaving with exertion and delight.  My skin flushed pink and I felt like I was blossoming.  The slippers’ music led me far more than the waltz did, far more than the men whose yearning hands held me close.

Then finally I caught the glance of the prince.  He was stouter than his portraits, his creased face looking sweaty from his own dancing efforts.  I curtsied.  He bowed, with some difficulty; his breeches pinched a little and made his face spasm in a grimace or a smirk, I don’t remember which.

It never occurred to me to wonder why the keen, old woman was so insistent I should add glass slippers to my attire that night, after she promised I’d attend the ball.  I supposed she simply had an obscurely elegant taste in shoes.  But no, she knew her market well.  The prince was sold on me at once.

Now I lie still and dangle a glass slipper behind my back, so the silvery shine contrasts against the nudity of my buttocks, exactly as he likes.  Utterly still, I listen to his breaths, try to gauge how much longer, as he begins grunting out the countdown to another climax.


This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Photo Challenge #26 “Silver,” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the painting at the top of this post, by Cesar Santos.