Day 57 The Sparrow's InnA Japanese folktale as interpreted by Linda Gould
In ancient Japan, a woman combed the forest for wood. The winter was wickedly cold, and she needed fuel to keep her husband happy and warm. Reaching for a fallen branch, something fluttering in the dry leaves caught her eye. A wounded sparrow dragged a broken wing along the forest floor, its weight disturbing leaves and releasing pockets of musty air that hinted of death. The woman dropped the wood she’d collected, gently wrapped the bird in her coat, and carried it home to mend its injured wing. Her husband, though, was not pleased. “Where is the wood for our fire?” he demanded. “And, what are we to do with this bird?” “Don’t worry. I’ll go back out to fetch the wood. And this poor little thing won’t be a bother at all,” she assured him. “Besides, perhaps she’ll entertain you when you come home from work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some bright, joyful music after being in the mines all day?” “Hmph…,”he grunted as he gobbled up the rice and miso soup his wife had placed before him. The woman set out a small place of rice for the bird, which it ate with a grace that surprised her. “Look, dear. She’s eating like she’s at a royal dinner.” “What would you know of a royal dinner?” “I’m just sayin’.” The woman carefully massaged the bird’s bruised wing and wrapped it with a strip of cotton she had cut from a yukata that she had worn thin. When her husband was away, she talked to her little companion, told it about the child they had lost, the hard life she and her husband led since a tree branch had fallen on his leg, and how her husband is not as gruff as he pretended to be. The woman admired the bird’s gentle and refined way of eating, and named it O-chan in honor of the Emperor. Each day, the woman went deeper into the wood in search of food and wood. She made certain to always arrive home before her husband so as to have the hut warm and his dinner prepared, but one day, when he stayed home because of his aching leg, she asked him to feed O-chan while she was out, pointing to a few grains of rice she had set aside for the bird. But the woman had forgotten that O-chan often drank broth from her own bowl, so when the man found the bird drinking from his bowl, all the jealousy he had suppressed at his wife’s affection for the little creature rose up. He grabbed O-chan, spilling the broth in the process. “You little thief,” he yelled, squeezing his fist tight against the small body. O-chan stabbed at his hand with her beak, and, in a fit of rage, the man cut out her tongue with a nearby knife. “Now, get out! Get out!” O-chan flew away. That night, tears mixed with the broth the woman served her husband. She buried her face in the small bed where O-chan had slept, breathing in the familiar scent of the little bird who had abandoned her, for her husband had told her that O-chan was lonely for her own kind and followed a flock of sparrows that had flown by. But the woman worried that winter had so wormed and twined its icy fingers through the forest and wrapped its winter cold around their village that O-chan would never survive. The next morning, as she scoured the forest for wood, she called, “ O-chan, O-chan! Come back.” She went deeper into the forest than ever before. The cedar trees were so thick that sunlight fell like freckles on the forest floor. Soggy moss clung to every rock, stump, and inch of earth, muffling her footsteps. Strips of shredded bark hung from gnarled branches, casting shadows in the weak sun that were like claws reaching for her. She turned to make her way back the way she’d come, but no path led her through the dense grove. She stepped in the direction she was sure she’d come from, a branch dropped from a tree, blocking her way. A crack behind her. She spun around, arms up, ready to fend off whatever was there. Nothing. She cocked her head, certain she heard giggling. In a freckle of sunshine, a pair of sparrows dressed in strawberry-red kimonos covered their beaks with speckled wings, like two shy girls at a party. They giggled again before waving for the woman to follow and hopping away. The birds led her to a thatched-roof inn where thousands of kimono-clad sparrows sang like tinkling wind chimes. At the inn’s entrance stood two elderly sparrows and O-chan, who wore a black kimono with gold and bronze blossoms. O-chan flew onto the woman’s shoulder. She introduced the woman to her parents, who bowed low in thanks for saving their daughter. Food was brought out, and while they feasted on bread and flowers, nuts and seeds, and salads that tasted like they’d been delivered from heaven, a group of sparrows performed a dance that looked to the woman like corn popping in hot oil. The woman laughed and sang with O-chan and her family well into the evening. When the party was over, she was guided to two bamboo chests—one large, one small. “For your kindness, please choose one of these to take home,” said O-chan’s father. “Oh, no, thank you,” the woman answered. “I don’t need any payment. If I may just take a little food for my husband, then I would be grateful.” But O-chan’s parents insisted. The woman chose the small chest, received a box of food for her husband, then said her goodbyes before being guided out of the forest. The night, she and her husband found piles of the finest silks and mounds of sparkling jewels when they opened the chest. “You fool!” the greedy husband scolded. “Just imagine what the larger chest holds. You must take me there tomorrow to get what we deserve.” “This is more than we ever dreamed of. It’s enough for you to quit the mine. And we could start a small restaurant, like we always wanted.” “We saved the life of that ungrateful bird. We deserve the larger trunk and you’re going to take me there.” For the first time in her life, the woman refused her husband’s demand, but she did explain the way to him. The next day, when he arrived at the mossy forest, the two giggling sparrows greeted him. “Welcome. Welcome to—” “I am here to see O-chan,” he cut the birds off. They bowed and silently guided him to the inn. “You must be tired,” said O-chan without a hint of a grudge for how she’d been treated by him. “Please have some tea and cake.” “You have your tongue!” the man said before realizing he was bringing up a topic better left forgotten. “I’m not here for tea and cake,” he replied before O-chan could answer. “As you wish. Why, then, are you visiting my family’s inn?” “I’ve come for the large chest you owe my wife.” “It’s the chest standing outside at the entranceway. You are welcome to it.” The husband lifted the chest onto his back, bowed nearly in half by its weight, but excited about the treasurers it held. He left without saying goodby, stumbling behind the dainty birds that guided him out of the forest. As soon as he reached the edge of the forest, he could contain his excitement no longer. He opened the lid. A swarm of sparrows streamed from the chest and encircled the man, beating at his face and pounding against his skull before forming themselves into the shape of an old hag that clawed the clothes from his body, then shifting yet again into a snake that twisted and writhed around his legs, tripping him. The teeming flock of birds created a roiling tableau of maniacal skeletons and one-eyed monsters that poked and prodded and stomped on the man while he curled into a ball on the ground. Then, all grew quiet. The man lowered his hands from protecting his head. Before him stood O-chan. Not the sweet bird that his wife loved and who sang to them while they ate their dinner, but a fierce creature, whose skin of living birds writhed and shifted to keep its shape. And this version was three times larger than he. “Stand up.” The man did as he was told. “Have you nothing to say for yourself?” she asked. He stared at her, mouth agape. “I’m the one whose tongue was cut out, yet you are the silent one.” “I was in pain. I was hungry!” “Do you think you are the only one in pain? The only one who is hungry? Do you think your pain is an excuse to hurt others?” O-chan raised a wing and the birds again encircled him, swarming into tableau after tableau of starving peasants, lonely widows, homeless families freezing to death, daughters forced into prostitution, children beaten and abused, heinous murders and-- “Stop! I can’t take any more.” The giant O-chan stood before him again, her black eyes, now the size of a sake cask, glared at him. “You have a wife who gives up all to care for you, food on your table, a home,” she paused, then in a softer voice said, “and a chest full of treasures. Yet that is not enough for you.” “It will be, I promise. Let me go and it will be enough.” O-chan’s laugh bounced through the forest behind them, shaking a few branches loose and upsetting a nest of crows that flew off, cawing angrily. “It’s too late for that. You opened the chest and released so much pain and suffering into the world. It is, though, your pain and suffering.” O-chan again waved a wing. The swarm of birds engulfed the man and settled on his shoulders. Tiny, almost insignificant birds that formed themselves into a tower, the weight of which buckled his knees and hunched his back. He bent forward, taking the weight on his body and able to lift his head just enough to see a few feet in front of him where O-chan, once again a small bird, stood in her black kimono. “You have a choice.” Her voice was song-like, her words like notes that floated about his head before organizing into understandable ideas. “The pain and suffering you carry can crush you, kill you after a short, miserable life.” She flew closer. He gasped, shocked at his miserable, hateful face that was reflected in her black eyes. “Or with each act of kindness, some of you pain will return to the chest. It’s your choice.” She flew away. So, what did the man choose? The man spent the rest of his life apologizing to everyone in town who he had been unkind to. With the silks from the small chest, he clothed the needy; with the jewels, he fed the hungry. He planted a tree every month so that his wife would never again need to brave the cold for firewood. And each day, he spooned a little broth from his soup into a bowl for the little bird who taught him to love his wife and neighbors. When he passed away at the age of 88, his neighbors were astonished that the man who so often seemed weighed down with pain stood tall and waved to the sky.
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Day 58 Under a Pale Moon by Mark Meyer
It was in Tokyo, 1921, just after midnight on a stifling August night. That withered old rascal Keikichi, who daily sold his cheap senbei in a rundown Yanaka stall, was up to his usual sake-sodden routine. After a long night of drinking and rabble-rousing, his dissolute friend Hideyoshi said he left Keikichi stumbling in his yukata around creepy Shinobazu Pond* on his way back to his miserable lodgings in Bunkyo Ward. After that night, according to Constable Nakajima, Keikichi was never heard from again; nor, a few weeks later, was that poor Ueno Park night custodian, Kōnosuke S.
those tales of Kappa** waylaying passersby -- such utter nonsense!
slowly dragged screaming under the murky waters a glimpse of green skin
*a large lotus pond located close to famous Ueno Park in Tokyo's Taito Ward.
**a mythical (?), mischievous half-human turtle-like entity that inhabits Japan's rivers and ponds. Will sometimes drag unwary horses and people into the water to drown. Enjoys cucumbers!
The Mulliwonk by Tim Law
Beware the Mulliwonk my child Those needle-like fingers that end in claws The Mulliwonk waits in the dark of the night Upon the River Murray’s muddy shores
He once was a man who lived on fish A man who refused to share For his selfishness the spirits changed him Now we all of us must beware
Never swim by the light of the moon Never upon the water’s edge stop and stare The Mulliwonk’s eyes peer up from the deep The creature is always waiting there
When the water seems calm, the river tranquil The moon reflected like a glimmer Then the Mulliwonk will spring forth And capture you child to gobble up for its dinner
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Day 59 Wind Soup by Donald Guadagni
The shaman and elders of the step and tundra have often given wise and cryptic advice. To appease the spirits and save the life of my daughter I am tasked to find and prepare wind soup, as only this will restore her health. There is a quandary as to the direction and ingredients that must be sought and in this there is disagreement, some say east wind soup is the spiritual font for restoring life to the sick and dying. Some say and attest that only west wind soup can end malaise and illness. The north and south wind soups bring the winter and summer and are said to abate old age and infirmities for all. I am perplexed in this, I have only time for one direction in which to quest this cure. As I sit next to her bed and cast about her visage, the blue grey pallor of her skin suggests a solution to this conundrum. With trepidation and resolve I gently kiss her forehead one last time before I leave, I hope that when my quest is finished and all things are done that wind soup will bring her back to health. The spirits of Tootega and Torngasak whisper sage advice to me to travel at night guided by the northern aurorae rivers of pale yellow light. Northern lights and northern route to the place where all direction become south. Three days up the foothills of ice, deer glacier where unwary animals lay buried in the ice. I reach the knifes edge of the great divide and sit upon the mountainside. Alone I watch the dead souls playing arsarniq across the skies then disappear before the dawn. Tootega and Torngasak whispers reach my ears upon the leeward breeze; you must find Irdlirvirissong when he is playing with the moon, only he knows the ingredients for the north wind soup. As four directions south grow near, I can hear faint laughter and screams of fear at night. Eviscerate and withered dead, intestines eaten and so it seems that Irdlirvirissong has meted out a fate to those who dare laugh at him as he clowns with moon once again. There is no wind now, only silence, only my heartbeat as the twilight gathers and the lavender glow recedes and yields to muted pastel blues and greys. Torngasak has whispered that Aningan on my behalf has made a bargain with his demon cousin Irdlirvirissong. When the moon rises and dances with blue and green aurorae light Irdlirvirissong will make his bargain with a man for north wind soup, as long as the man does not laugh as Irdlirvirissong clowns with the moon this coming night. I bare my lonely vigil for my daughter sake, and resign myself to trust a bargain that by myself could not hope to make. The moon and Irdlirvirissong began dancing and with joy, clown together as the night slowly lingers on, my solemn promise kept as he watches all along. The demon takes a pause then settles by my side, we watch the dead souls playing arsarniq across the midnight skies. With quiet gentle compassion, Irdlirvirissong hands me a deer horn flask. A gift from Tekkeitsertok, the master of all deer, I nod in quiet thanks that the end of the quest is near. The dawn arrives and with it, Irdlirvirissong whispers in my ear, the final ingredient that only I can provide and that I must give to make the soup complete. I removed the stopper and placed it near my lips and whispered many words of love and in those one last gift. I sat beside my daughter’s bed, and gently held her hand. Looked lovingly into her eyes and smiled as only a father can. She sat up in the bed, ragged breath and labored life, I handed her the deer horn flask then smiled at my dear wife. I bade her drink the contents, the north wind soup inside, the stopper pulled and to her lips and then she drank the draught, and as she tipped the flask up high, a demons laugh slipped out. And in a flash I vanished and my life became hers.
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Day 60 The Death Drums by Linda Sparks
Hachi moved through the sawgrass with the silence of a fawn staying alive amid the glades filled with predators. Life was not a gift. It had to be maintained, and survival required being alert and intelligent when meeting worthy adversaries. She had lived here all of her life, and at a very young age, she had learned to understand the nature of her world. She learned at an early age to find potable water as well as nourishment that came as gifts from the endless swamps and wetlands. She was taught how to use the power of the Earth for healing as well as for survival, even against a demon-enemy that swept through the Glades with machines and reeking of death smells. Lessons were quickly learned here in the sea of grass, where massive alligators snapped their jaws and invasive pythons writhed through the blades, eager to crush and devour an unwary girl. She had already lost a young brother. He was far too adventurous and decided to go off on his own despite her watchful eye. She had busied herself with creating necklaces to sell to the tourists and suddenly he was gone. She and the tribe searched for him until dark. At that point, he was gone. Forever a ghost in the grass, undoubtedly resting in the belly of a giant reptile. Hachi blamed herself. If only she had tied him to a tree or beaten him bloody, it might have been far better than the brutal death that found him. Life must continue and it will be preserved at all costs. She could not spare the time for sorrow. There were far too many dangers in this world. There were the strangers that came and tried to steal the young girls and sometimes even the young boys, but nothing was done to stop them. The tribe had no power against the aggressors who, inch-by-inch, tried to steal more of the great land every day. The sun was slipping down, eaten by the grass. The night dangers would soon awaken. There were the dangers of the panther, but Hachi knew to treat her with great caution, and the panther often allowed them to co-exist. There were bears, coyotes, and many other sharp-toothed critters that rambled at night, seeking their livelihood. She could not fault them for this. Each creature had to eat. Otherwise, death would suck them dry. When the hurricanes came and tossed the world, Hachi knew to stay close to her hut and its relative safety, although she had survived many storms and had often felt that a giant hand was reaching down into the grass and twisting and tearing and gouging every living thing. Another glance at the deepening red of the sunset alerted her to the increasing danger. She needed to retreat. A wise girl always knew when to do so, when to leave the hunt for another day. Yet, the plant that she sought was so precious, and she knew it would bring health back to her frail mother who lay on her blankets breathing heavily and raspy and calling out for her dead husband in her delirium. What did she see? Did she speak to the ancient gods in her dream-state? The sound moved through the tall grass, at first like a husky breeze, fragrant with the scents of the moist swamp, but there was also something foreign, perhaps alien, beyond recognition. It was a thump, thump, thunking rhythm of a heartbeat. She halted mid-stride and assessed her periphery. Was it close to her, a direct danger? The sound continued to thrum and then throb like a blood vessel about to burst in her head. It escalated and pounded until she could not tell if it was her own heartbeat or something other. She held her hands against her ears to try to shut out the terrible vibration, but if it came from within her, there was no way to silence it except to stop her own breath. Then it eased and faded and she realized she was shaking. She knew she had to move quickly. If it had affected her, what might the sound have done to her ailing mother? She moved swiftly, as soundlessly as possible, yet still presenting a rippling wave through the grasses. She knew she had not said that terrible word, stikini. She would never do that. To verbalize that dreaded hag incited the possibility the witch might appear. Or that she might suddenly morph into a witch. There were many tales of such happenings and she knew them to be true because the Seminoles spoke truth. It was part of their creed. They had only learned to lie when the invaders came into their land. How well she knew these tales. She had listened to them at her mother’s knee and tried to behave bravely, despite her pounding heart and her sweaty palms and her horror as she gazed out into the darkness wondering what waited there that was unseen. Oh, she knew all these things, how the ghost witch could turn into an owl-like being and vomit the souls and the internal organs of her human prey, how she would feed upon the hearts of unwary mortals and then walk abroad as the undead. Hachi had once heard that they had such a thing as movies about the undead. They called them zombies or the walking dead or various other names meant to instill terror into the hearts of humans. Did those human heartbeats act like a beacon and reel the witch in so she could transform into an owl and consume them? She had never seen a movie and she didn't want to because the monsters in her life were real, and there was no reason to make them huge and throw them onto a massive screen for people to watch. Her mother had made her a dreamcatcher based on those first created by a tribal nation far to the north in a place known as Michigan, which meant Big Water in Ojibwe. The hole in the dreamcatcher’s web was supposedly to allow good dreams to pass through to the sleeper, but nightmares were caught in the webbing so they could never cause harm. It didn't work. Her nightmares were far too real and vivid to be managed by a decorative web, no matter its symbolic inspiration. Hachi heard the growl first, a rumbling sound that arose from the chest of a cat and quickly developed into a full-throated scream. She was running now, deathly afraid, not for herself but for her mother who was alone and ill. If only she had been able to locate those precious herbs. The flapping of wings overhead made her duck but she continued running low to the ground. She had to get back to her mother. She could not allow herself to be taken out here, to leave her mother unprotected. Her mother could not bear to lose another child. The drums were pounding again, building quickly into an earth-shattering crescendo that was absolutely unbearable, but she ran, gasping, tripping, cutting herself on the sharp sawgrass. She was bleeding. She ran on. Hachi was nearly there. She could smell the scent of home and her mother and the sickness that had nearly sucked her dry. There was no light, but then her mother would not have lit one because it might invite predators. There was the hoot, hoot, hoot, amid the flapping wings and then a shriek as the owl dived. Hachi stumbled and crawled, her fingers digging into the moist earth, as though she might cling to it and gain enough purchase to keep from being lifted by the powerful great wings. The witch-owl continued its flight away from her. Finally, she lifted her head just a fraction and saw the figure of a small boy at the periphery of her vision. She saw the glint of his teeth in the rising moon as he smiled at her. The owl screeched and plummeted, swooping low and gouging the child with her talons and carrying him off into the darkening sky. “No, no, no,” Hachi cried, not caring if the owl heard her words or if the gator trundled forth on its short, speedy legs, its bone-cracking jaws gaping wide to welcome her. The last few feet, she crawled through the muck. The stench was overpowering but she continued on. It cannot be. I don’t understand. She was mumbling incoherently now and thought that the fever had now afflicted her just as it was killing her mother. “Come to me, beloved daughter.” Hachi nearly choked as she lifted her eyes and saw her mother sitting up and smiling at her with those same beautiful teeth that her brother had been given. She was gesturing for her to come closer but Hachi struggled to get to her knees. “Mother. You were so ill…” “Yes. I am sorry that I nearly left you. The dark spirits were surging within me and I heard the pounding of the death drums but I could not leave you alone.” Hachi shook her head in bewilderment. Then she crouched and moved forward to touch her mother. She is real. She is not a ghost-witch. She brushed away a tear. She was far too old to cry. She had not wept at the loss of her brother. A Seminole girl did not cry, but faced life and death with bravery. “Your health has returned. How?” she whispered. “Yes, my Hachi. Your brother came to me and brought me those precious herbs. It was good to see my lost boy.” Hachi was shaking her head. The boy that she had seen could not have been her dead brother. And that boy was taken by the talons of the owl-witch. Hachi touched the herbs and knew by their scent and feel that they were real. She heard the distant pounding of the death drums, far away in another part of the swamp. Then she began to cry for all that had happened and for her brother and for the life gift of her mother. Her tears fell in huge droplets and morphed into white owl feathers.
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Day 61 Ghost Stallion from the First People of North America website https://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/Ghost_Stallion-Yinnuwok.html
The Lame Warrior and the Stallion from the First People of North America website http://www.indigenouspeople.net/lamewarr.htm
Go to the bio to find the link to this website you can read these stories and hundreds more from Native American tribes and cultures.
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Day 62 This Dust Between Us by Richard M. Ankers
The space between the mirror and the man yawns a gaping chasm. This is the divide, my divide, a gap I'll never breach, one of mercury and magnificence, truth and lies. They dance in the moonlight in spiralling pirouettes, falling and rising with effortless grace, filling the distance between us with life. But there is no life, and I know this false. The dust motes mingle, pooling by sunlight and sheltering by storm. This is not unusual, not at all. Tonight, however, as the moths dare each other to tempt the light outside the window, something differs. Is it me? The mirror image shakes its head. I have and ever shall be vague, like the particles of skin and grit and dreams that flicker in my non-vision. It is inevitable. Only the assurance of this non-assurance stokes my morale, preventing my slipping into a twilight state. I weep. My tears roll away gathering dust like the lonely hibiscus dying in the corner, its colours extinguished. The other watches, silent and shy. Never elusive, the figure stands just beyond our separate reality, looking at the exact same thing I do but in an inexact way. To focus on the glass is to lose focus on the object, a catch-22. So I stare and I glare and I frown and I frolic in a last-ditch attempt to throw my quicksilver ghost; it fails, as always. So, I do what I always do, sit on the bare floorboards of this empty domain and allow the dust to accumulate. This endless loop remains unbroken. The moon is at its zenith, almost filling the porthole window with silver light like a spotlight sent from God. A reverse eclipse, I gasp as the dust motes twirl as though their lives depend upon it making the most of every moment before the ebony darkness returns. It stings the back of my eyes. And I realise as my breaths sparkle in this new lesser darkness, they're leaving. The dust motes are dancing a last hurrah, cleaning the air in departure. The crystal clarity of the place invigorates, and I feel like bathing in it. I don’t, though I want to. The mirror in the attic of this place I once called home is free. The fuzzy leftovers of a previous existence have cleared away. There’s now no chasm to cross. We are one, me and the mirror. I reach out as it reaches forward and vanish in a final exhalation of air. It is over. I am still in-between, but now looking out. The view is gentler if the memories remain the same.
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Day 63 On Dreams, Turnips, and Falling Out of Tune by Jen Schneider
The group of five spent most nights out in the yard, stationed around the wooden table. The table ran approximately six feet by five feet. Perhaps five feet by four feet. Perhaps. At each corner, a small glass vase sat. Each vase approximately one inch from the edge of the table. Symmetrically. Perhaps approximately. A bowl of marbles in the middle. Each with its own pattern – a mix of reds, blues, and greens. A potpourri of star bursts and steamy (also dreamy) blasts of color. The group would spend hours tossing the marbles into the air. From a distance, one might mistake the marbles for turnips. And one might possibly mistake the group members for marbles. Much more likely. More realistic, too. The members all so small relative to their oh-so-large surroundings. Their thin arms would swing in large arcs, first backwards – to the South, then forward, then toward the North – to the Heavens. Each arm tracing a concentric circle not unlike the smooth outer skin of the marble in between their fingertips. The marbles would soar as high as the winds would tolerate. Usually higher than the large, surrounding trees would prefer. The trees were home to many – blue birds and red robins. Crickets and beetles. Squirrels and _enter any number and variety of forest animal here__. Most nights, the marbles would comply with the laws of gravity. Up / Down. Up / Down. Some nights, the marbles would comply with the laws of desire. Up / Up. Up / Up. Sometimes, the marbles would challenge everything we’ve been taught to believe as truth. Up. Out. Over. Gulp. “Do you see it?” one would ask as soon as the marble launched. “No, do you?” another replied. “There’s shadows dancing, looming large on the surrounding vinyl siding,” another in the group offered. For every ten, sometimes twenty, marbles all but one would return. Of course, the group longed – collectively and curiously -- for the one that got away. “Let’s find it,” one said. “How?” another asked. “Throw me!” another offered. And so, they did. One by one they’d toss each other up towards the sky. Most going no more than a few inches. The pattern would continue, night after night. Collectively and curiously, the group gained momentum yet continued to lose marbles. One by one. Other nights, they tried to climb the nearby trees. Most accomplishing feats of no more than a few branches. One night, they climbed each other. As one stood on another the group grew. Taller. Stronger. Wiser. Perhaps. “We’re a stairway to the clouds,” one called. “Climb aboard!” The others joined in. And up. Everyone expected to build a chain up – and out. No one expected someone to come down – and in. But that is exactly what happened. As the group made a human chain (perhaps a chain of humans) eager to discover the destination of the missing marbles, a small green _ enter any variety of forest animal here __ jumped on and slid down their interlocked bodies. The green _ enter any variety of forest animal here _ was dressed in attire most befitting its dazzling personality and simultaneously most off-putting for its present destiny. Its shoes far too bedazzled, with heels far too bulky for the structure of the associated tree. Its jacket far too delicate – woven of lace and satin cloth – for the teeth of the tree’s limbs. Its color far too ostentatious – bold pink, neon orange, and traffic light yellow – for the complexion of its green skin. With apparent disregard for the unusual display of both being and becoming, the green _ enter any variety of forest animal here __, squealed, if not yelled (the line between admiration and abomination always a matter of perspective). “I’ve been trying for ages to get your attention. I’ve always been in your blind spot, I suppose.” “Blind spot? What’s that?” one member of the interlocked chain replied. “You know, the space between here and there. Between the rock and the water. The space where dreams dance,” the green creature answered with a bit of a huff and a slight swag of its butt. Lilia, a group member who always loved to dance, proclaimed the strange creature a bird. A bird of beauty (beauty, too, always a matter of perspective). “I’ve always believed in the wisdom of flight,” Lilia cried as she followed the voice. The others in the group complied. “Fly, Lilia! Fly,” they cried. “Fly, Lilia! Fly,” the small green creature, perhaps bird, replied. “I hear you,” Lilia called as she climbed higher. And then higher still. Her nightgown hem barely missing a collection of wayward twigs. Burls, too. As Lillia climbed, she called to the green _ enter any variety of forest bird here__. “Do you have a name, little bird?” Lillia called. And she heard the small bird call back hers. “A name. Little bird. Lilia,” the creature echoed. “I am coming for you,” Lilia cried as she continued to climb. “Do you have a home?” Lilia asked. “Home,” he called back. “Home. Home”. Lilia climbed until she could climb no more. And then she fell. Hard. Far. Fast. Forever. The space between here and there -- between the rock and the water -- where dreams dance -- opened and consumed her. Her lace gown. Her bedazzled shoes. Her long limbs. Her laughter. “Lilia,” the bird called. “Lilia,” the human chain / chain of humans called. No one answered. Only the words “little bird, little bird” echoed in the wind. The echo both out of tune and out of time. The turnips still dotting the ground.