I’ve had some really beautiful feedback regarding part one of this story, which always makes my heart jump a little with excitement – when I know something I wrote connected with someone who read it, more than just good use of words and good storytelling. I’ve put some of the feedback for you to read at the bottom of today’s story, because at the end of the day, storytelling is all about sharing experience, right? And without further ado, here comes the middle part of our tale….
World between the walls, part 2. J R Manawa.
‘Oh…!’ The boy let a soft exclamation escape his lips.
The only word he could think to describe what he saw was….beautiful. The world was so beautiful.
He’d never seen anything like it before. He was afraid to close his eyes, in case it all melted away. Eventually he blinked, twice, and the world still existed. The sun in all his molten yellow glory crowned a brilliant blue sky, a sky flung with evidence of wispy white clouds, and speckled everywhere with beating wings. The sky reached down to touch the tops of the tallest trees the boy had ever seen, and then the great blue expanse melted into the highest branches.
The boy had never known trees such as these in his neighbourhood. Up, up, up, maybe five or ten times his height their ruddy red trunks stretched until they reached long, gnarled branches that sprung out and twisted about each other like a knot in his grandma’s knitting. Then the branches grew leaves. Not leaves like those belonging to the half-dead camellia on his front lawn, but leaves that could cover his entire hand. Leaves of bright, living green. But that was not all the boy saw. Right beneath his feet, before the dense forest of giant trees, was a field of the most iridescent green imagined, rippling a myriad of shades in response to the direction of the sun.
He was stood on the crest of a hill that ran down to meet a chattering stream of fresh water which he could negotiate by way of a natural bridge made from a collection of stones smooth for stepping on. Despite this, when the boy reached the bridge he stopped and debated the necessity of braving the cold water to clean himself up. His mum’s voice in his head gave a good argument, as did the dirt in his eyes. He washed the cobwebs and grime from his face, and the muck and the slime from his hands. On completion of the refreshingly chilling exercise, he took a long sip from the fresh water cupped in his hands. It was nothing like the water in the uncovered drain down the end of the street the boy called home. Else he wouldn’t have dared touch it, let alone drink it.
Now that the boy was cleaner than when he began his journey he relaxed back into the grass, twisting the blades absently through his small fingers, and looking up in awe of the strange world he had found. The world between the walls. A hidden land of true and vibrant colours. It was a world that had never known a street of slums with chicken wire fencing.
But what was beyond the stream? How far did this new world go? The boy was filled with questions, as all boys are. He dared to go further. Across the stream and up the bank into the giant forest he went. Into it’s full, earthy darkness. He ran and laughed and kicked the leaves up into crackling clouds of orange and yellow fire. There was no need to run, but it felt good. He ran for reasons only someone his age could understand. Reasons no adult could ever comprehend. Darting in and out amongst the trees, letting his fingers glide over the rough bark as he passed. At his touch he imagined that each tree come to life, waking from a slumber of a thousand years to smile and ask how his day was before falling into step behind him. He ran further, and he laughed out loud. An open laugh, the kind saved for when no one is watching you, and no one can tell you to be quiet.
The great forest came to an end suddenly. He paused as his short arm looped around the trunk of the last tree like it was an old friend, and he looked out over the vast new sight. He had found himself on the edge of a long meadow. Inhaling a long, deep lungful of air, the boy sat down to catch his breath. After all, he had been running for quite a while. While his breath raced to catch up with him, he surveyed the land before him. The meadow stretched far away beyond the horizon, and it was filled with rolling bumps and humps and gentle slopping hills, all dressed in thick swathes of deep green grass suffocated with a chaotic rainbow of wildflower blossoms.
The humps and bumps of the meadow reminded the boy of his history lessons in school, that told of a time when the mighty kings and queens of old were buried beneath mounds of earth like these.
Like barrows. That was the word.
Beneath these mounds the boy wondered if there lay great memorials, treasures whispering of a bygone era of grandeur. Tombs with royal remains. Frail bones adorned with silver bangles and golden crowns. The boy chewed on his lip as he pondered this. Despite the magic in this place he knew he would not have time to dig up a hill before his mum got home. Besides, there was nothing there. He reasoned sternly with himself in his mum’s voice, because mythical kings and ancient queens only came from lands far away across the sea.
Definitely not from the street where he lived, where the drains were filled with rotting bags of rubbish.
But stopping now seemed a ridiculous idea to the boy as he got up and brushed the leaves from his bottom. He ventured out from the protective boughs of the trees, and into the long, open meadow. Raising his hands up in delight to the sun and sky, he ran till he reached the top of the highest mound. From here he realised the perfect world did not go on forever. The meadow was long and twisting, like a bulging green snake, but it was not wide. To either side the perfect world came to an abrupt holt, crashing into a rusty fence of corrugated iron. Beyond this fence was a house. A house like his own, with flaking beige paint. Next to this house was another the same as its neighbour, and next to that was another, and another, and another. The boy was looking out onto a street just like his own, a street that backed on to paradise and did not know it.
Just like his own.
But for now, he had the phenomenon all to himself. He did not pause to worry. He ran, he played, he danced, he took in everything the hidden world had to offer. A playground of trees to be climbed, rocks to be jumped, grass to be rolled in. Everywhere the bright blooms of wild flowers ran rampant through the grass with no council regulated garden to hold them back. He experienced it all, not wanting to miss the highest branches, the brightest flowers, the coldest water, the greenest blades of grass, or the loudest bird call as twilight set in.
When the world began to darken, and the evening clouds of drizzle stretched their arms over the sky, the boy did not mind getting wet.
But he did mind what his mum would have to say. So reluctantly he turned his head, and began to stroll back the way he’d come.
The final part, three, will be here Monday evening, the 25th of April, or Anzac Day to the Kiwis and Aussies out there xxx In the meantime, here is a great short story from a talented artist I know, written from reading my blog yesterday. I’d like to call it…
Flapjacks & trading cards. By Elliott.
“He sat on the edge of his bed and tried not to blink as the liquid steroids dropped into his eyes, the stinging didn’t last and was gone by the time he had wiped the surplus drops from previous attempts from his cheeks. He picked up his phone to read a story posted by one of his favourite storytellers, (he had made a mental note earlier to come back and read it. He had also made a mental note to buy fabric softener, but had got hologram trading cards and hobnob flapjacks instead), Jo could paint pictures with words, and scenes with sentences as good as his favourite authors and he knew she would one day be as important.
“He read about the estate and could smell the drying grass and feel the sun on his face, burning it’s way to a quick trip to the hospital to get his moles checked.
“He read of the boy sat with the ants, and he brushed his leg incase any ants had crawled from the page.
“As the boy made his way into the punctuation of architecture at the side of the house, he could feel the bricks against his nose and the warmth which would surely be a graze by the end of her words, he made vague calculations of how much breathing in would shrink the stomach before the inflating chest would wedge him between the walls.
“But it wasn’t the walls which were on his mind, the walls which seemed to be moving closer, it was what was after the walls…the walls were merely a gateway to another chapter.
“When would he read about the boys escape and his own release from between the walls.
He slowly put the phone down and put a trading card up to his mouth and waited for its oaty goodness…”
With love and darkness, J R Manawa