Gretel

9:31 am fairy gifts

Here’s a piece of the novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo this year. It’s absolute raw draft, and when I was typing, I wasn’t bothering even with capitalization, so apologies for that. I think the spelling is okay, but if not, oh well. I can go back and fix that later. :)

Feel free to comment, but if it’s an editing type comment, save that for December, because my goal for the next 18 days is to just churn out text until I’ve got at least 50,000 words. :) I’ll share parts of the novel this month, when I get things that hang together well enough to show up in the finished version, in some shape or form.

I’ll put the start of the excerpt on the main page, and then you can click the “read more” button to read the rest.

So, without further ado….

excerpt from Fairy Gifts:

it must have been a dream, even though i am pretty certain i was awake. here’s how i remember it: i came home, went inside to check the mail, and something caught my notice outside. i put down my bag, and went back outside. there was a stone. no, there was a trail of stones. for some reason, i followed it. it went around back, and then into my garden.

i kept following it, not sure why. at some point, i realized that i had gone out of my garden, and into somewhere totally strange. normally, there’s not a gate at the back of my garden, but this time there was. normally, what’s behind my garden is mark and josie’s back yard, but this time, it was a dim forest. why did i keep walking? i couldn’t say.

but i did.

i followed the stones, and the forest kept growing around me. it started to get dark, and i heard strange rustling sounds around me. i looked back, and it was like the stones were glowing. i walked a little further, getting more nervous with each step. finally, i chickened out, and went back home.

“why did you chicken out?” asked robin.

“wouldn’t you have?” i asked right back. “i mean, strange path, dark forest, weird sounds. any normal person would back out at that point, right?”

she just gave me that therapist look, the one that says, “this is your story. tell as much of it as you want to tell.”

“okay, so there is more. this was on thursday night. i didn’t have work on friday, and when i went out of the house in the morning, the stones were still there. but it was earlier this time, so i decided to follow them again.”

nod. nothing more. so i continued.

it was morning. so i figured that it wouldn’t get so dark, at least not so quickly. i figured that any of the sounds, i could handle them, so long as it was daylight. i followed the stones, and once again, they led through my garden, and into a dim forest. i kept walking. at least i had the sense to leave the stones where they were. i mean, if you’re going to follow a weird path, it might be a good idea to make sure you’ve got a way back out.

i don’t know exactly what i expected to find at the end of it. i know i was surprised by what i did find. it was a cottage, an absolute, true-to-life, fairy tale cottage. thatched roof and all.

i looked back at the path of stones, just to keep some kind of grip on reality, and when i turned back, it had turned into a small victorian house, all done over with gingerbread, painted in half a dozen different colors, like those houses downtown, where people are all impressed with the history of it all. but when i blinked, i could still see the fairy tale cottage, too, almost superimposed over it.

then i realized that the stones went around to the back of the cottage. and for whatever strange reason, i followed them. why strange? that house was totally creeping me out. there’s no good reason for it, neither of the houses looked that scary, but they were both setting off some kind of alarm bell in my head. but i followed the stones anyways.

and around back, there was the reason i was so creeped out. there was a cage, with a skeleton in it. not a halloween skeleton, like you’d think of for a decoration. it was curled up, and somehow, it looked absolutely pitiful. i started to follow the stones back, quietly, quickly. and then i heard a whisper. i couldn’t quite make it out.

“nora… nora…” i kept walking. it was just altogether too creepy. “please, nora, can’t you hear me?” i slowed, but kept walking. my heart was pounding. what was this place?

“nora, please listen to me. don’t leave me here.”

i walked back to the forest, sat down beside my trail of stones, took a deep breath. i didn’t hear the whisper any more. but i remembered it. “nora, please listen, please don’t leave me, nora, please hear me….”

i took a deep breath. i took another deep breath. i reminded myself that this had to be a dream. there was no way this couldn’t be a dream. in real life, you don’t follow a path of stones from your perfectly ordinary yard and wind up in some strange fairy tale forest. things like that don’t happen. another deep breath. and another one.

i followed the path of stones, back past that flickering cottage, around behind, past the cage with the pitiful skeleton.

“nora! you listened! please help me!”

“who are you?” i asked.

silence.

“where are you?” i asked.

silence.

“how can i help you?” i asked, “i don’t know what to do.”

finally an answer. “open the door. please, just open the door.”

my heart was pounding. if they kept caged skeletons in the yard, how much more might they keep inside that house? but the voice didn’t sound dangerous. it made my heart pound, but it didn’t sound dangerous.

besides, i reminded myself, this is a dream. anyone can be brave in a dream.

so i walked to the door…

“no, the cellar door.”

i stepped back. i looked to the side, and there was actually a cellar door. the house had decided to stick with the victorian version, and the cellar door was the kind i always imagined when i heard that kids’ song, “say, say, oh playmate.” with that, slightly more cheerful, thought in my head, i bent down and lifted the door.

and the owner of the voice climbed up, blinking in the dim light of that forest. “oh, nora, thank you. i knew you would come someday.”

“you knew…” i blinked. “who are you?”

i looked at her. for someone who had been locked in a cellar, she wasn’t as grimy as i would have expected. her clothes were patched… all of a sudden, i remembered who she looked like. she looked exactly like the illustration of gretel in one of my fairy tale books from when i was little, from the ragged kerchief on her head to the smudges of dirt on her bare feet. except… her hair was brown, not the pale blond of the storybook girl.

“of course you know me,” she said. “now let’s follow the stones and go home.”

she took my hand, and started down the path.

“but who are you?” i felt like i should know her, but there is no reason you would expect to know an illustration come to life. she didn’t answer. she just kept walking, and i followed, not quite sure of what else to do. she knew where she was going.

well, of course she would. she was following the path of stones.

“who was that in the cage?”

she shrugged. “i don’t know. it was there when i got there.”

“how did you get there?”

she paused. she looked frightened. “don’t send me back. i can’t say how i got there, but it was better there than… well, it was better. but now you’re here, nora, and you can take me home.”

and she kept walking.

“where did the stones come from?”

“oh, those.” she looked at them, picked one up, rolled it around in her hand. she smiled an odd little half-smile, and put it back down. “i dreamed those, from the story. i thought maybe if the stones were there, you could find me, and you did. i did it JUST right, even though i wasn’t so sure about the magic. pretty neat, huh?”

the more we walked, the less she sounded like a fairy tale character, and the more she sounded like a little kid.

all of a sudden, near the edge of the forest, where it led back into my garden, i stopped cold. what on earth was i doing? how was i going to explain to anyone how all of a sudden, i had gotten this small child? how old was she, anyways?

she tugged on my hand, but then paused, as i looked down at her.

“how old are you?”

she looked frightened, then shrugged.

“look, i need something to call you. i need some way of explaining who you are. in the world where i live, people don’t just show up with little kids. little kids have a place they belong, and grown ups get in trouble if they mess that up. do you understand?”

“oh, that.” she laughed. “that won’t be a problem. no one else will be able to see me. i promise. now can we go home?”

as though that were the least of my worries.

“where do you come from, before there? you’re not just some illustration come to life. you must have come from somewhere.”

the girl let go of my hand for the first time since we had started down the path. she folded her arms across her chest, stubbornly, and said, “it doesn’t matter where i came from! i promise, no one is looking for me. i just have nowhere to go except back in that cellar. are you a mean person who will send me back in that CELLAR?! why did i bother with those stones if you are so mean of a person?”

“i promise i won’t send you back in the cellar, okay? i just need to know something more about you. maybe you could tell me a name i can call you, even if it’s not your name. that would be a start, right?”

she glared for a while longer, but her shoulders slowly relaxed. “okay. i will tell you a name you can call me. you can call me gretel. don’t i look just like that picture?”

“okay… gretel.”

“good! now, let’s go home.” she took my hand again, and began to pull me towards the house. we went upstairs, and she made a beeline for my art supplies. “now i will color for a while and you can make some breakfast, okay? i am very hungry.” she grinned, in a way that almost kept me from resenting having a small child taking over my apartment and messing with my art supplies. almost.

2 Responses
  1. Nic :

    Date: November 12, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

    Oooh, I like it! Great imagery, and the voice is nice–very real, very catchy. I’m intrigued and definitely want to see where this is going.

    I really like the voice when she’s talking to her therapist too, and how she describes her therapist. Good stuff!

  2. wendy :

    Date: November 12, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

    I love it! I especially like how she talked herself into moving forward by telling herself “anyone can be brave in a dream”. I can’t wait to read more!

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