Saturday, February 2, 2013

Prompt: Split World

Janna was six when she first wandered into the other world. Her Mama sent her into the woods to fetch mushrooms and fiddle heads for supper. She took a little basket and her favorite blue coat with the green hood and matching mittens. The sun was high and bright in the sky, but it hadn’t been spring long enough to warm the woods. She pulled on her warm wading boots, because the best freshies grew along the creekbed, and the easiest way to get them was to wade in the water, like Mama showed her.

She felt very grown up to go alone, but Ellie was sick in bed, and Papa was working in the village, and Mama had to take care of Missa Painter, whose baby didn’t want to come yet, even though her water broke and made a mess all over Mama’s clean thrushes and Janna knew she’d have to sweep them all up and lay down fresh ones after supper. But even that couldn’t dampen her spirits to be charged with finding the freshies for their supper.

She soon wandered off the path, because of course all those freshies had already been picked. But she kept a close eye on the red ribbons that fluttered around the trees to mark the safe way through the woods. She knew better than to wander out of sight. The will-o-wisps would lead her farther and farther among the trees and she’d never find her way home again.

She crouched down to examine a frog that sat on a rock, and it hopped away. Still crouching, she took a little step closer, and it hopped away again. She took another step and another, as it hopped ahead of her. Did it turn around to look at her? She looked up with a start to find the nearest red marker. There it was. And there was the little creek. Surely there would be good freshies there.

Janna splashed from one bank to the other in the creek, humming a little song her mother sang when they hunted for freshies together. When her basket was full of fat round mushrooms and bright green fiddleheads, she stopped and looked around. She didn’t hear any birds singing or any other animals moving in the trees or the leaves on the ground. She didn’t see any red ribbons, but she wasn’t too worried. She wasn’t wandering around in the woods. She would just walk back down the creek until she found them again.

The creek curved ahead, and she thought it would be all right if she walked that little bit farther to see what there was to see in the woods. There was a huge oren tree growing on the left bank, and the creek curved around its broad roots, like maybe the tree had gotten in the creek’s way when it was growing up. Janna took a few more steps and came around the tree. Shocked, she jumped back behind it and pressed against its smooth bark. The basket dangled from her loose fingers, in danger of tumbling all the freshies into the cold creek. She set it on the bank against an oren root, then crept back around to take another look.

There was a line in the leaves that stretched as far as Janna could see. On her side were the familiar, if somewhat foreboding, woods. On the other side, fresh green grass and a meadow of spring flowers spread out before her. The sun was setting, and Janna admired its beautiful pinks and oranges and purples. Then she remembered it was several hours until sunset— beyond the distant mountains on the other side of her house from the forest.

Janna crept along the creek bed to the edge of the woods. She watched the water rush past her feet toward the line—and disappear where it met the grassy meadow. Then she saw the beautiful blue butterfly, as big across as both her hands stretched wide. She smiled with delight and reached for it, took a step, then another, and then she was in the meadow, racing across the grass, chasing the butterfly fluttering always ahead of her reach.

She stopped, out of breath, and looked around. The sun was so low in the sky, all the colors were fading into dark, but it was still warm on her face—so much warmer than she could ever remember. She took a deep breath and smelled the heady perfume of the meadow flowers, the rich scent of fresh-cut hay, and a sharper tang that bit at her nose and made her cover her nose and mouth in alarm. Was it fire? She looked all around in alarm, but she saw no sign of flames. She took another cautious breath. What was that bitey smell? Maybe she didn’t want to be here. Mama would be worried about her, and wanting the freshies to start their supper. Janna had collected enough for Missa Painter, too, if she could eat anything.

Janna turned back toward the woods and stopped with a gasp. They were gone. The meadow filled the space where her woods had been, leading up to a mountain she had never seen. She had never been this close to a mountain before. She looked up and up. Clouds hid its peak, and several large birds wheeled in and out of the clouds. She took a faltering step, and another. Where were the woods? The creek? Her basket of freshies? Where was her home? Janna took a deep breath and blew it out through an “o” like Mama always taught the Missas to do. It didn’t help. Tears blurred her sight, and her deep breaths quickly turned to raggedy sobs.

“Mama? Where are you? I want to go home!”

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon

Sting’s charming “St Agnes And The Burning Train”

February word count:

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