Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Refuge


“Guided by the red fox, the girl arrived back at the cottage ahead of and unaware of the impending storm. She had carried out January’s instructions to the letter. When she left her basket with the Guardian Cat she tore a strip of cloth from her petticoat and gave it to him. Now she set to shuttering all the windows and setting the bar across the door. But before barring the door she took the extra precaution of getting in a plentiful supply of logs for the fire. She had realised by now that a storm was impending. The forest had gone unusually quiet.
Night seemed to come early and the storm suddenly descended . Never before had she known a storm quite like it. But she knew she was safe. She settled to sleep in front of a glowing fire that burnt brighter because of the wind.
She was awakened just before dawn by a crash of thunder and the ground shaking with the force of it. Then she sensed the storm starting to abate. She dozed.
When she awoke the storm had gone and shafts of bright sunlight slanted through the shutters. She arose and opened the shutters to let in more light. It was flat calm outside. She undid the bar and opened the door. There she saw midway between the cottage and the forest edge two gate stooks which had not been there before. Traces of smoke rose from the bases of these two standing stones. She stepped outside into the cold morning air. Behind the cottage the single pine had been cloven down the middle by the lightning strike. The forest itself remained as it always had been, dense and forbidding.
But where were the two sisters? The girl took a closer look at the two gate stooks. They had something of the sisters’ countenance about them. They had indeed been turned to stone and could hurt her no more.
Later, in the early spring she left the cottage and it eventually fell into a ruin.”

His tale now told, the old man said he reckoned the mist was starting to lift which indeed it was. I could make out the forest edge looming out of the dispersing wisps. A westering sun burned away the last remaining shreds. The old man hand back the flask top, “Nice coffee, thanks.”
I asked him, “What happened to the girl in the end?” He looked down at the ground in front of him for a minute.
“You know the forest, - and it knows you,” he said by way of answer.
Then I saw it, a doe. It nonchalantly grazed at the edge of the clearing close by a gap in the curtain of trees. She stopped and looked straight at me before wandering into the tree cover.
“You’ll find your way back if you keep the sun on your right,” the old man told me. I turned to thank him, but he was gone.
I started to screw the cap back on my flask when I realised it was half full. Hadn’t I given that old man the last of my lukewarm coffee? I opened it to check and saw it was half full of hot steaming coffee. I put the flask in my rucksack and shouldered it to set off.

“Karrkk!”
I caught a glimpse of a raven rising into the clear blue sky of a late summer's afternoon.

End of story.

2 comments:

Thumbelina said...

I think you was a-chatterin' with ol' January. ;0)

Great story.
Next please!

(Word verification is "comfort". I kid you not. Which is exactly what my father's stories bring me...It is like having my very own comfort blanket, but this one is made up of words and transports me back about 35 years...)

Norman said...

Karrkk!!