a Sunday in church

Marie hated the church, religion and God. If she had the privilege of acting as she wished, she would strip all the churches, regardless of the deity they worshipped, from all the gold and jewels they used as useless decor. She would sale the art and redistribute the wealth to those who needed the most. Then she would light the greatest fire the world had seen; the big Cathedral in her town would be the first to go down. The whole universe would see it being blown to pieces and her walking away from the explosion in tight leather pants, black sunglasses and red high heels.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t a criminal mastermind or had a governor’s resources. Marie was just a 14 year old not allowed to do anything her Mother didn’t approve of. So, here she was, sited next to her in the Cathedral, daydreaming about exploding churches and the downfall of religion instead of paying attention to the vicar’s sermon.

The vicar was quite old and prudish. Everyone held him in high esteem except her. Marie once commented ruefully that he must have an insatiable hunger for sex; otherwise how could his wife have been pregnant ten times… unless she committed the sin of adultery. Marie’s insolence didn’t amuse her pious Mother. Instead she thought that skipping the most popular party of the year would help her reassess her view of people.

Anyhow the vicar’s voice was flat and boring, with the exceptional quality of driving her nuts and sleepy at the same time. She wished to be anywhere else but there, a sentiment that apparently she shared with her Mother. Fascinating, she thought as she observed the adult fumbling with the hem of her woollen dress, a movement out of place as her usual pose was clasped hands in her lap and staring the vicar with puppy eyes.

What could have caused her Mother agitation? The girl looked around once more and noticed some younger kids stifling their giggles behind their Bibles. The baker was stroking his beard in a futile effort to look thoughtful instead of amused and her school’s uptight Principal looked as if she wanted to send the vicar to detention.

Marie, for the first time since she decided to become an atheist during her seventh birthday, paid attention to the obligatory Sunday sermon. As the words registered in her mind, a laugh bubbled up her chest endangering her attendance to the following weekend’s party. She was sure that what the vicar was reading in his usual flat voice wasn’t what he had intended to read that day. How else could his sudden fascination with animal mating rituals be explained? Well, she had a theory about it, but it didn’t really fit with the topic of “loving your neighbour”, unless the vicar tried to bring forth a polyamorous lifestyle in their community.

As the vicar progressed with his sermon, and her Mother almost destroyed the hem of her dress by pulling that one thread that threatened to come loose, Marie grew more and more entertained by the sheer ignorance of the vicar. The old man went on and on pronouncing one word after the other, without processing them at all, so confident he was on the text he had written the night before.

A satisfied and somewhat evil smirk appeared openly on her face now. The Cathedral was filled with murmurs from every corner, people were openly discussing with each other. As a long thread started unravelling her Mother’s dress, Marie caught the eye of only other person in the church with a wicked smile on his face. It belonged to Nico, the one year older, rebellious and somewhat handsome fourth son of the vicar. Nico seemed too pleased with the content of his father’s words; and by remembering his last year’s record of expulsions, Marie knew who had orchestrated today’s fiasco. Anyway everyone knew that the vicar made his sons act as his personal scribes.

Nico winked at her and she winked back. She might not be a criminal mastermind or have a politician’s resources yet, but it seemed to her that she had just found a possible collaborator in her ambitious plans.

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Tiny Little Girl

I once was a tiny little girl

So tiny that people would forget

Forget, forget, forget

That I was part of their lives

Forget that I was there

Hiding under the bed

 

I once was a tiny little girl

So tiny that I could fit into a cup

People would forget

Forget, forget, forget

And they would drink out of the cup

 

I once was a tiny little girl

So tiny that age forgot me

Forgot, forgot, forgot

And I was left tiny hidden under the bed.

 

Your heart will always lead you true.

She walked by the seaside. The air was humid and salty; she could taste the salt on her cracked lips. The day was close to its glorious end; the last show of colors was reaching its high note, only to abandon the stage for the sensations of night. She liked the night; it allowed the sense of smelling and hearing to paint a different view of nature.

She had missed day and night. The sea and the shore and the trees and all the stories the birds told to each other. The mid-July warmth and the color of the sky were distant memories, a bittersweet feeling engulfed her; for the first time in a long time she felt free.

Who knows how long it had passed? Who knows if time flows the same way here and there? Maybe it does, maybe the ten years she spend there were ten years lost here. Maybe she was lucky; and the ten years she had to survive there, were ten seconds here. If time passed the same way, she couldn’t tell anymore.

The Void sucked your soul; the darkness, the cold, the emptiness. It was no wonder it sucked time as well. The creepiness of the place, the harshness of the things she had to do to come back home were written in her dark eyes and heaved down her hair on her back. All the murders she committed could be counted in the grey of her hair, all the murders she avoided were scars on her skin.

How do you survive a place worse than Hell in one piece? How do you live through companion’s deaths and the loneliness of a forced hand? How do you keep yourself being yourself? You don’t.

How do you go on? She couldn’t tell what the others had to lurch on, what small light existed in their miserable mind to guide them forward. She could tell though what was that made her go on: home. She wished for her mother’s touch and her father’s food and her young sister’s endless chatter. She wished for the smell of tobacco late in the evening and her grandfather’s war time stories. She wished for the place she was safe and loved.

In the end her grandmother’s words were true: Your heart will always lead you true.

And now she was free.

Then she opened her eyes and knew that her heart had betrayed her. This wasn’t home, the city on top of cliff didn’t look like the village she grew in. She cried bitter tears, as she recognized his descriptions: a nameless City at the Edge of the World; that is how he had described it. He, he. The only person that didn’t try to stab her in the back, the only other person she could trust. The only other person that she ever felt safe with except her family.

There was always a longing in his presence; she felt like a piece of her old life had found her deep in the caverns of horror. The rare moments he laughed, a memory of music came back to her. Like sunshine in a rainy November morning. His eyes were imprinted in her soul, a sense of safety and love filled her. He left her though; he escaped before her, without her and left her feeling sad for herself.

The City at the Edge of the World seemed like a horrible and fascinating place to be. He always described it as something mythical, something wondrous; people there knew what the Void was. His own family had migrated generations ago, when they lost someone they cherished a lot in the mists of fate. The myth was that the city at the edge of the world was the only place in the universe where the mists of the here and there intercepted often, making the passage between the two worlds easier. His ancestors had thought that if they moved here, their lost child would find the way back to them easier.

But they died without finding their lost child again.

With a heavy heart she started walking towards the city. The twilight colors had replaced the sunset’s colors and when she entered the city the night was upon them all. It was a lovely night; and yet she felt numb. All the happiness of her being free was lost somewhere in the way.

A small part of herself wondered where she would stay, where she could go. What would she do? Was it easy to go to her small fishing village from here? Where exactly was the City at the edge of the world? She pushed her thoughts away and let her traitor heart lead her for a while longer. Without much attention she walked through a city that didn’t belong to her time; it was not hers to live in. Unfamiliar lights, sounds and smells invaded all her senses. This was not century, it was his.

Mindlessly, she ignored all the things she didn’t know. Aimlessly, she moved one foot after the other and before long she found herself to a new place, at the edge of the City at the edge of the world.

The cemetery was a quiet place with the tombs hanging a breath’s distance from the sea. The waves splashed beneath, a faraway echo just came up to her. Without being certain what she was looking for, she started moving up the rows of the dead, neatly put in their last resting place.

Why was she here? Deep in her heart she knew why she was here. She came to find him. Deep inside her, she knew he had lived and died, the way humans are supposed to do: in loving peace. And it was true, she found his grave. There was his name and his face in an old photo, one that depicted him young and carefree for forever, unlike how he was during his time in the void. He smiled. Next to him was a woman, tall and beautiful with happiness in her eyes instead of guilt.

A small part of herself felt content that he lived the life he deserved. Even if she wouldn’t meet him again.

All was for nothing? Did it worth it? A soft kiss they once had to lead her here? On the grave of him and his ancestors? Did she lose her family over hope in the cold? Tears stung in the corners of her ears; she had refused to cry the last decade of her life. Her feet carried her onwards, passing all the graves with his deceased family members. On the walk towards the past, she saw that his family name had suffered slight changes; its form and sound change till it was as familiar as her own name.

And at last, she reached the end of her journey. There she stood at the edge of the cliff, the weather eaten tombstones were barely recognizable, but she could tell it was them. There was the last home of her mother and her father; her bubbling sister had lived to be a hundred. Above their graves there was a saying written, one that was engraved in her heart: Your heart will always lead you true.

She was finally home.

The Christmas Hater

“Grandpa! Are you ready?” his grandson who everyone else except his mother called Little John, so as not to confuse him with his grandfather called John, was tagging at his sleeve.

“In a minute, little John, give me a second” John combed into place a couple of stray hairs into place. He had been maintaining an impeccable beard since he had turned twenty eight. Women swooned over his beard and men envied him. Once he overheard his neighbour saying “It’ll get thin and patchy when he is old. Wait for it”.

Now he was sixty nine years old and his beard looked as perfect as always. Even white had not altered its style to the worse; it had just transformed it a pure and wise beard. 

In short, John was very proud of his beard.

“We will be late for the Christmas market!” little John was losing  all patience. As all kids of his age, loved the colours, the music of the toys, the hot chocolate and the candy flavours so rich one could taste them in the air. The city was in the Christmas festive mood and all loved it.

All except John. He hated Christmas.

He must have been the only place on Earth that hated Christmas. But he loved his grandson so he was out of the comfort of his Christmas free living room and into the Christmas infested streets. He had hoped that his wife would join them, he depended on her the last fifty years to calm him down when he got angry. However, that day she made them dress in their matching red pullovers and ushered them out the door. “I have to finish baking the Christmas cookies!” was her excuse.

He had just bought caramelised almonds for little John and a hot wine for him, when John stroke his beard and thought “Well, I might survive this after all”. Not so many annoyingly happy people were around, the wine was good and the kid didn’t run away. If he knew how wrong his assessment was, John wouldn’t go out till May.

A tug on his sleeve. Confused he looked in front of him; little John was still where he had left him. The tug on his sleeve repeated and this time he tried to locate its source to his left and behind. A little girl wearing a strawberry hat looked at him expectedly. 

“Can I tell you now what present I want?”

John was confused. “Tell your parents, little girl”.

“But we are supposed to tell Santa. They are not Santa”.

“So go tell Santa. Where are your parents?” John concerned looked around for the little girl in the strawberry hat parents. No adult in the vicinity seemed eager to collect the little girl. 

“Aren’t you Santa?” she seemed confused and John speechless. Him Santa? But why?

“My grandpa is Santa!” exclaimed little John enthusiastically and with a content for being right the little girl with the strawberry hat started listing the gifts she wanted. She kept track of their number by counting with her chumby fingers. Before he had time to clarify the mistake or locate her parents, more kids surrounded them, as if they had appeared out of nowhere. They were drown to him like moths to the flame. 

He put the blame on little John who took a lot of his persuasion among kids’ cheers to convince him to stop shouting ”My grandpa is Santa!” on top of his lungs. He had hoped for parents support, for parents to keep their children under controlled, but today’s parents let them roam like little beasts.

Nightmare was the only word in his vocabulary that could satisfactorily explain what was happening to him. Hungry for gifts kids tried to catch his attention and tell him all the toys they longed for and his parents refused to buy them. He was drown in an ocean of happy Christmas spirit embodied by bewitched little devils, ready to devour him in exchange for a toy.

Panic, anger, confusion. Why him? Why did God hate him so much?

With a mind buzzing with little people’s voices, filled of too many Christmas words, John shouted angrily above them all “Santa is not real!”

Silence followed his words. A swarm of doe-eyed faces stared him on the verge of confused tears. Too many upper lips trembled with suppressed cries and a cynic pair of eyes stared at him satisfied that his suspicions were correct all along.

And by his side the confused and heart broken little John. The blood of his blood looked as devastated as any five year old would have been in his place. John cursed himself and Christmas and capitalism and parents who couldn’t keep an eye on their offspring. 

“Santa is not really me!” he tried to convince the mob in front of him. ”He left for another Christmas Market to visit other kids… But he knows what you want, so don’t worry”.

“You aren’t Santa?” again the little girl in the strawberry hat. She finally got the point.

“No. But he exists” John reassured her quickly.

“But you have Santa’s beard!”

“And his sweater!”

“He exists, are you certain, sir?” asked the boy with the cynic eyes.

“I am certain. Now off you go to your parents!”

Collectively the little people in front of him thought over it and reached a decision at the same time. Much to John’s relief, they decided to trust his word and live him in peace.

On their way home, John promised himself to not go out till May.

Red sky in the morning

“Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. The dawn is promising, the day will be treacherous. We have to walk through the mists with care, but they can bring us the price we have longed for”. The Captain stood tall on the prow of the bridge, the mists already gathering around him. The early sun rays turned them red. Red as blood, red as rubies. The pirate crew cherished spilling blood and they longed for rubies. “An easy day isn’t waiting us, but if we go through the mists, then we will have all we looked for the last 10 years. “

The cheers of the sailors echoed over the still sea, but they were replaced soon by silence. The fog was becoming thicker with each passing moment. The cold seemed to sip through their skins and settle in their bones. As soon as the sun rose above the horizon, the red mists were gone and it could have already gone and they would never know. They could not see clear enough; the tip of their noses was the end of their world.

One-Eyed Joe went to the Captain. “This is not a normal mist”. A long pause followed. The Captain always thought it useless to confirm the obvious. Men should keep their words sparse as they can never be taken back. Also, he never repeated a command twice, so you better listen carefully, unless you wished for a swim with the sharks.

One-Eyed Joe continued: “Let us say, that this is indeed the fabled weather that will get us what we want. What will we do once the Bride of the Sea comes to us?”

“She will not come to us” the Captain corrected his Second in command. “She will sing and we will follow her instructions”.

The other man didn’t fear this moment as much as he should. He could not see anything on the sea, but he had faith that somehow his Captain will not lead them astray. He never had before, so why should he do it now?

“All right. We have good chances that we will navigate through this terrible weather and reach the Bride. Then what? How do we not get eaten? How do we get the treasure for ourselves?”

“We will persuade her” answered the Captain, as if it was obvious to everyone.

“But how?” an answer was never given. Even though he could not see any part of his Captain face, he suspected that the pirate was smiling one of his wicked smiles that made women swoon.

Hours in silence passed. The mist was so thick that you could pick up a knife and carve a nice, big piece out of it. No one dared to move and try it.

A woman’s voice broke the silence. It was sweet and at the same time every single man (and woman) on the ship felt ripples of fear traveling down their spines. She was calling them to her; they longed to go, but at the same time they feared the end.

“Row 10 degrees to the left” the Captain commanded and they started to move through the horrible weather.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning, was what the old fish folk sang.

“What if we fail?” One-Eyed Joe dared to ask in a barely audible whisper.

The Captain hated to state the obvious. He wasted no breathe to say they would die.

Daughter’s boyfriend mistaken for burglar

The night was falling heavy on their little village. The Magician could not remember when the last time this occurred was. Excited about the magical event he decided to spend the night on his rooftop, along with his equipment and take notes on his book of magnificent observations.

What a day to be alive. According to his data the night was weighing 40 kilograms today, and if that was true, then they had a new world record. He could not wait to go to the Mage’s Guild tomorrow. The middle aged man could see with the eyes of his fantasy his colleagues. Glad with in their long robes of different colors, they would make the golden hall look like it was lit up by a rainbow. He would ring the bell on top of the podium and with a suave flick of his wand, he would start the presentation.

“The night was heavy…” would be his first words. Or maybe not. He had to find an opening phrase that enabled him to show off but not come across as unprofessional. He tried to work on his presentation, but excitement led him to the day his won the Nobelisius Prize in Magic and all the glory it would be bestowed on him and his descendants.

The Magician’s fantasy of a dinner consisted of salmon and attended by the most disguised men of his field, was interrupted by a noise in the backyard. Damn you! He thought annoyed. He was about to get funding for researching spells for avoiding flying water balloons. The cat, Mr Kippis, must have been playing around again. He had specifically told him that he was not allowed outside at night; maybe a passing troll would eat him. The cat of course gave him the middle finger and went on and on for about half an hour of how cats now days were oppressed by magical families.

With a sigh the Magician climbed down the ladder to check on Mr Kippis. A softer thud reached him again. Maybe a troll was indeed trying to eat the cat. For a moment he considered the possibility of letting the cat been eaten, but then he decided against it. His daughter would be mad at him.

Slowly he moved from the front of the house to the backyard, thinking of a good remark to tell to the cat. But it was not Mr Kippis who found lurking in his back yard, but a man dressed in black. Despite the warmth of the night he was wearing a black hat. The noises came from his efforts to open the kitchen door, that thankfully had locked himself a couple of hours ago.

With range bottling inside him the Magician lifted his wand and casted the first spell that came to his mind. The burglar (because what else could he be?) turned to a grasshopper in a cloud of blue light and red glitter.

Triumphully, he picked the grasshopper from the ground. The grasshopper tried to escape but the Magician pulled its little black hat over his antennas. Unable to see or sense anything of its surrounding, the insect-burglar stopped moving.

Once inside the house, the Magician flipped open the lights and shouted for his wife and daughter. “Pumpkins!” he yelled “Come down”.

“What is wrong darling?” his wife yawing from the kitchen door.

“I got a burglar!” he showed her the grasshopper in his hands. “He tried to open the kitchen door and I transfigured him to a grasshopper” finished his narration with pride in his voice.

His teen daughter joined them at that point. Mr Kippis trailed in the kitchen behind her. The cat looked amused and his whiskers moved with silent laughter. His daughter on the other hand looked puzzled at first, but then angered was evident on her face. With a sudden movement she grabbed his arm.

“What have you done?” she shouted while snatching the grasshopper away. She tacked it carefully in her hands. “Turn him back how he was”.

“No!” he protested. ‘He tried to break into our house and we will turn him to police”.

“He did not! Why would Dan try to break into our house?”

“Because he is a burglar”.

“Dan is not a burglar. He is training to be a Knight.” She explained to her father.

“Why would a Knight try to break into our place?” asked the Magician perplexed. His wife rolled her eyes and the annoying cat was laughing on top of the kitchen counter.

“He is my boyfriend, dad” told him with fury his young girl. “Now turn him back to normal or I will turn you to a frog and let Mr Kippis play with you