Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Secret Worlds and Fantastic Creatures: The Clearing

A crow caws. A blue jay screeches. A sparrow sings. They are joined by the frogs, whose clicks and calls mingle with the bubbling laughter of the creek and the cheerful chatter of the fairies, elves, and nymphs. The sounds blend into one harmonious song which can never be heard anywhere else but here.
A tiny brown frog dives into the creek from his spot on a shady leafy plant. He swims until he reaches a spot on the creek bank covered in bright green moss. Here he meets his good friend, a young water nymph. She smiles, takes hold of him, and gently helps him up onto the shore beside her. “Thank you, Honeysuckle,” says the frog, nodding respectfully. “You look just as pretty and bright as you always do. How has your morning been so far?” The little nymph blushes at the compliment and gives her grass colored hair a cheerful toss. “My sisters and I found something beautiful on the shore by our home!” she chirps. “They let me keep it, and now I would like to give it to you, Reginald! You could wear it on your back like a cape or shawl, and it would make you look so handsome!” She opens her hand to reveal a small leaf the color of a ruby.
The frog lets out a cheery cry and takes a great leap into the air. “Oh my! It is stunning! Do you really want me to have this? Wouldn’t you want to keep it for yourself?”
            Honeysuckle shakes her head. “No,” she says, “I want to give it to you. Come here, so I can place it on your back and we can see how handsome you look with it on!”
            While Honeysuckle and Reginald’s meeting goes on, in another part of the clearing a small green spider is hard at work spinning webs. He is one of the local weavers, and today he is especially busy because the elves will be having a ball at the end of the week; every elf in the clearing wants a new gown or a new suit. An entire row of trees is covered with the handiwork of this spider and the other weavers employed by the elven tailors. The webs glisten like silver in the light of the sun. When the morning has drawn to a close, the green spider has spun enough and gathers up the silk to be taken to the tailors.
            The four elven tailors, who run their workshop in a patch of huckleberry greens on the bank of the creek, inspect the crop of silk the spider has brought to them. “It is very fine,” says one, “but is it enough?”
            The other says, “It is enough, but is it fine?”
            The third says, “I think it is only enough for one gown.”
            The fourth says, “I think it is enough for three.”
            If they do not approve of this crop, the spider will have to spend the rest of the afternoon spinning an entirely new crop, and he was hoping to take the first few hours of the afternoon off. He crosses his little green arms and grits his tiny teeth in anticipation of their answer. Finally, the four tailors look at him, smile, and say, “We can accept this. Thank you. Please start your afternoon work at three-thirty today.”
            “Thank you, sirs!” the spider says, and scurries back to his little hole to catch up on some much needed rest.
            The three squirrel brothers, Acorn, Oak, and Nut, are playing a chasing game in the trees that tower over the creek. Their rustling in the leaves awakens a grumpy old elf lying against a rock for a nap. “Silly boys,” he mutters, shaking his head and retiring to his home in an old stump. The two older boys pay him no mind and continue their wild chase. But being so high above so much water makes the youngest brother, Nut, too nervous to run as fast or jump as high as his brothers. Instead, he cautiously scampers along the branches and stops to look down, causing him to lag behind.
            “Nut, come on!” Acorn hollers. “If you’re not going to keep up, then don’t play!”
            “I don’t want to fall in,” says Nut.
            “You won’t fall in if you’re careful,” says Oak.
            “I am being careful!” says Nut. “But when I’m careful, you tell me I’m not keeping up!”
            Oak sighs and scampers over to his younger brother. “This isn’t a game for you, Nut,” he says, shaking his head. “Why don’t you go find something else to play?”
            Nut sighs dejectedly. “Fine,” he says, “I will.” And he scrambles down the tree and off under a patch of wild sumac. Though he’s disappointed not to be able to play with his brothers, he knows that his good friend will be along soon; this spot under the sumac is his friend’s secret place. Sure enough, along comes a pretty little red squirrel with a white flower tied around her tail; her signature accessory. “Hi, Nut!” the little squirrel says, nuzzling his cheek.
            “Hi, Freya!” Nut nuzzles her cheek in return.
            “Nut, have you ever seen a human?” asks Freya.
            “What’s a human?” asks Nut.
            “Something my big sister told me about,” says Freya. “She says they’re two-legged giants with ugly faces, pink flesh, and hair all over their bodies.” She shudders. “I don’t like them. They sound scary. You’ve never seen anything like that, have you, Nut?”
            “Of course not!” cries Nut. “If I saw anything horrible like that, I’d call my brothers and they’d throw nuts at it!”
            “My sister says that humans live beyond the creek,” says Freya. “But they can never come into this clearing, because there’s too much water and mud. They’d fall in!” She and Nut laugh at this image.
            “Or else they’d get their giant feet stuck in the mud,” says Nut.
            “Yeah,” agrees Freya. “Humans can never come here.
             And as far as any resident of the clearing could remember, nothing so horrible and frightening ever has come into the clearing; they would certainly remember if it had. 

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