Thursday, June 8, 2017

Real, by Anya Saunders

Follow the story of a young man shrouded in mystery and a girl-child as they embark on uncanny adventures, making unexpected friends and battling less-than-friendly foes.

For centuries people have told stories. From fantastical tales, as tall as the Empire State Building, to ballads that can break your heart. They are innumerable and eternal. And they live. They grow and strengthen with each retelling, gaining more recognition, fame and visibility. Some people can see them.

Day 1
It was a very ordinary day in Brno town centre. People bustled here and there, all of them with a purpose, never stopping, never pausing to just look and see. Well, all but one.
A young man walked down the street looking rather dazed and somewhat surprised, turning in place, rushing in one direction, stopping and repeating himself. He stared at all around him for the very first time, admiration, confusion and amazement shifting in his features.

Day 268
A young man walked down the street, passing the historical buildings, colourful shops and rushing people of Brno. As ordinary as he looked, he was all wrapped up in mystery. Perhaps that was due to his dark clothes and unusual bearing. Nobody seemed to notice it, though. This man, different to the people around him, was looking at the world around him with interest. A very bored sort of interest. No fault to him though, he has been looking at this world for a long time and, as we very well know, all things can become boring eventually, however glorious they are.
The world he saw was not unlike our own, but it had a little more to it than ours.
 As the young man walked further down the street he moved aside for a few mischievous sprites, intending to wreak havoc at the market, no doubt. After a few more steps his head turned towards the sound of a dragon’s great roar. He couldn’t tell which one it was, but it sounded more mighty then angry, so there wasn’t any immediate danger. While he was looking up he spotted a dozen small ethereal will-o-the-wisps energetically making their way along the rooftops.  His expression remained unchanged throughout these events. All the creatures he saw had a spiritual and unearthly quality. None of them seemed quite real, nor were they real in the way that we understand that word, but, don’t get me wrong, they did exist. The slight paleness of their colours, the lightness of their movements and the trails of mist that flowed with them gave away that they weren’t of this world. Their realm was the realm of imagination and that was what kept them alive, after all.
Our mystery boy made a sudden turn at the corner and strolled onward into the park that he had finally reached. After walking a little further he arrived at a children’s play area and seated himself down on a bench not far from the sand pit. He looked a bit out of place. He felt that way too. He wasn’t very good with people and had a hard time dealing with any social interaction. But there was one person in particular he didn’t mind.
It took her awhile to notice him. First she had to add a few finishing touches to the sandcastle she was building. But then she looked up, looked around and spotted him. Her face lit up in delight and she cried out: “Cecil!”
She ran straight up to him and hopped on the spot a few times, clapping her hands and saying: “You came, you came! Hooray, hooray!”
He smiled and nodded in agreement, amusement sparkling in his eyes. He took a moment to appreciate the effort her mother put into making her presentable, even though the little monster always managed to mess it up by the end of the day. Today her hair was tied up into two bunches that bobbed up and down as she hopped and she was clad in a stripy long sleeved top, a sleeveless green dress and bright pink leggings which matched her sparkly shoes. As beautifully childish today as every day.
 “Let’s build a fort around the castle. Keep the pixies out.” She tugged at his hand.
Cecil happily obliged.
Day 572
It was a sunny day on the outskirts of Brno. Cecil stood, waiting patiently at the front of a standard family home. After a few moments a young girl, about eight years old, ran out and wrapped her arms around his legs looking up at him with a grin.
“Hello, Cecil!”
He smiled down at her and patted her fondly on her head. A few more of her teeth were missing since last time.
“Thanks for coming. None of my other friends have time to go dragon-napping, so it’s just us. But that’s ok. We’re a good team.”
Cecil nodded in agreement. Then they set out to the Stránské rocks, excitement putting a spring in their steps.
As they neared the rocky hills they slowed. They knew the dragon was around here somewhere, but they weren’t quite sure where. As they stood, Cecil looked over at his little team leader for guidance.
“A gnome told me that it comes here to rest so, if we’re lucky, it’s sleeping, but we must be villigant.” She said seriously. Cecil nodded and disguised his chuckle as a cough. She looked over at him.
“Did I say it wrong?” she asked.
He shook his head seriously.
“You remember the plan?”
He nodded again.
“Okay, let’s go.”
They approached the rocky area cautiously and in silence, starting the search.
They were still searching when the sun began to set. Cecil sat himself down on one of the grassier rocks and breathed a sigh which was soon joined by another, younger copy.
“Ugh! I’m tired of looking for it.”
An agreeing nod.
“We should probably go home.”
A hum of approval. They sat in a dismayed silence for a few moments.
 “But before we leave,” she stood suddenly, “I challenge you to race me to the top of this big rock.” She pointed. “Yeah? Okay, ready, set, go!” And off she went.
A few minutes later they were both at the top of the aforementioned “big rock”, out of breath, out of strength and covered in scratches and bruises. Cecil opened his mouth to say something when suddenly the rock beneath them shifted. They both looked down in panic and grabbed one another and anything stable as it shook and moved, transforming beneath them. And before they knew it they were sitting atop a very large grass covered dragon. It announced its awakening with a rumbling yawn and stretched its wings.
“Cecil,” she whispered reverently, “I think we found the dragon.”
Then, before they could move off its back, the dragon launched into the air.
Cecil had never experienced anything so exhilarating in his life. He held onto chunks of grass for his dear life, placing his hands so that they created a safety barrier for the crazy child in front of him that was squealing in delight as they sped past countless clouds, birds and rooftops.
Much to the little lady’s despair, he decided then that they were never going dragon riding again.
His little friend named the dragon Arthur and utterly ignored him.

Day 684
With his hands tied behind his back, his whole being bound to a tree, Cecil was not very comfortable.
“Well, it’s not my fault!” stated the reason they were in this mess as she shifted in her bonds, “How was I to know this would happen?”
Common sense, maybe? Cecil shrugged
“Nobody ever told me that rusalky aren’t actual mermaids. And none of the stories mentioned they were so sensitive. Or ugly!” she declared, the last part directed at the pond a few meters away.
“Tying me to a pole. How dare they? I was trying to be nice, only asked a few questions, but no, they go on and get offended...”
Her ranting faded to a grumble. Cecil sighed. If she’d just listened to him in the first place - not that she ever had. He thought they ought to find a way to get out of this mess as soon as possible, but, since he couldn’t think of anything, he kept quiet.
“When do you think they’ll return?” said his tree buddy.
A typical shrug.
“I really wish you didn’t do that all the time. If my shoulder wasn’t touching yours I’d have no idea if you even heard me.”
Another shrug.
She sighed dramatically: “Well, I suppose I’ll just have to devise a master plan on how to get us out of here myself.”
After a few moments of thinking in silence she perked up: “I’ve got it! I’ll just give Arthur a whistle.” Goodness no, not the dragon. Oh, please, not again. Even though his small friend had gone dragon riding quite a few times since she befriended it, Cecil refused to join in. He shook his head vigorously, but she ignored him. After a bit of fumbling, she had her dog whistle perched precariously in her mouth and blew.
Contrary to Cecil’s prayers, the dragon somehow heard the whistle from whatever end of Brno it was at and promptly landed at the foot of the tree. It rumbled affectionately and, after a quick nip, had them out of their bonds. It bent down to let them mount it, but Cecil stubbornly refused to get on.
“Oh, come on, Cecil. You’re just gonna wait for those water hags to return?  We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Cecils frown deepened.
“Ugh, we don’t have the time for this.”, she said from atop the beast, patting it’s neck, “Arthur, grab him and let’ get out of here.”
Cecil tried to escape, but he didn’t make it five paces before the dragon caught him and, after a great bound, flew off with him in its maw and an over excited rider on its back.

Day 896
How do we keep getting into these situations? Was a question on Cecil’s mind as he and his fellow adventurer lay hidden in some bushes, hoping the half-legged witch wouldn’t find them. Half-legged, you ask? Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon.
“Do you think she’s gone?” came a whisper to his left. He replied with a shush, pushing her head down after she tried to peek.
“Aw, come on. We’ve been here for aaages,” she moaned, propping her head on her elbows, “there’s no way she-”
And in that moment of cruel irony, they were discovered. Crashing through the bushes came the monstrosity herself, the half-legged witch. With her dark, tattered clothing, brown bushy hair and evil glint in her eye, she looked as witchy as witch could be. Even more so, as her legs ended at the knees and she floated above the ground ominously, clothes flailing in an unseen wind.
“HA, ha, ha, ha,” She took a breath, “I’ve found you now, thieves! Give back what’s mine and I might let you live!”
“Never!” exclaimed Cecil’s absurdly brave young friend, “These orbs belong to the people of the land and will be returned to them. Isn’t that right, Cecil?”
The witch’s glare turned on him and Cecil gulped, taking a step back.
The hag chuckled: “I don’t think your knight is going to do much saving today, little human.”
“Of course not, the knight here is me. He’s just gonna stand there, look handsome and patch me up later,” retorted the girl with a dangerous grin, grabbed her staff from the ground where she left it and pounced.
The fight was short and swift. They chased each other, taking turns giving blows. Eventually, the self-pronounced knight had the witch pinned. She made her swear a witch’s oath to never attack them again or do anything to harm the people of the land. As the witch had no other choice, she pledged her oath, was set free and floated away, throwing a menacing glare their way every once in awhile.
“Well, that was exciting.” stated the knightling with that grin of hers, “I solved that pretty well, don’t you think?”
Cecil tilted his head and shrugged agreeably. He just still couldn’t get over the fact that somebody had come up with a half-legged witch. Honestly, the stories had just been getting crazier by the day.
“Well, handsome, come and patch me up then. I have a few bruises that’ll heal themselves, but I need something for the cuts on my arms and scraped knees.”
Cecil walked over and started working, pulling band aids out from various pockets, his patient looking at him fondly.
“It’s good to know you have my back. We make a good team,” she said with a smile, “We’ll always be like this, right?”
Of course, thought Cecil. How could they not be?

Day 999
Cecil hadn’t seen his friend as often as he used to and each time he did she was older than before. The big day has been approaching for awhile now and it made him a bit fidgety. He didn’t want it to come, but knew it had to.
Finding himself at the door of her bedroom he noticed the fairies’ absence, but that was to be expected. She was sitting at the foot of her bed arms folded on her lap. She looked so grown up now.
“Hi Cecil,” she sighed, rubbing her hands together anxiously, “thanks for coming. There’s- there’s something I wanted to tell you about.”
Cecil walked over and sat by her, leaning on his forearms. He looked at her expectantly.
Her pained expression made his heart clench.
“So, we’ve been friends for a long time. As long as I remember. You’ve always been there for me whenever I needed a friend and I’m very grateful for that. But, I’m getting older. I have other friends now and a whole different life,” understandably, she couldn’t meet his eye, “Being with you is like being in a dream and-” her voice got caught and she looked away to hide the tears forming in her eyes.
“And I feel that you’re holding me back.” She finished with difficulty. She looked over at Cecil. To her surprise his expression was that of kind understanding, rather than pained anger. He smiled warmly, straightening up and placing his hands on her shoulders, turning her towards him. He looked straight into her eyes and pulled her into a hug.
“Charlotte,” He spoke in a soothing voice, “I’m proud of you.”
Then, without another word he was gone, leaving Charlotte holding empty air, unable to stop the tears from streaming down her face.

Day 1000
It was a very ordinary day in Brno town centre. People bustled here and there all of them with a purpose, never stopping, never pausing to just look and see. Well, all but one.
But look around as she might, she couldn’t see anymore. And she would never see again.
But that’s alright.
Because she was finally seeing the world around her for the very first time.

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