A fantasy/folklore tale based on true events :)
|Once upon a time (but more recently than you’d think), a woman lived happily with her husband and her dog. She was so happy, in fact, that she soon found that their abundant love had created a child which grew within her. The couple spent many hours speaking of their child and of its potential, of how lucky they were that such a wonderful thing was happening.
One day, the couple went for a walk with their dog in the woods near their house. It was a beautiful summer day filled with wonderful smells and birdsong floating around them in a balmy zephyr. The woman laughed with her husband while absently picking up sticks to throw for the dog which happily pounced about their feet in expectant hope. Each time she bent down to reach for a new stick, she kept a watchful eye on her dog, for it was commonplace for such an excitable animal to knock people over with his weight and lollopy paws. It would, after all, do her no good in her condition to find herself sprawled on the forest floor at the mercy of such an enthusiastic beast. Her concentration was so intense, however, that she accidentally picked up something that turned out to be very untoward indeed.
In almost the same moment that she threw this piece of soggy rotten tree bark, she heard the sound. It was an unmistakable sound that sends shivers down the spines of most ordinary folk, all sharing the same atavistic fear. It was not benign or distant, it was an angry buzz and it was right beside her. It was the sound of an insect intent on revenge, and there is no other insect that is better at exacting revenge than the wasp.
The very second she heard it, instead of stopping to look for its source, she ran. She ran hard and fast, and only stopped when her breath got left behind. Given the distance she’d fled, she found it quite a shock as she bent over in recovery from her exertion to find that the angry buzz had followed her, and seemed to have doubled in volume. She felt the stings painfully and in great detail. Once. Twice. Three times. As she tried to gather enough energy to escape, she found that not only had a wasp become entangled in her hair, but that another had satisfied its blood-lust by trapping itself in her clothing, and was laying sting after sting in her flesh, each tiny injection being intensely more painful than the last. The wonderful blessing that is adrenaline gave her the final push to outrun these wicked insects.
As she nursed her stings a short while later while she bathed, she worried for her child, as every mother does, and prayed that her shock would escape the growing infant. As she prayed, a magpie rested on her windowsill and watched her intently with its dark beady eyes. Woman and bird locked gazes, and suddenly a dreadful feeling spread through her like a dark cloud covering the sun. She knew that something had floated far from her reach which seemed to taunt her in ways she couldn’t quite understand.
That night, her dreams were filled with fearful images of magpies which seemed to be stealing her away part by part despite her pleading and terrified screams, and when she woke with a start in the depths of the night, she found that her growing bump had disappeared.
She pleaded with her husband to hear her story, she beseeched him to try to remember her pregnancy and the incident that had only occurred the day before, but to no avail. He had forgotten, as though a spell had been cast on her house so that all of those wonderful memories and conversations had been swallowed up in a frustrating pool of nothingness. She began to wonder if indeed she had imagined her pregnancy, and would have given in to this apparent reality if it weren’t for the steadfast connection she still felt with her infant. She knew it was still alive, but had no idea as to how to find it. Her belly felt empty and her mind felt full.
The woman haunted the forest daily, walking off her worries for her missing child, for to stay at home was far too difficult. She grew apart from her husband, who had become annoyed with her ravings and her distance. Each day she spent longer and longer in the woods searching for clues, searching for the magpie that had visited her on the evening of the wasp’s revenge. Finally the day arrived that would have marked the entrance of her child into the world and she wept. The entire day found the woman, who had now grown thin and haggard, curled beneath a hawthorn tree lamenting her loss, until the sun began to set.
As the moon started it’s ascent, a soft voice entered the woman’s consciousness. She lifted her head and found a small creature standing before her. It was an ugly and wrinkled little thing with tufts of hair poking randomly from underneath it’s tattered clothing. She caught a scent of rotting earth mixed with sweet warm honey smells of gorse, and knew she was encountering something very strange indeed. She sat up and concentrated on the creature, allowing it’s voice to become clear in her head.
It told her, despite her disbelief, that it was a faery who had been watching her for many weeks, that knew of both her and her child. It explained that her child had been chosen by the insect folk to be their queen, that the fate of the child had been marked for many moons, and that these folk were not to be underestimated. It told her that her sorrow had softened the hearts of many of the faeryfolk who lived in this particular Hawthorn Tree that the woman had chosen as a mourning post, and that they wished to help her.
The woman began to weep again as the information sank in. She wept both because it all sounded so ridiculously strange, and because the solution seemed so complicated, but the faery slapped her and told her in very stern tones to listen properly and to mute her emotion until the solution was explained, for it would only be explained once, as faeries are very impatient folk.
On hearing the answer to her sorry situation, she went home and began to follow through with her instructions.
She sat cross-legged in her garden for ten full days and ten full nights and became very still. So still, in fact, that the animals and birds which frequented this spot soon forgot she was there. Foxes nibbled at her bare thin toes, and robins pecked at her ears. She ignored them all until finally it arrived, the creature she wanted so dearly. The magpie came to rest on her knee and cocked it’s head, listening for messages in the earth. Quick as lightening, the woman grabbed the bird tightly by the neck and shook it, for this was the creature which had stolen her child. It was in fact, not a magpie at all, but a faery in disguise who had been sent to deliver the unborn child to the forest. The woman felt the bird’s neck snap, and it fell limp. She watched in satisfaction as the cruel glint ebbed away from it’s eyes. She then began to slowly pluck the black and white plumes from it’s body until it’s chest was bared. Then, as instructed, she tore the magpie’s heart from it’s breast and placed it carefully in a jar in her pocket.
She served the remains of the magpie that night to her husband disguised in a stew, and went to bed, to sleep like she hadn’t slept in months.
Her husband rose from his bed that night and wandered. His eyes grew steely and black and led him with an un-named conviction back to the forest. He had no awareness as he stepped throught the undergrowth with his shovel in hand, his mind was not present as he began to dig through the undergrowth. A tiny body slowly appeared as he dug, and when he saw that it was a baby, small and limp and dead, he was not shocked. He removed his coat and wrapped the infant tightly, then brought it home to place it beside his wife on the bed. He then lay down and resumed his slumber.
The woman woke soon after, found the cold bundle beside her, and shrieked with joy. She opened the small jar containing the magpie’s heart and poked the tiny organ between the cool white gums of the infant. Then she slept, cocooning the baby’s body against her breast until morning.
When she woke, the room was filled with morning light. She sat up instantly to find a small pink baby gazing into her eyes and gurgling with affection. She screamed with delight to her husband’s alarm, and despite the amazing story she unfolded for the benefit of his ears, she found that the forgetfulness spell had lifted, and heard how the last few months had passed for her husband as those of any other expectant family would.
The incident was soon forgotten as the baby grew, the darkness of the sinister tale was swallowed by the love felt for the tiny child. And, as time passed, they even grew accustomed to the ominous buzzing sound that eminated from the child’s crib each night as it slept.