A fairy fantasy with a heartwarming twist.
|That night I made a run for it. The worst part was scaling the city wall, but once I entered the forest - the same forest I had heard rumours of – where people went in, but never came back. I stood on the edge peering into the darkness unsure of what to do next.
Then I saw it.
A brief flicker, but as I moved forward the light gained strength. It seemed to hover just above the forest floor as if guiding my steps.
As I followed the lights, I swear I could hear a tinkling that sounded like cheerful laughter. Having lived in Nofunlandia all my life I was not certain this was laughter, but it seemed joyous and it made my face feel… lighter, freer even. My lips tipped up into a smile; something I would have never done before. Smiles got you thrown in jail in Nofunlandia.
The lights burned bright white, but as I made my way deeper into the forest, they changed colour. At first, they turned into a blue flame, then the colours seemed to flicker and dance, their light moving through the full spectrum of the rainbow. I was mesmerized. When I crested a hill, I noticed the lights heading for the rocky mountain face. I thought that was the end of my path and I felt a wave of panic. I was thoroughly lost.
But as I reached out to touch the rock's surface to steady myself and calm my racing heart, I felt a surge of heat… it was that feeling that sent my turbulent emotions into a bewildered awe. With my hand still outstretched, the rock face fell away as if by magic. When I peered inside, I could see the radiant glow of lights shimmering along the cave's walls.
The joyous noise grew. It seemed clearer now, no longer muffled as it had been.
A small part of me wanted to run and hide, but I also felt compelled to move forward. I heard someone call my name and when I looked around, I saw no one. I shook my head thinking I was hearing things, but then I heard the sweet voice call my name again. It was coming from deep within the cave. I followed, edging forward on silent feet. I held my breath unsure what I would find.
I slipped in behind a small outcropping in the rock and craned my neck out to see what was beyond.
I could see.... balloons?
I'd seen pictures of them before, but never once had I truly seen one. They seemed to dance on the air; bobbing to the beat of the music that I could now hear. The sweetest music. It was nothing like the dark, droning sounds that reverberated from the huge church in the center of Nofunlandia. This sounded... happy. Full of colour and life. The music seemed to fill the space.
When I heard my name again, I moved from my hiding place and into a gigantic cavern.... only it wasn't a cavern.
Looking up, I could see the sky. It was filled with a multitude of star light. The rock walls that rose up all around me were ablaze with a flickering rainbow of dancing light, yet I saw nothing to hold the light. It seemed to pulse with a life of its own.
My eyes took in this place. I saw no one, yet I could hear voices.
Around me, there were trees that reached up towards the glorious night sky. Under my feet was a carpet of lush, mossy grass with a sprinkling of colour that I thought could only be flowers, but when I looked closer these flowers seemed to move. I blinked trying to clear my vision, but still the flowers seemed to hover.
Shaking my head, I shifted my gaze to a huge, fallen log in the center of the space. I moved toward it and the closer I got the more I could see.
In the center was a huge chocolate cake. The biggest I had ever seen. The log, on closer inspection was set up like a table with party plates, silverware and goblets. A celebration.
Celebrations were outlawed in Nofunlandia. I had seen pictures hidden away in my mother's things. Things I had managed to conceal. Old pictures of my ancestors; back when celebrations where allowed. Back before the Old Miser Man had taken over and called a halt to all things frivolous.
"Welcome my Lady Bryanna." a tinkling voice said and I looked to my left to see a wee face peering at me. My eyes widened as I took in her full appearance. She was tiny and seemed to float on the air. Then I noticed - she had wings. Translucent wings that fluttered to the beat of the music.
"Oh, my..." I said in a breathy whisper.
"We have been waiting for you to come."
"To your birthday party, of course." she said, then laughed and I heard a tinkling.
"My birthday party?"
"Yes, my Lady. It is your birthday. Your nineteenth birthday."
I blinked at her, too astonished to speak. We did not do birthdays in Nofunlandia. Most people had no idea how old they were. Days ran into days. Life was one monotonous struggle. No one cared about silly things like birthdays, but as I looked around me at the lights, the sounds and the colours I felt like I had missed so much.
I let myself smile as I said, "Thank you."
"No need to thank us my Lady."
"It's just Bryanna..."
"Oh no, my Lady. You are royalty here."
I shook my head, but she only smiled as she lifted her hands into the air. As she did so, the forest around me seemed to shimmer and come to life. From the trees and flowers came a multitude of tiny folk. All hovered and flitted on wings so delicate they seemed barely there. The tinkling of welcome warmed me as I was given a cloak of velvet iridescence and a tiara of tiny crystals that sparkled. I reached up to touch the tiara, then ran my hand over the cloak's velvety softness.
"But why?" I asked still marveling at the beautiful gifts.
"We honour those that find their way." she said with a smile so kind I could only smile back as if I understood.
"Sit. We have made a meal in your honour."
"And what about that?" I asked gesturing towards the huge cake that seemed to take the whole table's space.
"That is dessert, my Lady. We will serve it at the end of the meal along with the creamiest of ice cream."
"It looks decadent." I said with wonder.
"Oh, it is,"
As I took my spot at the head of the table, I could hear a murmuring of voices. They sounded… human. I looked towards the entrance of the cave and there, emerging from the dewy night, were the men and woman who had been lost to us. The ones the citizens of Nofunlandia had considered dead, since they had never returned from the forest.
I gasped as I saw my own Mother come forward. She had been lost to me so long ago. My father had said she had died while coming back from a trip. I had mourned her death, but my father had seemed to get colder and colder as time passed. His ruthless pursuit of wealth and success had left me feeling empty and edgy.
"Bryanna." she called moving swiftly across the mossy grass to pull me into her warm embrace. "I knew you would come."
"Mother?" I managed to say as tears filled my eyes.
"Yes, my sweet child."
She could see the questions in my eyes as she smoothed my hair back from my face. She leaned forward and kissed my forehead.
"You're not dead..."
"No... though your father did his best to get rid of me...."
"Get rid of you?"
She nodded and smiled sadly as she clasped my face within her hands.
"He said you went on a trip and...."
"He took me to the forest to... be rid of me. I was an embarrassment to him and he feared I would be jailed for my... exuberance. I think he hoped if he raised you himself, he would be able to undue any influence I had bestowed."
I stared at her as my memories flitted. My father's dark temper. It scared me. I had tried to make him happy, but nothing I did ever seemed to please him. It almost seemed that the harder I tried, the darker he became. That's why I had left. I had sensed a far darker side to him, but I could not place it. Never would I have thought he had left my own mother to die in the forest. But seeing her now, I knew, he had done just that.
“But it is time to celebrate. Your coming here and your birthday. I made your favourite dessert..."
"Yes, I used to make it.... in secret. It used to enrage your father."
The memory of it came rushing back. It was like a veil had been lifted. Tears filled my eyes again, but this time they were tears of joy.
Word count = 1556..