A story of courage and sunflower seeds
| “Not bad for a twelve year old. Right Father?” Miles stated proudly of his fine swordsmanship ability. The quick-paced clank of steel against steel echoed across the magnificent English courtyard, as father and son continued their sword spar. Lord Petrus, who has been known throughout his lands for his expertise with the sword, enjoyed spending these quality times with his son.
The tips of the two blades pointed at the bright sun, as the swords criss-crossed in a momentary pause. In one swift movement, Lord Petrus spun inward toward his son, firmly grasped the small wrist with his free hand, and removed the boy’s sword with the other. A smile broke out across the lord’s face as he gazed down upon his son's wide-eyed, baffled expression. Miles tried to grow up so fast, but at times like that, he still had the baby face of a four-year-old.
“Never take your concentration away from the duel, until the battle is completely over,” Lord Petrus said playfully as he handed his son back the fine jewel-handled sword. He messed up Miles' sandy colored hair as he gave the top of his head a quick rub, and continued talking. “Run along now and play. I have many documents to sign in the countinghouse.”
“See you at supper Father,” Miles replied as he scanned the garden for his sister. He spotted her sitting lazily against a tree. She sat on the ground with her knees together, feet wide apart, and her back against the sturdy trunk. In that position, she stared up at the blue sky, and mindlessly pushed sunflower seeds in her mouth.
Miles scampered over to her, and immediately noticed the mess of sunflower seed shells encircling his sister. “Do you have to make a dumb mess with whatever you do? The dog makes less of a mess when he eats than you do.”
Margaret responded by spitting a sunflower seed in Miles' face. “Smart-ass,” Miles said as he wiped the sticky seed from his cheek.
“I’m telling Father!” Margaret snapped with a venomous look. Their parents were going through great pains of trying to make a lady and gentleman out of their children.
“If you do,” began Miles smartly, “I won’t be able to take you exploring in the forest.”
Margaret sprang up fast. Her face beamed with excitement. In all of her ten years of life, she had never found anything else that rivaled the adventures to be had in the forest. “Let’s go right now. I’m ready.”
“Well, alright,” Miles muttered as he wiped his sweaty brow with his forearm. “Let me just get a drink first.” Miles walked over to a near-by statue, unbuckling the belt that held his sword along the way. He carefully placed it down beside the statue, and then walked a few feet more to the water pump. He reached for the handle and pumped it a few times to start the flow. The cool water seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. He drank from the thick refreshing stream for a minute, and then pumped it for his sister. With their thirst quenched, they were ready for their journey into the forest.
Margaret shoved a handful of sunflower seeds into her mouth as they stepped into the dense forest. She reached into her large satchel and pulled a handful out for her brother.
“No thanks. That stuff will only make me thirsty again,” Miles said as he marveled at how far into the sky the tops of the trees stretched. His chest heaved as he slowly inhaled a deep breath of air. “Oh! Margaret, don’t you just love the cool, damp aroma coming from all of the pine trees?”
“Come on silly!” Margaret said as she gave Miles' arm a quick tug. “Let’s keep moving. There’s plenty to see in here.” They continued along, looking at the sights and greenery that they passed by.
“The forest is so incredible,” Margaret exclaimed with sincere enthusiasm, as she heard the crackling of a furry little creature scurry across some leaves. The dancing breeze was just as entrancing, while it whispered a soft song through sturdy branches. Suddenly, a strikingly beautiful yellow bird floated past them, and landed on a low branch. “Awesome!” Margaret cheered. “Miles, wait. I want to give this bird some of my seeds.” Margaret commanded as she placed a handful of seeds on a log close to the bird.
“As if you needed to give it more – you have been dropping a trail of seeds and shells since we started out,” Miles said sarcastically. He waited for his sister, and the two walked on. After a while, it was Miles who stopped to be amazed. “Look Margaret! This spider web is remarkable!” The web was remarkable indeed. It’s thick white, lacy pattern spanned five feet between two trees.
Margaret giggled and tossed a few sunflower seeds into the web. Miles stood quiet for a split second, and then he let out a loud, hearty laugh when he realized that the seeds were stuck very nicely to the web. They started walking on, but stopped to ponder a strange, bright light which streamed out through the trees ahead. “Why is that part of the forest so lit up?” Margaret seemed puzzled.
“I couldn’t begin to imagine,” Miles admitted. “Let’s go check it out.” Miles gestured to his sister and started to run to the scene.
The two stopped at a standstill, when they realized that they had come to a large clearing. What was even more astonishing was the huge, shiny silver object that stood before them. Margaret gasped. “Wow! What kind of a building is that?” she managed to squeak.
“I don’t know, Margaret. I never saw a saucer shaped building before. …And I never saw a building made out of the material of a sword before.”
“The building seems to stand two feet from the ground, and the underside of the rim seems to be glowing with some kind of weird blue light,” Margaret uttered. She looked at her brother for a response, but he just stared in fixation with his mouth wide open. “Miles?” Margaret pleaded for acknowledgement. “Come on Miles. Let’s go up to it to get a better look.” Miles, still thunderstruck, only nodded, and slowly walked forward. Margaret followed behind her brother. She was scared, yet curious.
Even shadowed by tall trees rimming the clearing, the solid silver of the dome picked up enough sunlight to glimmer to a brilliant shine. Margaret ran her hand across the smoothness of it in fascination. To add to the curious display, a large section of the smooth silver parted open, revealing a doorway. The bizarre atmosphere, and now the opening of a door, caused Margaret’s knees to buckle slightly. She thought for sure that she would faint, but she composed herself when she saw a beautiful woman emerge from the entrance.
The woman saw the frightened expressions on the children’s faces, and smiled softly. She spoke in a soothing voice. “Ah children, I see that you are understandably startled, but there is no need to be. I know my house is unusual, but that’s because not too many visitors ever came by to see it. I am glad that you are here. Won’t you please come inside? It would be my pleasure to show you around.”
The woman looked just as odd as her house. She wore a strange, skin-tight jumpsuit, like nothing they have ever seen. Still, they followed her inside reluctantly.
They stood in awe at the strangeness of it all. The inside looked very much like the outside. Everything was made out of a silver metal, with a soft blue glow emitting from panels. Miles opened his mouth to say something to the woman, but cringed when he noticed that she was throwing a disk-like object at him. The object came apart on impact, to ensnare Miles around the arms in a tight band. Margaret screamed.
“Be still. It is not my intent to cause you any harm. I merely wish to drain some of your life force, so that I can maintain a human image on your planet during my visit here. You will both stay here with me, and I will take life force from you as I feel necessary. We will begin now. This machine here will instantly drain force, and store it into this tube for my use.” The strange woman pointed respectively first to a small room, which resembled a walk-in closet, and then to a large flask.
“Now you,” Margaret almost jumped out of her skin, as the woman pointed in her direction. “Enter that room, and I will get this started. Don’t worry; it will only take a minute.”
Margaret could feel her heart beating rhythmically within her chest. She crept up to the room very slowly, and watched as the woman pushed a large, red button to open the door. Margaret poked her head into the room, and paused to think. She remembered a story that her brother read to her once about a boy named Hansel, and a girl named Gretel. Finally she looked toward the woman, and said in a pathetic voice, “I don’t want to go in there while that dog’s in there.”
“Dog?” The woman was obviously annoyed at the thought of a dog in her precious room. She grumbled as she hurried over to look inside. “There certainly shouldn’t be a dog in there.”
As the woman peered into the room, Margaret shoved her with all of her might. While the stunned woman was on the floor, Margaret quickly pushed the button to close the door.
“Margaret, get me out of this.” Miles beckoned. Margaret dashed over to her brother, and desperately tried to figure out how to get the band off of him. Her fingers raced all over the strange object until at last she discovered a small button. Miles was free.
“Hurry. Let’s go,” Miles shouted, and motioned to the door. Margaret noticed a red button, which was similar to the button that operated the other door. She pushed that and the door slid open.
Miles and Margaret ran out of there with a speed that anyone would be proud of. When they were back in the forest, Margaret started to cry. “It’s of no use. We’ll never find our way back.”
Miles felt similar assumptions, but then he spotted some of her discarded sunflower seed shells on the ground. His voice now took on new tones of enthusiasm. “Look Margaret. All we need to do is to follow your trail of sunflower seeds.” Margaret didn’t answer him. She was frozen in deep thought. This reminded her so much of the Hansel and Gretel story. “Come on!” Miles shouted and gave her arm a tug.
The two began to run, using the lifeline of seeds as their guide. It wasn’t long before they spotted the big spider web that they saw before. They paused for a second to squeeze each other tight before they darted off on their way again. Miles eyed the log that Margaret had placed seeds on for the yellow bird. “Look Margaret,” Miles pointed at the pile of discarded shells, and tried to sport a little humor. “That bird eats just as messily as you do.” They both attempted to laugh, but they each knew that they would feel uneasy until they were back in their own courtyard.
That moment came at last. Once they were in their courtyard, Margaret fell to the ground to catch her breath. Miles kept running until he reached the statue where he left his sword. He picked it up, and buckled the belt around his waist as he walked back over to his sister. He looked around contently, and then sat beside her.
Miles smiled and put his arm around his sister. “Margaret, when I go into town with Father, I’m going to buy you the biggest bag of sunflower seeds that I can find.” The two giggled softly, and then Miles continued talking. “That experience was so incredibly scary. It feels great to be back at our house again.”
Margaret spoke up quickly, “Miles, I think we should consider taking Father with us on our next adventure in the forest.” She thought about that for a moment more, and then added, “Or maybe we could bring some of our guards.”
“Oh don’t feel like that, Margaret,” Miles said with confidence. “We’ve been in the forest dozens of times, and nothing like this ever happened before. We just won’t go in areas that we aren’t used to. …And besides, we can count on your quick thinking to get us out of any jams that we might get into.” Miles placed his hand on the hilt of his sword proudly, “…And you can count on me to remember to bring my trusty sword next time.”
Margaret smiled at her brother with pride. She felt good that he appreciated her wit. Silently, she was planning their next adventure.
Word Count: 2174