A Bedtime Story of the Apocalypse

“The sun won’t go out, mummy. The dragons will save us,” a four-year-old said.

No one listened to the hopeful nonsense of a four-year-old.  A few people standing near her in the grocery store shook their heads. Her mother, who had been reading the nutritional label on a box of Cheerios before the intercom announced the impending apocalypse, ruffled the little girl’s hair with tears in her eyes and said, “Of course, honey. Why didn’t I think of that?”

The mother blinked back her tears and took her little one home to the country, far from looters and panicking hordes. She turned off all media that declared the inevitable end of everything. She pulled out puzzles and toys and sat on the floor and played with her daughter and tried not to think of the end of days.

It was the best two days the four-year-old had ever known, even as the light outside grew dim. “Better than Christmas!” she told her mum with a hug.

On the third day she suggested to her mother they go outside and watch the dragons.

Mother obliged. All that mattered anymore was that her little girl was not afraid. She found reserves of bravery she didn’t know she had to protect the child. She kept her trembling hands to herself.

“Look, mummy, there’s one now!” The little girl pointed at the sky in delight.

Her mother’s eyes followed her gaze and froze. There, an impossible dragon climbed through the sky.  As it grew dark, they watched the dragons breathing fire, twinkling orange lights in a sky full of stars and dragons. “Their fire works like rocket boosters to propel them to the sun,” explained the child. “Wings don’t work in outer space, you know.”

“No, I guess they wouldn’t,” said the mother.

“We won’t be able to see everything from here. Not without a super powerful telescope,” the four-year-old said. “But all the dragons are going to the sun, and they’re going to hold hands with each other and breathe all their fire onto it.”

“How do you know this?”

“The mermaid told me. The one in the pond by the house. They’ll breathe their fire together and it will fix the sun. They’ve done it a dozen times. They’ll have to sleep in their secret moon caves for a few thousand years afterwards, though. Because it’s tiring to recharge a sun like that and they’re going to need a nap.”

The little girl smiled and squeezed her mother’s hand. “Isn’t it nice of them, though? To do that? The mermaid says it’s because they like trees and trees need sun to grow. But maybe they like us a little bit too. You and me, I mean. I think dragons would like us if they got to know us.”

“Me too, sweetie,” said her mother.

That night they fell asleep in each other’s arms, under a sky full of dragon fire. In the morning the mother looked at the child with awe as the sun grew steadily brighter and fears of the apocalypse subsided.

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This story was written in response to a flash fiction challenge issued by Chuck Wendig – click here to see that original post and peruse other stories!

the day my daughter made a dozen pregnant ladies cry

I brought my four-year-old daughter, Evening, along with me to the baby doctor the other day. We were prepared: a new coloring book, crayons, and a fully charged tablet. When we walked in the door, a dozen or so pregnant ladies looked up at me. We were in for a long wait.

The only available seat was next to a single toy, one of those wooden wire ones that either fascinate or bore, depending on the day. I sat down while Evening settled in to play with it for a good half hour while we waited, and then she started getting antsy. At this point, I had already counted my blessings, because a half hour wait in preschooler time is at least four hours adult time.

She climbed up into my lap for a bit, snuggling in. When she grew tired of that I offered her a coloring book. Evening shook her head. “No, I think it’s time to play with my little sister,” she told me, and rested her head against my seven-months pregnant belly. She rubbed it with one hand and started singing.

I let her go, knowing that even if the ladies in the waiting room didn’t like her off-key little girl voice, they’d probably prefer it to the inevitable screams of me trying to stop her. She really got into it, singing for a full five minutes or so, making it up as she went along, and featuring such classic lines as “I wish you would hurry up and come out so we can go for a bus ride together” and “I love you so much.”

When she finished up, I gave her a smile, mustered up my brave, and looked up at the lady across from me. Her eyes were all teared up, her hand rubbing her own belly. I looked around, and sure enough, each and every pregnant lady in that room was bawling.

I haven’t decided yet if it was just pregnant lady hormones or if my little girl just has an uncanny ability to work a room.

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excuses, excuses

It’s time to succumb to humanity, to reality, to womanhood. I’m in my third trimester of my second pregnancy now and the complications are mounting. Nothing that can’t be managed, but I’d be lying if I told you that it’s not taking a toll. It’s time to turn inward, and reserve my strength for what’s to come. With that in mind, I will not be able to keep up my daily posts here until I’m on the other side of things. I’ll still post, of course, but the schedule will be more sporadic and less frequent.

The photos that accompany these posts may seem familiar; my forest wanderings are dwindling as my bulk increases and baby throws off my balance. It’s better that I focus on walking instead of photography and re-use older photos for my scribblings.

Let’s move ahead organically, and see what happens. My head is still full of stories, dragons and fluttering wings and trees that do things a tree should never do, but hormones and pain are limiting my time at my desk and with my computer. For the next stretch, it’s a notebook and pen for my written adventures, I believe. When it lets up, I’ll be back to share. See you then, friends.

the Professor of mythozoology

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“I’m a mythozoologist.”

“You mean a cryptozoologist?”

The Professor squinted at her. “No, a mythozoologist.”

“What’s the difference?”

Sighing, the Professor tugged at his mustache. “A cryptozoologist is someone who studies and seeks the existence of cryptids, like the Loch Ness monster and the Chupacabra. Sasquatch, you know, creatures people are always seeing but taking very bad photos of.”

“And a mythozoologist?”

“Mythozoologists like myself study mythical beasts. We try to understand their biology and their function as enduring and repeating creatures in the fictional record.” The Professor leaned towards her, his eyes flashing. “Why do unicorns keep cropping up? Why do dragons have so many incarnations in the literature of the world? Why do we have wizards in stories and not in our everyday lives? What is the purpose of legendary beasts? Why do we fiddle with gods but deny these beasts their due as creatures of influence?”

She felt like he expected an answer. “I-I don’t know. To inspire?”

He blinked at her. Grumbling under his breath, he wandered off into his dusty library and left her alone with her questions.

unicorn echolocation

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The mythozoologist stomped into his laboratory. “Have you heard?” he asked his apprentice, waving a sheaf of papers at her.

“Um, no?”

“They’ve discovered that narwhals use their elongated tooth for sonar, it improves echolocation! Do you know what this means for our study of unicorns? This is a major breakthrough!”

The apprentice looked over the journal article he handed to her while he paced across the room and back, muttering to himself. “Echolocation, of course. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Of course unicorns use their alicorns for echolocation! It’s not just for magical vibrations and random stabbings after all. I knew it!”

sweater season

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The boy crossed his arms and walked away from his mother. His fury burned inside him. He did not want to wear his jacket. Jackets get in the way, sweaters are silly, and layers made him feel all squished. He missed the t-shirts of summer, he hated his jacket, and resented his mom for making him wear it.

A breeze blew past and he shivered. He glanced at his mom to make sure she didn’t notice. She was busy inspecting a half-rotten leaf.

The boy sat down on a log and noticed some mushrooms growing along its edge. No. It couldn’t be. He looked closer. It was. Even the mushrooms were wearing an extra, fuzzy layer! Were their mothers mean too?

He reached out to poke one, right in the fuzz. His fingers felt like ice, reddened from the cold. How could it be mitten season already? There wasn’t even any snow yet! The thought didn’t warm up his fingers at all. He brought them up to his mouth and breathed on them. That sometimes worked.

“Want your mittens after all?” asked his mom, holding out his blue mittens.

He shrugged. Of course not, but he put them on anyway. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

forest tyrannosaurs

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“There’s a wasps’ nest over here, come on!” said the boy.

“Are you sure?” asked the first girl.

“Yeah, it’s right over here – oh. Oh no.”

“What happened?” asked the second girl.

“Something got to it.” The boy poked at the broken chunk of nest with a stick.

“Something must have broken it open to eat the wasps,” suggested the first girl.

The second girl’s eyes grew wide. “What kind of a monster eats wasps?”

“One with an armored mouth?” the boy suggested.

The first girl nodded her head in agreement. “And thick, tough skin that a stinger can’t break through.”

The boy gasped. “It’s a T-Rex!” he wailed.

That was all it took. They all ran home in a dreadful fright, certain a tyrannosaurus rex lurked somewhere close.

A raccoon, munching on wasp larva high in the tree, watched them go, wondering what all the fuss was about.

a place to sit and think

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No one likes to see a fairy cry, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to sometimes.

Everyone has a spot, a place they can go to be alone and think things through. Some spots are more elaborate than others, some are places found on foot or through meditation, and some of them have to be flown to.

Hers was a balcony of shelf mushrooms, hidden high on a sapling in a thicket of shadows.

Here she flew to hide her tears, frustrations, and her silly, secret hurts. Here was where she made her plans and thought her fairy thoughts. Here was where she grew, where she became, and where she conquered all her fears.

would you like to come inside for dinner?

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The beast looked out from within his cave, watching, waiting. He didn’t feel sociable today, but visitors were rare and they might be delicious. He licked his lips and found his voice. “Would you like to come inside for dinner?” he asked the children, smiling his ghastliest grin. His fangs glistened in the afternoon light.

The first boy stepped back. “I warn you, I eat a lot of brussel sprouts. I’ll taste bitter and terrible.”

“I’ve never been to Brussels,” said the beast. “But I’ll try anything once.”

“Not me, you won’t,” said a second boy. “I bathed in hot tamales just this morning.”

The beast shrugged. “So I’ll eat you with a glass of milk to cut the spice.”

“I taste delicious!” said the third child, the little sister who’d tagged along. “I eat apples every day and sweets like pie and cake and cookies…”

The beast retched and backed away. “Disgusting!” He dry-heaved his retreat into his cave.

The little girl’s jaw dropped and she burst into disappointed tears as her brothers dragged her away. “I could’ve been eaten by a beastie!” she wailed, and they shook their heads in wonder at her.