“Young Winston’s Birthday”
Copyright Jack Sutter 2018-2020
It was morning. The sun poured out its golden rays over a rocky moorland which heaved and swelled like a sea of stone covered in spongy grass, bathing the world with a libation of radiance. Nearby, only a short walk from the nearest village, there was the ruin of an old castle, around which the last dewy mists of dawn lingered still. Long ago the great keep of the castle had been cloven in two by some terrible power. But portions of the two crumbling halves yet remained, battered and tumbled like rough hewn stone, yet still defiant as they stood tall and proud under the sun, even in death.
Nearby the old castle, there was a small road. Bright purple thistles grew up between the broken and overturned cobbles, and skipping his way through these was a small boy.
Winston Oakapple was nine years old. Bright eyed, curious, and adventurous, his heart swelled with the vitality of youth, and his blood fairly ran with blackberry jam and mushroom sauce. He was always in high spirits, but today his spirits were particularly high. For today happened to be his birthday.
The morning had started off perfectly. He had awakened straight away as the cock crowed to find his birthday present waiting for him right at the foot of his bed, just as promised: A large blackberry pie. And straight away after rising, Winston set out to eat his pie in his favorite place: The old ruins.
He only paused once on his way. Near the edge of the village, he had run into little seven year old Mary Blackroot. It was her birthday as well that day, but Mary was a strange girl who nobody liked, and she was not invited to Winston’s birthday party. Winston stopped only long enough to tell Mary both these things in very plain language before he continued onward towards the glorious pie-filled destiny ahead of him, and left the girl standing silently in his wake.
As Winston approached the ruins he noticed that the morning mist was still drifting around the weathered pillars. As he clamoured over the broken ground the mist grew thicker, until it almost obscured the sun.
Then suddenly, Winston saw an awesome sight.
There, standing beside a great fallen stone, was a beautiful woman. A silvery gown clung silkily to her limbs, while her hair draped over her shoulders and down to her waist like a golden waterfall.
As Winston watched, the woman knelt down beside the stone, and murmured a prayer in a strange language. Winston’s eyes then almost popped out of his head as the woman reached up to her chest and removed a bright golden necklace from around her neck and set it upon the stone. Then, without a word she arose, and with a strange swiftness she stepped away and vanished into the misty recesses of the ruins.
Winston was a well bred boy. He knew stealing was wrong. But as he gazed at the glittering necklace lying on the stone he felt a strange lust blooming in his heart that was even greater than lust for blackberry pie. With a guilty glance over one shoulder, he set down his pie and darted over to the stone.
Suddenly, as his fingers were almost touching the necklace, he heard a scream.
Just as suddenly, the golden necklace vanished into thin air and Winston whirled around to see a terrible dark shape looming in the mist. It was like an old woman, but as tall as a giant with claws like a hawk and fangs like a boar, and eyes like a pair of bright fireballs.
Winston screamed, and scrambled out of the way just in time as the creature lunged at him. Scraped and bleeding, Winston tumbled and rolled down the stones back to road and ran away in the direction of the village, still screaming.
The terrible creature stood still beside the stone. Or nearly still, that is. For suddenly she began to shrink, and in a moment she had transformed into a beautiful woman with long golden hair. But the shrinking didn’t stop, and in another moment she had transformed again into a little seven year old girl.
Mary Blackroot giggled to herself. Then, she scampered over to the place where Winston’s pie lay on the ground. Snatching up her prize, the fey little girl giggled once more, and then disappeared into the ruins.
For you see, it was her birthday too.