Short Story

Old Friends

Old Friends

I leapt through cold, night air beneath the shining, white moon. The city below me fell asleep as I graced the roof tops in solitude, two black ears perking up from my hair that flowed behind me on the warm breeze. I stood on the edge of a building, scanning the streets far below me and I was powerful and graceful and free and…

And then I woke up.

I opened my eyes reluctantly beneath the Star Wars sheets, fumbling for my glasses in a fuzzy haze and desperately trying to cling to the dream that seemed to fade the closer I got to the bathroom and was expelled completely when I placed the large glasses over my eyes and saw my reflection. I was no catwoman. No feline body, no grace, no richness of stolen jewels. Just a simple girl. I saw the familiar mass of ginger hair, cluster of freckles and stretching of pale skin. My body, a little short for a storm trooper, was huddled inside Slytherin pyjamas and Monsters Inc slippers. Just a simple girl wishing to be much less ordinary.

I descended down the winding, magnificent flagstone staircase from my chamber, passing along the balcony that let the orange sun flood through the building, bathing me in a warming glow.

Or at least in my mind I did.

In reality I plodded down the stairs, trudged through the sitting room, dragged myself down the corridor and lumbered into the kitchen seeing the same things I had seen every single day of my life. Nothing new or exciting, just the same green carpet and creamy walls. There was no beautifully carved furniture in any of the rooms, no candles ornamenting the walls, no moat flowing around the perimeter, no mountains growing in the distance with dragons flying round their peaks or unicorns grazing on the slopes. It was…normal. Boring was a harsh word to use against a house I had lived in my entire life but it wasn’t entirely untrue. This was a house that I have grown up in, its walls watching over me as a child as I read books and played games, then growing up and became who I am. But, when I thought I would grow out of imagination and fantasy, I found that I began to crave it more. When I was finally old enough to appreciate what I had around me, I found myself wanting to escape it even more. I feel almost guilty decorating it in imagination in an attempt to cover up the ordinariness in which there are memories and family but there is a longing inside me for something new and different and exciting that stems back to my childhood and has grown along with me.

In the kitchen I pulled open the cupboard and found a small selection of cereals and, despite wanting change, I chose the cereal I always did! Taking the bowl to the table I sat down, staring at the soggy cornflakes that floated in an excessive amount of milk. I sighed and looked out of the window with a faint glimmer of hope but nothing caught my eye except the familiar, mottled green, uneven field and the expressionless sheep that grazed upon it. Grey clouds stained the sky, seeping over the landscape.

Then something behind the idle sheep did catch my eye. I became aware of the tall reeds in the distance at the bottom of the hill that, once upon a time, I had played in for hours, dreaming up scenarios and plots between the long, waxy stems that towered above my head. I ran away from dragons through them, hid from orcs behind them, pretending it was giant maze and getting intentionally lost, then fighting my way out on horse back. Nothing could have interrupted my imagination back then; it flowed in a continuous stream of magic and mystery and mayhem. Everything was drenched in imagination and I lived in a naive little hole of fantastical possibility. ‘But not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’*(Tolkien, J R R. The Hobbit 1937 (George Allen & Unwin) p. 3)

After a busy day of exercising my imagination and running through the field, my mother would tuck me into bed. And with my eyes just peeping above the Spiderman sheets, she would read The Hobbit to me; breathing life into that tattered and torn book and filling my dreams with barefooted heroes and a fixation on finding an adventure that would lead Bilbo Baggins and I from the green, tranquil meadows of the Shire to the mythical lands of the Misty Mountains. We would trek through immense forests, climb steep hills, walk silently over vast pastures and dance beneath stars beside a small fire in the shelter of a cave. I remember sitting beside that fire and Bilbo would always turn to me and tell me to go anywhere I wanted even when others dare not. ‘Follow your heart and there’s no knowing where you’ll be swept off to.’

‘I promise, Mr Bilbo. I promise.’

Leafing through the pages, once again I smile with fondness. It’s like seeing old friends, the companions that I shared a childhood with, the characters that shaped my upbringing. But my smile is also laced with apology and regret as the older I get the harder I find it to keep that promise. I feel myself growing out of the hobbit hole, I bang my head on the wooden rafters and the cutlery is too small for my hands to hold. I can’t sit in the antique chair by the fire and I have to stoop down low to get in and out of the door. Slowly the magic and mystery and mayhem were replaced by reality, realism and responsibility. Age is slowly prising the illusion of magic from my thoughts. But I will not give up on that promise I gave to Bilbo. Not yet. He taught me better than to give in to the conformities of life so soon.

He taught me to never turn back on what I believe in. To hold on to what I think is important and to fight for what I think is right. He taught me that all darkness is only a passing shadow and the light to expel it is inside us, inside my heart where this tale is kept. That book became a perfect embodiment of hope, enabling me to distance myself from the trials of common life and engage with a place where fear, violence, evil and even life itself aren’t so scary anymore It is a story that stuck with me, that meant something, despite being too small at the time to understand why. It taught me to make free choices. It gave me the pride to be different. It gave me the strength to be a fighter. To be invincible, determined and ambitious. Unbound, unlimited and free.

And this is why becoming a writer means so much to me. When I imagine my words printed upon crisp pages and seeing a cover with my name on it I feel something stir inside me, a scratchy, achy longing that I remember from my childhood as I ran through those fields. And when I use my imagination to create wondrous places and beautiful people of my own I am transported from ordinary life to a place of infinite possibility. There is something beautifully satisfying about words gliding and surging across a page from your own hand. It’s freeing, it’s magical, it’s creative and it’s unique. And it lets me give something back to all those fictional characters that taught me such valuable lessons. I feel alive making an art out of everyday, sometimes boring, actions. I’m given the chance and the power to change the world one word at a time.

I write for love of the art and for the freedom I feel. I write for myself to stay close to Fiction and I write for others who I know feel the same.

I walked back to the bathroom to brush my teeth and I stared into the mirror. Ginger hair, freckles, pale skin.

And an imagination that is indestructible.

 

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