Afternoon Miniature 10.3.21

The pair sat there on the thick carpet cross-legged, knees touching knees, wearing seersucker outfits that tied at the shoulder and came trimmed in rickrack. Playsuits, their mothers called them. Midday sunshine filtered through foliage in a large tree just beyond the room’s only window, so that there was no need to switch on a lamp or the overhead light. But the room felt shadowy still.

“Shhhhh.” The older, slightly taller of the pair leaned towards her younger companion with a finger to her lips and in so doing nearly touched the other child’s forehead with her own.

This action made the child uncomfortable, and so she rocked back upon her rump and unfolded her legs, now allowing them to splay outward in a way she’d been warned not to sit. It was bad for the knees, she’d been told, but to her felt somehow comfortable for sinew and joint.

“You get there by boat, a ferry boat,” explained the older child in a tone to suggest worldliness. Her eyes narrowed now for dramatic effect. “There is a person on the boat who helps you climb on. It is very dark, and very cold.”

The younger child’s eyes grew wide and she felt her heartbeat quicken inside her chest.

“The water is shallow, but you can’t see to the bottom of it. The person has a long pole he pushes to make the boat go forward. You go a little ways before you see the opening.”

“Opening to what?”

The older child cleared her throat and glanced to her right, towards the door at the other end of the long room. She spoke quieter still, almost in a whisper.

“It is a cave. The ferry boat is about to go inside a cave. The walls glow red, and the cave twists and turns, so that you can’t see what is ahead. It gets darker and darker the deeper you go. The red walls make you think the cave should be hot, but instead it is very, very cold. Like I said.

“You go on for a long, long way like this, twisting and turning in the cold tunnel, and after a while, you stop feeling cold. The tunnel begins to widen, and after a big, big bend you can see another opening ahead, but it is dark. When the boat passes through the opening, the noises stop and you can sense the space all around you is big…bigger than anything you know.”

“What noise stops?”

“The sloshing sound the boat makes when it moves through the water. And the sound of the pole, which sometimes clatters when the man lets it hit the side of the boat. All of that stops, there is only quiet, and space, and then you see a dim light far ahead. The boat is just floating in the water now, but it is coming closer, closer, closer to the light.

“Suddenly, you can see it!”

“What? See what?”

“The biggest mountain you could ever imagine, but it is made of gold and silver and jewels, and it is…sparkling…but that is not all!”

“What else is there?”

“After your eyes get used to the darkness, you can see movement—something is skittering around the piles of gold and silver and jewels,” she continued, gesturing with her fingers and arms to mimic the skittering, “and some of them have wings. They are very tiny—they are faeries! They are busy sorting the gold and the diamonds into piles! But because they are so tiny, each one of them can lift only a small piece of metal or jewel at a time. So it takes many, many faeries to do this work, and then you begin to understand…they have been doing this, sorting these treasures, for ages!”

The younger child exhaled deeply and gulped in her next breath, realizing she had not breathed at all through this last bit of the story.

“This is what I saw before the man made me go back last time. He turned the boat and we left. He did not say a word. When I asked him questions, he was only silent. Now I will—must go back again.”

Drawn into the narrative and utterly captivated by it, the younger child blurted out, “Take me with you!”

“Getting there is…difficult. You must change.”

“Change? How?”

 “Change…your size, like Alice when she eats the cake—you must grow very, extremely tiny to fit through the gate to get to the pier with the boat.”

“Where is the gate?”

The older child assumed the demeanor of an ancient mystic who has nothing left of a story to tell, but with one skinny, crooked index finger, gestured slowly to the electrical outlet on the wall behind her.

Strains of music floated from a downstairs television up, up, up and into the long room, where the pair of children were left to contemplate shape shifting into miniature versions of themselves, like sands through the hourglass, suggested the voiceover, on this sultry afternoon day in their lives.

4 thoughts on “Afternoon Miniature 10.3.21

  1. Oh my! My grandmother was almost electrocuted when her family first got electric light in their home. It was a single light in the kitchen above the table. Before they had put the bulb in, the kids were playing around and her older sister told her to stick her finger in the socket. Just as she was about to (standing on the table) my great grandmother came in and they scrambled down. She was lectured about the dangers of electricity and was very afraid of it for the majority of her life… She refused to change a light bulb out of fear of death!

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