I was discussing this with my husband—who is not a writer...or even a reader. He likes movies—and he commented that a writer’s brain fascinated him for this reason. We started talking about how a writer, depending on their choice of genre, could take the same image or concept and write a very different story.
Which leads to this blog. (Glad I was going somewhere with this, aren’t you?_ ; )
I asked our Here Be Magic writers if they’d like to have some fun with an experiment. Many of them did. I gave them an image and asked if they’d write a short story. Now obviously we all write some subgenre of science fiction/fantasy but the differences in each story are astounding!
So here is our writing image: There is a rocking chair in the middle of the forest. How did it get there?
"Zane! Zane! Come see! I just teleported something!"
Zane stared at the empty spot on the patio for a long moment before venturing, "Am I supposed to be seeing something?"
"It's what isn't there," his cousin Jed said triumphantly. "I teleported a chair to another place."
Zane blinked, coming fully awake for the first time. "A chair? Do you mean Katie's special rocking chair? The one she dragged me into four baby furniture stores to find?"
Jed frowned, his glasses slipping down his nose. "I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. I. Just. Teleported. Something. Scientific breakthrough? Eureka?"
Zane stared at him without an ounce of humour. "Bring it back."
"The baby has colic. Katie and I hadn't slept in three weeks until she got that chair. Now bring it back. You do know where you sent it, right?"
"Of course." Jed looked offended. "I used GPS co-ordinates."
Zane relaxed. "Okay, good, that's good. Let's drive out there and collect the rocking chair before Katie and the baby get back from her Mom's."
Jed flushed. "Well, uh, there's one small problem. See, I didn't want to risk hurting anyone so I set the co-ordinates for the middle of the national Forest. There, uh, aren't any roads."
Zane took a step forward; Jed shrank back. The sound of wheels on gravel brought them both to a halt.
Zane exhaled sharply. "Jed, you're my cousin and I'm fond of Aunt Margie, so I'm going to give you a word of advice. That's Katie now in the driveway. Start running. Now."
Cautiously, his big feet barely disturbing the pine needles and dry leaves of the forest floor, he approached the chair. It was too clean, too perfect to have been dumped here, to new to be the remains of some long-crumbled cabin. So how…
A song in the distance swirled through the clearing. He caught his breath, easing back behind the nearest large tree as a woman wafted toward the chair. She was beautiful, inhumanly so, her hair sparkling gold in the dappled sunlight that filtered through the branches. She carried a wrapped bundle in her arms as she moved toward the chair, crooning in a voice that was too beautiful to be real. She seated herself, hugged the bundle—it had to be a child—to her chest and began to rock.
He blinked, almost shocked to see the vision didn’t go away. Had he hit his head? Fallen somehow and now become delirious with exposure? He was a man of science. He didn’t believe in fairies or ghosts, or…
She stilled, turned to look at him, as though she’d heard his thoughts. Piercing eyes of the deepest forest green narrowed as she held his gaze. Whoever she was, whatever she was, now she knew he was here, and she wasn’t pleased at the intrusion. She tipped her chin in an imperious gesture, drawing him closer. He complied, almost as if pulled by an invisible string.
She pulled back the blanket covering the baby’s face. He made himself look. A vision of his future? The past he couldn’t recall? He focused his eyes on the child.
And then he screamed.
He stared at the old rocking chair. At times he’d hated that chair. It reminded him of the life his wife had forsaken to marry him, of the things he could no longer give her. It was a finely made chair, the kind passed down from one generation to another. Quality. Like Serene.
The wood had paled to gold where loving hands had rested, but elsewhere the chair shone deep mahogany in the filtered light. The sun had crested the trees, but here, under the thick canopy of new leaves, the air held on to winter’s chill. He shivered. Rays of dusty light pierced the darkness, highlighting the bracken-littered forest floor. Old ivy and the occasional fern grew thick near the trunks of the ancient trees, but here, in the clearing, only thin grasses grew from the rich soil. Grasses he imagined would bear flowers later in the spring. He almost smiled. Serene would like this place. He could almost see her there, rocking in the chair, their babe in arms, her dark eyes flashing with mirth. Even weary Serene had a ready smile.
If he strained, he could almost hear a faint melody as though the mahogany wood had absorbed her songs. Many nights he’d drifted to sleep to the faint creak of the runners against their rough wooden floor playing accompaniment to her sweet voice.
When the king had offered free land to anyone willing to settle in the new lands, he’d jumped on the chance. A man could work all his life for another man and never accomplish anything. But living by your sweat and blood? That was living. At least that’s what he told Serene. He’d finally be able to get ahead, give her the life she deserved. She’d kissed him, told him he was silly, but packed up and put everything they could on the old wagon. It was a good land, full of promise, except for the small problem of the Svistra to the north. The king had assured them they’d be safe. There was even a fort nearby.
He stared at the chair again. Had it moved? No, that was just the wind dancing through the thick foliage overhead, caressing the old wood with shadows.
He’d tried to talk her out of bringing it. Told her there was no room for the awkward chair. He’d make her another once they arrived, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Her grandfather had made it for her grandmother, back when they lived far south of here where the sun shone and the air was sweet with the scent of ripening fruit. He’d managed to carry it north with them. She insisted they would to the same.
Once Serene had made up her mind, there really wasn’t anything you could do. So he tied it to the top of the wagon, nestled between the baby’s bedding and their clothes. He had to admit, it made a nice shelter for the babe at night as they slept under the stars.
Like with most things, he eventually had to admit that Serene was right. The rocking chair belonged with her.
He glanced around the clearing. It was a sacred place, he could feel it in his bones, but the gods would forgive him. And if they didn’t, what more could they do?
It had happened so fast. One moment she was laughing... the next...
He stared at the chair once more, watched the shadows play and wished so hard, he thought his heart would press out of his chest. And then he turned, walking away from the clearing, leaving the old rocking chair to stand guard over the two freshly dug graves underneath.
Eolynd was fascinated by The Rocking Chair in the woods, from the age of five, which is when first she saw it. She and her brothers and sisters were berry picking with their mother and other village children.
“Look, someone’s left a new chair here in the clearing,” Eolynd said, tugging on her older sister Mairea’s hand. “I want to rock in it!”
“No, little one, you can’t sit in that chair.” Her older sister’s voice was hushed.
“Twas left here by the Elf King himself.” Mairea glanced around uneasily. “it’s a trick, an enticement for the unwary.”
“Truly?” Eolynd retreated a step, chewing her lip and thinking this over.
Her sister made the sign of the evil eye. “See how there’s a ring of moss around it and nothing else grows within five feet?”
“If you sit in the chair, the Elf King takes you to his hidden realm and you’re never seen again,” said one of the older boys from the village, grabbing Eolynd and swinging her high in the air. He was the red headed one who liked to keep company with Mairea.
“What happens to you there?” Eolynd wanted to know as he set her down.
“We need to be picking berries, not standing here gawking at the Elf King’s chair,” her mother said. “Just you listen to your elders and stay away from that thing.”
“But – “
“Enough, girl. There’s work to be done.”
As she grew older, Eolynd often went to the little clearing in the pines to admire the chair. It seemed rooted in the mossy earth, like a tree perhaps, although it was clearly meant to be a rocking chair. Had it been there so long the earth was swallowing it up? The center of the chair’s back was a beautifully carved woodlands scene, with a proud stag filling most of the center. At a certain time of day a shaft of golden sunlight poured directly on the mysterious item, revealing intricate flowers and leaves carved into the arms and the rockers. The Chair never aged, its wood always gleaming and shiny, no matter how much snow had fallen in the winter or how hard the summer sun baked the forest.
Years passed. Mairea married her red headed suitor and started a family which soon grew to five children. Eolynd’s other siblings became adults, those who didn’t die in the Great Sickness, which also carried off Mairea and both of Eolynd’s parents.
The world became a darker place, with rumors of a war raging between the lord Eolynd’s clan owed alliegance to and invaders from beyond the seas. Most of the men in the village went off to serve as soldiers in the war, leaving the women to keep life going as best they could. Only a few elderly men and younger boys remained and that wasn’t enough the day a marauding band of the enemy fell upon the village, slaughtering everyone they encountered.
Taking Mairea’s youngest girl in her arms, Eolynd fled the carnage and the violence, running headlong into the woods with no clear idea of where she was going. Behind her she heard the screams of the dying mixed with the harsh war cries of the enemy.
And then she heard the baying of the hounds that ran in a fearsome pack with the invaders and her blood ran cold. They’re hunting down the survivors. They’re hunting me!
Now she fled like a terrified doe, the toddler clinging to her silently, but the sound of the dogs came closer and closer. Without clear thought Eolynd ran to the clearing and slid to a halt beside the Chair, silent and beautiful as always.
“I can’t run any more,” she said to the child in between panting breaths.
“They’re coming, Auntie.” The tiny girl hid her face in Eolynd’s skirts. “I’m scared.”
She stroked her hand through the child’s tangled black hair with one hand and leaned on the Chair for support with the other. The wood was satin soft under her hand, cool and faintly scented. The elf king takes you away. That’s what the legend said. “How much worse can it be, to live as a servant of some kind in elfdom?” she said out loud.
Picking up her niece, she sat took a deep breath and sat in the chair, pulse racing.
For a moment nothing happened. The shouts of her pursuers grew louder.
Eolynd scooted back more firmly, holding the girl. “Please, please, elf king, if you exist, take us away.”
Thunder rolled overhead in the clear blue sky. The chair rocked under her. Startled, Eolynd made an attempt to rise but her tired legs wouldn’t obey the command.
“You know the consequences of sitting in my chair,” said a deep voice from the edge of the clearing.
With a half shriek, Eolynd turned to see a black haired warrior astride a magnificent stag, with two wolves sitting on either side. The man was handsome, with a thin golden crown on his brow and rich green and purple raiment. An uncut emerald glinted dully in the massive ring on his finger.
“Yes, yes, I do. Please, the enemy soldiers are coming. They’ll kill us as they’ve done to my entire village. Can you – will you, save us?”
The stag paced forward and the man smiled. “And your name, maiden?”
“Eolynd. This is my niece Roschae.” She patted the child on the shoulder.
“Devonn, king of Elfdom, at your service.” He dismounted, landing beside the Chair. Bowing he, said, “I’ve waited a thousand years for the woman brave enough to sit in my Chair and become my Queen, as the legends foretold.”
As thunder rumbled through the skies, Devonn handed her up into the saddle, placing the child in front of her and led the stag from the clearing, the two wolves trotting behind. The trees closed in behind them, creating an impenetrable barrier. Already forgetting the specifics of her ordeal, Eolynd hugged Roschae and looked eagerly ahead, to their shining destination, off in the distance.
And when the bloodthirsty enemy soldiers burst into the clearing, they saw only an old tree stump, gnarled and bent, hollowed out with age.
Come back tomorrow for more of these awesome stories.