Welcome to Canadanua Short Stories and Bedtime Stories.
The stories here are original and destined for an anthology of sorts. Free to enjoy, but not to reproduce, without permission from the author. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. All story rights retained by the writer/owner of Canadanua.com ©
Once upon a time, there was a little pixie. The little pixie would wander into the forest every day to gather food and herbs for her family. On her daily walkabout, she encountered many creatures, and she was always friendly with them.
Some of them, however, happened to be mosquitos. They liked the little pixie’s joyful company, but because they were mosquitos, they did what mosquitos do: they landed on the little pixie and bit her, for their sustenance.
Over time, the little pixie grew weaker and weaker, while the demands upon her time (and blood supply ) grew stronger.
Soon, she grew so weak, she could no longer go into the forest to gather food and herbs for her family.
She fell asleep. She slept for a long, long time.
When she awoke, she felt renewed. She felt energetic (and hungry enough to eat a whole cow). She felt she could take on the World, just like she used to.
She got up. She cooked breakfast for her family out of what was left in her cupboard. Then she went back into the forest for the first time in a long time.
After a while, she realized the mosquitos weren’t biting her as before. They were landing and swarming her as usual, but they no longer drew blood.
She asked them ‘Why do you not feed? Are you not hungry?’
The mosquitos answered: ‘In your absence, we were forced to find other sources to supply our needs. We had come to rely so much on you because you let us take it from you, willingly, without our ever having to struggle for it, or risk being swatted. We realized that the demands we were putting upon you were making you sick.’
‘We lost our food. More importantly, we lost your joyful company. We could find our food elsewhere, but we could never replace your company. That’s when we decided to stop biting you.’
Ever since, Pixies and mosquitos have coexisted in perfect harmony. On occasion, pixies allow their mosquitos to ‘bite,’ only now, they risked getting swatted if they grew bothersome.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY:
It is better to be a pixie who swats, than a mosquito that sucks.[ It is even better to be neither; to simply give and receive without restraint, to look out for one another, and to never take from others that which you can achieve for yourself, with only just a little effort. ?]
Once upon a time, there was a millipede named Mut. Early each morning, while the children slept soundly, he ventured forth into the world above the ground to look for his children’s breakfast. On this morning, Mut was feeling particularly antsy. The source of his worry was the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. That meant he not only had to find breakfast for the children this morning; he had to look for pollen for to buy them new honeycomb shoes from the shoemaker bees.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of honeycombs to shoe a millipede; even if it’s a child. In the past, try as he may, he could never find enough pollen. As the school years came and went, he’d watch his children go into the school excited but barely shod. Seeing that his kids were just as excited about their first day of school in their bare feet as the kids with shoes were, made him watery-eyed every time. With many years of practice, he had cultivated the ability to hold back the tears until the last of his children disappeared down the hallway of the school; then he’d allow the tears to run their course as he made for the pollen field.
But on that first day, he was met by one of the centipede parents. The centipede wanted to make him a “business proposition.” The centipede would help him gather pollen in exchange for “a small commission.”
“That way, your children won’t have to go to school in their bare feet” said the centipede,” and…you will be done much sooner.”
“I will help you gather enough pollen for shoes the week before school starts,” the centipede continued. “In return you will give me half of what you gather every day throughout the school year.” The millipede thought about this, but only for a moment. He did not want to think anything but that his kids would never be shoeless again; especially for their first day of school. He was so happy. On that very day, the centipede helped him gather so much pollen that for the very first time, his children had shoes on every one of their feet, and life was good again.
After dropping the kids at school the next morning, Mut got busy gathering pollen. He worked with an enthusiasm as never before. When it came nearly time to bring the kids home from school, the centipede showed up to divide the day’s bounty into two piles of nearly equal size; one for the centipede, the other for the millipede.
“Thank you,” said the centipede. “Here’s your share.” The centipede pointed to the lesser of the two piles. Seeing the two piles were different in size did not bother the millipede because now his children would all have shoes – and maybe a toy or two to boot! He was feeling happy, like never before.
But as the school year progressed, the centipede took a larger share of the pollen for himself.
“It is what all the millipedes are getting,” he explained.
The millipede, meanwhile, was obliged to spend even more time gathering pollen to make up for his shrinking portion. By the halfway point in the school year, the millipede was working right on up until dark so that his pile was large enough to provide for the children’s supper. He had to hire a sitter to pick up his children after school and look after them, until he got home.
But after he started paying a babysitter, there was not enough pollen leftover for exercise books and, God-help-him, toys. He was obliged to work later and later. He heard that most of the other millipedes were involved in similar arrangements with centipedes. At the end of the school year, the pollen stores of the millipede families had grown considerably smaller, even as those of the centipedes grew larger.
At summer’s end, the millipede was both work and worry-weary. He hardly saw his children. There was no longer time to play monopoly with them, to tell them bedtime stories, or for drawing crayon pictures with them on Sunday afternoons because he was always working. He hoped the sitter was doing all of these things. When he did see them, he was obliged to reach deep down just to keep from being cranky with them.
When he brought the kids to school for the start of the new year, he noticed there weren’t any centipede children. He was told they’d all enrolled in that brand new school a way over yonder, atop the anthill.
Very few of the millipede children were wearing a full set of shoes on that first day of school. Some had no shoes at all. A part of him was relieved that his children were not the only ones. He felt that he didn’t need to worry about the centipedes, or their children, since they had pollen aplenty to shoe and supply their children; and for their children he was happy.
And each night he would fall asleep wondering what his children did that day.
Ish and Annie vs the Demon of No Forgiveness
-an Ish and Annie series tale-
The sun shone down upon Barbelo the same way it did every morning – that is to say, exactly the way you would, if you happened to live there – expect it to! Annie dragged herself out of her nice warm bed, wiping the sleep from her eyes as she slogged toward her balcony to see what kind of day it was going to be today. Strangely, she knew what kind of day it was, precisely one moment before she actually saw…but being a Barbelite, she was used to that. She didn’t believe she actually made the weather herself, or that somehow, the weather in Barbelo responded to her thoughts or mood, as some of the philosophers whispered, but sure enough, no sooner than she had thought ‘rain’ and ‘grey’, she saw the sun disappear behind a cloud. ‘Barbelite coincidence’, she thought.
She looked across from her balcony to the spires of the Great Hall of Barbelo, shimmering with a glow of their own making, since the sun had decided (or Annie’s mood made it happen?) to hide behind the clouds that day. The Great Hall formed the centre, around which Ish and Annie’s favourite spots to play were arranged like the spokes on a bicycle wheel: the Forest of Foreknowledge, the spectacular Terraced Gardens of Truth, the Lake of Forever, and, the place where the Barbelites kept residence – the Halls of Eternity. Somewhere, down there, Ish was doing something, though Annie knew not what. She had the feeling that Ish was mad at her for something, though she knew not what it could be…she wasn’t even sure why she was thinking he was mad at her at all. If only he would call…
Annie turned away from the balcony. Perched on her window ledge was that owl which seemed to follow Ish and Annie everywhere they went, uninvited, she would add. She hadn’t seen it come; but then it had that gift of arriving completely unnoticed. It never appeared exactly the same way two times in a row. Today it was grey….”Go figure!” she thought.
“And how are you today, owl?” The owl remained silent, looking at her intently.
“Cat got your tongue?” Annie teased. The bird said nothing but Annie noticed its colour beginning to change, from grey to bright rainbow. She saw that her playfulness had some pleasant effect on the owl, though it remained silent. She herself was feeling better, just because, despite the mood she woke up with, she spoke something cheerful to the owl. Somehow, saying something to make someone else feel better, especially when you felt like rotten potatoes on the inside, always seemed to boomerang, and you immediately began to feel better yourself – another strange thing about living in Barbelo.
Annie went into her pantry and retrieved a cracker which she left on the ledge near where the owl had perched itself. She turned back to her chamber, to get washed. The sun had poked out again, showering all of Barbelo with its customary warmth; Annie resolved to go look for Ish as soon as she got ready. Perhaps he would like to share some breakfast on their favourite beach?
When she approached the lavatory, she suddenly became aware of the shower running. In the same instant, she heard a scream (a boys’ voice, no less!) and wondered who could possibly be taking a shower in her lavatory! She was afraid to peek inside and instead hollered through the bathroom door:
“Who’s in there? What are you doing in my shower?” The sound of the running water was her only response, but that too became silent after a moment.
“‘Who’s out there?” She heard a familiar, but frightened voice ask.
“It’s Annie! Who is this….Ish?” she asked tentatively. There was a moment of ponderous silence.
“Annie? Is that you?” What are you doing….what am I doing here?” Then “I’ll be out in just a moment!”
After a time, the bathroom door opened and out came Ishmael dressed in his favourite swimming trunks.
“What are you doing in my shower?” asked Annie. Ishmael was looking very bewildered. It was obvious he didn’t know just how he came to be there. Annie began to worry if her thinking about Ish had somehow brought him to her chambers?
“I don’t know. I got up early this morning, and I didn’t want to wake you up too early, so I went down to the lake to go for a swim. No sooner did I jump into the water when the water got suddenly warm and it felt like rain. Now I am in your bathroom and you are yelling at me!”
Ishmael was looking to Annie for some explanation. Annie hated having such pressure on her, because she barely understood the workings of Barbelo herself; but since she had been there longer than Ish had, and since she had been assigned to be Ish’s mentor, she understood why he thought she would have all the answers.
“Your silly owl is on the balcony. Maybe he‘ll tell you what happened!” Annie walked past Ish to go have her shower. That’s when the alarm from the Great Hall sounded.
At the stroke of the Great Summons, everything in Barbelo changed: the sun froze in the sky, the sunshine no longer reflected off the spires of the Great Hall, the songs of the birds somehow became frozen among the air currents which bore them to their listeners’ ears. Everyone ceased whatever it was they were doing, and went to take up their places in the Hall. No one ever knew when the Great Summons would ring out across the land; but when it did, everyone knew it was serious.
Ish and Annie were among the last to take up their seats among the terraced rows which formed a semi-circle around the Dais at the centre of the Hall. The Great Philosophers: Aristotle, Plato, Gibrahn, Iqbal, Rushd, Gandhi, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, the Rabbi Yere’im, John-Paul II, and many others, were already seated, staring intently at the figures seated upon, and surrounding the Dais.
Seated upon a chair in the centre of the Dais was the ‘Ineffable One’, or as it was most commonly referred to, ‘the One’; the one that was known by many different names, but never ever referred to itself by name, except one time to say to Moses, “I am”. On either side were many others which Ish and Annie easily recognized: Jesus, Mohammed, Hammurabai…however all eyes were fixed upon one in particular, he who always spoke for the ‘Ineffable One’ because it seemed the One rarely spoke for itself: the Archangel Jibraaiyl or AJ, as he was commonly known, was stooped toward the One, listening intently. Soon the gong requesting silence pealed across the Hall and the noisy din went silent.
The archangel straightened and moved to the front of the Dais, to address the Hall.
“Souls of Barbelo!” He spoke barely above a whisper, yet somehow, magically, his voice carried to each and every ear as if he was standing right beside them and speaking to them alone.
“We have very bad tidings. Satan has freed a most powerful Demon to torment the souls of the Earth. It is the Demon of No-Forgiveness. This Demon is going around convincing the people of the Earth that forgiveness is a big lie; that it is really just another word for letting other people take advantage of you, or do things to you, without their ever having to be sorry; without ever having to make it up – a free ticket!” A murmur arose among the esteemed gathering, growing louder – “Surely the humans were not to be fooled by this? Surely they knew forgiveness didn’t mean to lay down and let the wheels run over you!”
“How bad is it?” asked Plato, rising from his seat in the first tier.
AJ considered for a moment, “Bad enough the humans are redefining forgiveness for themselves…that forgiveness is not a step to restore togetherness, but rather, has become the final step in isolation – the last brick in the wall which separates two souls, one from the other!”
“What does he mean?” Ishmael asked Annie. Annie shrugged her shoulders.
“Listen!” she said.
AJ continued: “It is very bad! Rather than truly forgiving, and continuing to build accord, forgiveness for them means they no longer think about what the other person has done or said which hurt them; they no longer think about it because they have built a wall between them which prevents this person from ever hurting them again. Or so they would have themselves believe. This is so very attractive, because no one wants to feel pain or sorrow, and the Demon is convincing them that this is the best way to do it.”
“Best way, how?” asked Annie. All eyes turned toward her.
“Best way, because it is easiest.” Replied the Archangel. Annie did not quite know what to make of this answer, but resolved to listen and perhaps it would become clearer soon enough.
Iqbal rose to address the Hall. “It is apparent, what the Demon’s endgame is” he explained. If enough people do this enough times, then no one will be talking to anyone else. Our God could not make a world where people were ‘perfect’. In an imperfect world, people will both act imperfectly and understand imperfectly; therefore no one can even go one day without giving offense to someone – real or imagined. And without the ability to truly forgive…”
“A world of individuals, where everyone feels alone!” Michael, standing behind the Seat, chimed in.
“Because they are separated from each other…” Said the Rabbi.
“and therefore…from the One. They are being made to forget we are one.” Added John-Paul. Annie didn’t know what to make of that either, but she knew Ish would be asking.
“Exactly!” confirmed Iqbal. The others in the tower began to confer amongst each other. Soon, they knew, the Archangel would be asking for volunteers for to go to the Earth and do battle with this Demon.
“And don’t you volunteer like you always do!” Ishmael was saying. He was right, Annie knew. She was always volunteering; she couldn’t help but say ‘Yes’ when someone needed her. The problem was, she knew, is that she said “yes” before giving anyone else a chance to even think. It was just like her.
She became aware that the Hall became silent around her. “Oops!” she thought. “Had she just…”?
“Annie, you’ve done it again!” Ish was whispering. Yes she had done it again. Somehow she had a hard time keeping her thoughts in her head, and once out she could not pull them back in…they exited her brain faster than a child running to the Candy Store with 50 cents allowance. But to be fair, in Barbelo any good thought took on a life of its own the moment it was thought and soon permeated everything. On the other hand, negative thoughts seemed to die the moment they were conceived – this was why any bad news coming from Earth required a gathering at the Great Hall for anyone, other than the One on the Dais, to have knowledge of it.
The Great Hall erupted in applause as AJ acknowledged her offer. His gratitude, which, everyone knew, but few understood, was the gratitude of the One, filled the room.
“Will we allow young Annie to face the Demon alone?” the Archangel was asking the inevitable second question, the one to which Ishmael always…
“Thank you, Ishmael.” He heard the archangel say. “Now I’ve gone an done it!” Ishmael thought. He turned his head to catch Annie smiling at him knowingly. He had just done the very thing he had only a moment before been chastising her for. Ishmael wisely decided to swallow the remonstrance emerging from his throat. Soon after, several others had volunteered and the host, led by the archangel Michael, was now in place.
“Well you really got us into it this time!” Ishmael complained on the way back to their chambers in the Hall of Eternity.
‘I didn’t make you volunteer.” Annie rejoined, somewhat irritated.
“No, you didn’t. But I…” they both became silent and then burst into laughter. “It’s always the same thing” they found themselves thinking.
In a twinkling of a thought, they found themselves on Earth, standing with the Michael the Archangel, the Philosophers, and the angels, everyone who had volunteered to accompany Annie and Ishmael on their mission. They were standing among a great crowd of people, suddenly thrust into chaos. People were running every which way, many times banging into one another (without so much as an “excuse me!”) as they busied themselves with only they knew what. Some people were yelling, some crying, some speaking aloud to no one in particular. There was dust, smells, and confusion everywhere.
“It is has gotten much worse than I thought.” Said Michael. Ish, Annie, and the others drew themselves away from the chaos, looking to Michael to see what they should do next.
“I am not certain what we should do…” he was saying, as if reading her mind. This was another weird thing about being a Barbelite: people always seemed to know what you were thinking, without being inside your head- somehow only the thoughts which were relevant to them, as if you had spoken to them. Making sure the right thought got to the right person took quite some discipline, even for the more experienced Barbelite.
“We must find the demon, that’s for sure. But what to do next?” he pondered.
“We will know when we find him.” Someone said.
As they navigated their way through the crowd, it became apparent that people were yelling accusations at other people, but the other people were not hearing because they were also busy yelling accusations and complaints. Everyone was so busy yelling that no was even listening, and so every word was wasted! This was a strange phenomenon about Earth – humans were not able to speak, or even think, and listen at exactly the same moment; even if God was able to provide them with the wherewithal to do so, they would still have to pause their speaking for a moment in order to understand the other’s meaning – it was obvious that no one was doing that, because no one seemed to ever stop talking. It was never that way in Barbelo.
As they approached the centre of the crowd, Annie began to feel some foreboding.
“We are getting closer.” Michael said.
Ishmael suddenly stopped in his tracks, and turned to Annie. “If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be in this mess! We could be killed by the Demon. Why should we risk ourselves? We have already survived and gone on. We did it without their help! They laugh at the idea that we even exist! Why should we help them?”
Annie was taken aback by her friend’s sudden anger. She couldn’t think what to say to him, but she knew his outburst had something to do with their being so close to the Demon. Her feet continued to propel her forward, toward the centre of the crowd. And she knew what they would find there…she felt suddenly cold. ‘Ish?” She queried.
“Annie, I’m sorry…. I know why….”
“Shhhh!” she interrupted. “Do you hear it?” Annie was bending an ear toward the centre of the crowd, now listening intently. There was a sound, more like a hum, coming from somewhere ahead. It sounded like it had some sort of rhythm, words and cadences, repeating over and over again. Michael had also stopped to listen. Soon, the hum began to resolve itself into words:
“Why should I listen? I haven’t done that to you? Why should I let you do it to me? I will never let you do it again! You will never have the chance to do it again. I will make you go away! I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries” over and over and over again. Beneath the rhythm, there was something else, something continual, a-rhythmic, getting louder, stronger, as time went on…Annie could feel it, but she couldn’t put a finger on what it was. Ishmael could feel it too.
“I think I know what it is.”Ishmael was saying.
“What?” asked Iqbal. “What is what?”
“What is carrying the song into the crowd. It’s loneliness!” Ishmael said. “And it is getting stronger, the closer we are getting to whatever is at the centre of this crowd.”
“ It is both the beginning and the end of their affliction.” Added Iqbal. The others stopped for a moment, not understanding. “It is the key to the Demon’s success. No one has passed through a door which has not been opened to them, and no thought has ever passed through a heart which has not been opened to them – loneliness is the key to that heart. Rather, it is the seed of Loneliness- it permits people to make themselves believe that no one will understand why they feel the way they do; that no one has ever felt what they are feeling; that they are alone in the world with their feelings. And that they are happier, because they are protected by the Wall.”
“But how can they make themselves believe that? Haven’t we all learned that this just isn’t true? All’s one has to do is ask someone else – anyone else!” said Annie.
“That’s exactly it.” Said Iqbal. “Because of the seed of loneliness growing inside them, it does not occur to them to ask; because they are feeling like the only ‘one’ in the world – they would not trust the answer anyway!”
“They, over the time, lose their ability to hear, to listen, so that their ears become only decorations on the side of their heads!” Ishmael said. Annie recalled Ish wiggling his ears, and smiled to herself.
“Precisely. That is how it begins. After a time, it grows into outright yelling at people, and not listening to what people are really saying; all the while believing exactly what is opposite to what anyone that is really listening would conclude: that they were themselves being unreasonable the whole time!”
“Eventually they will find themselves yelling at no one, because everyone will be gone away,” Annie concluded.
“When it gets to the point where someone is talking, without stopping to listen for a reply, or understanding, then this has already happened. The fact that no one is taking them seriously anymore means that they are already utterly alone.” By this time the host had come to the centre of the crowd, and to the source of this feeling of loneliness. There, seated upon a cherubim out of whose mouth water had at one time issued, was the Demon of No-Forgiveness. It was busy whispering its mantra of loneliness and isolation into the wind, perching itself among the ears of the crowd….listening to this, without ever intending to or being aware. It was smiling to itself, observing the crowd becoming more and more aggressive, each one becoming more and more isolated from the others. It took no notice of Ish, Annie, and the others.
Annie walked straight up to the Demon, stopping directly in front of it.”Get out of the way!” said the Demon. “I have work to do!” Michael and the others were perched on their tiptoes, not really sure of what Annie was up to; ready to come to her aid in a moment.
“You have work to do?” Annie replied with a hint of sarcasm.
Ish could see that she was afraid; he could feel her courage. “Where was she finding the courage to provoke the Demon? Why was she trying to provoke the Demon?”
“Yes work….important work.” Said the Demon.
“If your work is so important, how is it that no one is listening to you?” Annie challenged.
The Demon was now becoming interested in the young girl who was so bold as to confront him directly. It smiled down at her. “But they are listening…without realizing it, they are doing exactly what I want them to…as are you.” The Demon was evidently quite pleased with itself.
“As am I?” repeated Annie. “How can you be so certain?”
“Because you are dancing to the same song as the others. A song that is not of your making…but you think that it is.” Said the Demon.
Ishmael could feel the Demon’s self-pleasure. He could feel something else too – that the sense of loneliness which the Demon was emitting, was beginning to waver, had ebbed somewhat, because Annie was succeeding in distracting it. “So that’s what she’s up to!” Ishmael concluded. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Michael nodding at him emphatically. It was now time for action…the Demon’s own self-conceit had left it vulnerable, wavering, and with it, the feeling of isolation with which the crowd was beset had waned also. Ishmael jumped in front of Annie, facing the Demon.
“I know you.” Ishmael said to the Demon.
The Demon laughed. “That is impossible. No one knows me. I have never come here before now.”
“Do you not think so? I have heard your song before….many times already!” For a moment, the Demon considered, searching inside itself, uncertain. The foreboding wavered.
“That is quite impossible. No one has ever sang this song before, because it is my song! It is my own creation.” The crowd was calming down to the point where Annie could discern what some people were yelling at the others. This could only be because some of them had stopped yelling. Some people must actually have begun listening!
“Yet I have heard this song before. It therefore could not have been created by You! A friend, perhaps?”
This was apparently quite upsetting to the Demon. It’s song was slowing in tempo, lacking energy. But the Demon seemed to take no notice, because it was so busy arguing (and winning, it thought), with the two little humans. “I have no friends. No family. I am one.” Averred the Demon. Ishmael began to hum “I am a rock; I am an island; And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries…”
“Hold!” said the Demon. “What is that you are singing? That is my song!”
“But it isn’t your song.” Countered Annie. “That song was a favourite of my parents! It was sung by Simon and Garfunkel. And contrary to why you are singing it, they sang it to be reminded of how silly any one is if they really believe it about themselves!”
‘So you see,” added Ishmael, “You could not have made it up. It was a song created by someone else, long ago. They were friends of yours, perhaps?”
“I have no….FRIENDS! I Am unique. I am one!” the Demon was itself screaming. No longer the epitome of self-assurance. Its song, and the feeling it was being borne by, was itself becoming fragmented, disjointed, even as the din of the crowd began to resolve itself into voices, complete sentences, and the intervening silences of listening and consideration.
“You have no father? No mother? No friends? How on Earth did you even get here?” Ishmael rejoined.
“I was sent by….Lucifer….to…”
“And Lucifer sent you so that you would fail!” Michael challenged.
“No!” The master would not want me to….”
The Demon was unable to finish a single thought. Ishmael, Annie, Michael, and the others surrounded the Demon, firing questions at it from all sides. The Demon was beginning to shake – too upset to continue its song; Annie thought, because it began to believe the song wasn’t his.
“Oh but he would. Why else do you think he didn’t tell you that your song wasn’t an original? Perhaps so you wouldn’t have to pay royalties?” Laughter erupted from the host encircling it.
This was more than the Demon could bear. It lowered its head and screamed, “Lucifer! Help me!” and at that very moment the demon went
…fragmenting into a trillion pieces of dark matter.
Ish looked at Annie, who of course knew he would be looking at her for some kind of explanation! Annie did not speak; but, coincidentally Ish’s owl showed up and alighted on Annie’s head. “Nothing comes for free.” She thought.
“The thing which feeds this Demon’s soul is that it must be unique.” The owl explained. What it is cannot have been before. What it does cannot have been done before. What it feels, cannot have been felt before, by anyone…otherwise it is not unique.” The others listened to the owl intently.
“And if this is true, then there is no one who can understand it.” Said Aristotle.
“And there is no one it can call to for help.” Iqbal concluded.
“Once it called out for help, it had acknowledged that everything it was, or thought it was, was an illusion! It was not alone in the world. An ‘island’ unto itself. Powerful and aloof. It was not fooling anyone; having succeeded in only making a fool of itself!” added the owl.
Ish, Annie, and the others regarded the owl closely, then turned to face the crowd, which had by now grown completely silent. No one was speaking. Everyone was listening intently to the discussion among the host.
“Well,” said Archangel Michael happily, “it appears our work here is done.” And with that, Ish, Annie, Iqbal, and the others found themselves at a twinkling before the Dais in the Great Hall. No words were spoken; however a feeling of joy permeated everything. Even the tower tops, Annie could feel, resumed their shimmering in the glow of the evening sun. It was as if none of this had ever happened.
“But it did happen.” Ishmael found himself once again thinking how he ended up in Annie’s bathroom earlier that day. He turned toward Annie who was trying very hard not to notice. She was hoping their battle with the Demon had provided Ishmael a lesson which he could he use to forget all about the shower incident…”Surely he must be obliged to forgive her? Certainly, in Barbelo, there can be no repercussions?”
“Of course not!” Ishmael was saying. “Unless it is in good fun!” Annie now felt a little foreboding, of a different kind.
“Would you like to go down to the Lake with me?”
“Why…I….” And what happened next was VERY funny.
The End – A Short Story
DAY 1: It’s Monday. The radio-alarm is bleating the traffic reports and weekend highlights. Daughter May is already parked with her cereal bowl and stuffed teddy in front of the tv as Tom criss-crosses the apartment; making coffee, snacks, brown bags, and spare clothing for the daycare, with an efficiency one acquires after four years of everyday trying. Tom barely notices she has the French channel on.
Tom emerges from the back entrance with May in one arm, a plethora of sacs, toys, and lunch bags strung from the other, a warm car awaits them. Soon they are on the mainline and Tom begins to breathe.
“Are you okay back there Sweetie?”
“Dad, can I have a puppy?” Tom turns on the radio. He hears himself telling her apartments are no place for a dog and besides, he hasn’t the time to look after it. May is whimpering the customary response but Tom pays no attention. He is listening to a reporter or something talking about a an extraterrestrial ship that had landed somewhere nearby, that someone humanoid had emerged from the vessel and would in moments be delivering a very important message to the whole world.
“What the hell kind of crap are they playing this time in the morning?” Tom right away checked the AM/FM switch since he knew how fond May was of playing with buttons. Station after station was playing the same thing – even that interminably meandering music introduced by the equally interminable and meandering dj was off the air – thank God.
Tom was so occupied with the radio he hadn’t noticed the car in front slow down and pull off to the side of the road until the last moment. Tom dodged it without having time to look behind and nearly sideswiped another vehicle. One long horn-blast later, Tom had both hands tight on the wheel, both eyes on the road, and both ears on the radio. At that moment, there was only the sounds and murmurs of a gathering and expectant crowd. Then the Visitor began speaking.
“The Truth of what I am about to tell you, you have always known. Many of you have chosen to ignore this Truth. The Truth is, today, upon you. I have come from far away – yet even so great a distance as I have come is not so far for the profound and unmitigated pain emanating from your world to reach me. This is what brought me here. Who I am is not important; it is the message I bring. I am what I am.
You have seven days – seven days – before your world’s suffering can come to an end. All living things have Souls, and your world is a living thing. Souls provide a capacitance – a catchall, if you will, to absorb the harmful energies generated by other living things. Over five millennia, Humankind has perpetrated so much violence upon one another, and upon the Earth Mother nurturing them, that She can hold no more. This capacity will, in seven days, be exceeded. To save Herself, Earth Mother must invert Herself – reverse her polarity – to expel the negative Karma She has been storing up. She will perforce begin anew. Most nearly everything living on Her cannot survive the inversion.
You have it within you to save yourselves and your Earth Mother. You have seven days.”
Tom didn’t remember dropping daughter off at daycare. He and his coworkers spent the entire day at the office clustered around the conference room television set watching CP24.
DAY 2: Tuesday. Tom takes May’s coat and hangs it on the hook with her name in the cloakroom. He emerges to see May standing a small distance from her daycare best-buddy Cedi, intently watching the exchange between the ECE and the policeman that brought her. Tom listens as the policeman explains that she showed up that morning at the neighbours crying. She couldn’t find her parents. The neighbour went over and found a full pot of coffee on the kitchen counter, three half-assembled lunch kits, a microwave beeping for attention, and nothing else.
“He then called us,” the policeman was hopeful someone from the daycare would look after her until they could locate the parents. Tom could see in his eyes the policeman suspected the worst.
“Can she stay with us, daddy?” Tom felt his head nodding in the affirmative under the importune regard of the ECE and policeman.
The ECE told him that evening the child’s parents could not be located and would he feel alright if Cedi stayed overnight with May?
The cloakroom was abuzz with talk of the Visitor from Elsewhere and of so many other strange and frightening events. A massive dike breach had put nearly a quarter of Holland under water; the inmates of Toronto Zoo got away during the night and had taken over Rouge Park; a child had been attacked by a coyote while playing in their own backyard and people were being warned to take every care while venturing outside their homes; a First Nations Chief saying something like the time of the Lone Wolf was over…
One of the other kids was saying her dog ran away during the night and his leash wasn’t even broken.
“Maybe it got raptured,” a cynical someone said.
“No,” replied another quite seriously. “They were a Muslim family.” Tom wasn’t sure what kept him from boxing this parent’s ears.
“Daddy?” Tom looked into the rear view. “Why don’t Muslim’s get ‘rapture’?”
“Oh, I think they do, sweetheart. They might just call it something else.”
DAY 3: Wednesday. During the morning commute, the radio assails Tom with news of a global, coordinated strike on offshore oil rigs, now spewing crude into the oceans with the enthusiasm of the Deepwater Horizon.
That evening Tom relied on Cedi to keep May awake in front of the tv while he prepared dinner. Thankfully, Sesame Street had not been among the regular programming casualties, and Tom was not inclined to reprise the litany of images the conference room television presented of gasping fish and tarred feathers strewn along the coastline of Newfoundland-Labrador and other places.
Before the bedtime story, May asked him where Caesar had gone? Tom saw that the cage was empty.
“You didn’t let him out?” She told him no. He could always tell when she was fibbing, and this time she wasn’t. Tom told the girls he would find Caesar if they were good and went to sleep. Yet somehow he knew that search would prove fruitless.
“Is he in Heaven with Stryker?” she asked. There was still no news on Cedi’s parents.
DAY 4: Thursday. They say the greatest miracle of all is the miracle of Life; but a greater miracle is getting two four-year-olds ready on time so that he wouldn’t be late for work, Tom was thinking.
At work the conference room television reported forest fires springing up everywhere, aggravated by a recent dearth of rainfall. They were advising everyone, in particular the elderly, to stay inside with all windows and doors closed and air cleaners in good condition and on maximum – the fires and smoke were expected to worsen.
That night, after the bedtime story, Tom peered past the curtain onto the street below. It was empty, lit by the crimson pallor cast by street lamps under a bloody moon. No stars were discernible through the thickening haze.
DAY 5: “Thank God It’s Friday?” Tom quipped to himself while the radio warned of fires now spreading to fields and orchards. This following news that the two-times-per-millennia subduction of the Cascadia Zone had come early, producing a tsunami that washed Comox – lock, stock, and barrel – into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“Can we sleep in your room tonight, daddy?” The girls were visibly unsettled with dark circles under their eyes. Tom thought he had heard them whispering during the night.
“Can we make a fort to sleep in out of cushions?” Today, Tom would give them anything they wanted. He had been driven into a zombie-like acquiescence by the series of once-in-a-blue-moon catastrophes now happening one right after the other.
A knock on the door and a woman outside in the hallway with her little girl Gabby, wondering if he might watch her while she went to bring her parents from the retirement home. She was one of the Friday-night cribbage tourney regulars.
“I have a car,” he said. “How about you stay here and I’ll go fetch your parents for you?” The woman was immediately moved to tears that were in no way assuaged after Tom offered they could all stay with him, if they wished.
He didn’t know if he should trust her that far, nor she him.
But no one wanted to be alone that night.
DAY 6: Saturday morning cartoons. He thanked God for them as a child; as a parent he remained thankful. The three children were now fully engaged, cereal bowls arrayed before them and not a care in the world. Tom’s radio warned of heavy rainfall likely to continue indefinitely. The good news was the forest fires and the smoke had backed-off, for now at least. But Tom was incapable of anything beyond fleeting joy. He believed the Visitor’s faith that humans knew the way out was gravely misapplied. How can we be any different now than we have been for five millennia?
Tom was finding it difficult to concentrate. Random images crept in and out of his consciousness, alternating between hope and despair, courage and cowardice, life and death – there was a grey wolf, then the Herculaneum mother protecting her child and the baby she carried in the shadow of Vesuvius, followed by….
“Dad something’s wrong with the tee-vee-ee!”
Tom set down the coffee he was making and went to look. He saw the same old test pattern that often greeted him Saturday mornings as a child.
“Oh it’s not the tv, sweetie, it’s the station. Just wait, it’ll come back on after they fix it, maybe.”
“Can we play outside then?” Tom was about to tell them it’s raining even as sunlight reflected off the kettle, dazzling him. He peered out the window. One could not keep up with the weather changes, much less all the other goings on. “Yes, that’s probably a good idea for all of us.” The day greeted them with warmth and sunshine, though there were puddles of water everywhere.
People began appearing on the street in numbers.
The kids were all looking skyward, enrapt by the triple-rainbow forming above them. More and more people trickled into the street – all eyes turned skyward. Tom remembered trying to catch rainbows as a boy. The pot of gold at the end of every rainbow was his first-ever get-rich-quick scheme.
That night Tom told the story of Noah and the Flood. Even the old folks listened.
“Is God going to save us like He saved Noah, daddy?”
“Of course He will.” May peered straight into his eyes. Somehow they had convinced her he was sincere.
He didn’t even know if tomorrow was in God’s back pocket.
DAY 7: Or almost. They were bereft of a full-night by the blaring of sirens. Tom had been dreaming of the air-raid siren beside the park he used to play in.
There were some people outside – though sunup was still some time away. Tom made for the street, daughter and guests in tow. People were pointing at the light burning bright in the night sky. Some were in awe; others terrified. Tom thought it must be the Visitor returned – didn’t she say she would? Others thought it was the Mahdi or Jesus, the Zeta, or perhaps a big rock from somewhere out there…
“Daddy, I’m scared,” May said. She held her father’s hand tightly. With the other hand she took Cedi’s. Tom watched Cedi take the hand of someone on her other side. He looked into the eyes of the woman whose parents he had brought home, taking her hand. He wasn’t sure after how long, but very soon everyone had joined hands to form a circle that reached along both sides and across both ends of their street. Of course someone’s cellphone had captured the whole thing which, minutes later, succeeded in going viral around the globe.
Soon after, a great shuddering of the Earth was felt and an impenetrable swathe of blackness appeared to form and jettison skyward, momentarily blocking the light of the bright object that was coming inexorably closer.
Tom watched the sky suddenly morph to purple, then apple green, then deepen to avocado. The sunrise heralded a beautifully azure sky.
The freshness of a Spring morning greeted the Visitor as he exited the vessel so carefully spotted in the middle of May’s neighbourhood circle. In response to the many enquiries as to who and what he was, the Visitor only smiled.
“I knew it was in you.” And with that, she left.
No one could describe, to their own satisfaction, who or what the Visitor was exactly, nor her role in the events of the last week; but it no longer seemed to matter. In one karmic swoop the entire world had acquired an Eden-like, pristine quality.
The radio had come back and so had the television news – with a difference. The unremitting litany of job losses, car bombings, wars, domestic violence and missing children gave way to the announcement of the formal creation of a Palestinian state with members of both delegations vowing to engage in the mutual defense of the other against any and every threat, to the global dismantling of nuclear arsenals and power plants around the globe, to the proclaiming of a global cooperation initiative to take care of the world’s vulnerable, to the discovery of a practical means to harness the energy released from matter-antimatter collisions and the obsolescence of fossil fuels…
Tom saw Cedi joyfully swinging back and forth on the hands of a couple he recognized were the parents she’d lost. He wondered what happened to them.
“Yes, sweetheart?” He somehow knew what was coming next.
“Can I get a puppy?” Tom picked his daughter up. He felt there was a reason why not, but he could no longer remember what it was.
“Why, of course you can…but you will also have some new responsibilities taking care of him.”
“Yay!” she said.
Timmy the Snowflake – A Winter’s Tale
Timmy was born one sunny December morning -twirling merrily along the wind that carried also his many brothers and sisters. As they went higher, then lower, then higher again, Timmy enjoyed watching the sunlight bounce off of the other snowflakes and marveled at how beautiful they all were.
“How beautiful!” he said to his brother twirling away beside him. His brother didn’t seem to hear him as he said nothing and busied himself twirling.
Timmy didn’t seem to mind. He kept watching and twirling and rising higher, then dropping lower, like he was riding on the world’s biggest roller coaster. He began to imagine with his mind’s eye how they might look if he and his brothers and sisters were to hold hands and make the shape of a ring, spinning and rising and falling on the wind, reflecting the sun.
“Hey!” He said to the other snowflakes. “Why don’t we make something together?”
“Huh?” one of them said. The others didn’t seem to have heard at all, each busy with their own twirling.
“Let’s make something.” He repeated. “Let’s make a ring. We can pretend that we are the halo around the moon. The sun will make us look like we’re made of diamonds!” Timmy could barely contain his excitement when he saw, with his mind’s eye, just how beautiful they would all look doing it.
One of the snowflakes paused his twirling long enough to say “What good will that do? It’s better to twirl and you can’t twirl very well if you are holding hands” and then he twirled off in another direction.
Timmy saddened and slowed a little in his own twirling. He soon sped up again, excited by yet another idea.
‘Hey!” he said to another Flake busily twirling next to him.
‘Huh?” The snowflake said.
‘Why don’t we make a tiara?’ We can pretend that we are the crown that sits on the head of a royal Princess. The sun would make us look like we are made out of diamonds!” Timmy couldn’t believe his good luck, when he saw, with his mind’s eye, how beautiful they would look, glistening and sparkling in the sun, rising and falling on the wind.
“What good will that do?” one of the bigger, older snowflakes said gruffly. Timmy had seen him earlier. He was beneath Timmy and his twirling was that much slower.
Timmy twirled harder to catch up to him, paused right over his head, forgetting all about the crown, even if only just for now. His big brother, while rougher and tougher than Timmy was, seemed somehow a little sad.
“What’s wrong?” asked Timmy. “Did you break something?” Even while asking, Timmy was scanning his brother’s lattice for anything missing.
‘No’, his brother said sadly. Timmy paused his twirling expectantly; waiting for his brother to continue.
His brother looked up at him. ‘Haven’t you heard?’
‘Heard what?’ asked Timmy. Timmy hadn’t heard anything. Matter-of-fact, he wondered how anyone ever had time to hear anything, they were all so busy twirling themselves – but then, he was one of the younger snowflakes.
“It won’t be long now.” He said. “We’re heading for the sidewalk. There the sun is going to melt us.” He said nothing else, suddenly dropping out of sight. Timmy’s twirling had slowed, but he nervously picked up again after hearing this. He had noticed that he was getting closer to the ground, but he didn’t know that it was dangerous.
Timmy twirled and twirled aimlessly with the other snowflakes, and remained silent for awhile. All of a sudden, he didn’t feel like doing anything, even twirling seemed like a lot of work, and all for nothing. The wind tried to lift him up again, but Timmy didn’t feel like playing anymore, after hearing about what was soon going to happen to him and his brothers. His lattice began to lilt and he grew heavier and heavier.
The wind kept trying to push Timmy and the others back upward but none of them felt like twirling anymore. The wind became frustrated and got madder and madder and finally got so mad it took a great big breath and blew them all clear across the sidewalk, and into the yard of a little girl named Yousha, who went to school and lived with her mother and father.
And the wind blew and blew and blew – when a wind gets mad it gets really mad, and it takes a really long time to get over it. Soon every one of Timmy’s brothers and sisters, even his big brother, ended up against the side of their house, under the canopy Yousha’s mother had put up to keep the sun from burning her flowers in the summer heat; piled one on top of the other, hurly-burly, here and there.
“Timmy?”, said Flaky, the oldest and biggest of all the brothers from somewhere deep down in the pile.
‘Flaky! Is that you?” Timmy asked, jolted from the daze all of them were in, because no one had heard that this was going to happen.
“We didn’t land on the sidewalk…we aren’t going to melt anytime soon.” Flaky said.
“What are we going to do now?” the other brother asked.
They all turned to look at Timmy.
Now Timmy suddenly felt a surge of pride because, since he was the youngest, none of his older siblings ever thought to ask him anything; besides, they always seemed to know better than Timmy did.
Timmy thought, and thought, and thought, until he imagined three great big balls, one on top of the other, with his mind’s eye. He marvelled at how beautiful they would look – although it just wasn’t the same without the sunshine, he knew.
This time, however, the other snowflakes at least wanted to do something, and with the help of the wind, and just a little snowflake magic, by the time Yousha had come home from school, she found three great big snow balls, stacked one on top of the other, against the side of her house, underneath her mother’s yawning.
Yousha paused, looking long and intently at the balls the snowflakes had made of themselves. She imagined something in her mind’s eye and disappeared into the house. After she’d gone, the snowflakes began to get a little nervous about what the little girl might have been thinking and what she might do to them. Some of them even imagined, with their own minds’ eyes’ something about a shovel, a curb, and a snowplough. But not Timmy.
“Just wait and see.” He said.
After a little while mom, dad, and the family kitten came out of the house with a scarf, two crooked branches her dad used for kindling wood, and a great, flowing purple beach towel. Yousha followed right along behind them with her toy tiara and sceptre.
Now no snowflake had ever stayed awake so long before, and they had all fallen asleep before they could tell what the humans were up to.
The next morning, the brothers awakened to the hubbub of many people milling about, cameras flashing, with humans from all over the neighbourhood coming to see. There, on the side of the home on a street corner in the quaintest of little towns, was a magnificent Snow Princess, which Youshra’s father had decided to photograph and then post on Facebook.The following week, newspapers around the world, including Quaint Town’s own weekly, published a story about a nordic King whose princess daughter had recently died. Having discovered the Snow Princess’s photograph, the grieving King was so taken with its likeness to his daughter, that he offered to purchase it that he may bring it to his own land for all his mourning subjects to look upon, that it may ease their sadness. Below the article appeared a picture of Yousha’s Snow Princess – with Yousha smiling broad and partly toothless standing right beside her. The headline read:
Local Girl Donates 2 Billion Dollars to Aid Victims of the Japanese Tsunami
“See”, Timmy said to Flaky and the other snowflakes. “Together we were able to do something good after all.”
The Great North Preservatives – inspired by Canada’s political scene during the time of Stephen Harper and his foreign affairs bulldog