Emptying

by_Seabamirum_Flickr_CCThis is a tale spelled out in threads, knotted by old and loving fingers…

Some time before the Lord-by-the-Sea came to collect his story-rent, a crowd gathered in the sand dunes outside The Garret to listen. A girl sat on her grandmother’s lap. Although she was young, her eyes were tired. She leapt up when she heard¬† the Pilgrim Woman’s tinkling dress coming downstairs, ready to tell her tale. The girl ran inside well ahead of the rich man.

‘Do you know any stories about magic and dreams and grandmothers and girls?’ she asked.

‘Yes I do – and this one is especially for you.’

The grandmother took down the web of thread with both hands, holding her breath. No-one wanted that filth in their lungs

With the sacred chants circling through her skull in a slow dance, she took it to the mountain stream. Running water was best against these lie-talkers.

The sun rose over the spruces. ‘Thanks be’ said the grandmother. Light was a welcome cleanser. All help was to be grateful for.

She found a hickory branch and spread the web between its antlers. Dark lines smouldered along the threads; small angry glows flared at each knot that she had made. It had worked. Her daughter’s daughter still slept soundly.

The loosening chant had to flow out in the cold air. She must release the voices one by one.

The first dripped off like oil, slow and staining. ‘You did say that and you hurt her feelings and she will never be your friend again – no matter how hard you try,’ it whispered.

The next followed on a trail of bad smoke. ‘There’s nothing you can do about it. No-one takes any notice of you anyway. What difference do you imagine you could possibly make?’

They slipped unwillingly into the stream and the rushing waters tugged them away, tumbling them into broken sounds of nothing. The grandmother bowed and gave thanks.

But the web was still heavy, it bent the branch down like old snow. She repeated the chant, tapping her foot on the ground to summon help.

A hare came and sat in the glade. One golden eye reflected the dawn. The grandmother was not alone.

The last of the poison slithered down through the web in blobs, clutching like ticks to the skin. Scores of tiny claws hung on, withstanding the pull of the good earth. The hare came nearer through the new grass and the speakers of self hate lost their grip.

Their venom spattered the ground.

‘You’re not good enough. You never will be. No-one wanted you in the first place. Reject.’ The deceits buzzed and took¬† the form of mayfly shadows. The cloud of them sought the sleeping girl. But the grandmother told her third and greatest chant.

A salmon rose and snapped every blot out of the sky.

The grandmother thanked him, then turned to the shadows beneath the spruces.

‘You – nightmares and delusions – you can wait there till nightfall. And every night my story webs will snare you. I will cleanse you every morning for you can never live inside her.’

The Pilgrim Woman squatted in front of the girl with tired eyes and smiled before she finished her story:

And so it was that the girl who had nightmares always knew in her heart they were not true.

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