The old man
stumbled, fell, and lay in the snow-covered road trembling. His body ached. His head turned from side to side,
gasping. His breath was barely visible
in the icy evening air. No one saw him
crumple. No one saw him breathe his last
as the winter night descended like a black and blue shroud. No one saw the snowflakes fall onto his open
eyes. And as his soul quivered from the
cage of his ribs and stood beside his former home. And then two other beings rose from the
shell: a king dressed in a white ermine cape with a flowing purple train, and a
queen dressed in silk threaded with gold.
They stepped free of his flesh and moved a few yards away.
the king to his bride as he straightened his robe, “where to next?”
“We need to
find a kingdom,” replied the queen, “one we can be sovereign over, one we can
help prosper.” She looked towards the
soul of the old man, which stood like a grey, naked tree.
called the king, “eh, sir?”
The old man
stared into eternity, dazed, eyes and mouth wide open, utterly alone inside.
“My dear he
doesn’t know what’s happened,” said the queen.
tell him?” said the king.
“Me? Why not you?”
might come easier from someone as beautiful as you,” smiled the king.
I say?” she asked, “How can I tell him he never even knew we were inside
him. How can I tell him that he could
have lived another ten years in great happiness and personal freedom had he
only sought our counsel? How can I tell
him he is trapped where he stands until he is taken to the underworld by the
beasts which have grown in his soul and that are now spreading from his
bitterness into the ground?”
you are reading too much into his face.
He’s just in shock. The
transition was sudden and he’s just a little disoriented.”
“No my king,
look at his feet.”
looked down at the spirit’s feet. From
them poured roots, like so many chalky grey claws into the ground. The soul of the old man began to
shudder. He looked down and screamed a
“Can we not
help him?” shouted the king.
“I am afraid
not. He never wanted us before. That’s why he doesn’t see us now. No dear, he will be pulled under soon…”
And as she
spoke, the soul of the old man was sucked downwards like water in a drain. He whirled around, in a ghostly pirouette arms
lashing like branches in a storm. The
roots pulled him down and within a few seconds he was gone.
reached for the queen’s hand. They both
wept and held each other.
there something else we could have done?” sobbed the king, “I mean while we
were yet within him? Couldn’t we have
called louder, given more signs and blessings?”
“You are so
kind,” said the queen stroking the king’s face, “but no. We tried speaking to him every day. We called him to his destiny, we heralded him
to his dreams, but he refused to listen.
He wallowed in his fears, resentments, and criticisms of others. He worshipped his prejudices and his
bitterness. Once these grew into beasts
within him, there was no room for us and for service to the world. There was nothing else we could do.”
“So we did
not fail him?”
king, we did not.”
become of him?”
her head and smiled towards the old man’s dead body and said, “Watch.”
The king looked
at the wind-blown, snow-dusted husk of the man lying in the road and suddenly
he heard a cry come from within the dead body.
It was the cry of a baby. It was
a cry of rage and of wildness. And as
the king watched, the queen moved towards the body and bent low, offering her
hand into the shell. The king winced as
he saw her hand lower deeper into the man. Then a baby’s hand emerged and wrapped itself
around her fingers. She carefully lifted
the child upwards and drew him close to her chest. The baby quieted immediately and after he
did, the queen kissed his head, whispered something into his pearled ears, and
then stood him up beside her. He wobbled
on chubby legs but remained standing. He
wiped his eyes–his eyes of moons and stars, his eyes of eternal summer, his
eyes of everlasting hope. He looked up
at the queen and laughed the laughter of brooks and of wheat fields, of crystal
snow falling, of the dawn. His eyes met
the king’s. The king bowed low to the
child. The child nodded his head and
then looked at the place where the old man’s soul had been dragged into the
underworld. And with a deep breath he
walked to the hole and began singing the song of the morning sun as he climbed
downwards into the darkness to retrieve what was lost. They listened as his voice echoed into the
vast distances of eternity and space.
And when they could hear the child no more, they took each other’s hands
and turned and walked across the startling snow covered landscape in search of souls
that wanted to be free.
Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog