Monday, 21 March 2016

Happiness (A retelling of Maurice Maeterlinck's “The Blue Bird”) - Chapter 12 and 13

Chapter 12 – The Land of Memories

The mist thickened in the forest leading to the Land of Memories that Michelle could taste the water droplets in the air.
“I wonder how far we are to travel in here,” she wondered aloud.
“Hopefully not too far, this is thick mist makes it difficult to walk – ”As on cue, Tristan pitched forward and landed headlong on the ground. “Ow!” he groaned.
“Tristan! Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” he said as he got up brushing the damp dirt off his clothes. “We’ll need to be careful and watch our step. Here, take my hand.”
“Where are you?”
“Over here,” he said reaching into the mist. “Follow my voice.”
Michelle reached over and felt her brother’s warm palm. Grabbing hold of it she allowed herself to be led.
A loud rushing sound echoed through the forest. They both froze.
“What was that?” Michelle’s voce shook.
“I’m not sure.”
They heard the sound again, only this time it passed above their heads and went ahead of them. Again, another cluster of sounds much like the first only this time they would identify it better.
“Were those birds?” Michelle asked. Just then, the mist slowly cleared, right past them a beating of small wings and a chirping was heard.
“This kind of reminds me when grandfather and I were watching birds in the forest together. It was then we found a pigeon with a broken wig.”
“I remember that when you took care of the bird it laid eggs and had baby birds.” Michelle smiled.
“I took care of those birds with grandfather until they were all old enough to leave the nest.”
“Except for one,” she reflected.
“That one was a runt and was not able to fly. Michelle, look!” Tristan’s voice grew loud with excitement as they stood before their grandparents’ cottage.
“Did we just come back?” Tristan released his sister’s hand and slowly approached the cottage.
“If so, we should see our parent’s house not far from here, but I see no sign of it.”
“Tristan? Michelle?” said a familiar voice.
Both turned at the voice and stared at its owner.
“What are you doing here?” asked their grandfather.
“Grandfather?” Seeing his beloved face, Michelle broke into a tearful smile. “Grandfather!” she cried throwing her arms around his neck.
Their grandfather laughed. “Look at you! How did you grow so quickly?”
“Is it really you, grandfather?” Tristan asked, still not believing what he was seeing.
“Of course it is him!” said another voice.
Tristan looked at the owner and saw his grandmother smiling up at him.
“Grandmother?” he whispered.
“Yes, my dear boy?”
Giving his grandmother a bear hug his grandmother laughed, swaying him gently and patting his back. “What is wrong, dear Tristan?”
“You were dead,” Tristan said pulling away, “We even went to your funeral.”
“Oh, pshaw! Really, my boy!” their grandfather said, “I feel fine! What made you think we’re dead?”
Their grandmother laughed at the joke she and their grandfather exchanged. “Oh dear! Listen to us, and we have not even invited you to join us for a meal! Go wash your hands and get ready to eat. I made you your favourite – meat pie!”
Moments later, the four of them sat at a table Tristan and Grandfather had brought out under a blue sky (now that the mist had disappeared) – and what a meal it was. The table was laden with hot and savoury meat pie with its melt-in-your-mouth crust, a pitcher of fresh cool milk chilled in the river, a green garden salad, and a pot of hot tea. They four of them laughed and ate enjoying each other’s company.
“Grandfather, what bird is that?” Tristan asked, seeing a bright blue bird with a black wings land on a tree limb.
“That is a bunting,” his grandfather answered.
“What about that one?”
“That’s a fairy wren.”
“Tristan,” Michelle whispered to her brother, “Is it just me or all those birds either look blue or have blue on them.”
Hearing what his sister had just said, Tristan stared at the birds. “You’re right,” he agreed, his voice low in awe.
Tristan turned to Grandfather, “Grandfather, could you help me catch those birds?”
“You want to catch those birds?”
“If it is all right.”
“Well, I don’t see why not. Why would you want those birds?”
“We want to give them to a friend.”
After the meal was finished and the table cleared, Tristan with their grandfather went into the woods to set up some traps for the birds. Meanwhile, Michelle stayed at the cottage with Grandmother and did some knitting.
Moments later, the men returned and they had tea together. Tristan chatted sharing with his sister and Grandmother what they saw in the woods.
“There was river where we used to fish river trout!” he told them, describing the place.
Grandmother smiled as she listened, serving her grandchildren tea with slices of cake covered in white sugar she made earlier that day.
“Grandmother, you will have to teach me how to make this!” Michelle said, “Father always told us how he missed your sugar cake.”
Grandmother chuckled. “I already taught your mother how to make it.”
“Michelle once made a pie that was black as charcoal.” Tristan teased.
“I – had trouble with the oven!” Michelle explained as her face grew red in embarrassment.
“Now, now, Tristan! Don’t tease your sister so!” Grandfather chided good-naturedly.
The conversation went on to the things they did when they were young: berry picking in the woods, finding robin’s nest in the trees (Tristan knocking over the nest because he was determined to see the eggs up close), Grandmother burning the stew (because she left the pot cooking and forgot to add water), knitting socks and shawls for winter, making sweets and pastries for Christmas with Mother, and many other happy moments together.
“Well,” their grandfather said as he suddenly got up from his seat, “we should check those traps before it gets dark.”
“Dark?” Tristan and Michelle looked and saw that the sun had begun to set. They visited for a long time that they had forgotten about time!
“Tristan! We have to get back by sunset!” Michelle panicked.
“Then we should get ready to leave.” Tristan joined his grandfather to check the traps.
Michelle ran after them with the gilded cage. By the time the traps were all checked the cage was filled with various kinds of little blue birds. They headed back to the cottage with the sun just kissing the horizon.
“Must you go, my dears?” the grandmother asked sadly. All four of them stood at the edge of the forest.
“We have to, Grandmother,” Michelle stretched her hands and held her grandmother’s, “We promise we’ll see you again.”
“Do come and visit us when you can,” their grandfather told them.
“We’ll make sure of that,” Tristan promised.
At that they said their good-byes and the younger pair dashed into the woods as the thick mist appeared and the daylight began to fade. The older pair watched as they were swallowed up by the mist.


Chapter 13 – The Song in the Mist

The trip through the woods this time was a bit easier for Tristan and Michelle for they saw a path leading them out of the forest. The path was a thin dirt path that snaked past from trees and brambles.
“I wonder if we took this path before.” Michelle panted as she slowed her pace.
“I don’t remember taking this path,” Tristan said, briefly stopping for his sister. “The mist was so thick that time we couldn’t see past our noses.”
He took the gilded cage from her hand. “I’ll carry that for you,” he told her.
“I hope we make it back to Lucien on time.” Michelle said. Just then a thick wall of mist hit their faces. “Tristan!”
“Michelle! Where are you?”
The two called to each other as the milky white once again separated them.
“Tristan! I can’t see you! Where are you?” Michelle called.
“Over here!”
“Where?” Something grabbed her arm, Michelle screamed.
“It’s me! It’s me!” Tristan assured as he hugged his sister.
“Don’t do that!” Michelle wept pounding his chest with her fists.
“I’m sorry, here,” Tristan led his sister by the hand again as they continued walking.
They walked for a long time as things became eerily quiet around them.
“Tristan, are we going the right way?” Michelle asked.
“We are I’m sure of it.”
They were both silent. The forest around them grew dark; Michelle felt her brother’s hand grow cold.
“Tristan, your hands are cold,” she said.
Her brother said nothing as they ventured further. She felt her shoe catch something as she tripped and righted herself immediately, but lost her brother at that moment.
“Tristan? Tristan where are you?”
The mist swirled around her as she listened for her brother, but what she heard was a faint sound of the wind passing through the trees muted by the mist. Darkness sank into the milky white transforming the milky world of white and grey into a threatening depth of blue and black. She shivered feeling the temperature drop as night brought a chill into the air.
“Tristan!” Michelle called.
“Tristan! Tristan! Tristan!” the voices echoed around her, some muted while others sounded sad and faded.
“Lucien! Tylo! Tylette!” she frantically called. Her voice echoed back empty. Fear crept into her heart.
“Lucien! Where are you? Please help!”
“Help! Help! Help!” the echo returned faintly.
Michelle stumbled over a tree root and landed on the ground. A chill set in as her clothes were now drenched from the misty air. “Lucien! Lucien!” she rocked herself as she hugged her knees.
A soft light flickered. Michelle saw a yellowish green of a firefly float past her then towards a tall familiar shape.
“Lucien!” Michelle ran after the light and stopped. For what she thought was Lucien was actually just an old broken tree with limbs stretched out towards her like arms.
She backed away disappointed at her find.
Then she stopped. A familiar voice!
“Michelle!” a faint voice called.
“Tristan!” Michelle followed the voice.
“Michelle! Michelle!”
She ran, dodging tree limbs leaping over fallen logs. A branch caught her skirt and tore, but she didn’t let that stop her. She continued on until she came to a swamp and there she heard her voice called again.
“Michelle!” the voice croaked.
Michelle looked and saw an old toad sitting at the edge of the pond. The toad croaked which sounded like it said her name.
She felt a lump crawl up her throat as sadness and fear overpowered her. “Where is everyone!” she wept.
“Tristan! Tylo! Tylette!” she sobbed. “Lucien! Where are you, Lucien!”
Then she heard something. It was quiet at first with only the occasional croak of a toad. Then the toad leapt into its swampy home with a splash leaving the lonely girl.
Silence settled. No wind, not even the movement of the mist in the dark forest. Then she heard it. At first she froze fearing it was something unpleasant.
Out of the night air, a soft gentle sound, like a note from a wooden pipe, floated towards her; then another, and another. Michelle listened. Note by note, the sounds strung together like pearls on a string. That string became a melody, soft simple and sweet.
Where’s my dear one, my little fair one,
The one I seek in this lonely night?
I walk and seek thee until I find thee
I will bring you into the light.
Hear my dear one, my little fair one,
I call out to thee, this very night.
I hear thine cry and I will find thee
And bring thee safe by my side.
The voice became clear and very familiar. She knew that voice, but would she dare? What if she follows that voice and finds herself lost again. She wanted to go, but she was afraid.
“Michelle!” the voice called. “Michelle!”
“Lucien!” Michelle whimpered.
“Michelle!” A bright light filled her vision, before her stood Lucien shining brightly like the afternoon sun. He knelt on one knee before her. “Michelle,” he held out a hand to her.
She looked at his long fingered hand and back at his beautiful face. “Is it really you?” she asked.
He nodded. “It’s really me, Michelle.”
Tears filled her eyes and slid down her face as she threw herself into his arms. “Lucien! Lucien!” she wept, “What took you so long? I was so scared!”
“I’m here, my beloved. You are safe.” He held her tightly. Then lifting her into his arms he carried her out of the forest. At each step Lucien took the mist slowly dissipated. By the time they were out of the forest, the air was clear. It was day, with all vegetation glittering with morning dew like jewels on a royal crown.
“Michelle!” Michelle turned towards the voices and saw Tristan running towards her with Tylo and Tylette behind him. Lucien gently lowered her, Michelle broke into a run the moment her feet touched the ground.
“Tristan! Tylo! Tylette!” She cried embracing them.
“Michelle, you idiot! Why did you have to get lost?” Tristan scolded as he embraced his sister.
“We were so worried about you, mistress!” Tylette mewed.
“We’re so glad you are safe!” Tylo barked as he ran around them in circles.
“Lucien found me.” Michelle explained.
“I know he did. He made sure that we stayed and wait for you while he went into the forest to find you.” Tristan told her.
After all the excitement subsided, Michelle remembered their quest.
“Tristan! The birds!” she said.
Her brother sadly held up an empty birdcage.
She held the cage in her hands and looked back at her brother. “Where are they? Did they die?”
He shook his head. “They faded and disappeared the moment the morning light touched them. I guess those birds weren’t real either,” he said in disappointment.
Michelle’s face fell. “But we caught them with the traps in the forest with grandfather.”

“I guess it because the place is made up of memories so they aren’t real – including the birds.”

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