Posts Tagged ‘Winter Wish’

As a reminder, I made a blog visit to Entertaining Stories last Thursday. Lisa Burton Radio interviewed my character, Dan Forster, from The Gellboar. It’s a great interview and getting lots of comment. Go ahead a check it out if you missed it the first time.

And now, I have a short story to share. Those who have read my collection, Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, will recognize this as an indirect sequel to my lyrical fantasy, “Dandelion.” Think of it as my holiday gift to you. Enjoy!

by Lucy D. Ford

The Withertines, home to the grimkin folk, knew neither night nor day. Ashpall clotted the gaps between its metal towers, so thick that it blocked true daylight, while arclights glared from its factories and shops to banish real darkness. Like a nest of ants, the grimkin passed their lives in a churning seethe of Industry. Only commerce mattered: the squeezing and stocking of wealth. None felt joy in his labors, nor had they for many an age.

Yet even in such a place, there sometimes were children. A grimchild might sometimes be loved, in a passing manner. Most were merely looked after until they were old enough to heed the inescapable call of Industry. And most of them grew up just so. Not content, precisely, for the grimkin could never know happiness, but secure in their driven purpose.

Yet there once was a grimchild born cursed with curiosity and a joyous heart. He dwelt in the frugal company of a stranger who regarded him as naught but her job. She shushed him sternly when he laughed, and never smiled herself. Not even when a bowl tipped and the peas rolled over to drop on the floor, one by one, and it was really quite funny.

“Don’t waste food!” Nanny scolded. “Do you know what that cost?”

And when he tripped and landed on his knee and it hurt so badly, she paid no need to his crying.

“Stop running around, and that won’t happen,” Nanny lectured. “You should be sitting down, learning to read and reckon your sums. Those are what every grimkin needs.”

Alas for the grimchild, he was forever thinking of new questions. Gazing out the narrow window, where the ashpall drifted among towers of glass and steel, he asked, “What is in the clouds?”

“Breathe deeply,” said Nanny. “The smoke will make you strong.”

The Grimchild opened the window, breathed deeply, and coughed. He did not feel any stronger.

On another day, he turned his desk lamp on and off, off and on. “What is electricity made of?” he asked.

“Who cares, as long as the lights come on,” Nanny snapped.

Still another day found him at the window again. All was hustle and hurry beneath the endless grimy haze. A flight of ragged pigeons circled above the smoke stacks.

“Are the birds made here, in the Withertines,” he wondered, “or do they come from somewhere else?”

“Fool child, there is nowhere else!” cried the exasperated Nanny. She gave the grimchild a little swat before banging him down in a chair.

“No more windows,” she declared, hauling on the drapery cord. “Let me hear your multiplication tables, or you’ll have no supper, neither.”

Dreary weeks went by. Then the grimchild happened upon a book he hadn’t seen before. The book was about science, so perhaps Nanny wouldn’t mind him taking a look. He opened the cover, and blinked, and rubbed his eyes.

There was a wonderful picture, and everything in it was white. Spiky trees crowded a hillside. Behind them, magnificent cliffs stretched up and up to an impossible stony spire. All bore a heavy coat of some unfamiliar substance. It was purely white, yet sparkling.

The grimchild had never seen such a color. The arclights of the Withertines were tinted sallow gold. The paper he wrote his numbers on was nearly gray. What could this be?

Squinting, he picked out tiny letters: The Cloudtorn Peak in winter’s snow.

“Winter.” The grimchild dared to speak, tasting the strangeness of the words. “Snow.”

“What?” called Nanny from the next room. The grimchild quickly shut the book.

“Ten times nine is ninety,” he recited. “Ten times eight is eighty.”

“Quite right.” Nanny nodded, pleased that the boy was taking his studies more seriously.

“Ten times seven is seventy,” droned the grimchild, all the way down to “Ten times zero is zero.”

All the time, his eyes were full of that dazzling vision, The Cloudtorn Peak in winter’s snow. He soon slipped away to the window.

Beyond the smeary glass, the ashpall reigned. Dark, roiling vapors obscured the neon glare. Concrete chasms divided rank on rank of slate roofs. Not one single thing was white.

“How I wish I could see the winter’s snow,” sighed the grimchild.

Check back on Wednesday to read the conclusion!

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