The King`s Squashed Land of Dreams Chapter 4
Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Word Count: 2217
Summary: Chapter 4 was supposed to be quite a revealing chapter but it was coming out far too long, so the action has gone into Chapter 5. I am wondering though if this one is too quiet - though there has been a lot going on previously. Any comments welcome
Related Works: The King`s Squashed Land of Dreams Ch 1 The King`s Squashed Land of Dreams Ch 1 Revised The King`s Squashed Land of Dreams Chapter 2 The King`s Squashed Land of Dreams Chapter 3
Wynne stood unmoving, feeling her feet sink until the mud reached her knees. Slowly, her thoughts returned. “He deserved it,” she told herself, and, “Teddy bears don’t die.” But then, teddy bears don’t come alive either.
“No. He burst his innards because that is what I told him to do and he understood every word because he is a bilingual teddy bear.” She stopped speaking and shook her head. No, she was wrong. He did not deserve it.
His innards were spreading out now, across the shingle and floating on the water. White bits blew up to the long grass. She watched them, her emotions in turmoil and her head was thumping with the terrible guilt of it all. She thought that she too would explode. She deserved to. She hadn’t wanted to kill anyone. Granddad always said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That wasn’t true. Words did hurt, especially here, for here they could literally change who you were, and burst your innards and kill you.
It wasn’t only here. The boys had taunted her and called her names and pretended to be nice when the adults were around. Granddad was so,so wrong. When she lived with her grandparents, she would come in from school and hide under her bed and refuse to speak. Grandma would try to entice her out and get her to say what was wrong, but Wynne would curl up inside herself wordlessly, feeling the pain of rejection, her head hurt and thumped then as well. Granddad would say, in his clipped voice, “Leave her alone. Let her to sulk,” but Grandma would get angry.
“Be gone with your nonsense away,” she’d say. “ Help the poor girl.”
Nothing had come of this, even with Grandma going down to the school for Wynne would not speak about the bullying. She couldn’t bear that Granddad should think less of her, so she had kept a stiff upper lip. She tried hard to be strong, but inside she was crying, silently, in a way that neither tears nor words came. Now Granddad’s mind was wandering and confused, like this place, and yet, even in his confusion he did not want help or sympathy.
Her trunk trailed the surface of the water, making circles and patterns, as slowly, her mind calmed down. She listened to her own splashing, and it was strange that there were not more sounds around her, but then there seemed to be no other animals or creatures about.
The white stuffing floated closer.
“I don’t want help or sympathy either,” she told herself resolutely. Elephant tears glittered in her elephant eyes, but she shook herself. No. I will handle this stuff that doesn’t make sense.
She pulled at her feet. They had sunk further into the mud, nearly to the level of her body, but to her surprise her legs came out easily, and the mud sucked and slurped as she did so, but one toenail came into contact with something sharp as she lifted it out. She looked through the clear water to see a long piece of metal with a handle of jewels in the hole where her leg had been. It looked as if the king had lost more than his crown.
She stuck her trunk into the water and pulled on the jewelled handle. It was heavy and did not come out as easily as her legs and she had to pull hard, but suddenly the suction released and out it came. Rubies, set in the handle of a narrow sword. It scraped against the end of her trunk. She didn’t want it and she dropped it back. Instead, she pick up some floating fluff and trundled with it out of the water. She lumbered over to the bent-up bear and tried to stick it back in his tummy, but a trunk wasn’t like having a pair of hands, and she couldn‘t straighten him out. His body flopped back, flat apart from his head and limbs. He was utterly helpless.
Her nose picked up the scent of oranges and lemons, and she traced it to the tiny teddy bear, but she couldn’t find any fruit there.
She wandered around the shore picking up more of his stuffing and made a little pile next to him. That was much as she could do with her trunk. The bear still did not move.
She had an idea. “If I can wish him burst, I can wish him back together,” she reasoned. It was worth a go. She trumpeted into his ear, “Come back teddy bear, like you were to start with.”
Nothing happened. “He can’t hear me because he’s dead,” she told herself. His glassy eyes stared lifelessly at the pebbles beneath his nose.
The sky was clouding over now, and she heard wind gusting through the grass. She felt more tears roll down her trunk. Who knows what further damage would be done if his head, arms and legs were rained on. She stomped restlessness about the shore. It was no earthly good feeling sorry. Think she ordered herself.
“I only have to work out how to save him and it will all be ok, because teddy bears don’t die, but they can get unstuffed,” she said. That sounded logical and reasonable.
“What can I do in a place that is so weird that I can’t work the rules out?” Hmm. There was no answer to that question. Right, she told herself, so what would she do if she was back at the home? Simple. She would get a needle and thread and some stuffing from a shop and sew him back up. Could she do that here? No, because she hadn’t any hands to sew with, and she hadn’t any thread or a needle or enough stuffing.
She had a new thought. Her spirits rose. Maybe needles and thread could be found in the castle. Then her spirits slumped. That was still no good because she didn’t have any hands.
That was the end of her thinking. She tried to cradle the teddy bear’s head in her trunk and though it was difficult she managed something like a hug. She stood for a long time, not thinking in words, but aware of the bear, buckled and bent up, half flattened, and slowly, not quite realising what was happening, but weirdly way, she became aware that she was holding the him differently, for he had slipped down to her chest and was in her - arms.
Arms? She looked down. Yes, she was a girl again, and was wearing her clothes - the cardigan Gran had knitted, and the jeans and T-shirt she had on when she slipped down the hole, and she was coated with half-dried mud up to her knees. Her trainers squelched as she lifted one foot and then the other.
The bear had grown small again but he still had the ripped tummy seam. She bent and picked up some stuffing - but that was small too and reduced to tiny puffs. She wriggled all she had collected back in. His tummy had been flat like an empty duvet cover, but now there was a small bulge as though he had eaten a mince pie. She held the stitching of the seam together with fingers, so tightly that the tips were white.
The light was dimming. Evening was coming. The edge of the water started to recede as if the tide had turned and she felt wind blow into her face. She pulled the seam across the bear‘s tummy as firmly as she could, and tucked one edge inside the other. Then she bent him up again and put him inside her cardigan so that he would be safe if it rained.
He had been a very unpleasant teddy bear, but that was never an excuse not to try and put him right. The castle might have the means to restful him and sew him up. She looked upwards at the hill, which looked higher than before. She shrugged. There was nowhere else to go anyway. She couldn’t stay on the hill all night, in the open. That would be horrid. So, she might as well get going. She took a deep breath and started the walk upwards, following the wide trail that she had made when she was an elephant. She felt flicks of rain on her cheeks and she pulled the cardigan more closely round to protect both herself and the bear.
She had never imagined that she would be going back. She thought about the king. It was difficult to know what her reception at the castle would be, but the problem had started because he thought she was a mouse.
“Once he sees that I’m not a mouse or an ant or an elephant but a girl he will stop yelling at me and changing me and wanting to squash me because it must be illegal to squash people and a king shouldn’t do anything illegal,” she told herself. “It’s not illegal to squash ants and probably not other animals, though terribly cruel, and you couldn’t squash an elephant unless you were a giant.” She felt heartened by her own words, although a niggling alternate voice inside her head was saying the opposite. She squashed that voice, refusing to listen.
The rain was lashing down now, and she couldn’t easily see her way. The him above was a grey shape and she was passing smaller grey shapes on the way. They must be bushes and trees, she told herself. The grass was slippery in parts and in other parts soft so that her trainers squelched and sank into the earth, and she had to pull hard to get them out. The wind was noisier now, and wailed round the hill. Mud was far easier to walk in when she was an elephant, and the journey back so much longer and the way steeper now she was a girl.
“Keep going,” she told herself.
Something scratched her scalp. It played with her hair one moment, and the next scraped her skin, like an unseen hand with long clawed finger nail. She felt her heart race, but she stood, still, petrified, unable to breath. Now it felt like the pad of a finger, and she thought she could feel its pulse, but it might have been her own. She stood dripping, and it seemed that whatever it was had stopped moving, or had gone, or was nothing anyway.
She took a deep breath. She thought she smelt oranges again, and tossed the idea away. Be brave, Granddad had said. She gulped, and tasted the rain in her mouth. It was pleasantly fresh, if cold, and then with sheer will, she lifted her arm to her head. Rain soaked the inside of her sleeve but her fingers found a twig in her hair. “Nothing,“ she told herself, and threw it away. She yanked her feet out of mud, and started onwards.
The grey shape above her had gone. She was at the top of the hill. She couldn’t see through the torrential rain but she felt the change in direction with her feet. Her cardigan was drenched now and she held one arm over her chest where the bear was under her cardigan, to give him greater protection.
Now she was going down, she felt her feet slipping and sliding beneath her and she struggled to keep up straight. So long as she didn’t fall over and go careering down the hill, she could keep going, she told herself. She would not curl up and drown in the rain out here on this hill. She managed a grim smile. Granddad would never approve of her giving up and she pushed on through the rain. Suddenly she slid and was on the ground, hands full of cold slush and mud. This time she wanted to give up and just lay there. It was hopeless. She could scarcely see where she was going.
Through the veil of rain came wavering lights.
The castle. It had to be. She was close.
She pulled herself up, scarcely aware now of her mudded clothing and soaking, shivering body and slipping inside her trainers, and she hurried onwards. The lights grew stronger and there were many more. She must be at the stretch of grass leading up to the castle. Through the rain she saw the dark mass of the castle. It was different, bigger. Perhaps it was her different perspective, but it couldn’t be. She was stood on something - wooden. She heard rushing water below her, even above the sound of storm. There was a moat below. She was on a drawbridge. She squelched forward. There was a castle wall, high and protective. She hurried through the gateway into a cobblestoned courtyard. The rounded cobbles shone in the rain, and the wall gave some protection from the driving rain and wind.
There hadn’t been a courtyard before, but she didn’t think about that. Ahead was a lit and open doorway ahead of her. Gasping, she threw herself inside, and stood inside dripping, her teeth chattering and hearing the clatter of the rain on the cobbles outside.