Friday Extra: Tale of Tales

As I was out walking one day I came across a boy fleeing home towards a risky adventure, his pockets stuffed with his father’s cash. I climbed a fence and landed in a field where a woman gave a cry of glee as she dug up treasure with her bare hands, vowing to make darn sure she didn’t let go of it. Nearby a man frowned as he buried a pile of money in the ground rather than making use of it. As I stepped back on the road and turned a corner I saw a queue of workers counting their day’s wages, some of them over the moon, others under a cloud. Nearby a gang of thugs were rounding on a terrified messenger, forcing him off a piece of land they were claiming as their own. Not far away a man was lying beside the road being tended by a savage looking woman, and a farmer was hacking at the hedges, and scrabbling in ditches, looking for a wayward lamb. He nearly fell over a carpenter staggering along with a chair leg sticking out of his eye, and a woman haranguing a judge on her cheap battered phone. A girl walked past as she picked up a text from her dad asking her for help, she laughed it off and shook her head, but something in her eyes made me think she’d not refuse him for long.

I caught the sound of a hammer striking a nail and the people froze as the wind blew and the statue-like figures became pages from a book that began blowing towards me like autumn leaves, I felt them brush my face as they whistled past, towards some other target, growing in number as they went. And I turned to see them gathering at the foot of an ancient tree, just as the tree pulled its twisted branches into line, forming the shape of a gnarled, stained cross. And when I looked again the pages had become drops of blood, decorating the earth around the cross, before turning into little rivulets. I followed the multiplying lines of red, flowing down a hill and into a garden. As they ran, the rivulets picked up speed and tumbled towards a rock, resting against a cave. The first streams of blood splashed against the rock; there was a clap of thunder and the ground shook and the rock rolled free of its moorings. And as the blood pooled in the open door, the drops of crimson fluid flicked up, fluttered and twisted in the air until they became butterflies, brightly coloured and filling the cave with a cloud of wonder. And when they finally fluttered away I saw a man standing in the doorway, bathed in light and smiling as if he’d just achieved something extraordinary and wonderful.

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