This is a story I wrote for a competition a while back. I didn’t get anywhere in the competition, but I was proud of my story anyway. My Tea with Trolls story went down so well with everyone the other day, I thought I might throw this one at you too.
I stood outside the dusty shop and hesitated for a moment. I really didn’t want to do this but I had no choice. It was the lesser of two evils – I didn’t want to go through another night of hiding in the bottom cupboard of the large dresser that stood in the parlor. It was too cramped. For 13 years old, I was small and slight but still, it was not as easy to hide there as it had been when I was 5. That was when the creatures of my nightmares had sprung, uninvited, into my real life. Every full moon they came to get me. In the early days, before my grandfather had his stroke, he would hide me in the dresser and then sit in his parlor chair, smoking his pipe. The smell of the tobacco hid my scent, and when the creatures came he would tell them I was not at home. They would turn grudgingly, and slither back into the night.
Nowadays I had to fend for myself.
I had found this shop quite by accident when I was 10. I was on my way to school, an awkward little girl with mismatched socks and clothes that I was going to grow into, walking alone as usual. I spotted the shop out of the corner of my eye – a crooked little building with faded peeling paintwork, broken roof tiles and filthy windows. It took me several months to pluck up the courage to go in, and several months more before I was brave enough to buy anything.
I had tried a variety of amulets and incantations lifted from dubious hand written spell books, and last time a throat burning, stomach churning potion. None of it had worked for long. The creatures guessed at my tricks. They were always just a step behind me.
So here I was again, desperate to find the answer.
I pushed at the door. The tinkling bell above the entrance announced my arrival, and I shut the door behind me and waited, biting my lip.
It was dark inside the shop, and it took a while for my eyes to focus on the dusty shelves lining the walls that held all manner of unusual objects – battered pots and tattered books, packets of incense sticks, strange contraptions that ticked and whirred, and bottles of potions that glittered darkly.
It was a moment before I noticed the old woman standing there watching me. When I met her eye, she gave me that familiar toothless grin that made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.
“Back again, little Flitter-mouse?” she crooned.
“Um, yes,” I replied, fidgeting my feet and twisting my fingers round each other in my clasped hands. I cleared my throat a little. The words were having difficulty forming themselves in my mouth, “That potion you gave me…”
“You want some more?”
“NO! No,” I shook my head vigorously. I didn’t want to go through that again.
The old woman observed me shrewdly, nodding to herself.
“Some thing else.” she all but whispered with a wicked grin and beckoned me forward as she turned to the back of the shop.I followed her through a curtained archway behind the dusty counter into an old glass-house.The unwashed panes were murky and covered in green mildew. It was humid, and smelt damp and musty. Plants of various sizes fought for space in old plant pots. I noticed that some of the plants were moving…there was an ominous hushed rustling sound, as tendrils slithered and crept, and leaves wriggled and dripped.
I stood in the middle of the room my hands clasped under my chin, making myself as small and thin as I could. The old woman was hunched over in the corner, busying herself with a small pair of clippers and a trowel, humming tunelessly as she worked. Finally she turned round and held out a cracked, faded pot containing a small green cutting in a little bed of soft brown soil. It had one leaf and a tiny bud.
I took it from her uncertainly, holding it at arm’s length.
“It won’t bite!” she cackled, “It’ll grow fruit, and you want to eat ‘em if you want to stay safe. Before the full moon rises, girl!”
She took every last coin I had in my purse for that little cutting. But it was worth it.
Over the next few days, before the full moon, my cutting grew into a majestic plant with sturdy green leaves, and on the day of the full moon, pale yellow fruit appeared, with soft velvety skin, like little peaches.
And so, with much trepidation, on the night of the full moon, as the sun set in a pinky-orange sky, I sat on the cool stone step in the door way of our cottage with a little yellow fruit on my plate.
I lifted it to my mouth and bit into the soft flesh. It was sweet and juicy and so good to eat that I did not at first realize that my body was changing. I shrank smaller and smaller, and webs appeared between my fingers as my hands stretched into wings. My ears grew bigger, and I sprouted black fur all over my body.
You might think this alarming, yet somehow the transformation felt natural, even the first time it happened. I turned into a little bat the size of my human hand. And the best part, the most amazing, exciting, exhilarating part was that I could fly.
I swooped and I flitted, I dived and I soared, around the roof of the cottage, over the garden, through the trees in the wood.
That night, when the creatures came, those monsters from my nightmares, with their shadowy faces and their rasping moans, could not find me.
And they never will.