Tag Archives: short stories

Lost and Found 3: The Solo Rapture

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When the Rapture came, only Henry Smithfield noticed. Everyone else was rather too busy just living their flawed lives.

Henry, a paragon of virtue in a tarnished world, heard trumpets and looked to the sky as he walked past the Federal Court of Australia on La Trobe Street. To his left was the court building, all imposing glass and concrete with its brightly coloured entryway, and the rather less glamorous concrete fountain. Over the road, to the right, was Flagstaff Gardens, filled with morning joggers, tai chi classes, city dwellers taking their city dogs for a run on the green.

To tell the truth, Henry was a little bit smug that he was the only one to hear the trumpets, to notice the call of the angelic host. He thought it more than a little ironic, too, that the call had come while he was part way between the halls of justice on one side and a former cemetery on the other. The final judgement was coming at just the right time and place.

Henry stopped in the street, stood on the edge of the non-functioning fountain (nobody seemed to have cared enough to turn it back on again after the easing of a decade of water restrictions) and held his hands to the sky. Waiting.

The heavenly host played a few more notes and then paused, allowing stragglers to catch up. But no-one else heard. No-one else stopped to look towards the heavens. Well, one or two people, but they were mainly checking for potential rainclouds. This was Melbourne. You could never entirely trust the forecast.

A few people paused to cast a curious glance at Henry, but he wasn’t hurting anyone and besides, the daft bugger in his jeans and hoodie and dark sneakers looked beatific more than dangerous. Perhaps his case had been found in his favour, they thought. One jogger gave him two thumbs up and a congratulatory grin on the way past.

The heavenly host gave a little sigh, looked at their sole audience member, shrugged and figured that maybe Facebook hadn’t really been the best way to send invitations to this particular party. Still, there was no need to blame Henry the Pure for being the only one with manners enough to notice the call.

With a beat of their wings, the host created one hell of a downdraft, which collected Henry and then drew him up. It was a bit startling at first, and Henry kicked his feet, trying instinctively to stand on solid ground. His shoes fell into the puddle of water lying on the base of the defunct fountain. He waggled his socked feet a little, then decided it was quite pleasant, this flying business. Grinning, he let himself be lifted.

Nobody noticed.

So, Henry got to heaven and found himself the sole occupant of a rather more dull than expected paradise.

The remaining inhabitants of the earth mainly didn’t notice that Judgement Day had been and gone, and went on being the embodiment of good and evil, heaven and hell, god and the devil, in their own personal way, sometimes in the very same person, as they’d done ever since they’d been given the gift of choice.

Only one person ever missed Henry, and that was his sister, who had loved her brother but frankly found him so impossibly perfect that she rarely saw him. His perfection made her feel inadequate, whereas most of the time she felt she wasn’t such a bad old stick, really. She was kind to animals and the elderly and bought the Big Issue and tried to be supportive and to be a good friend. As human beings go, she really was a lovely person. Not perfect by any means, but she made an effort. If heaven had been a little less rigid in its spiritual dress code, she might have heard the call.

But rigid it was, and most people are flawed, and really, the vagaries of heaven and hell had never really had that much impact on daily life on earth, the in-between place where devils and angels were part of the same clay that made everyone else.

In the end, the heavenly host withdrew entirely from earthly affairs, and valiantly tried to hide their disappointment from Henry that Judgement Day had been such a fizzer. Words were definitely going to be had with the marketing people.

And the world? It went on, being good, bad and indifferent, depending on the predelictions of its individual inhabitants, as it always did.

Lost and Found is and irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Lost and Found 2: Changeling

Lost and found 2 changelingOn Australia Day I went to the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to see The Sapphires (courtesy of the Northern Territory tourism commission). What should I spy on the way in but this spangly sign that surely faeries have passed nearby, up to no good of course?

Bloody treacherous faeries.

Faeries, you see, get fancies. They see things they like and just take ’em. Pretty, shiny, sparkly things. And also babies. Faeries have an unfortunate tradition of taking a shine to some chubby little darling and whisking it away to the Land of Faerie to feed it little cakes and sips of flower nectar and generally spoil it rotten.

They’re not stupid, though, faeries. Even they have noticed that vanishing infants and toddlers create an awkward kerfuffle amongst those slow-witted and reality-bound humans, and some of those humans are annoyingly attached to their offspring, as well as irritatingly persistent in trying to get them back.

So faeries leave a substitute. A little changeling, very much like the child it’s replacing, but quieter. The changeling cries less, fusses less, is more placid and obedient and docile. With this sly bit of subterfuge, the faeries hope that the humans will just be grateful that their infant is suddenly much more pliable and easy to manage and not pursue the matter.

It’s not going to work this time though. Do you see that sparkly little jacket? That pink and spangly thing with flowers in it? That belongs to a bright and lively little girl who is always chattering and giggling and, well, yes, also screaming sometimes. She’s a kid. She doesn’t know all the words yet for what she wants and needs, let alone has oratory skills to help sway her audience to her way of thinking. When she’s a teenager, she’s going to be absolute hell, in the best possible way. In the meantime she chatters and giggles and screams as occasion demands.

Right now, she is making the Faerie Queen wish heartily she never saw the kid. Right now, she is expressing her opinions rather forcefully, even with her limited vocabulary, about the taste of bleeding flower nectar and the use of cobwebs – GODDAMN COBWEBS – as a blanket.

Have these faeries never noticed what kind of spiders live in the Real Plane that is called Australia, that this little girl quite rightly views with concern? It’s hard to feel cosy and relaxed sleeping under a little blankie made of the butt-silk of venomous things. Okay so maybe the kid has a problem and if she just thought about it she’d work it through and think the cobweb blankets were neat, but on the other hand, she’s thinking, you are not my real parents, who would never make me sleep under poisonous spider butt-silk sheets and wouldn’t make me drink bloody flower water and where the absolute hell is my bunny and my ninja My Little Pony and MY MUUUUUUUUUM?

For their part, her parents are not impressed with the obvious substitute they found in the stroller. This whey-faced, doughy, dull little baby with all the personality of an undercooked bread roll. Okay, so humans are not of themselves magic, but they’re not stupid, and they are, as explained, attached to their children. So these parents are going back to the gardens with this dull little changeling and they’re going to stand under the tree where they last saw their own child and they are going demand the return of their daughter. Loudly. Repeatedly. Insistently. With many, many swear words and very little in the way of attempts to bargain with the magic folk. Screw diplomacy. Give us back our daughter you creepy little winged freaks before we find a way to burn down your fairy fucking halls.

And frankly, the Faerie Queen is going to be much too relieved to be rid of this bold, brave, uncompromising, strong-willed and vocally enhanced human child to worry overmuch about the lack of courtesy.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.