Story Competition 2008, winner's story - Hannah Birch
Sculptures of Hope
by Hannah Birch
Pickles was curled at the end of my bed as usual. Katy was banging away in her usual toddler sleep and I was in my familiar old blue striped pagarmas. It was early to bed, as I had an early morning ahead. But I didn't want to think of that then. That always gives me nightmares as thick as a toomstone, and as dark as a hole in space. So I pushed that thought angriliy to the back of my head, and fell into a deep disturbing sleep.
I woke, still in striped pagarmas, but nolonger under my England Flag covers. A thick fog grabbed me, I was held by a warm, wet wich, determined not release me. I looked around in terror, unable to see any further than my hand. Something sat on my foot. I would have yelped, but the fog stopped me. With a swimming sort of motion, I cleared some of the fog, and bent down to my feet.
A small, dark brown object had plonked itself down on my foot. Then I saw the red collar. It was pickles, my dog! Somehow I must have brought him with me on my dream, or is it my journey? Poor Pickles. He looked everso forlorn. I picked him up, and saw a silver coin, like a slivver of fish scales, by my foot as I did so. I touched it, and the fog, well, just vanished. There was no sort of bang, or flash like there is in fairy books. It just wasn't there anymore. So I piked up the coin, and put it in the top pocket of my pagarmas. Looking around in aw, I saw an army of tall, tall, rainforest trees. I heard the hiss, hiss of the vibrant, green vipers. I saw the vines, and the marching ants as they crossed them. I saw the eggcup like flowers with their little paddling pool inside, where a pair of froggy eyes lived.
The forest floor sprang underfoot with leaflittler and mosses. It was hot, and humid, Pickles felt as soggy as an old nappy. He simply had to walk. I wandered spellbound and was drawn towards a shaft of light weaving down through the trees illuminating a stoned well in a little clearing. Remembering the fog, I gazed around cautiously. It was the third time I had cast my eyes over the place befor I saw it.
It had been built to be camouflaged, like a dark patch, but really it was a cave, covered with mosses and ferns, not quite natural enough to hide completely. I was about to turn and run when Pickles made a dash for the entrance. So I folowed him.
inside, a small waxy candle was giving off pungent fumes, I sucked in the sweet smell and it made me feel safe. An old man sat in the corner with a block of wood in his hand. He had been chipping away for some time, his hands singing the block into a bird so real it took your breath away. He looked up and smiled at me. He pointed to a rough block of deep red wood, a sharp tool and to a stump. So I took the wood, and the tool, and perched on the stump, and sat, chipping away at, my block, not nowing what I was carving. I had been carving for some time when I noticed it was Pickles I was making.
" Dreamer, you are, boy. You know that?"
" To tell you the truth, urm, Sir, I don't know if I'm awake or asleep."
"Believe you're awake, boy. It'll be stronger."
" What are you carving boy?"
And that was how most of our conversations went. he was called Pacusi, and had lived in the forest because he was different to the others, but here he could be who he wanted. He didn't tell me anything else. But I got the feeling he had told me more than he had told anyone and I felt obliged to tell him my problems. Pacusi didn't cry, He didn't pat me on the back and tell me I'd be alright. He didn't say he knew how I felt. He didn't nod piteously. Instead he smiled.
" What does it stop you from doing, Boy?" I had to think about this
"Nothing. Well, It stops me from somethings, but..."
"You can dream all the things you miss. Because you're a dreamer, Boy. Don't give up. You're winning." I smiled. This old man had said not what I wanted to hear, but because what I wanted to hear, I knew was untrue. it lifted weight off my shoulders. I landed with a dull thump on my bed at about midnight. I cheked my poket for the coin, and in their too was a map of the old mans oasis on bark. I smiled and fell asleep.
I woke up, my feet all num. Dad was sat on them.
" Wakey wakey sleepy head." He qoted from the Big Book Of Parent Clechays. I smirked slyly and "naughty toed" (from Katy's ballay) Dad. He laughed and lept off. All ready, we clambered into our car at severn. Katy was still tucked up in her duvay. We have to leave so early to get to the hospital because my appointment is at nine with the turtle docter (he really does look like a turtle) and it takes ages to get there. I have to go to a special hospital because what I have is unusual.
The hospital smell grabbed me like the wich fog did. The dizzy feeling of sickness went WOOSH over me. I felt like one of the skittles at a bowling alley when the balls are coming. We didn't wait long. I played in the "Kid's Zone" (a cheep plastic, tacky coloured slide thing) At least it kept Katy happy. Mum and Dad went into The Side Room. That is NEVER a good sine.
A million ‘Weees' from Katy down the slide later, my Mum, Dad and Dr. Turtle came out. Mum had that sort of white look rimmed with red, all mopped up, Dad had his arm protectively around her shoulder, his eyes red as well. The turtle looked a particularly grim Turtle. I knew the test results without being told. I didn't cry though. What's the point? I'd got over being scared of dieing a year ago. Everyone dies eventually. Its how much you get into however long you have that matters. I wish Mum and Dad could see that. Dad took my hand and led me blindly into The Side Room. Mum stayed with Katy.
" Listen, Danny. I, …"
"Dad, it's okay. I know." Tears dribbled out of Dad's eyes
"Only A year." Dad whispered. I stayed silent. I took Dad's hand and led him back to Mum.
We got to go to Pizza Hut to cheer everyone up. Katy must think the "naughty bug" is quite good.
We got home and I went straight to bed. I dreamed the dream again. The old man was waiting for me. He was laughing a big ringing laugh.
" My child, I can cure you!" I just stared, with tears streaming down my cheeks.
"thankyou sir, Oh Thankyou!" We went into the cave and the old man took Pickles from me, and in a blurr, he turned the carving from looking like Pickles, to being him.
"Boy, find a coin full of fog, a mother's tear and the first petal off a cottage rose. Put them in this bag" He handed me a tiny bag made by the tinyest spider weaving the finest fog beaded thred. I landed on my bed.
The next day I set about finding the items. the coin was still in my PJs. My Mum was always crying now, so the Mother's tear wasn't hard to find. It was like a little slippery fish running over my hand as I scampered up to my room to add that to my bag. I ran outside. We live in a little victorian cottage, with a rose bush around our door. It was the middle of winter.
I didn't dream the dream again until the rose came into flower. and I teased the first petal off the first rose. That night I dremt the dream. I gave the bag to the old man. He threw it in the well. Then, just how the fog had, It went. I had no scientific proof it had, but it was like someone had injected me with life, I felt like I had been a skeleton then someone had added flesh. It was the light that ended darkness.
When I landed on my bed though, I felt week and pale again. I sobbed and sobbed. I had been cheated.
That morning Mum enquired where I would like to go if I could go anywhere in the world. I fetched the map from the Old Man. I asked to go there, the Amazon Rainforest. Dad laughed and pointed out that the Amazon was a very big place. So I pedanticaly showed him the map with the pin in it. Dad's laugh was infectious, and soon me and Katy and Mum were splitting our sides, rolling around like marbles. Even Pikles yapped.
I discovered that when I was dreaming, I was well again. I visited the old man every night that week, chipping away at my new carving, one of a Clouded Lepard, Pacusi called them the queen of the forest, a magestic beauty. It was the Saturday morning of that week that Dad woke me up with breakfast inbed at a ridiculously small hour of the morning (about three). I looked around. Mum and Katy were there aswell, all dressed. Dad threw me a bundle of clothes, and I threw him a look. What were they playing at? They bundled me into the car, and drove to the airport. They told me a rushed explanation about meeting a relative. When we got onto the plane (first class!) I really didn't believe them. After hours of Katy's bad jokes, we looked out of the tiny window, and there beneath us, was the fog I had seen in my dream, peppered with treetops.
We stayed in a little log cabin, and went on amazing tours around the forest, seeing exotic animals. I loved it. Everything in my dream had been so exactly right. The vibrant colours. The diverse noises. Even the tracks were in the right places. So one morning, I got up with the sun, before anyone else, and me and Pickle went into the forest.
There was the wich fog there, the same clearing, the same well with the same cave with the same old man outside it.
"you believed boy, now you come! Boy this time I can cure you. Forever." I ran to him, my eyes streaming. Happines pored out of me like a waterfall. It was going to be alright.
That's why I'd sat there in the hospital, playing with Katy in the Kid's Zone, while Mum, Dad and the Turtle planed my life for me (they had planned me for to die, until the Old Man saved me) And I wasn't worried, infact, I was excited. Mum and Dad would cry, I knew they would, but it'd be tears of happiness, not sadness. Hopefully.
Mum looked red around the edges, all mopped up. Dad was grinning his infectious grin. Even the Turtle looked happy.
"Danny, My boy, you're free lad, clear of it. Do you understand?" Dad looked at me. It took a while to register. I was expecting "It's looking up" not "you're clear".
That's why tonight, I'm going to take the Old Man a present. I'm going to take him Pickle's sculpture, because that's what started my longing to beat the cancer. Before that, I'd accepted my impending fate. He gave me something to strive for.