Friday, 9 December 2011

Animation, And Other Addictions Part I

“Maybe I’ll just go, then. I’ve got a bit of money saved, I could just leave. Work won’t miss me, my friends wouldn’t.” Kitty casually shrugged and looked down to avoid eye contact, her green eyes tracing imaginary circles on the ground then paused. “So, it’s decided - I’ll pack tonight and head off first thing.”

The Raven, perched on the branch of an old tree above her, was distracted by an itch so began to nuzzle his beak into the shoulder of his wing. The action provoked gravity to summon the monocle from his large beak so he snatched at it clumsily, supposing that he should give Kitty a reply. He had come to accept these regular outbursts as mere invitations to a conversation that would confirm a bond of security between them. He was tired of issuing reminders.

“Go, then,” he casually murmured and returned to the itch.

“What do you mean, “Go”?” Kitty exclaimed, clambering to her feet and glaring hard at the bird. “Just like that? And what would you do?” Kitty succeeded in tugging the Raven’s gaze towards her, then immediately rubbed her brow to conceal her sudden tearfulness. “Wouldn’t you miss me?” Her eyebrows hunched together into a frown that made the excess fur between them form dozens of sharp pins. “And, anyway, wouldn’t you come...” she hesitated then glanced coyly at Raven above her, “ ...with me?”

Raven wearily shook his head and swooped down beside her.

“And go where exactly? Somewhere warmer, maybe? The desert? Or somewhere with a better view?” He stretched out his left wing to the East. “The seaside?” He gave a sharp tut of disapproval folding his wing in briskly, a river of olive black plumage undulating then billowing as if echoing his intention to stay. His last suggestion had captured Kitty’s imagination and she became animated by all the excitement with which possibilities of imagined adventure bulge.

“You’re right! That’s it!” She clapped her chubby paws twice together in quick succession then flung her short arms around the Raven’s neck and let out a squeal of delight. Raven stifled a cough, then succeeded in pushing Kitty away, directing his beak to the sky to stretch in his crumpled throat. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to live by the sea! Imagine all that fresh air, the breeze all year round... all the power of the seasons gulping and crashing against the shore!” Kitty spun around dreamily as if she were a marionette whose strings were untwisting.

Raven looked on admiring the way she became enchanted so freely. Kitty was an adult now, but the entirety of youth’s dewy dream shone around her brightly in these moments as if the bubblegum pink ribbon of childhood innocence wound tightly around her middle. Every time she tilted her head to the sky, she purred as her dreams soared almost above the god’s own and she surrendered to the majesty of the bluebell heavens. She sank into the duvet of lawn and let out a gentle sigh.

“I might sleep better.” She began twisting blades of grass around her claws. “All that sea air. They say you do.” She trailed off busying herself by grooming the split claw she had discovered on her forepaw, filing the rugged tip along the stone beside her.

The Raven hopped briskly and disapprovingly along the branch of the silver birch, his claws loosening mossy parachutes that dreamily swayed to the ground. “If I’m troubled, I don’t sleep - sea or no sea. What difference does a little sand and water make? Troubles is troubles, Kitty. The grass isn’t always greener, you know.” Kitty stopped preening and looked over at Raven. She noticed that his dry cynicism parched his feathers of their usual cheerful gleam.

His discouragement of her dreaming had never diminished her eagerness; her reluctance waned then fleshed out again at according to the divine request of the season. She felt uncertain about embarking on an adventure but the exhaustion she felt from dancing the peculiar dances of civilisation in the wood had now grown greater. She understood the necessity of the steps sometimes but often they felt dusty and tired like abandoned tutus from some archaic ballet. Kitty yearned for a dance of freedom like the sure, joyful darting of swifts who would occasionally visit in the summer.

The comforting concertina of the Raven’s wing enveloped her and she felt his head nuzzling up against hers. He turned to look at her, lowering his head to reveal two downy ridges where the crux of his wings met. He spoke steadily, her distorted reflection swilling in the plastic disc of his pupils.

“Listen, have you thought about you’re looking for, Kitty?” He held her tighter as if he feared that without his embrace she would certainly float away in her own blustery thoughts. “This place isn’t so bad, once you get used to it.” He smiled as his other wing described an ark, demonstrating the friendly gallery of all that he imagined she’d miss. The glimmering silver birch wood stood like silent attentive wizards. It was punctuated here and there by Raven’s friends who perched elegantly like chess pieces awaiting patiently their turn in conversation. Some were sharing dainty silver pots of tea whose bellies stole glimpses of sunlight as they were poured; others pecked at the Morse code morsels of leftover sandwiches and cake from china plates that, to Kitty, spelt civilisation.

Displayed on Raven’s tree was a zoo of ornaments from his travels. There were dozens of black and white photographs that neatly froze memories of a thousand stories that could be plucked at will from the conveyor belt of time to delight and enchant anyone who would listen. There were many stories about countless adventures beyond the wood in the time before the mirrors came.

The scene’s familiarity didn’t provide any comfort to Kitty. Her nausea surrendered to irritation and a renewed vigour of the desire to pursue the image-less dream that constantly gnawed at her. As she paced back and forth, shards of light slithered and burst at her from the cutlery that Raven was holding to the light and polishing, having returned to his familiar branch.

“I’m glad you’ve found happiness here, Raven,” she offered, forcing a smile. “But this is your version of happiness. I just don’t see myself here.” She surveyed the wood again then shook her head. “Sometimes I don’t even recognise it.”

Raven placed the fork on the tea-towel he had draped over the branch. “P’ah! How quickly you forget the lessons of the Great Fire.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” she replied hastily. ”How could I forget? Grandfather lost his orchard. It was devastating for him. Tending the orchard was his life. But that was only a story for...”

“Only a story? That was our lives, Kitty! It was devastating for every one of us. We lost everything!”

“I know, I know but...not... everything. Look at everything you have here.”

“We have that because we were forced to make a way. Do you think that this just all appeared overnight from thin air?”

“No, of course I don’t! But you all had your chance, you went on adventures. Isn’t it fair that I now have mine? I have dreams, too!”

“A chance of what? Of destruction? Of pain? Of death? P’ah!”

“A chance of living a life.”

“You are living, Kitty. You have a way of life that your grandparents dreamed of. What more can you want?”

“I want my dream! I’m not Grandfather’s dream. That is all gone. What about what I want?”

“We’ve all worked so hard for years to give you what you need. We all have dreams, Kitty. I have dreams,” Raven announced as he flapped his wings then continued in a raised voice, “And I like them to stay that way! Take a look around you - “ his eyes darted like wild dogs as the volume of his voice momentarily hushed the background chatter.

Kitty noticed that the tall slim trunks were now columns of books and novels whose spines glistened in the lazy autumn light. “You turn your nose up like a fool. You think you can find a better other way, as if you’re the first person in the wood!” The fuzzy squawk of neighbourhood gossip returned and Kitty started to blush.

The Raven’s right foot sprung back then with great force kicked one of the log books towards her. With a dull dusty thump, the book hit the ground and the leaves sprayed open. Kitty, at once encouraged and intimidated by Raven’s fury, approached the book and gazed at the picture. Displayed was an illustration of a child encloaked in white linen with one arm outstretched and a set of wings protruding from his back. The child was standing on a square piece of stone, which elevated him from the forest floor.

“You see?” Raven continued. “Everyone wants something that they have never seen. And they wait with their hands outstretched...and they wait...and for what? To be humiliated and left cold in the darkness!” He paced up and down the branch, muttering angrily to the sympathetic bark of the tree.

“But you can’t see the boy’s face!” Kitty replied defiantly, holding up the book to the branch where now fat chunks of moss and papery lengths were being loosened by the bird’s claws. “How do you know that the child isn’t happy?”

“P’ah! Go and find out,” Raven despaired. “Seek and ye shall find!”

With a sharp snap the book closed and a mushroom of dust gently chugged into the air. Black bristles of night attacked the wood and all Kitty could taste was the bitter treacle smoke of a moonless sky.

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