Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Fran was more than aware that she was growing. The yellow rose-petal gown she wore was rising above mid-thigh and to her embarrassment she received several wolf-whistles and cat calls when she walked past a group of boys unloading thistle-pods next to a corral filled with Koots (Gnat larva). She blushed and felt a certain degree of embarrassment but she found herself smiling a little … it was good to be noticed.
Siltlin was taking clothes from a woven-basket made of spider-silk and carefully placing them on several bushes inside a fenced area that looked like a leafless garden gone dormant. She waved and beckoned her friend to come to her. Fran thought at first her friend was hanging the clothes up to dry but none of the flower-blossom apparel appeared to be wet. “Oh! This is tedious work but it has to be done,” Siltlin sighed as she removed a full-length evening gown made from a single peach-colored orchid petal from the basket and smoothed out several wrinkles. Fran watched her carefully stretch the material over the bush and then attach the seam (stem) in the dress to what looked like a newly formed bud sprout in the top of the bush. Fran hadn’t noticed before but as she looked at her own dress she realized that each article of clothing worn by the Nich had a stem running through the center. “What on earth are you doing?”
“Laundry!” Siltlin laughed. “When our clothes get dirty we attach them to these surrogate bushes. In just a few hours, the clothes which are mostly made from flowers become alive again. The plant repairs any damage to the petals and cleans them. In return the bush is able to gather energy from the scant sunlight coming into our city built inside the mountain. It’s what keeps our clothes soft and pliable.”
“It sounds like these bushes do all the work!”
“Well … we have to remember to take them off when they’re clean and repaired,” Siltlin said. “If we forget and leave them attached too long they begin to grow and our clothes are suddenly too large for us to wear.”
Fran laughed. “Humans have the opposite problem. Most people find that when they leave some article of clothing in their closet too long it becomes too tight to wear … but it’s the people eating too much and getting larger … not the clothes getting smaller.” A sudden thought struck her. “But how do you manage to grow such fantastic plants inside a mountain?”
“We have created our own sunlight.” Siltlin pointed to the ceiling high above them. Fran glanced up and dazzled, glanced quickly away. It was just like looking at the sun when she was outside so she had never noticed before.
“Two Nich manning water reflectors are stationed just inside the city entrance and capture light from the sun or the moon and reflect it into a giant cut and polished diamond hanging from the ceiling. The prism-like qualities of the crystal disperse the reflected light from the sun or the moon to all areas of our city.”
Fran was stunned. “Wow!” was all she could say.
“Our spectacularly large jewel makes this place a danger for human exploitation too,” Siltlin said. “At more than one hundred carats, our energy source is over twice as large as the world’s fabled Hope diamond.”
“Where on Earth did you get such a fabulous gemstone?” Fran had a new appreciation for the artificial light in the city.
“Sean O’Brian is our biggest human supporter and benefactor,” Siltlin said. “As well as establishing, maintaining and enforcing the Motha Forest Trust which keeps humans from exploiting the diverse magic in this part of the world, he also smuggled the largest diamond ever found out of South Africa and brought it to us so that we might have light in our city. Some say the man is a mobster, but he has always treated us with kindness.”
Siltlin looked at Fran and shook her head. “Let’s go have some breakfast and then we’ll do a raid on Bonetta’s Sinker Berry patch. If we don’t leave soon and get you shrunk back down, all you’ll be wearing … will be a smile!”
Fran and Siltlin sat at one of twelve long tables made from split twigs. The Nich were filling tall stem-cups with yellow nectar and laughing and chatting merrily as they passed around bowls made from seed shell halves filled with tiny pale blue orbs. Fran thought they must be a type of fruit. After eating several handfuls she smiled. “These are delicious,” she said. “What are they?”
“Decludes … what you humans call Earwig eggs,” Siltlin said. “I’m glad you like them. Eat up! They are very nutritious!”
Samuel Dodge considered throwing a few things into a wagon and leaving Comanche County forever. Fran’s mother was the problem; she wanted her daughter back and suspected Samuel knew more than he was telling. “You’re sure you looked everywhere?”
“I looked in every part of the woods this side of Motha,” Samuel told her, “and I’ve talked to all the neighbors five miles in all directions … ain’t nobody seen her!”
Samuel needed to get in the wood shed; he thought he might have an extra homemade fly swatter in there … Bonetta demanded at least three. Samuel’s new wife blocked his way with her fisted hands dug deep into her robust hips. “Samuel Robert Dodge you look me in the eye and swear on the Good Book that you don’t know where Fran is!”
“I swear I ain’t seen her,” Franklin almost shouted … his eyes blinked several times.
Franklin gritted his teeth … he knew what was coming next. “Did you look inside the Bonetta Sharpstone house?”
“No one in their right mind would go in that place,” Franklin insisted. “Bonetta Sharpstone is supposed to have been dead for years … but then why do honest people keep seeing her on moon lit nights?”
“I don’t care if the woman is spook, spirit or spin stress I want my Fran back before the sun goes down … I’ll not spend another night waking up with red eyes and a wet pillow.” Edith Dodge approached her husband and shook a calloused finger in his face – something she had never done before. “You bring my Fran back tonight or so help me God I’ll send for Sheriff Walker in Cloverdale!”
Franklin was so furious at his wife he almost didn’t see the two homemade swatters hanging on a nail just inside the woodshed door. He heard the back door slam behind him and decided he might have to delay Fran’s beating another week or so and that made him even angrier. Bonetta said Fran would show up just before nightfall … he hoped she was right. After all, if you can’t trust a witch … who can you trust?
Fran followed her Nich friend into the flower garden. “I think it’s time that you learn to fly,” Siltlin told her.
“I was wondering where you kept the dragonflies.” Fran noticed several of the creatures hovering above the flower blossoms.
Siltlin laughed. “These are just a few stragglers the main herd is in a meadow not far from here … but these will do.” Siltlin broke the stems off from two trumpet vine blossoms and carefully unrolled the coiled fibers inside. “These are called Moros,” she said. She handed one of the trumpets and a Moro rope to Fran. “Blow on the trumpet … don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear any sound. The audio waves are far above our hearing range. When a dragonfly lands near you, attach the Moro to the hook-shaped nodules on each side of the thorax between the wing pairs. The dragonfly picks up your thought transmissions through the Moro rope held in your hands and obeys your commands. But be careful …” Siltlin laughed. “If you believe you’re going to crash … then you’re going to crash!”
Fran blew on one of the trumpet blossoms and for a long time nothing happened. She was about to blow again when suddenly a large dragonfly landed near her. The two sets of transparent wings were moving so fast they appeared as a blue/violet blur. Fran was at first afraid to approach the insect but with Siltlin’s urging she finally attached the Moro and climbed aboard. She waited … wishing she hadn’t agreed to do this … and nothing happened. Siltlin was already soaring high above near the city’s ceiling. “You have to think about flying,” her friend called down as she made a pass overhead.
Fran closed her eyes and imagined the wind blowing through her hair as she swooped and dove through the air. It felt so real … nobody was more surprised when she opened her eyes and it was really happening.
Together they made several passes over the city. Fran’s fear was gradually replaced by confidence and a sense of stupendous exhilaration. They were on their last pass over the city when they were suddenly joined by Donone and Gebae also mounted on dragonflies. “You wasn’t going to leave without us were you?” Donone joked.
All four fliers were almost startled off their mounts when Lendoria appeared grinning impishly. “Does the queen know where you’re going?” Gebae demanded in mock sternness.
Lendoria pulled back on her dragonfly’s Moro rope and made the creature do a kind of silly dance.
“Of course not,” she said. “If my mother knew what I was doing … she’d croak!”
All five dragon riders flew out of the mountain city and a minute later were soaring over Motha Forest … their raucous laughter rustled the carpet of leaves below them like birds courting before a storm.
Bonetta wasn’t inside her house and when Samuel looked out back the old woman was dragging a bulging burlap bag to a spot under a large Poplar tree where he’d hung scores of wasp nests. He followed her noting with satisfaction that the Sinker Berry bushes were all covered with the witch’s special glue. The ground exhaled a rank-sweet odor like rotting fruit that made him gag. Bonetta opened the top of the bag and stepped back. A swarm of black somethings poured from the burlap … an unseen battalion of marching legs. Samuel could only see vague shadows but he felt them under his pant-cuffs crawling upward. “Waaagawwwggg!!! Get then off!” Samuel began to stomp his feet and beat his fists against his legs and midsection.
“You ignorant lout!” Bonetta raised one finger and Samuel was flung across the yard his entire two hundred pound body frame smashing into a tree trunk. The furious witch dug boney fingers into an apron pocket and produced a rusty salad fork which she flung at Samuel with deadly accuracy. The tiny trident pinned Samuel’s ear deep into the tree bark with a loud twaaaang sound.
“These are my allies the Boog,” Bonetta said, scooping armfuls of the marching black masses and placing them on tree limbs next to the wasp nests. “If you have harmed any of my wasp riders I’ll let them seek their own revenge when this night is over.
Samuel was trying to extract himself from the tree trunk when a sound came from the East so horrible and terrifying that he freed his ear with one bloody yank. “What the Hell is that?” Samuel hadn’t cursed for years but his righteous church days as a respected member of Reverend White’s congregation now seemed like a distant memory.
“It’s the wasps arriving just a bit early,” Bonetta said gazing at the moon just coming over the horizon looking like a wagon-light for the black mass following. “Many thousands I guess by the sound!” She grabbed a shovel leaning next to a tree and tossed it to Samuel. “We’re going to need more Boog … a lot more!” She carried a stack of burlap bags as she led Samuel, holding his torn and bloody ear, to a clearing in the woods. The ground was covered with freshly dug trenches each about two foot deep. “There,” Bonetta pointed her finger at tiny holes barely seen under a carpet of dead leaves. “Those are their breathing holes … dig carefully … we don’t want them angry and tearing off our skin for revenge!”
To be continued …