The IJB loves to write, but she hates to write non-fiction like I do. She prefers to write tales of mythology and lore, filled with mysterious creatures and characters. This time, however, her Language Arts teacher presented her class with a challenge - to write a "real life" story, no zombies or werewolves, no dragons or orcs. The IJB was flummoxed for a bit as "real life" stories are dull in her view, far too close to what we do every day and far too lacking in imagination. But she decided to write what she knows, and when she sent me the end result I was amazed.
I submitted the story for publication in a local magazine, and when I learned this week that it had been rejected by the guest editor I was mildly disappointed for the IJB but also pleased, as it meant that I could share it here. I don't have an issue with the rejection, incidentally, as they may have simply felt it did not fit with the theme of this issue, and since it is a blind process they could have no way of knowing it was written not by an adult but by a 14-year old young woman who already writes better than many adults two or three times her age.
I will be very honest. I think her talent easily rivals any that I have, and I believe with time and experience it will quickly overshadow my own, and I could not be happier as I think all parents want to see our children be even more than we are or could ever be. She has set the story in a small town in Ireland where we spent some time three years ago, and it clearly has impacted her deeply as she has captured the setting beautifully, including the glorious Rock of Cashel, a centuries old Irish castle that looms over the town, up on a hill and bathed at night in soft amber lights. The cafe in the story is inspired by a cafe we found in another Irish town called Kinsale, where we stopped one day for a hot chocolate that it seems will forever live in her memories of her time in Ireland.
This is the Intrepid Junior Blogger's story. I have not edited or changed a thing, because I didn't need to. I share it, I suppose, because on occasion we can all use something that is a bit of "real life" but not so real as to be mundane. There are no zombies or orcs in this, but there is something better, I think. There is a great deal of imagination, a lot of natural talent, and the soul of a young woman who observes the world quietly but closely. I present to you:
I sat in my bed, hunched over the glowing screen of my MacBook Pro with my auburn bangs hanging in my face. A warm breath of midsummer air blew through my room, as I flipped effortlessly through my tabs. First I checked my Twitter mentions, finding only a spambot advertising ‘free followers fast!’ I rolled my eyes and reported for spam.
Next I checked YouTube and saw the new A-pop music video from Gunnarolla I had been waiting for. I clicked the link and while the video loaded I poked my head out the open window beside my bed, looking out over the familiar Irish landscape. For a minute, I admired the dark fields before me. Leaning back in, I saw that the video was done loading so I hit play. To my distress, the page, as well as all of my tabs, had suddenly gone blank.
I frantically checked each tab and tried refreshing the pages, all to no avail. I then noticed that my Wi-Fi signal was gone. I reached for the lamp on my bedside table and flicked the switch on it, only for nothing to happen. Uh-oh. Must be a power outage.
After grabbing the red lantern flashlight off my bedside table, I walked down the hall to the family room. Shining the light onto the wifi router on the table, I saw that all the little lights that usually blink randomly were off. I flipped the light switch experimentally. Nada. With a sigh I walked back to my room. Thinking over my options, I saw only two. I could wait out the outage, but who knows how long that could take. Or, I could head to the nearest town and go to the café there. They have wifi.
Back in my room, I prepared for my expedition. I changed out of my pajamas into jeans and a black Marilyn Manson t-shirt, with a purple zip-up hoodie on top. I quickly brushed my hair and laced up my pair of black Dr. Martens, before grabbing my navy blue backpack. I tossed in my laptop and its charging cable. I snuck downstairs and grabbed a couple cans of coke out of the fridge, throwing those in as well as a couple of chocolate bars from my candy stash. Lastly I threw my wallet into the bag and clipped the flashlight onto my belt.
I left out the front door and locked it behind me, figuring out the quickest route to Cashel in my head. If I just followed the road for a while and then crossed a few fields, I could be there nice and quick. I nodded and set off.
I walked along the side of the small, one-land country road, with squat and worn down stone walls on either side. The moon illuminated the long, winding stretch of road and the fields around it. I wouldn’t have to use my flashlight, at least not yet.
After following the road for a while, I came to a large field, filled with sheep. A hill stretched up beyond that, crowned with a crumbling stone watchtower. Once I had slipped through the fence I trekked across the long field, stepping around a sleeping ball of wool every now and then. Stopping at the base of the rather intimidating hill, I shifted my backpack and began to climb.
Finally reaching the apex of the hill, I turned and looked back at the land I had already crossed. In the distance I could see my house. I walked over to the ancient tower and sat on a large rock, pulling a can of coke out of my bag and popping open the lid. I took a swig of the sweet ichor within, and admired the gorgeous landscape before me.
Once I had emptied the can, I crushed it under my foot and tossed it into the rubble at the base of the tower. I peered around and saw the Rock of Cashel atop another hill, and the lights of the town just beyond it. I was so close! Now only a field and a small creek lay between my precious wifi and I. I began down the hill, a slight bounce in my step.
I reached another fence, this one taller and metal. I swung over the bars with ease as the moon slid behind a bank of clouds, plunging the world into darkness.
Swearing under my breath, I fumbled for the flashlight at my belt. At last I wrapped my hand around the handle and clicked the power button twice. It quickly turned on and switched to flashlight mode, then lantern mode. I sighed in relief as a glowing ring of light surrounded me, creating my own personal bubble of brightness. Continuing across the field cautiously, I headed towards the light of the town.
After walking for a while, I would’ve guessed I was about halfway there, I stopped and took the time to enjoy one of the chocolate bars I had packed. It was a cookies and cream bar, and it was very good. I speedily polished off the bar, then pushed to my feet and started on again. As I walked, I kept thinking I heard movement behind me. There couldn’t be anything back there, right? I hadn’t seen anything in this field. I mean, at least not yet. I nervously glanced behind my every now and then though, just in case.
I reached the creek at last, and I hadn’t heard anything from behind me in a while. Hopefully, I was in the clear. Looking up and down the burbling stream, I saw a path of stones weaving across. I took a breath, and easily hopped across via the partially submerged rocks.
I had only walked a couple metres away when I heard splashing behind me. I whipped around and gasped when I saw the massive black bull wading through the water. We stared at each other for a minute. Then his nostrils flared and he charged. I’ve never run faster in my life.
Feet pounding against the dirt. Breathe in. Breathe out. I was terrified, and all I could do was run from the massive brute bearing down on me. I saw a metal fence ahead, just at the base of the hill leading up to the Rock of Cashel. I vaulted over the fence and ran to town, not stopping until I reached the café.
Walking in, I was greeted by the friendly “We have wifi!” sign and the smell of fresh baking. I ordered a hot chocolate and a cinnamon bun, taking my usual seat just as the sun rose. Pulling out my laptop and hitting the power button, I listened to the familiar start-up tone with a smile.
It was all worth it.