The children loved hearing about the exploits of their great-aunt Sara. Her life had taken on a mystical, magical twist with them. They would snuggle up tight at bedtime, waiting for me to begin. “When great-aunt Sara was little, she wandered to the edge of sanctuary” or “One time great-Aunt Sara and your grandmother, Maddie, . . .”
The story cycle ended when Sara was a teen, wild, spirited, talented. I refused to continue the cycle beyond that time.
On a bleak winter’s day, with the wind and the snow whipping away her spirit, I knew my mother passed over. There was a still sadness inside me; a missing presence. I gathered the children together. With deep regret, I could now finish the story cycle
“I want to tell you the final chapter in great-aunt Sara’s,story.” Bright smiles, an anxious rush for the best “seat,” and shushes as I began.
“Great-aunt Sara’s spirit held so much than these woods; sanctuary became too limiting for her. Time, she felt, to leave. To follow her heart. To have an adventure. An exciting story to tell.
Her plans were made in secret. Even Maddie, her favourite, special sister, didn’t know Sara was about to leave her life, perhaps forever. For, as Sara was constantly reminded, most of those foolish enough to leave sanctuary failed to return. Under her breath, she whispered, “No return because there is much of beauty, bustle, life out there.”
Just before dawn, when the mists held on to the tops of spring flowers, Maddie woke from a nightmarish dream made up of dark, shadowy images, black and white with broad sploshes of red. She slipped out of her bed, sheets tangled and sweaty, to go to Sara’s room and cuddle til dawn and chores.
But Sara was gone. Maddie, sleep still in her eyes, rushed down the stairs and quietly opened the usually locked heavy front door. Sara turned, only for a moment, to wave. Then she was skipping off towards the deeper forest, singing a travelling song”
The children were very quiet. I think they sensed that their speculations about their great-aunt’s adventures were about to become a sad reality.
“It was supposed she got caught in a trap. There were lots of traps back then. Hidden metal jaws with jagged teeth that snapped when stepped upon. Humans thought it elegant to wear our family and the families of others who dwell in sanctuary.”
The children gasped at the gruesome truth. It had been the stuff of nightmares, tales told on starless nights to scare the youngest ones, a truth they would rather not face as real.
Then they whispered amongst themselves, nodding heads, and gesturing. I had a feeling they were coming up with one of their fantastical stories about great-aunt Sara’s life beyond sanctuary.
Jenniefur stood up nervously, pushed forward by her siblings.
“Mother – one of Them could have found her.”
“Them” were the magical, mystical humans who rescued those who went outside sanctuary. Them, as the myths went, chased the hunters and trappers, destroying their traps and creating noise so the creatures would know evil humans were present. Them had made wearing us as unappealing as possible. Buckets of red paint, protests, symbolic statues, petitions, sit-ins, putting their lives at risk to save us and our neighbours. Actions more gruesome or generous, I hoped, as wearing great-aunt Sara. Them was the children’s belief in “happily ever after” for themselves, for great-aunt Sara and for sanctuary.
Jenniefer continued, “Them take care of injured ones. Sometimes, too injured to go back to sanctuary. Have to stay in the people world. Them create new sanctuaries for those of the forest.”
I hated to break their child-like hopes. “If not a coat or a stole to keep a human warm and to show off wealth and presumed style, some go to places where they are put on display. Even if the surroundings are home-like and the food good, there are wire curtains between the former sanctuarites and the gawking, pointing, ignorant, . . .”
I stopped. Killing traps that took our lives away and live capture traps that took our dignity and freedom away. Perhaps, as the children so fervently believed, Sara had lived out her life well in a Them sanctuary.
Worse, if she had spent her “freedom” from life here as an attraction for humans somewhere. In a strange way, I’d rather she left this life with dignity, than be on someone’s back, or stared at every day.
Then, there was that other myth – next time I might tell the children, concerning the revenge of the fur. “Got your back” has a brand new meaning. These stories are gruesome but at least the children would appreciate the moral – don’t mess with folks from the sanctuary. But that was the beginning of the next story cycle.
American Marten (narrator, Maddie and of course, Sara)
I’ve taken a bit of a different approach – as I keep saying, never could colour inside the lines. Mine is sort of a dark fairy tale, while dangerous crossings by traces of the soul, and the mink’s revenge by bastet and sekhmet’s library are more visceral, true to the comment string, and fantastical stories of fur revenge.
I’d love reading and participating in triptychs, octychs or awholelotychs in the future.
Here’s to revenge of the fur(r)ies!