Friday 24 June 2011

Friday Flash - The Changeling

Edmund sat on the bench at the bottom of the garden. He peered into the rose bush beside him, moving onto the neighbouring agapanthus when the roses yielded nothing of interest.

“Hallo there, Edmund!”

He looked up from the bushes to see Charles crossing the garden. The blond boy waved.

“Hallo, old chap. Mother thought I ought to see how you’re getting on after you were ill, and you weren’t at school again today. Cook told me you were out here by yourself. Are you alright?” asked Charles. He sat on the bench beside Edmund.

“Hallo, Charlie. Thank you for coming over, but I suspect I shall be alright soon enough.” Edmund looked down at the ground. He dug the toe of his plimsoll into the soil. Sometimes he wished he could crawl into the earth and hide there, never having to face other people and their questions or expectations.

“You seem out of sorts. Are you still ill?” asked Charles.

“I don’t know if I should say,” replied Edmund. He drew patterns in the dirt with his toe.

“I’m your best friend! Of course you should say. Maybe I can help.” Charles smiled.

“I don’t think anyone can help me in this regard, but I appreciate your concern all the same.”

“Is it the war? Are you getting scared about it? Was it the air raid last night? I jolly well think you ought to be getting scared, if you aren’t already. Father tells me all sorts of things that Mother thinks I shouldn’t hear. Why, only last night, he told me-”

“It’s not the war, Charlie.”

“Then what is it?”

“Mother got Cook to look after me while I was ill because she’s too busy with the Allotment Committee and trying to organise the evacuees. Well, one night Cook told me a story, and I think it might be true.”

“What kind of story? You know, if it was about the war, then you really ought to tell-”

“It was about fairies.”

Charles looked at Edmund for a moment, his grey eyes scrutinising Edmund’s worried face. Charles broke into a peal of laughter. Edmund’s ears flushed, and he looked away. Hot tears gathered in his eyes, threatening to spill down his blushing cheeks.

“You see, that’s why I couldn’t tell you,” he mumbled.

“You’re twelve, Edmund. Don’t you think you’re a little old for fairy stories?” Charles slapped his thigh, wheezing with laugher.

“Cook told me that sometimes fairies snatch human babies from the cradle, and leave their own babies behind instead. Humans bring them up as their own children, but they aren’t. They’re called changelings, and they have special powers, just like fairies. Some of them can even grant wishes,” replied Edmund.

“Is that it? Is that what you’ve been worrying about? How silly!” Charles wrinkled his nose in disgust.

“I think I might be one.”


“I think I might be a changeling.”

“Whatever gave you that idea?” asked Charles. He gazed at Edmund with a mixture of condescension and fear.

“I don’t fit in anywhere, Charles, and you’ve seen how all the other chaps at school make fun of my red hair or my fear of water. I’ve always been such a disappointment to Father, compared with all the marvellous things William does or all of the compliments Celia gets. And you know I have never gotten along with Mother.” 

Edmund gazed back at the house. He’d been born there, or so his parents claimed, and yet he still couldn’t bring himself to call it ‘home’.

“Lots of boys disappoint their fathers or don’t get along with their mothers, and even I have trouble with the chaps at school. Really, Edmund, you ought not to be so stupid. Don’t you know there’s a war on? There are more important things to think about.”

“I can’t really take sides if I’m a changeling, can I? I wouldn’t even be a person, let alone British.”

“I can’t believe you just said that. You’d better not let any of the grownups hear you. They might think you’’re one of them! Father says the Führer has spies everywhere. You don’t want them to think you’re one,” said Charles. He looked around the garden, as if he expected to see informers lurking in the bushes.

“Being a fairy has nothing to do with the Führer.”

“Oh, I really cannot tolerate you when you’re in one of these moods. I rather think I shall pay Joseph a visit. At least he doesn’t talk nonsense about fairies.”

Charles stood up. He glared down at Edmund, daring him to challenge him. Edmund said nothing, staring at the patterns he’d drawn in the dirt. Charles let out a huff of indignation, and stomped away across the garden. Edmund heaved a sigh of relief when the side gate slammed shut behind his friend.

“I wish I could get away from this place. I wish I could find my home. I wish I could be where I belong,” said Edmund. He finished the elaborate pattern in the dirt, marking the last curlicue with a flourish.

A low drone made Edmund prick up his ears. The sound rumbled in his ribcage as the air raid siren wailed into life. He watched his family through the window, hurrying for the shelter of the cellar. No one has even stopped to check that I’m there, he thought.

Edmund left the bench and crawled into the bushes. He wrapped his arms around his knees and drew them to his chest. He thought of the family crouching in the cellar under the house. A hot tear escaped as he wished again to go home.

“Gotcha, lad. Let’s get you home,” said the strange voice behind him. He felt the strong hand on his shoulder as the first bomb fell.


Jen said...

Killer last line, Icy. Holy crap. You tensed the atmosphere like crazy and delivered. This is an excellent flash.

Anonymous said...

Loved it!

Helen A. Howell said...

Oh tingle down my spine! Who got him? Was it another fairy? Was it an air-raid warden? - Ooo I gotta know!

Excellent as always Icy :)

Helen -

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Nicely done. Perfect ending.

Sam said...

Love the atmosphere and the dialogue and...what a twist. Feels like the beginning of something longer, any chance you might consider continuing this one?

Anonymous said...

Great control of period Vocab. Authentic voices, introduction of cigil deft and gentle. This is the high point of my reading week, your Friday Flash. Thanks again Icy

Icy Sedgwick said...

Jen - This is the kind of thing I write when I have no Internet and nothing to distract me!

Stacey - Thanks!

Helen - Ah, that's for you to decide!

Tim - Thanks!

Sam - I don't think I would but then again, you never know...

Sulci Collective said...

Love the interweaving of the childish fairytale with the actual threat posed by the Nazis. Great stuff

Marc Nash

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Two very distinct characters here, the one hungry for war horror stories, the other delicate
Way to leave the ending and keep us wondering!

Larry Kollar said...

You should arrange to have no Internet more often! At least you'll get it back when you want.

I could hear the accents of the boys when reading this. Especially Charles. And Edmund got to go home. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

This is an absolute stand out, Icy. The dialogue and characterisation are perfect. Pace, tension, everything - brilliant. And the ending leaves so many unanswered things.
Adam B @revhappiness

Tony Noland said...

So all you have to do to find out where you belong is to say, "I wish..." three times and draw a pattern in the dirt? Lucky kid...

John Wiswell said...

Ha, I liked fairies derailing all the war talk.

Janet Lingel Aldrich said...

I know how Edmund feels ... did you get a look at that pattern he was drawing? :) I loved this. (p.s., "Edmund" made me think of Narnia ...)

Anonymous said...

excellent! Ending was perfect. Wonder where he goes though?

Steve Green said...

Ooooerr, he's gonna get taken back to fairyland and re-swapped isn't he?

Okami said...

Ok - please tell me that you'll continue this and not just leaving us hanging, right?? right?? please??

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

Great story and tone. I could totally hear Charles sounding like a little prat. And Edmund's ending is great

Unknown said...

I liked where you took this story and how it unfolded, but I did have a problem with Charles' voice. It seemed a bit older than 12 to me...too mature. I think I can actually zero it down to the line about how 'lots of chaps disappoint their fathers'

I don't know, just seemed too sagacious.

But aside from that, like I said, I really liked how you developed the plot and held that connection to the plants in the garden the whole time.

Anonymous said...

The Nazis did love the occult. So I can see them wantinga Changling.
Very good, Icy. Remember though, fairies wear boots!

Mari said...

Excellent one, Icy! I loved the voice of whoever grabbed Edmund's shoulder. I like to think it's a rather sturdy fairy, but it could be the gardener are well. ;P

AidanF said...

A nice combination of subjects. You've left the reader with two ways to read this story and I choose fairies.

Jason Coggins said...

The faerie whimsy was overshadowed by the presence of the war so somehow I don't think Edmund got the ending us lovers of spec fic wanted. Ain't nothing like the real world to crush a child's wishes.

Harry said...

I think it was an agent of the Fairy Army come to take Edmund "home". Otherwise he already was home, wasn't he?

Clever work Icy!

Harry said...

Oh yeah, still wondering about the patterns in the dirt.

Cynthia Schuerr said...

Wow! I think a bomb got him and he met his maker. And he was finally home. Just my thought. (shrugs)

Icy, your writing is without a doubt captivating. You really know how to hold an audience. Great story!

Anonymous said...

Great story.
I loved the way your dialogue so cleverly captured the period.
Then you left me hanging there at the end wondering who or what had got him.

Anonymous said...

This story was fantastic. Edmond's longing and dislocation from his family made the reader question whether he was truly a changeling or not. Having this set in war time, with comments abouth the Furer, was a great way to suspense belief. I hope the voice at the end granted his wish.

Chuck Allen said...

I definitely felt the tension of this period in history. Mixing in the fairy talk was a nice contrast to the war. Oh yeah, loved the ending too. I always love an ending that leaves me thinking about the story.

Laura Eno said...

I like stories about changelings and you wrote a great one!

Stephen said...

Hi there Icy -- really liked your period details and the feel you put across in this one. Dialogue good too. Reminded me a little of reading 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe'.

Never thought I'd read a story with the line: "Being a fairy has nothing to do with the Führer." :)

Liked the execution of the wish just as the bombs began to fall. St.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Thanks everyone for your comments - I'd have commented individually but I've not been online much this weekend. Glad everyone has enjoyed it though!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic - love the ending, allowing the reader to choose in their own imagination who it was that rescued him. Great work

Joz Varlo said...

Loved it! Like Janet, with his name being Edmund and it being WW2, my brain immediately went to Narnia. Was delighted that it was a changeling story. :)

Adam John Keeper said...

ooh did make me go a bit cold, I think its the hand on the shoulder, caused a little shiver - I think there is something very British about fairies, reminded me about that whole Conan Doyle garden fairies thing.

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