Flash of Thunder
© Peter L. Barnes – March 2023
Eloise had been gazing across the fields to the far away hills when she felt the explosive earth impact seconds after the brightest light she had ever seen. Well, the only light she had seen, given her impaired sight. Leaping up with fright and tipping over the bench making her crash to the ground.
“Oof and ow, that hurt” she said, to the listening audience of wild creatures. This bench was her favourite spot in the world. A place where the hum of insects and the rustling of tiny mammals as they went about their short lives, took away the pain and frustration of her ills and disabilities. A place where she could connect with nature, through touch and smell as well as the occasional taste of fallen pollen, bringing a calm to her racing mind.
Eloise worried that a rain storm would follow the thunder but thankfully she couldn’t smell the dust rising from the big first splatters of rain or hail that might threaten to engulf her. She carefully picked up the bench and sat back down, waiting for her guide back home. Once and only once, she had become lost on the way home after the council had installed a new, and to her mind, unneeded, fence which had her tumbling down a hill, too close to the cliff for comfort.
Ever since then, her mother insisted that someone come and collect her. But it wasn’t always easy to find a person who could be relied on. Her brother usually helped but these days his mind was on other things. She would be camped out on the bench until he arrived but determined to make the best of the situation, she extracted the bird food she always carried and threw some on the floor by her dainty feet. The ducks were the first to arrive, squabbling over the meal worms, with the chirping chicks of various waterfowl, pecking at the ground for the scraps or begging titbits from their mothers.
Eloise jumped at the sound so close to her ear. She heard the scramble of ducks as they fled the scene, from what she knew not.
“Hello, who are you.”
“Sorry,” said Eloise.
“More to the point, what are you?
“What do you mean?”
“Boy or girl?”
“Ooo you must be tasty – sugar and spice and all things nice.”
“I’m afraid that’s an urban myth,” said Eloise. “Girls are spite and might and all things trite, with a lot of fight. Not tasty at all.”
“Pity, I was beginning to get an appetite.”
“I’m not sorry to disappoint you, whatever you are.”
“I’m a girl as well.”
“No. What creature are you? You look like a jumble.”
“You can see me?”
“I may be blind but I can see mythical creatures.” said Eloise. “They are all around but most people dismiss them as a mirage.”
“So, my creeping up on you was waste of time and effort.”
“Basically, yes but I was confused by your shape.”
“Fused is the right word.”
“Let me look at you.” said Eloise. “A dragon head but with a white unicorn horn; rearing wings more like a griffin, far too small for a dragon; stripey body of a tiger with a white flowing mane; weak back legs of a goat, topped off with a scorpion tail. You look really weird.”
“You should see the others,” said the monster, defensively.
“Come with me and I’ll show you and maybe you can help us.”
“I’m sorry, it’s getting late and my brother is coming to take me home,” pointing to the slouching youth, meandering down the chalk path, kicking up white dust as he approached.
“Hello Sis, stop talking to your imaginary friends.”
“Imaginary, I’ll give him imaginary.” Filling her lungs with air, the monster blasted what he hoped was a conflagration of flames, only to see little puffs of smoke emit from his cavernous mouth.
“Are you smoking sis, I’ll tell mum.”
“No, it’s my imaginary friend giving off smoke signals.”
“Whatever! Come on, let’s get home.”
“I’ll see you here tomorrow,” said Eloise, looking back over her shoulder.
The sun streamed through the gap in the window, warming Eloise’s cheek. She felt through her wardrobe until she found the outfit she had decided to wear today.
“Eloise, what on earth are you wearing this morning, it’s not Halloween you know.”
“I must have picked out the wrong dress, never mind it will have to do. Is Robert ready to take me to my seat?”
“Robert, come and take your sister out.”
“Yes, you don’t want Eloise turning you into a frog, do you?”
“Or a three headed toad,” said Eloise, wickedly waving her crooked white stick at him.
Robert took a step back, never quite sure what his sister’s powers were or even if she had any.
“Come on then Sis let’s get you to your perch.”
Eloise did indeed wish she had the power to turn him into a toad, ‘sis’ and ‘perch’ equally galling. She would bide her time before exacting her revenge, as they walked to the coastal path and she took her place on her favourite bench.
Bathing in the warmth of the early summer’s day, Eloise closed her eyes and wondered when her strange creature would join her. She felt a cold presence near her but maybe only a cloud passing in front of the bright sun.
“Go away cloud.”
“I thought you wanted to see me?”
“Oh! It’s you. Get out of my sunshine.”
“Sorry,” said the creature, shuffling out of the way.
“What happened to you, how did you get into this state?”
“I think you may need to meet the others. Take my paw.”
“No leading me off the cliff.”
“Are your promises gold plated?”
“I need you more than you need me, so probably they are.”
“What do I call you.”
“Jumble what? asked Eloise.
“Jambalaya. It’s a mix of everything”
“And very tasty too, I expect,” said Eloise.
Jambalaya led Eloise through the thick woods where she felt all the damp mosses and ferns on the fallen tree trunks. Eloise gingerly moved forward, not wanting to break any bones in the awkward undergrowth and still terrified that Jambalaya would lead her into a trap.
“Here we are.”
“’Here we are’ where?”
“It’s the magic stone circle of course,” said Jambalaya. “It’s where all mythical creatures come to socialise.”
“Each creature has a stone to sit on, what we call our ‘Circle of Fiends’.”
“Which one is for me.”
“You have been invited to be the chair of our meeting to try and resolve our issues.”
“Do I have a choice?”
Jambalaya led Eloise to a stone chair in the middle of the circle. “The chair will swivel and point you to the relevant creature.”
Eloise sat on the stone seat and it came to life, spinning like a top, as a ring of weird and mixed up creatures all clamoured for her attention.
“The witch tricked me!” shouted one.
“Me too!” called another.
“How will I survive,” moaned a third.
“I’ll be ridiculed for life!” said a fourth.
In a voice she had never heard coming out of her mouth, Eloise screamed at them, “Quiet!”
Shocked by the sheer strength of her voice, every one instantly ceased their complaints.
“Jambalaya, explain what’s going on.”
“What’s happened to your voice Eloise!”
“Never mind that, explain. Now!” Her new found voice astounded herself. No doubt the result of the end of years of being placated and pandered to, because of her condition.
“An old woman appeared one day at our monthly meeting and promised to give us more powers.”
A con called one, a trick called another, she cheated us called a third, until the clamour once again forced Eloise to quell the noise.
“Right, you first!”
A monstrous man shaped creature with bulging muscles like the Hulk, stood up.
“I was always losing fights ‘cos I don’t have stereoscopic vision. She promised me another eye,” pointing at the extra eye, almost stabbing himself in it in the process. “Now I have two eyes but they point in different directions. So, I’s worse than ever.”
“That’s not good, but maybe if you didn’t fight so much and instead used your power to protect vulnerable people, then you would get more sympathy and make some new friends.”
Cyclops looked down with shame at his past aggressive behaviour. “You doesn’t know what it’s like to be mocked and ridiculed for one’s looks,” he moaned.
“Oh trust me, I do.” said Eloise. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The chair swivelled but pointed only to a dark shape in the bushes.
The creature turned towards her showing her black and white face split in two and with a similarly coloured, spirally horn. Bulging eyes highlighted by being black on the white side and white starkly contrasting with the black side of it’s face..
“I wanted to be more zebra with their startling, stripey bodies, then I could stand out in a crowd, and look what I got.”
“On the plains of the Serengetti, there are a million zebras and none stand out as being special,” said Eloise. “A unicorn is the most startling and wondrous animal of all and you’ve spoilt it.”
The unicorn bowed it’s head and scraped at the ground with it’s white hoof, stirring up some insects in the field, only to be snapped up by a pecking pigeon creature.
Eloise spun towards the mishappen Griffen. “And what happened to you?”
“I wanted more colour like the strutting male pigeons,” puffing his purple green and blue chest.
“And will you stop pecking.”
“I can’t help it. It’s what pigeons do.”
“Now you’ve gone from a magnificent Eagle headed lion, to a pecking pigeon with unsightly legs. Well done you!”
The misshapen griffin tried to bury it’s head in the sand in shame.
“Stop that, you’re not an ostrich.”
“Me, me. Help me.” The chair swivelled around to face a caped man. “She took my front teeth and left me with gaps.”
“Probably a good thing then for all those virgins out there who value their blood.”
“But that’s the problem, with my fang teeth every one swiped left on the dating apps, now with gaps, it’s even worse.”
“Do you promise no molesting necks in the future?”
“But I need to drink.”
“If I help you, then in future you’ll only be allowed to drink Bloody Mary’s.”
Her chair swung again to reveal a bright red minotaur.
“And what seems to be your problem?” asked Eloise.
“I wanted to be able to fly like Pegasus.”
All I got was two cans of a caffeine, carbonated drinks.”
“Last of all, Dragon what was your desire?”
“Nothing really but what I got was everything that the others had asked for and more.”
“I’ve heard enough of this,” she said. “You were all so dissatisfied with your wonderous looks and powers but you still wanted more. Shame on you. What you look like does not define you. What you do and how you act does. Good deeds, love and respect for others are the key to success and probably happiness.”
“When you wake up in the morning and think ‘who can I help today’, then you are on your way to a good human being or indeed in your cases, a revered mythical creature.”
Murmuring across the glade showed that each creature had realised realise the error of their decision to have something the others had, which they envied, was totally flawed.
“Now all think about your best features and you will have the wicked witches spell disappear.”
They bowed their heads as another flash burst across the woodland and fields beyond, as Elois pointed at the assembled creatures, with her crocked wand.
Eloise slowly wandered across the fields on her way back to her fairy godmother’s home.
“Hello white witch, is it done?”
“Yes, they are all back to their un-normal selves and happier for it.”
“And your Black Witch Brother?”
“He’s out in the garden pond, croaking.”
“And your sight?”
“I can still see the mythical creatures, but everything else as well.”