Once upon a time, there lived little children in a castle surrounded by the enchanted woods.
It is believed that Cooper and his family were also dwellers of the copse.
The woods lost some of its enchantment when a fire sprung up while little Alice played with Cooper and his family their favourite circle game singing “There’s a fire in the mountain, Run run run.” The fire engulfed the woods and wiped out a considerable portion of the greenery. Miraculously all human lives were spared, but Cooper lost his family.
Ah, no it is not the fire the reason for Cooper losing his family, his family moved to the Innswoods, a far more enchanting place while Cooper stayed back with little Alice.
Alice, a curly-haired, dimpled chin bundle of mischief, was not the one to blame!
Little Alice, the princess, had always lived in the castle with a legion of children. Stories about the magical realm enthralled Alice and in her land, trees danced, squirrels sang, and toads talked.
The clock chimed for Alice to wake up from her dreams and leave the castle.
** ** **
The sun, scorched with extreme fierceness and Linda fanned herself with the magazine that lay on the table as they waited, weighed by the anxiety. A gust of breeze lent a little respite and in floated the sounds of giggles and wisps of conversation. With an aching heart, they watched the children play in the sun-drenched garden. Some were engrossed in building sandcastles, while a few others swung in merry reaching for the tallest branch and some slid down the slides that coiled like a giant snake. It’s a wonder that children never complain about the vagaries of nature. Rain or shine they love the outdoors. They resembled a bunch of colourful fresh roses, all of them well-nourished and neatly dressed.
Eli left Linda as her eyes glazed and paced in the corridor gazing at the framed pictures that adorned the walls. Photos of happy celebrations of Christmas and children in fancy dress impressed him. Fighting the urge to light up a cigarette, Eli checked his watch. Thirty minutes had gone by, and he impatiently glanced at his wife Linda and the glistening moisture on her forehead. Unable to quell the surge of affection, he gently touched her shoulder and moved his lips in an attempt to offer words of assurance.
Soon after, they were ushered into the matron’s office.
In a pleasant voice, she addressed them “I know you are both nervous. There’s nothing to worry. You will both make lovely parents. Thank you for giving life to a girl child. Alice is fortunate.”
Little Alice hid behind her nanny and peeped at them. Earlier the couple were shown pictures of young kids which would suit their family, but nothing had prepared them for this moment now when they faced their daughter to be.
Alice, tiny for her four years, was cherubic in her white dress and the black curls that cascaded over her eyes were held back with a shiny hairband. Her mischievous eyes and the sweet smile melted hearts. Linda left her chair and knelt in front of Alice.
“Hello Alice, how are you?” Linda beamed.
Alice, with a shy smile, shoved her toy in front and said: “This is Cooper, my friend.”
“Hello Cooper” Linda extended her hand.
“He’s shy. But he likes you.” Alice smiled.
“Oh that’s nice, did he tell you he likes me? What about you?”
“He whispered in my ears. He talks only in the garden. If Cooper likes you, I like you too.” Alice planted a kiss on Linda’s cheek.
Eli’s eyes moistened and kneeling he extended his hand, “Hello Alice, does Cooper like me?”
Alice hesitated a little then flung her tiny hands around his neck, “Yes, Cooper likes you.”
Feeling elated Eli lifted his daughter and examined Cooper, who appeared funny with his long ears and pointed nose, brightly dressed in blue, green and red. After the formalities, Linda Alice and Eli drove back home with Cooper, a complete perfect family.
Alice basked in the indulgence by her new family and friends. She won over everyone with her innocence. Linda and Eli were thrilled to see Alice settle down quickly, putting their apprehensions to rest. As a family, the trio fell into a routine. Alice and Cooper were inseparable as always. She had animated conversations with Cooper in the garden, and they thrived in the yard which left Linda worried. Linda for whom motherhood eluded forever and by the grace of God, an opportunity to nurture a child arises, everything is a scare. Trifles that usual mothers handled with flair perspires the likes of Linda.
Linda dismissed it with a reasoning that Cooper was the only family the child had, had till now. It was funny how Alice demanded a glass of milk for Cooper every night and Linda indulged her but was surprised to see both the glasses empty.
Linda briefed Eli about the strange occurrence, but he shrugged her off, “Linda, the kid must have been hungry, feed her more.” Linda scowled at Eli and walked away in mock annoyance.
Alice was sensitive to people’s reaction. When Linda’s grumpy old uncle frowned at her in repugnance over a childish mischief, Alice trembled and cried inconsolably. This further annoyed the uncle, and in haste, he stumbled and sprained his leg.
Alice tugged at Linda’s dress “He is a bad uncle, so Cooper broke his leg.” Linda was alarmed and moved the child away from the uncle while Alice conspiratorially smiled at Cooper. Linda awaited Eli’s arrival in the evening to narrate the day’s events. It spooked Eli a little, but he assured Linda that it was her fertile imagination.
Later that night, Eli carried Cooper to scrutinize him. Cooper was a perfectly normal rag doll with funny features, and Eli was appalled at himself for falling for Linda’s imaginary worries.
Shortly after, Eli planned a vacation for the family. Being nature lovers, they chose the hills. After some deliberation, they favoured the treehouse surrounded by a canopy of tall trees. Alice approved the picture of the treehouse, and the trio along with Cooper drove to the hills. The long drive in the winding roads inhaling the smell of wildflowers and the chill breeze thrilled them. They sang rhymes and laughed in merry. The stars were up, by the time they reached the treehouse and Alice was fast asleep. They hastily settled in for the night, and Cooper was left behind in the car.
In the morning, the resort executive arranged for a drive to the hilltop for the family. The three boarded the hotel vehicle and were driven to a picturesque location. Once they reached the top of the hills the reality struck them and were saddened to see a vista of barren land which was once a vibrant forest that boasted of abundant vegetation, now lay vacant and bald.
Eli enquired to the guide “Why is this place so dry and barren? A year ago, when we visited it was so green.”
“Sir, what to say, no rains and deforestation is rampant here.”
“How is business? Do people still throng to your resort?” Eli continued his volley of questions.
“Erm, the business has gone down. The threat of hill fires has discouraged people visiting the hills.” The guide scratched his head.
Linda quipped in, “Global warming is a serious issue; every human being should be mindful of the repercussions.”
With a condescending tone, Eli added, “First let us follow what we preach.”
The family clicked selfies, in various poses and Alice was happy in her new surroundings had forgotten all about Cooper until lunchtime. She began to howl as soon as she remembered her friend and the guide offered to drive back to bring the doll as they sat down for lunch.
In a few minutes, a considerable commotion ensued, and Eli beckoned the steward, “What is all this excitement? What’s happening?”
The steward hesitated, “Sir, there is a huge fire in the eastern side of the hills, and the wind is spreading the fire. Some kids were stealthily smoking weed and accidentally caused the fire, which is raging ferociously.”
The warmth spread quickly and dark fumes emanated from the hills. Some of the tourists began to wheeze. Linda tried to calm the child, but she continued to cry for Cooper, pointing at the raging fire. Eli followed the direction of Alice’s finger and was stupefied to see Cooper running from the fire. Eli witnessed not one Cooper but many of its kind. It jolted him, and he stumbled in a hurry to move away from the raging fire and the madness.
The vacationers fled from the scene and a kind family offered to drive the Eli family back, and they hastily retreated before the fire enveloped their side of the hills. The wind blew unrelenting as the flaming tongues leapt to devour the majestic trees. Eli watched as people took measures to contain the spread in vain.
As soon as they reached the treehouse, Eli searched for Cooper in the car, and it shocked him to find Cooper in the treehouse. Alice hugged Cooper and urged Eli to take her to the garden where she spoke to Cooper about the fire.
She kissed Cooper and implored, “Please stop the fire.”
Linda and Eli were astounded as it rained instantly and steadily for hours. The resort executive informed them later that the fire was contained and it was a miracle that brought the rains.
Eli gingerly lifted Cooper and wiped soot from his multi-coloured dress and asked Alice, “How did you meet Cooper? Who gave it to you?”
“I found him in the garden, daddy, when Santa visited me in the old house. He talks to me and does whatever I tell him.”
Linda and Eli exchanged glances. They clicked a photo of Cooper and posted it on social media, digging for information. In a few hours, there was a deluge of information.
Eli and Linda chose to believe in magic and the mystical realm beyond, as it was a miracle that Alice came into their lives. They preferred the explanation that Cooper maybe was an ELF and the guardian angel of Alice.
Cooper had again chosen Alice over his family.
Isn’t life beautiful where unnecessary loss is not encountered? When we are allured with the supernatural divinity!
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper- WB YEATS.
Photo By: Unsplash
This is an entry for #InnsWoods, #Artales18, A Room8 writing event. Checkout the event guidelines here: https://artoonsinn.com/artales18
The event is sponsored by Manoj Paprikar, Author of Death at Midnight by ArtoonsInn room9 publications. Manoj Paprikar is a doctor by profession and a writer at heart. Through his latest venture with room9publications, he earnestly brings forth the plight of the medical profession that affects both the healthcare providers and patients at large.
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