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Chapter 1 : A Requiem For Something Unknown
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At first they’d thought it was funny, even sweet. I would run out into our woods in the morning dressed in little more than a nightie, then wander around all day gazing at them dancing in the sky. I’d come home with stories of their nobility, their strength, and no one would believe me.
Then I came home crying one day, singing their song. It was a sad song, a requiem for something unknown. I was just a little girl, but I had come home sobbing and shrieking and fought my mother away with a single sentence on my lips: ’the Firebirds are sad’.
Again and again I said it, muttering it for days on end. They wouldn’t let me into the woods anymore- they thought I had gone mad. Suddenly my harmless fantasy had become something darker for them. Their blue-eyed girl was no longer a quixotic fantasist, she was the subject of muttered evening conversations and familial gossip. I remember hearing my mother tucked up on the phone, talking to one of her village flower show friends ‘I’m just- I’m just worried about her, Sue. It’s not right. We should never have humoured her.’
The low drone of her talk went on and I realised that I had my chance. I could slip out of the house and see the Firebirds again.
It was a beautiful day, with lemon yellow light illuminating lichen greens and periwinkle blues. The debris of the outdoors pricked my feet with fervour, but I didn’t care. In my young mind all that mattered were the Firebirds. As long as they no longer cried, things would be beautiful again. But they didn’t come, the only birds were slate grey pigeons squawking from up above.
Suddenly I realised how tired I was. I’d not slept since the lament, I’d thrashed and screamed and my parents had been too busy talking in hushed tones to comfort me. I was too irrational, they’d decided, to be comforted. Perhaps I was, perhaps I wasn’t, but I did lie down on a patch of emerald green moss below a chestnut tree and close my eyes to the world.
‘Penelope, Penelope, Pe-ne-lo-pe’ I wasn’t sure if the sound of my mother’s voice was real. All I could feel was the iciness that gripped my chest, and the heat of my fingers and toes. I was curled up tight as could be but still my heart was freezing and still my hands were aflame. I tried to move my lips to reply, ‘Mummy, mummy mu-mmy’ but they were too cold and letting the dampness of my tongue out didn’t feel like the right thing to do.
I could feel myself shaking, pulsating, I could feel the morning dew growing on my eyebrows. I was sparkling like my lawn, little droplets of elixir turning me into a sparkling diamond. It hurt though, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a diamond yet. I liked being a real girl, I liked being able to read books and feel things and even the fire and the ice which was consuming me was okay because it meant I was real and alive. Diamonds were hard and lots of people wore fakes, plastic prisms which didn’t shine quite so brightly.
The Firebirds were singing a different song now. It was strong and heavy and as I struggled to keep my eyes open it warmed me. Closer, closer it came.
Suddenly a new liquid was growing on me, I could feel my strength coming back. Like magic I stood up and followed the Firebirds through the woods, followed its dreamlike path.
I traced my fingers over the ink illustration. Page 45 of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 1985 edition. The Firebird soared across the page. Phoenix. Phoe-nix. I was not mad, and the bird had saved me.
I could still hear the Firebird’s song in my mind, permeating my imagination, bringing me hope. I was real, it was real, magic was real. I was not a diamond but a real living human being.
Thank you all for reading, good luck, go Gryffindor! In the first paragraph the talking beavers were a reference to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which is the property of C.S Lewis’ rights holders and the grey wizard was a reference to Gandalf from the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, belonging to J.R.R Tolkein’s rights holders. Thank you to Nott Theodore for betaing this, too!
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