Playground

souho via Creative Commons

Anny’s teardrops hold a single sun each, reflecting the steel sky and the ice-crusted landscape. The cheek the salty drops traverse before falling in slow motion are cherub smooth and dark, soft the way nothing in the world save young skin can be. On the way down, one drop in particular wobbles in and out of perfect spherical roundness, taking on the details of a blue calico dress, a brown and pink parka, a pair of white tights dirty only at the knees, puffy boots.

The splash of liquid on frosted concrete curb is, to a particularly attuned ear, audible in a light blip. Touching on the thin wafer of snow, the warm tear burns through to the drab half-foot wall beneath as if it were molten. It can’t darken the already damp surface of the curb, so instead it shimmers there, a sparkle reminiscent of the evening star.

A crystal city erupts from the pit formed by the falling saltwater meteor, spires of ice and glass, slick roadways of frozen sorrow winding up and around each minute, elaborate library or factory or tenement. A glisten of cold starlight glares across the tiny landscape and from this golden glow emerges a silken horse with wings of silver fire, soaring upward. The boy on the bare back of the beast clings to a smoky mane, his tightly curled hair ruffling in the frigid air, a loose tunic snapping behind him. He flies the horse in a looping arc upward, spiraling to the highest peak of the city, glimmering hooves moving in long leaping strides as though sprinting on an invisible path. The horse strains as it rises, diamond flecks of foam sparkling against translucent hide.

A few inches above the sharp points of the city’s apex, the boy hugs the horse and whispers into her ear, and they begin to grow in unison. The boy guides the winged horse as she winds up the airspace around Anny’s left leg. So tiny are the boy and his mount at first, it takes them several minutes to make a full orbit of the calf. Enlarging as they climb, their relative speed increases until boy and horse are the size of Anny’s palm. Upon reaching her knee, they break the spiraling path around Anny and soar toward open space.

A vast world spreads out before them, white upon white into the graying distance. Beneath the glaze peeks the red steel of ancient structures with foreign names: Monkay Barres, Junglejims, Slyde, Suings Èt, Marygoes-Round. The boy glances over his shoulder and sees Anny, wisps of her sadness leaking off her shoulders in black tendrils. He pulls on the vapor mane, wrenching into a harrowing loop that threatens to drop him off into open space. As they level out, angled upward toward Anny’s covered face, the boy produces a heavy cloak from the pouch at his waist, a cloak much larger than the satchel should have allowed. In a quick gesture, he secures it around his throat with an emerald clasp and pulls the hood tight around his temples.

He spurs the horse faster with a clench of his knees, Anny’s dress a blur of blue beneath them like a small sky. When they are level with Anny’s collarbones, the boy folds his legs into a crouch while the pegasus slows, no longer able to press higher. The boy leaps in an explosion of motion and somersaults once, stretching his arms and legs out as if preparing to swan dive back to the miniature city.

An a puff of golden dust, the horse evaporates and sugars the air around the boy’s feet and hands with tiny flashes of glitter. He hangs in the morning, unafraid. The sprinkles snap into twin dragonfly wings beneath the floating cloak, affixed to the boy’s back. He wavers for a moment, adjusting his balance to the whir of flashing, transparent wings.

“Anny?” the boy calls, cupping his chilled hands to his mouth. She sniffles, the wet sound thunderous to the boy. Her hand comes away from her face, the back of her arm wiping across her nose. Puffy eyes widen at the sight of the tiny boy aloft in front of her.

“Who are you?” She is not afraid, only curious, her tears momentarily forgotten.

“I am Edsen.”

“How do you know my name?”

“You created me, I suppose,” Edsen says with a small shrug. A rustle of hastening breeze, almost unfelt by Anny, shifts the air and Edsen pinwheels his arms a bit before returning faith to his wings.

“Are you a fairy?”

He smiles. “Not exactly.”

“You look like a fairy. You’re very small. And you have wings.”

“Many things are small that are not fairies.”

“Why can I see through you?”

Edsen twists his lips to the side as though unsure how to answer. “I suppose for the same reason I cannot see through you.”

Anny nods. This makes sense to her. “How did I create you? I wasn’t trying to.”

“True enough,” Edsen agrees. “I’m not sure anyone ever means to create a Weeping.”

“What’s a Weeping?” Anny asks in the ready questioning of the curious young.

“I am,” Edsen smiles, poking a thumb into his proud chest.

“Are you a friend?”

“I can be.”

“I like your wings.”

“Thank you! They like you, too.”

There is a pause while Anny thinks about what to say. Edsen leans forward, floating a little higher and a little closer so he doesn’t have to shout as loud. His throat is beginning to hurt from the yelling and the cold. “Why were you crying, Anny?”

Anny sniffles and her lip trembles, her pink-rimmed eyes moistening. “Because of Roman.”

“You miss him very much.”

“All the time.” A tear falls. “All the time, every day.”

“He has been gone for a few weeks now,” Edsen says, “what happened today?”

“I came to the park.”

“Does the park scare you?”

“No,” Anny says, “but this was our park. Me and Roman. We used to play here.”

Edsen nods. He knows all of this already, though he never remembers how. They fall silent again, the wind tugging at Edsen’s cloak, Anny blinking away the last of the fresh tears. She looks up at him and he grins, using his whole self to project his happiness and acceptance onto her. The hush of a tiny smile tickles the corners of Anny’s mouth in response. He floats closer, and she almost has to cross her eyes to keep him in focus. Edsen can see the glow of his outline, amber in the rich brown of her eyes, reflected back.

He reaches out, slowly so as not to startle her. He taps the tip of her nose with a palm that feels like a speck of dust floating down through a sunbeam.

“Tag,” he says. “You’re It.”

2 thoughts on “The Weeping Life

  1. This is the last of the writing prompts from my dad, this one being: “A little girl stands at the edge of a playground, tears running down her cheeks.”

    I had two thoughts for this prompt, one being that the tears weren’t of sadness of but of wicked joy or malice; the other being that if she was sad I just wanted to comfort her somehow. Since the “evil little girl” trope (called Enfant Terrible on TV Tropes) is kind of predictable, I went with the latter.

    I actually cut a lot more of this story in the redraft than I have for the others in this prompt series. Stephen King says rewrites should be at least 10% shorter than their originals and I usually have a hard time following that, but this time it’s almost 15% shorter. Most of this is because I had the flight sequence at the beginning much longer, following an action scene idea in my head about a boy who flies higher and higher on a magical mount that has to keep shifting forms to reach the next plateau. In practice I lost interest in writing it after three transitions so I backed off and made the focus of the story the conversation between Edsen and Anny, which I think works best anyway.

    I think I got a little too carried away with the flowery descriptions here (hopefully it doesn’t descend into purple territory) but perhaps the short overall length makes up for it a bit.

  2. Fun story! But this isn’t really the last “prompt.” There is still this one at the bottom of the document I sent you that I envision as the topic for a writing contest: “Two teens on a bike ride in the country enter an abandoned shack to get out of a hailstorm. Under a loose board they find a notebook. They open it and discover…”

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