Chalk Dust

May. 23rd, 2012 12:42 am
thulcandran: (Default)
[personal profile] thulcandran
I am just about satisfied with literally everything about this story except the last sentence. Damn it.

They started appearing one June, when we played on the empty parking lots and the deserted driveways; our parents were away at their jobs, and we lived in that golden stretch of time between the responsibilities of our older siblings, and the imprisonment of our youth. The days stretched long and excited before us, like an eternal playground, a paradise of fireflies and spiderwebs and tree-frogs and summer thunderstorms sending us racing for cover while the walls of water poured out puddles in our footsteps.

We were in Julia's driveway - she had no basketball hoop standing guard over her pavement, and that gave us more room, which was lucky because her little sister wanted to play, too. The chalks were scrounged out of every corner after Lynn had the idea, and we all carefully measured our spaces off with mostly-straight sticks and marked them with rocks and we were off, all pressed lips and concentrated stares, as the chalk dragged slowly over the uneven surfaces.

I drew a dragon, of course; I remember that it wasn't very good, and that Jake drew the best, a goldfish staring down a shark, something that made us laugh, and that David drew a silly monocle on the shark afterwards. But most of us remember the little details of days like that, and they seem to make the spectacle more real in our minds, when we reach.

There was a glint in the corner of my vision, but when I looked, nothing - only Julia, scuffing out an errant line. It happened to everyone, we realized afterwards. We saw things that tricked our eyes, and when we looked, nothing was there, only our fellows at play. When we were done, we stood back and looked, and it wasn't until afternoon, when we sat with sandwiches and far too many cookies on the grass, that things changed.

The dust was gone, but we didn't think about that until after, either. Our drawings were all clean-cut, the lines trimmed, the colors carefully un-blended, the scuffmarks and footprints erased entirely. The boxes and tins we'd come with lay scattered by the side, but it wasn't until Lynn got up to brush the dust out of her skirt that we knew at all.

That was when we saw them - tiny people, no bigger than our hands, brought into being by the clouds of multi-colored dust that flew off of her skirt. They darted about like minnows in the air, their wings glittering behind them, and then the dust, and the fairies, disappeared. We sat astounded, unable to believe our eyes, until after a moment of deliberation, Julia ran inside to get a sheet.

We ran back and forth, dragging the softer end of the chalks across it until the sheet was covered in streaks, randomly hued and crazy, and then David and Jake and I stood back, holding it, while Lynn and Julia beat on it with the sticks we'd used, their hands, pushing the clouds out into the sunlight.

It was only a moment before they appeared again, seemingly from nowhere, darting about in the dust clouds, snatching tiny particles, we thought, from air - we dropped the sheet, and went to catch them, but when we picked it up, only one was left, a tiny little thing about four inches tall, and quite angry.

Although his voice was shrill, a miniature oboe with lungs, we could not understand his language, and stood mystified as he lectured us at some length, a finger in the air, hovering at eye-level. Being rather more well-read now than then, I can imagine what he said - curses, most like, wondering what manners our parents had taught us, and why we had so little respect for the Fair Folk. After he had said his piece, he stared at us for a long moment, a homunculus of sky blue, green, neon pink, and then vanished in a flash.

We were somewhat careful, after that. I asked my mother, carefully, circumspectly, about fairies, and thereafter we left honey and bread in the shade of Julia's mother's rhododendrons while we drew, and when we finished, the food was gone, and if we left the drawings alone, the dust was gone there as well.

David became an artist; you have probably seen his work, it pops up somewhat frequently in magazines, and more frequently online. We talk about it still, sometimes, when one of us runs across another - it certainly shaped all of us, in one way or another. The only thing I have not told anyone yet is this, that I wonder when I come downstairs for a drink at night and find my workbench free of the sawdust I had left it covered in, or that I now sit and watch little Paul and his friends on the driveway, and see a small flash as they run inside for lunch. But I suspect Julia knows, from the number of times I've come across her doing the same, or simply the fact that neither of us returns from the grocery store without a bottle of honey, ever.


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May 2013


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