HOBNOBS and HOT CHOCOLATE
By A.M. Harrison
A Modern Prose Fairy Tale
Presented in Eight Acts
Act 1 ~ Islington
Once upon a time (for that really is the best way to start such a tale) there lived a little girl called Casey who lived in Islington. On a dark and gloomy night Casey fled the first floor flat where she lived with her parents and a dog called bingo. She wept as she tip-toed down old stairs, though her footfalls would not have been heard over the shouting
Rain fell in a slow lazy drizzle as she turned into Story Street past the Clockwork Pharmacy on the corner, where a fruit and veg stall stood during the day. Onto Caledonian Road right past the Library then on Bridgeman Road on through the grounds of St. Andrews Church to the gates of Barnsbury Wood. Casey passed not a single living soul in her flight and she paused by the noticeboard, old posters had decayed in their plastic wallets into a puddle of paper pulp, unreadable and neglected.
Barnsbury Wood was an urban nature reserve frequented by dog walkers and dog shit. Past a pile of discarded bricks, past old blue plastic sandbags Casey passed through the unlocked gates and into the darkness alone. This was where she came to hide from the eternal conflict between her parents, she knew the way to her favourite bench easily, but she had never ventured into the wood so late at night before and the trees emitted an eerie calm in the pale moonlight, which was just barely visible through the thick clouds.
It was the kind of fine drizzle that drenched clothes swiftly, her hair was plastered to the side of her face and her tears were lost in the rain. Casey buried her head in her hands and sobbed until her forehead hurt, by then the rain had ceased to fall, the clouds had parted revealing a bright round full moon, which illuminated the wood in delicate silver light. A puddle of mud captured her attention, it held within its murky surface a perfect reflection of the moon in all its splendour and Casey was enthralled by the image.
The haunting silver light was mesmerising and calming after her earlier distress, Casey stood soggy and trembling as a bitter breeze nipped at her ankles, as she approached, the puddle it appeared impossibly larger than the footpath, the shimmering moon calling to Casey enticing her to follow. Her toes touched the edge of the water yet no ripples spread out across the water’s surface to distort the reflection of the moon.
Act 2 ~ The Moon Pool
Curious Casey took another step closer, suddenly finding herself ankle deep in what she initially thought was a shallow puddle, instead a pool now stretched out wide before her, right across the path and vanishing into the shadows of low hanging shrubberies. Another step took her up to her knees, though by now she no longer felt the cold and was still drawn to the still image of the mirrored moon. Casey walked deeper into the water, without looking back, until compelled to lift her feet from the ground and plunge into the vivid reflection of the beautiful bright full moon.
Coming up for breath Casey laughed to herself at the utter ridiculousness of the whole experience, it felt good to laugh and Casey simply concluded that this was nothing more than a humble dream. Stepping out of the water at the far side of the moon pool her clothes were warm and dry. Casey felt an odd sort of contentment, an unfamiliar sensation for the lonely little girl, she decided this was her happy safe place and had no desire to wake up just yet.
Kicking off her old trainers, Casey walked barefoot through the thick carpet of blue tipped grass, crickets sang in the undergrowth and somewhere hiding in low hanging branches an owl hooted, his call sounding just a little like her name ‘CASEOOOOOOOOOOOO… CASEOOOOOOOOOOOO’… and just a little Scottish. Casey giggled again, amused at the thought of an owl with a Scottish accent.
This really was a most peaceful realm, yet oddly surreal, there was no moon in the sky, only in the moon pool behind her and colours were muted and mixed up, like the blue grass and purple apples. A family of hedgehogs crossed her path, these were black and white, like zebras, they marched in a uniform line, a tiny one fell behind and Casey watched as one of the adult Zebhogs scurried back to usher the last one along. “Thank You kind little girl.” The Zebhog said politely once all the tiny babies had plopped off the grassy path and into the thick undergrowth. What a pleasant place this is indeed, Casey smiled, wondering deeper into her safe little world.
Act 3 ~ Bun-Nips and Broc
The next creatures Casey encountered were a flock of pastel coloured bunnies with shimmering wings, which appeared far too delicate to support their rounded fluffy bodies; they fluttered together chattering and gossiping like old ladies.
“Excuse me?” Casey felt amused by addressing bunnies. “But I appear to be lost and don’t know the way.” A rather plump little yellow bunny landed near Casey and stood up on the hind legs to regard the little girl.
“Well, where are you going?” The Bun-Nip asked.
“I don’t know? I mean I don’t even know where I am?” Casey replied, scratching her head. The Bun-Nips hovered around her, all mute shades of beautiful pale colours, leaving twinkling glittery trails in their wake.
“No wonder you are lost!”
“What is it?”
“A lost little girl.”
“Does not know where she is.”
“Lost girl, lost girl.”
The Bun-Nips chattered between themselves hopping and flying.
“She should ask Broc.”
“Broc would know.”
“Yes Broc, Broc is a rock.”
“He lives under a signpost.”
“Broc the rock lives under the signpost for Yonder Mountain.”
“Ask Broc the rock the way to go!”
“Okay…” Casey followed their directions as the Bun-Nips scattered and flutter-hopped away. This was most unlike any dream she had had before and all her tears were forgotten. Arriving at the crossroads Casey found the signpost which only pointed in one direction, however, there were many rocks at the base of the post and Casey did not know how to tell which rock was Broc.
“Hello Rocks?” Casey called out in a chirpy tone, not exactly sure what to expect. The rocks jiggled and rolled around with a chorus of greetings.
“Which rock is Broc?” Casey knelt upon the grass watching the stones dance and chatter, then a single rock wobbled forth.
“How can Broc help a human child?” he asked, though he had no mouth.
“The Bun-Nips sent me to ask you…” Casey paused “Ohhh!” Suddenly they were plunged into a chilly shadow as a great blimp blocked out the dawn sun, the roar of its steam churning pistons drowned out their conversation as a lone figure descended upon a rope ladder.
Act 4 ~ Marshall James Bentley
“Marshall James Bentley, at your service young lady.” The airship captain bowed low in a formal greeting, whipping his hat from his head in an exaggerated gesture.
Casey blinked in started wonderment at the curious character that greeted her.
Broc cleared his throat *ahem*
“Ohh… Casey Jones, Sir, Captain, um, Marshall?” Casey made her very best attempt to curtsey.
“It is a pleasure to meet you Casey Jones.” Marshall replied and lightly kissed the back of her hand. His nose was cold, his whiskers tickled her wrist.
Broc chuckled at Casey’s bewilderment. For stood before her, clad in a mix match of costumes Casey found herself face to face with a human sized fox. That is, Marshall appeared to be human with a foxes head. However, Casey also noted a very bushy fox’s tail, which wagged lazily.
“Young Casey is lost.” Broc interjected on her behalf as Casey was still at a loss for words.
Marshall appeared for all intents and purpose to resemble a pirate-musketeer-pilot in dress, with red velvet trousers and high boots, a dress jacket, braided and buttoned down the chest, his hat was huge, wide brimmed with exotic feathers and a pair of aviator goggles hung around his neck.
“Well then.” Marshall knelt to Casey’s height. “The best way not to be lost is to find out where you are going and go there, then you have found where you need to be and hence no longer lost.”
He smiled, his whiskers twitched. Casey wondered if he was furry all over.
“How do I know where I want to be?” She asked.
“Well this sign points towards Yonder Mountain and at the foot of Yonder Mountain is the hamlet of Kirktop heights.”
“I’m from Islington.”
“Ahhhhhh… You came through the Moon Pool, we will need to see the Kings Mage, Hubert. She knows Longon!”
“London.” Casey chuckled.
“Now we have someone to meet and somewhere to go and something to do. Do you feel less lost now we have a purpose?”
“Yes very much so.
“Then we should go, fulfil our purpose and continue our adventure!”
Casey knelt and planted a soft kiss upon Broc’s smooth surface.
“Thank you for helping me Broc the rock.” Broc rolled
around and uttered *Shucks* if a rock could blush he did.
“Which way Sir? Captain? Marshall?”
“Why up of course young Casey!” He held one arm out for her, his other hand gripped the rope ladder which dangled from the airship. Casey stepped into his grip and with a strong tug the ladder was hoisted up with them both to where The Golden Raven airship waited.
Act 5 ~ A Royal Mission
The airship sailed noisily spewing steam through a green tinged sky, with caramel clouds, smoke pooled forth in their wake creating little rainbow puffs as they travelled towards a singular monstrous mountain.
“That is Yonder Mountain…” Marshall gestured. “…And there at the base, Kirktop Heights.” He pointed out the city at the foot of the mountain. King Aston Darkfire rules here and it is King’s Mage, Hubert, which we need to see about the Moon Pool.”
Marshall James Bentley brought his airship The Golden Raven to a soft bumpy landing and a splutter of soot, in a meadow of multi-coloured flowers and a lone scarecrow, who waved and hopped merrily on his pole leg.
A short stroll from the meadow brought them to Kirktop Heights. A ramshackle sprawling city of twisting path ways and crooked houses which arched over the narrow streets, near touching at the rafters, the buildings were brightly coloured and beautiful. As they approached the whole place felt alive and buzzing with excitement, as though every resident had taken to the streets and were all full of nervous anticipation. Casey watched wide eyed as she passed a vast array of bizarre and unique creatures. Men with horse’s heads, ladybugs the size of cats and a street vendor made up from a Russian doll, who popped within herself and split apart again to serve numerous customers after the coloured silks woven from spiders webs. Casey clung to Marshall’s paw as they headed deeper into the crowd.
“Something is amiss.” He said, whiskers twitching.
“Ohh!” A round faced rag doll stepped into their path.
“A HUMAN! A HUMAN!” The doll shouted, drawing the attention of those nearby and a couple of sharp witted city guards.
“A human girl, she can help us, yes she can, yes she can!” The doll chipped excitedly as the guards surrounded the pair.
“What is going on?” Marshall drew Casey closer into his arms, protecting her, Casey felt her heart beating wildly, frightened and nervous.
“Our Queen is missing.” A pit-bull headed guard said with such sadness in his voice that Casey’s fear dissolved. She placed a hand upon the guards paw.
“Is she lost in my world?” Her tone was gentle.
He nodded “Will you help? The King is beside himself with panic.”
Casey looked up at Marshall, who offered her a slight nod of his head in approval.
“Of course I will help!” Casey smiled and the rag doll clasped her hands in glee.
They were given a royal escort to the palace, which was stunning, carved from a single giant shell. Yet the usual hustle and bustle was silenced in hushed concern, rumours of a human child had spread through Kirktop heights swiftly and the King himself forged all formal traditions and engaged Casey in the courtyard upon her arrival.
“My dear child. Is it true?” He breathed. “Will you help me find my beloved wife?”
Casey looked up at the distraught King, he cradled a stag beetle as a parent would nurse a babe, and his eyes were full of sorrow.
“Help me and I shall grant you anything you wish within my power!” He vowed, the beetle gurgled and grizzled.
Casey curtsied, again badly, and nodded. “Yes, I will help you Sire.”
Act 6 ~ The Queen in the Industrial Estate
Hubert, the Kings Mage. A fearsome some looking woman with an impressive yellow beard, wearing a tiger patterned onesie. Had given Casey a magical light bulb, which would glow when it was held towards the direction of the lost Queen. Somewhere in Islington was a lost Fae Queen and only Casey held the magic light bulb, for only Casey knew Islington and had been through the moon pool. “We can take The Golden Raven.” Marshall offered, “She is swift for an airship and could be mistaken for a balloon if we are spotted. Casey nodded, watching the light bulb closely for any glimmer of light. Somehow it felt more surreal to be floating above the rooftops of Islington than it did walking through the streets of Kirktop Heights. Casey felt more lost for being at home but felt safer on board the airship with Marshall than she would have upon the ground. They glided silently over the Barnsbury Wood and Casey turned very slowly staring at the light bulb intensely for any inner shimmer. As they sailed low towards the railway track, near Roman Way Industrial estate, the light bulb flickered into life and glowed brightly.
“You look nervous Casey.” Marshall frowned with concern.
“I don’t like the industrial estate, bad things happened there, it was in the news, some girls got hurt. My mum always told me to keep clear of the place, that it wasn’t safe.” Casey felt tears well up as she spoke about her mother, it felt like a whole lifetime ago since she had left home that gloomy night. The light bulb suddenly flashed brightly, alerting them both.
“You don’t have to go.” Marshall placed a paw upon her shoulder, his nose wrinkled as he caught the scent of something in the air. “Not if it’s a bad place, you can stay here on board The Golden Raven. You know you will be safe here.”
The light bulb blinked, Marshall turned in the same direction, his keen fox like senses catching something Casey could not discern.
“What is it?” She asked, holding his paw, feeling safer, braver…
“I can sense my kin.” Marshall replied and turned to face the frightened little girl. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, I’m not forcing you to come with me.”
Casey smiled and kissed the end of his pointed nose, causing his whiskers to twitch. “It’s ok, I’m ok, I have you with me don’t I? And we have a Queen to rescue!”
Act 7 ~ The Return to the moon Pool
Although they did not see anyone upon their travels both Marshall and Casey held a daunting feeling of foreboding as The Golden Raven glided silently, for a change, over the Roman Way industrial estate.
The magic light bulb blinked and sparked as they grew nearer to the lost Queen, but it’s inner flame was starting to fade and Casey feared for the welfare of the Queen they sought the personification of innocence a purity to her people at Kirktop Heights, where an anxious King awaited her return. Casey held her chin high in brave resolve determined to succeed in her royal mission.
Suddenly the light bulb flared into life, a strong golden light! “There!” Casey pointed towards a pile of broken pallets near a rusty yellow skip. Marshall brought The Golden Raven in low over the jumble and lowered the rope ladder, Casey carefully climbed down and trapped between the skip and a damp brick wall was a small delicate figure sobbing forlornly. Casey squeezed into the little gap to comfort the frail creature, in ruined finery, tousled hair and grimy face, she looked up.
“I’m Casey Jones, I’m here to rescue you.” She held a hand out. The Queen blinked wide eyed, too nervous to move. “I’m here to take you home.” Casey spoke softly .Gingerly the lost timid Queen crept forwards and reached out to grasp Casey’s hand. The flood of relief with emanated from the Fae nearly crippled Casey with tears, but the little girl remained brave and cradled the tiny lady in her arms returning to Marshall.
“Let’s get her home.” Marshall carried them both to the deck of The Golden Raven and sailed away from the wretched place.
The King was overwhelmed to be reunited with his wife, holding her lovingly in his arms. The city folk of Kirktop Heights were already celebrating the safe return of their beautiful Queen. Casey and Marshall were heroes throughout the tiny nation, though neither of them accepted any reward. By now Casey was tired and emotional by the whole adventure and even though the partying and rejoicing flowed late into the night. Casey quietly took herself away from the hustle and bustle to admire the golden clouds of the moonless sky.
The absence of the moon served to remind her of the journey into this weird and wonderful land, through the moon pool.
“Would you like to go home?” Marshall stepped up to her side, his tail wagging happily as he greeted his friend, Casey simply nodded. So hand in paw Marshall guided her back to the mysterious moon pool and the path that would lead her home, back to Barnsbury Wood, back to Islington, back home.
“Don’t you want to leave?” Marshall asked as Casey paused at the edge of the water.
Act 8 ~ Hobnobs and Hot Chocolate
“Mrs Jones?” The Doctor approached the anxious couple, yet only addressed the mother.
“I’m afraid your daughter is totally unresponsive, her physical injuries are healing slowly, however the mental trauma has…”
“That’s enough please.” Mrs Jones swallowed hard. She had refused to read the police report and leaned heavily against her husband.
“May I see her?” She asked, without looking at either men.
“Yes, yes of cause, maybe if you spoke to her, your voice could reach her, help her recover.”
Mrs Jones nodded and approached the side room just off from the main ward, the men continued their conversation in the hallway, but she wasn’t listening. Her husband had read the police report, she had never seen him sob so deeply.
Pulling up a chair, Mrs Jones sat by her daughter and carefully cradled a hand in hers.
“I hope you can hear me Casey.” She tried to keep her voice from breaking. “I promise, we shall never fight again, never drive you away again. I love you, we love you.”
She cried. It was a lame promise, too little too late.
“Please wake up Casey, I promise to make you your favorite treat each night. Hobnobs and Hot Chocolate.”
…and they all lived happily ever after?