Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Story

The figure of the old woman sat hunched in front of the fire patiently as each of the children seated around her on the grass realized she was going to begin telling them a story soon. It was the same way each full moon. A handful of children from around the small farming village in northern Ireland would get permission from their parents to go see the old wise woman Elizabeth in her thatch roofed home up on the hill in the woods just on the outskirts of town. She would be there at dusk, in the field across the dirt path leading up to her old wooden gate, waiting. There was always a bonfire lit in the middle of the old stone circle when the children arrived. None of them had ever seen her build the fire, and she certainly had never added any wood to the fire. That wasn't the only oddity about Elizabeth. Strange and wonderful things happened to people around her, and although some of the villagers called her "witch" or "hag", most simply thought of her as wise old Elizabeth.

On the lunar calendar, there exists no concept of a blue moon. Whether it was just a coincidence or not that tonight's full moon was the second of the month, the children said to their children many years later, they will never know. All they could say for sure was that on that particular night, the story was unlike any of the other stories the old crone had ever told them. It was also the last time they ever saw her. The story, Beldam Elizabeth told them, was the most important Story they would ever hear from her. It was told to her by her own mother when she was just a girl, and this was the first time she had repeated it to anyone else. Normally, she said, the story was only to be shared by a mother to her daughter on the first full moon after she came of age, but since she was barren, this was the way it must happen. She had decided it must be this way. "The time has come for me to pass along The Story to a new generation of Story Keepers," she said, "And I don't take no stock in that mother-daughter nonsense."

She chuckled, "Boys is good as girls to keep the Story goin'. Besides, there's older rules for these types o' things."

The sky was clear that night. The stars blanketing the heavens sang a different song than usual, it seemed to the children; they were right. The stars sang along in harmony with old lady Elizabeth as she told the children her Story, which was her mother's story and her mother's mother's mother's story. They were twinkling in time to the cadence of her voice as the words spilled from her lips like the tongues of flame from the fire in front of her. For hundreds of years, the tradition was to pass the story from mother to daughter, but that wasn't really a rule. If there were any rules, the only one was that the story must be told; it must be kept alive. It wasn't until some of the children began to grow old and die that the remaining children began to understand why that was of such importance.

"I'd say to yeh, take heed to my Story, but yeh kin try to forget it, if yeh like. Won't work noways, anyhow. The Story will resonate whether yeh want it er not."

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