Short Stories

Horsfall's Wandering Nature
By Dusan Sekulic

          The gray, overcast sky foreshadowed a dire day for little Horsfall. Or so it seemed. He had strayed from his brothers on the field of gold, so close to his family’s farm in the village of Lower Mire. They were returning from a long day of gathering potatoes, peppers and tomatoes in their ancestor’s land, the work soiling his tiny hands and clothes beyond recognition. He liked to play in the mud and the creek nearby when he knew there was work to be done. What compelled him today to wander so curiously towards the small forest which lay just beside the fields in isolation? Its green barks bordered the stretch of corn that dotted the landscape in that particular area. Horsfall took a moment to look up at the fabled mountain in the distance where his village sat nestled at the base. He loved his home. It seemed so far away at this moment, yet not far enough. His uncle always told him that “you were only on an adventure if you could not see your home, even in the slightest.” Horsfall frowned at that.
     A small bird suddenly drew his attention as he could hear the last echoes of his brothers shouting casually at him to keep up. Their slow march back home was a journey he would rather not take just yet. He could see now the bird in perfect flight soaring above his head. It darted quickly into the first canopies of the forest just as the clouds began to release their underbelly of rain. Horsfall laughed in eager anticipation, turning his face upwards towards the gentle spray, his eyes closed, rich water streaming down his cheeks.
     Then the lightning came. It slashed the sky in cruel strokes. One after another as the rain became heavier. Startled, Horsfall reacted with such fear at the sudden onset of noise and blinding light. He hurriedly crouched down hoping to drown out the sound and chaos closing in on him from above. His eyes still closed, hands raised to his ears in a hopeless attempt to block out the thunder.
It seemed like an eternity for Horsfall. He had never seen, let alone been in such a bizarre storm as this. Thoughts raced in his head all in one blurred flash. He wanted his brothers to come and rescue him, yet something within his heart began to emanate. It was a strange sensation and started to rise within his body, spreading to his mind and all the tips of his fingers. The fear began to ebb and within moments was completely gone. Horsfall steadied himself as he slowly rose from the defensive position he had assumed only minutes before. He opened his eyes in eager anticipation. The rain was still pouring torrentially around him; the thunder cracked and the lightning continued its steady lacerations.
And all that stood before him was the gaping entrance of the small forest, beckoning.
One step at a time, Horsfall began to walk towards the border of trees, knowing it was the only shelter he could find until the storm passed over the land. As he approached the periphery, he took a brief moment to look back at the path where his brothers had been calling for him earlier, the rain seeping in his eyes, making it difficult for him to see. But there was no one there. He knew the deluge must have forced them to run home as quickly as they could, carrying the baskets filled with vegetables to safety. With this thought firmly in his mind, Horsfall quickly turned around and crossed the threshold of trees waiting for him eagerly as the branches swallowed him up in their delight.

     A rich world of growth and nature’s rich design greeted Horsfall as he ventured slightly into the forest’s mass of trees and shrubs. At that very moment, the storm raging far above the surrounding greenery seemed like a distant memory to him. The dense foliage provided the most enchanting background for his young imagination. Although the rain continued its relentless assault on the branches beyond, Horsfall seemed to be immersed with the beauty laid out before him.
     Slowly, the sound of the drowning thunder began to abate. Then, quite suddenly, all he could hear was the gentle swaying of barks beside him, the rustling of squirrels playing amongst the shrubs and hollow oaks and the chattering birds darting about. They were studying the young visitor who had wandered quite suddenly into their world. Yet, he knew that the storm still raged over the land.
     Only this moment existed now for Horsfall.

     The forest teemed with extraordinary life, too rich for his mind to even begin to comprehend. Still, ever softly, a voice deep within his heart urged him forward, deeper into the woods. Onwards he traversed, ever so carefully. A slight path had begun to emerge beneath his feet as he went forward further and further. Horsfall knew he did not need to go far beyond the forest’s boundary for cover from the rain, but curiosity had him in its grip. This he knew, yet something else drove him on beyond his senses and understanding. He could not fathom what it was. Shadows of feeling hung over him now. A purpose, direct and without any fear.
     The path began to bend ever so slightly to the left as Horsfall took each and every step with heightened expectation. The path was not clear but yet he somehow felt like he knew where to go. Onwards. Deeper. Then, glancing up ahead as he passed a particular patch of tall shrubs, Horsfall stopped. In front of him stood a firm and sturdy rock. It was curiously large, about the size of a small bear. Solemnly it lay there quite in the middle of the path, barring his further progress. Horsfall carefully approached it and inexplicably placed his hand on the top of the boulder, feeling its contours and shape. Cold it was. Surreptitiously he simply walked around it, wondering how and why it was there to begin with
     But then something caught Horsfall’s eye just at the base of the large rock. It was shiny and very small. He stooped over to see and to his surprise saw a small silver key resting peacefully on the path, overshadowed by the rock above it. Naturally, he picked it up – it felt incredibly smooth and was in splendid condition. An abundance of thoughts circulated in his head as to why a small key would be in the small forest by the field of gold. Not thinking further beyond his initial wonderment, Horsfall simply put the key in his pocket. He forgot about it almost instantly as he continued his journey alone.
     To what end this path led, he knew not, but the inner voice within kept urging him on. After a while, he began to hear the faint flowing of water to his right beyond the trees clustered ever so tightly. It was the creek that he knew ran through the forest and onwards past the farmlands. It became louder and stronger as he progressed. The terrain began to dip downwards into a sort of slope and Horsfall began to feel the first pangs of thirst that he had not bothered to notice earlier. The anticipation was overwhelming.
     He began to see more clearly in front of him as the thickness and clustering of trees began to ease. Before he even realized his bearings, he reached a grove of oaks. Amongst the towering trees was a circular clearing just ahead and he thought that he had heard a soft voice singing ever so faintly. Horsfall slid beside one of the barks and peered through into the clearing. There, devoid of any shrubs or bushes, rested the softest grass he had ever laid his eyes on. A sudden silence seemed to emanate from this place of solemn beauty and Horsfall felt the weight of this enchanting moment take hold of him.
     Then he saw them. Two small creatures – like children almost – with such incredible features, traipsing around with such an air of pleasantry amid the grove of oaks. They had vibrant green hair that stretched down to their waste and emerald skin of the lightest hue. They were about his size, if not slightly smaller, and looked very much like the female elves or dryads his uncle used to tell him about in his fanciful tales of adventures. They had such an air of freshness, energy and youthful bloom that fascinated the young boy beyond belief. The two dryads had certainly not noticed Horsfall.
     Suddenly he gasped as one of them seemed to soar above the grove and up amongst the branches. His small hands quickly reached for his mouth to silence his momentary outburst, but it was too late. The dryad who had just leapt above in excitement quickly spun her head around and locked eyes with the startled Horsfall. The look of surprise on her face was more than he could bear as she quickly darted off into the foliage nearby, whether out of fright or anger, he could not tell. The feeling of embarrassment clung to the boy as his eyes drifted down to the ground once more. There a surprise greeted him extraordinarily: The other dryad was standing only a few feet away from him, her green eyes studying Horsfall unabashedly. He froze in an irrepressible guilt, feeling terrible for having intruded on their faithful escapade in the forest.
     The lone dryad had a calm look on her face. Her visage projected a different feeling altogether from his. Understanding. Peaceful. Curious. Purposeful. She slowly approached Horsfall and surprised him immensely when she said: “Young boy, will you tonight give me a faithful promise?”
     These words flowed from the mouth of the little dryad standing before him. She spoke with the most affectionate voice he had ever heard. Such curious words. She reached out to him with her right hand welcomingly. Blinking with apprehension and amazement, he could only nod and accept her tiny hand into his. Then slowly, gently, she leaned in and whispered something into his right ear. As she spoke the words of her request, Horsfall found himself staring beyond her shoulder into the tranquil peace of the clearing behind her, trying to comprehend every word being said. When she had finished, she stepped back with such grace and beauty then quite suddenly pointed at his pocket where the mysterious key lay hidden. She looked at him searchingly, awaiting his reply.
     Horsfall sensed no fear in his heart, and although he did not fully understand the meaning behind her strange request, he nodded confidently and said, “Yes, I promise.”
     The enchanting little dryad smiled with the slightest note of effervescence, “Then I put all my trust with you.”
     And with a movement of such infinity, she leaped away into the bushes behind the clearing without a sound. There was only a brief rustle of leaves beyond the grove and she vanished.
     In utter bewilderment, what followed was a complete blur to Horsfall, as if he were in a state of dreaming. He had turned back from the enchanted grove after what seemed like an eternity of contemplation and retraced his steps back the way he came. It was not hard, for the path lay strewn out before him as clear as before. Hurrying past the large stone he began to run at a brisk pace through the green forest. Minutes seemed like days, his heart beating beyond recognition, before finally, mercifully, he reached the breach whereupon he had first entered the curious forest. Emerging from the dense foliage, he espied his older brother Hopson foraging through a particularly large cluster of corn calling out his name rather anxiously amid the darkened sky.
     “Horsfall! For goodness sake, where are you?” he bellowed angrily, searching desperately.
     The rain had completely stopped and the last rays of the sun could barely be seen through a thinning layer of clouds, drifting away in the distance in the west behind the village of Lower Mire. The rolling thunder could still be heard in the far distance as the storm moved on southward.
     “Here!” Horsfall called out tiredly. He was exhausted from all the excitement.     
     Grabbing him firmly by the collar, Hopson offered no words of sympathy as he muttered strenuously, “Wait ‘till mum gets a hold of you brother, you’ll be sorry you ever dropped another basket of tomatoes in the mud.” On the two boys trudged along, one as hungry as ever; the other, dreading his future.

     That night, Horsfall sat on his bed, gazing searchingly at the stars beyond the window nearby. As usual, his brothers were snoring in their beds across the room, sound asleep. He could always spot the stars that flickered and those that did not. This game always provided him such gratifying fun. However, although the sky was clear once more, you might as well have told Horsfall that there were no blinking lights above this night. Something gnawed on his mind ever presently. The strange events of the day had left him feeling bemused and filled with a multitude of questions. Was it all a dream? Did he truly see the two precious dryads in the forest? And what of the promise she asked of him? Her words were still ringing in his mind as if she had uttered them only moments ago. But what to make of it? He certainly could not tell anyone what he heard or saw. This he firmly believed deep in his soul.
     Then, instinctively, without any hesitation or pondering of reasons, Horsfall reached into his pocket and took hold of the silver key, pulling it out into the open. The light of the stars reflected off its shiny, smooth service, permeating in his mind in the form of a riddle his uncle once told him:

     “Under the stars above, is it destiny or your heart that knows where the strange path will lead you?”

A Brief Short - A Penny for your Thoughts

By Dusan Sekulic

A funny thing happened to me the other day.

     Do you ever find yourself standing at a bus stop, snow blowing right into your face? And I mean right into your face. The scarf is not doing anything useful, that's for sure. Your hands are frozen, even though you have your brand new gloves on. I mean, come on, there aren't even any holes in them yet! Then there's the guy standing beside you at the stop. You know the one that's just wearing a sweater, jeans and sneakers because he thought he would catch the first bus that came by. He just has the one sweater on, and its winter. Winter! Come on. You keep glancing at him, seeing the anger building inside him as he waits for the bus and freezes to death. And you know when he constantly keeps checking the posted schedule for the bus? Like looking at will make the bus come faster. Seriously. You can hear him muttering under his breath, swearing at everything imaginable. I find it kind of funny, even though I share his frustration and impatience.  And of course, worst of all, the bus is late. Already five minutes. And because the bus is 5 minutes late, I'M going to be five minutes late for school. I mean, I'm a pretty patient guy. But when it comes to buses being late, I lose it. I can already hear Mrs. Teapots lecturing me about punctuality and all that junk. “But it wasn't my fault Miss! The bus, it was the bus!” I would argue with her. And what kind of name is Mrs. Teapots anyways? Come on.

     The bus finally arrives. The guy next to me plows right in, yelling at the bus driver for a good three minutes, of course. I can already see first period Science fading away. I'll be at least 10 minutes late now. Can a late slip still get me into class then? Ah, whatever. I sit down at the closest seat. My hands slowly warm back up and I look around. The bus is not too packed, but I can already tell that the driver is as slow as my grandpa. And he's got this ridiculous moustache on his face. Seriously. He's driving slower than my sister on her bike, and half asleep too! Suddenly the traffic lights up ahead hit yellow. Any normal, and I mean normal, person would hit the pedal and drive through that yellow light. Maybe a little bit dangerous, but legal. Old man winter, of course, slams the breaks. All of us in the bus almost fly out of our seats. You can hear the groans of the other passengers. Red light. Another two minutes late now, that's for sure. Whatever. I look over to my right and spot this old lady staring me. And I mean really staring at me. Like she wants to look into my soul or something. Man, that's probably the most annoying thing that can happen to anyone. I can't stand it. So I stare right back at her. And one of those hard stares. Five seconds go by. Ten. She finally looks away. Hilarious. I love old grannies.
     My eyes drift down to my feet, still covered in snow and salt. Winter always ruins my shoes. You know how it is. I suddenly notice a penny sitting right there on the ground. It looks clean, brand new. But it's only a penny. Can't buy anything with that. Everyone knows that. Right? I should be reading Chapter 10 of my Science text, but I can't stop looking at that damn penny. It's just sitting there. I wonder who will eventually pick it up? Will they keep it in their collection or use it right away at the nearest Tim Hortons? You know, when your bill is like $2 and one cent. Always comes in handy then. Like it was meant to be spent on those two donuts. But it's only a penny. I mean, if it was 25 cents, or even a dime, I would pick it up for sure. You can always use a dime. A nickel, not so much. But a dime, for sure. Everyone knows that. We're almost at the bus station and I'm still looking at the penny. No one in the bus has made a move on it yet. Why should they? Unless they believe in that superstitious mumbo jumbo. You know the phrase: “Find a penny, pick it up, and for the rest of the day you'll have luck!” Does that actually work? I've never really tried it. Not like I'm going to. The bus slowly crawls into the bus station. The doors open and the people pile out. I slowly stand up and line up behind the last guy waiting to get out. Hey, maybe someone kicked the penny away by accident! I mean, I don't really care. Just curious, that's all. Nothing wrong with that. It's just a penny after all. I look down. And there it is still, staring right back at me. Come on, it's like it was meant to be. Who knows when it'll come in handy? At the last second, I glance quickly around to make sure no one's looking and swiftly swipe the penny, right into my pocket. Oh be quiet. You know you would have done the same thing.
By Dusan Sekulic

NOT so long ago, as a matter of fact recently, I would say, in a modest little home lived Minky and Blinky, a loving pair of adventurers and readers of books. Blinky was bull strong, rock-willed and a rather passionate fellow. Minky, on the other hand, was beautiful, elegant and dazzlingly red-haired. And, ah, yes…then there was their extraordinary, sweet and joyful cat, Muffinpuff. Adorable Muffinpuff! All three lived in a nestled yellow house on Baldwin Street. A quaint street. Quaint. But Quite.

And so begins…

(Or a collection of delectable and divine tales)

Chapter I

THOUGH not a welcome time for many a folk, particularly as it signified the end of the blissful summer days, the arrival of fall in October in the waning year marked the third quarter of the calendar, the time before the start of winter, the farewell of short shirts and linen fabrics, or as they say, Halloween month. A dreary, solemn time for some. A festive, whole-hearted time of falling leaves and oaky hews for others.

For Muffinpuff, it was the beginning of fern followings, tasty teas and fun, oh fertile fun!

Sweet Muffinpuff enjoyed many a delightful games and activities during the fall months. There was checkers, rope-on-a-stick, backgammon, scratch-a-mat, fiddlesticks & tricks and so many others. Particularly, she enjoyed spending mornings and evenings in their cozy home with Minky and Blinky, whilst sitting down several times a day for a splendid cup of tea, naturally.

One delightful morning, Muffinpuff was in an extraordinarily playful mood. Unable to sit still for even a moment, she was not able to join Blinky for some tea and biscuits. Nevertheless, keen on exerting her energy in some fashion or other, she and Blinky thus devised an elaborate game of listing all the reasons why they loved Minky. Two hours later, they still had not decidedly reached a conclusion.

Chapter II

HALLOWEEN was always a time of certain mischievousness from Muffinpuff. Scary, goofy, tricksy, bright costumes were indeed a must for the kitty with a keen eye. She particularly liked to dress up as a furry rabbit during Halloween. Muffinpuff’s bunny feet naturally assisted her in this regard and she was more than happy to hop around gleefully whence gathering the countless assortment of candies, cupcakes, chocolates and hearty smiles.

When All Hallows Eve did eventually come this particular year, Muffinpuff was feeling rather unwell. Dispirited and saddened, she sat at home rather dwellingly and sighed loudly, for she could not collect her usual tally of treats. Time went by drudgingly when suddenly Minky and Blinky emerged from the chilly night and into the comforting surroundings of their warm abode.

Behold! They each had in their hands two great bags of chocolaty, chewy goodness! In a hodge podge attempt of costume begetting, Minky and Blinky had cleverly dressed up as a dignified King and Queen and royally strolled under the glowing street lamps of Baldwin Street. Carefully gathering up trick or treat goodies from the more than happy neighbours, they had returned triumphantly to present them to an ever excited Muffinpuff, who had thought the evening all but lost!

A good deal of smiles, hugs and general good cheer were exchanged and the night swept swiftly to a calming close, mouths filled with sweets. And none but Muffinpuff’s face had the grandest smile of them all!

A BIT OF CATNIP? – A brief poem of interlude

Tarts, cakes, mint and tea,
Muffinpuff and Blinky grabbed joyfully!
The day cloudily spoiled with rain and sludge,
But smiled they did through nibbles of fudge.
Where’s the catnip?
There’s the catnip!
Good glorious glee!
Have a pinch, no need to flinch,
For the day will brighten happily!

Chapter III

FURTHER down the eloquent street of Baldwin, there humbly lived another curious cat; a tub full of laughter, a belly full of joy. A good, strong, hardy cat: Mr. Huggles. A fancy cane he had, a monocle to see, blink he did oh so frequently. A top hat of endless length sat high, perched upon his soft, fuzzy head. A soft, orange mane he also had, to say the least!

Mr. Huggles, how do I put it…enjoyed eating. So very much. Whether roast beef, lamb shanks, peas and carrots, French bread, Viennese bread, short bread, baguettes, biscuits, croissants, peanut butter, shrimps, tuna, salmon, anchovies, jelly beans, cheese cakes, walnuts or custard cakes. He loved it all! His appetite was never satisfied and oh so large.

However, nothing was bigger than Mr. Huggles’ heart. He loved everybody and showed it daily. Regular pettings, purrings and hugs, his friendliness had no boundaries! Minky, Blinky and Muffinpuff adored him immensely. They were, naturally, very good friends. Mr. Huggles and Muffinpuff particularly enjoyed sharing mid-afternoon tea on a daily basis. Muffinpuff would regularly prepare the tea – whether mint, strawberry, peach or some other enticing flavour – while Huggles would always bring a generous quantity of biscuits, cakes and chewy delectables.

Their friendship was grand, as was their love for weekly afternoon appointments of croquet, lawn bowling and table tennis (whenever Mr. Huggles would be up for it).

One lazy day, sitting on yonder pile of school papers, Muffinpuff was vehemently emphasizing to Blinky how she missed Minky more – who had gone that night with her friends for some splendid fruit cocktails and shrimps. To settle the matter of who missed her the most, they decided to each bake a cake, and the one with the sweetest, being worthy of Minky, to be declared the victor of the argument. But who to decide such a contest? When behold! There was jolly good Mr. Huggles tapping on the window with his cane, having just arrived to visit his good friends. A sound judge of delicacies to say the least!

In a flash the cakes were made, but before they could say ‘plump pistachios,’ Huggles had, in his excitement, eaten both cakes! Suddenly, there was a turn of the door knob, and lo! Minky had returned!
‘Silly tubby!” she exclaimed, and they all laughed joyously with glee.

Chapter IV

CHILLY evenings usually followed Halloween, and it was no different on quaint little Baldwin Street. The restaurants glittered with savoury spices and the small shops bustled with people. The gentle whisper of a faint Fall wind began to blow ever more harshly. Muffinpuff minded not such things! Smiles and laughter followed her everywhere.

One such chilly day, out she went with Minky and Blinky to fly her favourite kite. Gloriously it flew through the whirling winds and tumbling clouds! Ran swiftly did Muffinpuff, hopping across the crisp grass and perfect puddles.

Onward and onward glided Muffinpuff with her cute little kite. Avast! Before she could react, suddenly the poor feisty little thing became caught on a long, grasping tree branch. Frown did Muffinpuff, but only slightly. Minky and Blinky caught up to the contemplating kitty, and together they devised several clever, yet quirky methods of retrieving the said kite. Alas, all for naught were their efforts. The day crept into dusk and all seemed lost. But as if their sadness and despair could be heard far off, out from a nearby shrub leapt the most petite and sweetest sparrow that Minky, Blinky and Muffinpuff had ever seen! Up she flew onto the branches above, and with a soft flick of her tiny beak, freed the grateful and ecstatic little kite! Many thanks were shouted as they waved the sweet bird on her merry way, tweeting and chirping happily under the fading sun.

As the three adventurers slowly trotted home in the pleasant, yet cool evening, a sudden silence could be heard. Peaceful it was, as the cold wind had stopped blowing ever so suddenly. In the heavens far above the cloudy skies opened up, from whence came a soft, gentle flow of snow. Sweet, beautiful snow! On it fell, onto Muffinpuff’s little pink nose and Minky’s shining red locks. The sky became a coat of white snowflakes. And so they skipped home, smiling broadly, their hands (and paws) held high, clutching the tiny falling particles of snow.

Chapter V

MINKY was away one chilly morning to go ice skating on the curvy glace. Muffinpuff and Blinky were left to themselves for the time being.

After playing three encapsulating games of checkers in the basement, they playfully decided to make a jolly snowman outside. Naturally, before this could occur, a snow fight broke out between the two friends. Little balls of snow flew across the fences of Baldwin Street. Even poor Mr. Huggles, passing by, had his hat hit by a particularly glistening ball of fluffy snow, released from the soft clutches of Muffinpuff’s two paws.

Eventually, with the help of a haughty Huggles (still trying to paw off the wet snow from his hat and monocle), they were able to make Mr. Snowman, his scarf, hat and all. Short he stood, but very stout he seemed! Laughing heartily as they gave Mr. Snowman a big smile, Muffinpuff and Blinky both suddenly sighed, wishing Minky was there too.

Chapter VI

A harrowing, harsh wind coldly sped Blinky along one day on his way back to Baldwin Street. Once home, and passing the time away diligently, he was suddenly surprised by a letter from dear Muffinpuff! Still away on her enchanting ski trip on the graceful slopes of Mount Mittens, she had taken just a pinch of time to write a warming letter of love with her two soft paws. The words almost seemed to glitter along the page like a brilliant shimmering of stars:

The air is clear and fresh
And the snow makes me smile,
Though I stay here only for a while.
Minky and Blinky, I do miss thee,
Eagerly I await the day
When again it is just us three.

Chapter VII

THE stretching Winter had finally passed and bright sunshine once again dawned on Baldwin Street once more. Greenery, finery, trees and berries! All was anew again.

After an amusing game of fiddlesticks and tricks, Blinky and Muffinpuff sat by the green, gratifying orchard, gazing at Minky playing with her beautiful red hair. Bemused, Muffinpuff seemed deep in thought, pondering a curious riddle since midday. Suddenly, without warning, she leapt to her four feet, smiling insatiably and exclaiming triumphantly, ‘I’ve got it! Never despair or cry out in vain, for Love comforteth like sunshine after rain!’

Chapter VIII

Her fur so soft, her heart aloft,
Her paws so cute with glee!
Chubby cheeks, more hugs she seeks,
Up by the window on she leaps!
Oh nice warm tummy you make us smile,
Don’t you fuss, just stay awhile!
Your eyes so keen, you ball of fluff,
Muffin Muffin Muffinpuff!

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