Category Archives: children’s

Short Story for Critique 016: Wings of Fantasy by (Ernest) John Swain

Welcome to Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group and the sixteenth story on this blog. This 1,618-word piece is by crime / thriller novelist and interviewee (Ernest) John Swain.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

I do have some feedback but I’ve just included it (below the story) as links to the scans of my handwritten-notes so I can let others comment here without being influenced by me. 🙂

Ernest said, “This is a trial run in writing within a new genre for me. I normally write in the Crime/Thriller genre so I would appreciate a candid opinion of this ‘Fantasy’ short story. There are other stories in the pipeline and feedback on this would help with the others.”

Wings of Fantasy by Ernest J Swain © 2013

I wouldn’t have believed this if I’d heard it from someone else, but it’s true – I give you my word.  In fact I’m a little embarrassed to tell anyone, even you, but I think I can rely upon your discretion, can’t I?

It was unusually quiet for such a beautiful summer’s day. I was feeling very relaxed and the whole atmosphere, together with the birdsong, gave me a wonderful notion of being totally at peace with the world. I strolled along through the dappled shade of the woodland glade. I won’t tell you exactly where because I feel it needs to be kept secret.  I noticed a ring of yellow toadstools in a grassy area to the side of the path, and there, in the centre, a mossy mound that almost invited me to sit upon it.  I sat to rest and just listen to the birds. I opened the book I was carrying and began to read, but strangely, tiredness began to overcome me.

As my eyelids grew heavier the book fell from my grasp. It was almost as though a very fine net curtain had descended over me. I gradually felt a warmth spreading through me that left me quite dreamy. It’s difficult to explain the feeling but I was somehow unfettered; still earth bound yet able to float – what do they call it – an out of body experience? What a glorious feeling. The smell of honeysuckle and succulent fruit was strong in the still air. I could almost taste the smell; such a sensuous arousal.  The dappled sunlight brought shafts of light through the canopy above me that appeared like ladders enticing me to climb to ecstatic heights.

The sunlight flashed like sparkling diamonds through the leaves, as a beautiful white dove silently glided down to rest inches from me. It seemed unafraid and looked inquisitively at me, cocking its head from side to side.  Perhaps the euphoric feeling made me slow to perceive, but then I saw it, a tiny, delicate little fairy with gossamer wings, sitting astride the bird. Her own wings spread and began to flutter and she rose and hovered only inches above me.  Dust, silver sparkling dust, began to fall from her outstretched hands, and fell into my eyes.  I perceived myself beginning to shrink; what a strange sensation, I was becoming smaller and smaller.  It must have been that dust, fairy dust, magic fairy dust.  I was in a different world where everything had just become enormous; how weird it felt.  Suddenly, there were more fairies, hovering and darting around me in a ballet of fantasy. How I wished I could fly; join them in their flittering.

We all seemed to be of a similar stature, and whilst the other fairies hovered, spun and darted around me in such magical aerial terpsichorean splendour, the fairy that first arrived on the dove, came face to face with me. She was beautiful almost beyond description, such flawless skin, such silky golden hair, such exquisite smiling eyes, and a figure of perfection.  She beckoned me and whispered, “Come with me”.  I rose from my mossy woodland resting place and with only the faintest whisper of wings another of the fairies came to my side. They each took me by the hand and my feet suddenly left the ground.  I was rising effortlessly in a shaft of sunlight, and then speeding through the glade yet I didn’t feel the wind in my face. We landed so very delicately beside a huge toadstool with a bright red cap, spotted with white. Its enormous size had made it possible to carve a doorway and windows into its thick white stem; obviously a home to them.

There were very boyish elves and pixies in green tights and livery busy about the place, dashing here, dashing there, without seeming to have a moment to spare. I didn’t see any of them with wings so I don’t know if they could fly.  My fairy, her wings now folded, again took me by the hand and led me through the open doorway into the toadstool. Moving inside from the intense sunlight, I could see that each fairy had a visible aura, a subtle luminescence.

It was then that I saw the purpose of all this – why they’d brought me there.  Lying on a bed of gossamer thread from spiders’ webs, was the forlorn figure of a very young fairy with a broken wing. It was quite clear to me they believed I could fix it; but what could I do?  My fairy saw my look of concern and said, “This is Princess Lillipet and we’ve only until dusk to make her well. As the light fades, if her wing isn’t mended, the Hob-goblin will take her away and we’ll never see her again”.   I could see that Princess Lillipet’s aura was already beginning to wane.

This fairy-land, this exotic paradise of beautiful people, still seemed to be ruled by our own concept of time and it was already late afternoon.  I felt I must do something for my new-found friends, but what?  I turned pleadingly to my fairy and said, “What can I do?  I don’t have magic. Why can’t you use your fairy-dust, your own magic, to heal the wing? “She took my hand, caressing it softly, whilst looking into my eyes and said sadly, “Fairy dust doesn’t work its magic on us. Somewhere, long ago, we heard tell that only a kiss from a handsome prince could heal a broken wing. Will you try, please, for Lillipet?”

“But I’m neither a prince nor would I say I was particularly handsome”, I said.

“Surely, you’ve heard it said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and that ‘handsome is as handsome does’. Just try, please”

I looked again at the prostrate figure lying before me in her splendid, diaphanous, silken gown and I was distressed to see that her aura was diminishing by the minute. Call me a pessimist but there was no conviction in my heart as I went down on my knees and bent forward to gently caress her face and place a tender kiss very lightly upon her lips.  As I pulled away I could see the slightest flicker of her eyelids and as a peculiar tingling sensation spread through my body I could see her aura gradually becoming brighter. Princess Lillipet opened her eyes and sat up just as though simply awakening from a dream. She looked into my eyes and gave a smile – a smile that felt so radiant and special, then held out her hand to me.  I took the hand, and her skin felt so smooth and creamy, as she graciously rose to her feet. I watched fascinated as her wings unfolded, cautiously at first but then stretched to their limits and began to gently vibrate. Oh, the joy that we we’re all feeling.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

In all this euphoria there was a sudden alarm and we rushed to the window just as a huge black raven glided into the glade and folded its wings. Riding on this harbinger of doom and gloom was an ugly, misshapen, figure dressed in black – a hob-goblin. Those fairies that had remained outside the toadstool house, scattered in alarm; even the elves and pixies had retreated inside the toadstool and there was a quite obvious fear and trepidation in the air.  The hob-goblin, now dismounted from his winged steed, looked up to the window and for the first time I could see the wicked, twisted look upon his face; enough to put a terrible fear into the heart of even the most brave. I confess, I was feeling rather afraid myself.

Princess Lillipet stepped forward bravely and placed herself in full view of this fearful hob-goblin, through the window and she threw it open wide.  Her wings begin to beat and with imperious grace she began to hover and propelled herself through the window into his full view.  There were no words that passed between them but I could see that he was displeased. Even the raven looked incredibly cross and began to squawk loudly.  The hob-goblin purposefully strode towards the door to the toadstool; it seemed he had retribution in his heart.   The elves and pixies scattered in all directions.  Afraid as I was, my own sense of chivalry wouldn’t let me stand idly by – or was it self preservation? I’m not sure, but some innate force, impelled me to the door where I confronted this ogre in black. I blocked his path and tried my best to look as menacing as I could but all I achieved was a wicked sneer from him and his lips tightened in a show of determination to get past me.

As the hob-goblin bore down on me I suddenly felt that same strange sensation I’d felt at the beginning, but this time I began to grow – the magic was wearing off.  As my size increased I could see the fear suddenly grip the face of the hob-goblin and he turned and ran. He only just made it onto the back of the raven as it too was frightened and in a flurry of feathers took off into the fading light. Things then became a blur to me.

Incredibly, I found myself only a few strides away from the mossy seat where I’d been reading. I looked around but I could see no-one, there were certainly no fairies, but as I bent to pick up my book and wondered if I’d been dreaming, I felt the ecstatic sensation and slightest moisture of a kiss upon my cheek.

*

Thank you, John.

If you’d like to see my notes, click on the links below but please give your comments to Ernest here first. That way you won’t be influenced by my feedback, and we can see if we think alike. Thank you.

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Jack in shafts (2)John is married with grandchildren.  He is a retired police officer with an exciting and colourful career behind him. On retirement he purchased a small and secluded hill-farm high in the Pennines of the Peak District National Park which has somewhat inspired his writing.  He is a musician and plays the organ and keyboards – which is his relaxation. With a lifetime’s experience of working horses – from Shires and Clydesdales to lighter carriage horses – he has enjoyed a long membership of the British Driving Society and has restored and renovated carriages.

He has self published two novels, ‘A Surprising Legacy’ ISBN 978-0-9574852-0-4 (Set in the late 1700s, it’s a story of myths, legends and folk-lore woven into a romance with tragedy, crime and poverty as its setting) and ‘The Lightning Tree’ ISBN 978-0-9574852-2-8 (A stand-alone story that employs the same characters as the first book but here they face a situation that tests their marriage and their moral fibre. It also puts them in extreme danger when a someone with dreadful facial injuries purports to be a figure from their past. Is he genuine or is this some confidence trick?)

John can be found on the Independent Author network site http://www.independentauthor.com/ernest-swain.html and on his web site http://ernestswain.vpweb.co.uk.

You can also read my interview with John (Ernest) here.

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