Tale #42: The Bear In The Cage

In a town not far from here they keep a cage in the town square and in the cage the people of the town keep a bear.

Once, perhaps, the bear may have amused the townsfolk, but now? Now they had jobs to go to, places to be, lives to live and loves to love. They had no need for the bear, had no time for idling by and watching this great beast sleep through the day and through the night and through the whole of the winter and into the spring.

The people certainly had no time to wonder the rights and the wrongs of keeping a bear in a cage in the town square. And anyway it had always been there, or one just like it had.

One day a girl came wandering through the town. She was an orphan and free to go wherever she pleased, but always on her own. It was a beautiful spring day and the girl watched the bear as it roused itself from its exceptional slumbers, and as the sun went down and the square emptied itself of people, she approached the cage, ran her hands up and down the bars, and said to the bear, “Are you lonely?”

The bear thought for a while, and said, “I’m not lonely. I’m trapped.”

The girl said, “If I let you out, where would you go?”

The bear said, “Away, away. It would not matter where, as long as I was free.”

The girl said, “If I set you free, would you take me with you?”

The bear said, “Where would you want me to take you?”

“Away, away. It would not matter where, as long as I was not alone,” the girl said. “Will you take me?”

The bear nodded. The girl opened up the gates of the cage (she had learnt a great many things in her time as an orphan, and opening locks was but one of them) and out of the prison the bear stepped. The girl held out her hand to the bear, and the bear licked it.

“Shall we go?” said the girl.

“Okay,” said the bear, and it opened its mouth wide and in one bite swallowed the girl whole. And then out of the square the bear ran, out of the town, away, away, away.

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Notes:

1. Written between July and November 2016

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Tale #39: The town, the forest, the past

The forest was a perfect history of the town. The founding mothers (who the fathers were we cannot say) each planted a tree for themselves in the centre of a field, in the form of a circle. They planted a tree for each of their children on the occasions of their births, which in time formed a second circle. And later there grew a third circle for their children, and a fourth for theirs, and so on, until today, until tomorrow.

A child’s tree is planted in sight of their mother’s (as far as space allows) and in this way, for any person alive today, you can follow their motherly line all the way back to the centre, all the way back to the beginning.

When someone dies, the roots of the tree are poisoned. The bark is stripped from its bones, and their likeness carved into the dead wood beneath. Likewise, when a living person’s tree dies, they are poisoned. The flesh is stripped from their bones and their skeleton is arranged outside their home in the form of a tree.

It is said if you walk in the woods on a fog-thick night you can speak to every one.

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Notes:

1. Written October 2014

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