I don’t post a lot of fiction here in its entirety because of copyright issues, namely that a number of literary magazines (where I submit regularly and sometimes even get printed in) want first copyright. I don’t put very much stock in intellectual property, but the magazines who are pretty much the gatekeepers of a writing career sometimes do.
However, this story was written for and given to my best friend’s small daughter, Isabella Freedom, who I consider the one who holds the copyright. Not sure how legal that is, but it’s reprinted here under that notion.
Like most children’s stories, this one has a simple moral: “I wonder if people who are not alike are really just as well suited to love each other as people who are alike. Yes, when we are alike, we understand each other, but when we are not alike, we have even more of a chance to understand.”
Incidentally, the name of the main character is the middle name of my beautiful, brilliant (and now a teenager!) niece, Scarlet Aurora.
FIRE GIRL IN WATER WORLD
Once upon a time there was a young girl named Aurora. Aurora was your average little girl who liked to play and sing, but there was one very different and special thing about her. Aurora was made of fire! She was quite beautiful, full of deep reds and dancing oranges and even some flickering blues down near her heart.
Yes, Aurora was special, but being special often means you are not like others. And Aurora certainly wasn’t. You’ve probably been imagining how different Aurora was from you, but that’s only because you haven’t seen the people Aurora lived around. You see, just like Aurora was made of fire, they were made of water.
For every red in Aurora’s body there was a shade of blue or teal or turquoise in theirs. For every dancing orange, they had a faintly rippling purple. And whereas Aurora had blue deep down in her heart, the water people shone diamonds of light behind them everywhere they went. It was some sort of scientific reaction of sunlight on water, but the effect was so beautiful. The water people liked to dance sometimes, in their sliding way, just so the sun diamonds behind them danced even more. They were very lovely, very proud people.
They were so proud that they did not like the ways that Aurora was different than them. She lived in their world, but she never got to be part of it. She tried to make friends, but every time she got close to someone, another fire person would warn them away and the friendship would just fizzle.
Aurora was very sad and lonely. She often walked in the fields of Water World wondering if there were people like her out there, what games they played, and if she would be happy if only she could find them.
There was one boy who wanted to be friends with Aurora in Water World. His name was Arliss, and he was not quite like the other boys. He’d had a terrible accident with a puddle of mud when he was just a little water baby, and as a result he was not as splendidly brilliant as the other water people. He was not different enough that everyone treated him they way they did Aurora, but he was different enough that he both wanted to be her friend and was afraid to be her friend. You see, sometimes when people are just a little different, they try to act just like everyone else so that no one notice. And that was what Arliss did. Whenever he had the urge to take Aurora by the hand and lead her into one of the games the water kids were playing, he would remember how the other kids treated Aurora and become afraid that he would be the next one they treated that way. So Arliss stuck with the other water kids and never invited Aurora to play.
Still, he was kinder to her than any other water child. Much kinder than Aneaas, who was the meanest of the mean kids. In fact, Aneaas was so mean that one day he invited Aurora to play just so that he could be even meaner.
This is how it went: the water kids were playing water ball, a sport not unlike baseball, but with a little stick for a bat and a big ball of water for the ball. A water ball has to be hit just right, or it splatters everywhere. But when they are hit just right, they fly and fly in all different directions, swooping up like splashes from a river and swinging down like driving rain. The ball is hard to catch and the water children run all over the field trying to get it as the person who hit it slides from base to base, usually laughing and yelling all the way. It is a very fun game, and Aurora had often watched it be played, wishing she could join. When Aneaas offered to let her hit for his team, she thought her luck had become too good to be true.
And it was! What Aurora didn’t know was that Aneaas had once seen her get angry, and planned to make her so again so that all the water children would think she was dangerous and stay far away from her. And the way he did this was, after she took the bat started to step up to the plate, Aneaas tripped her.
Now, no one likes to be tripped, but for Aurora the effect was particularly shocking. When fire people get angry or hurt or any other mean, nasty feeling that no one likes feeling, fire jumps every which way. So that’s what happened. The little stick bat that Aurora had been holding went right up like kindling as little tongues of flame shot out of her fingers and toes and even off the tip of her nose! And a few of these little fire drops hit the water children around Aurora. You know what? They burned! They evaporated little spots of water where they hit, because that is what happens when people made of fire and water touch each other with anger.
“She’s dangerous!” Aneaas yelled, pointing at Aurora. He had known what would happen and made sure to get far enough away so that he wasn’t hurt. “She should be locked up and kept away from us so that she doesn’t hurt us anymore!”
Arliss wanted to shout. He wanted to defend Aurora, but then he stood back. What if everyone turned on him? He looked at the diamonds of light that danced so much more slugglishly behind him than they did behind everyone else. What if he was wrong, anyway? What if Aurora was dangerous?
So Arliss stepped back as Aneaas pointed and yelled and Aurora, crying little fire tears, walked away.
Aurora was tired of this, tired of it! If Aneaas hadn’t tripped her, she wouldn’t have gotten angry and she would never have hurt anyone. If was as if no one understood her. She longed once again for a place with people just like her. As she walked away from the playing field she kept walking and walking. Soon she had walked further away from where she lived than ever before. She would keep walking, she thought. She would walk and walk and walk until she found a place where there were people just like her!
Suddenly, Aurora felt a wind pick up. At first it just fanned her flames a bit, but then as it got greater, it began to lift her right into the sky. She was surrounded by wings and there were faces in the wind! What was going on here?
“Hello, little fire girl,” a voice said. It was deep, but light like the wind. Was it the wind?
“What’s happening?” Aurora cried. “Who are you?”
“I am Feng,” the voice said. Aurora could see the lips of more than one of the faces moving. But the faces keep moving apart and coming back together different ways, so it was hard to tell what was really what.
“What’s a Feng?” Aurora asked.
The voice laughed. “I am a Feng. And Feng is a wind person, just as you are a person made of fire.”
“Oh,” she said. “In that case, I’m Aurora. But wait…if there are wind people that means there are more people than just water people! And that means that there are probably more people like me around here somewhere? Is that true?”
“Of course it is, little Aurora,” Feng said. “Did you really think you were the only one?”
“Sometimes it felt that way,” Aurora said.
“Well, don’t worry little fire girl. I saw what happened and I think it’s time you learned that you are not bad or dangerous, and there are many, many people like you, in a land far away. How you came to be here I am not sure, but how you will get back there, I do know. I will take you!”
It was a wonderful flight! The air was cool and dry and Aurora felt as if the wind where nurturing her and making her burn even more brightly than before. She was quite sure she had never felt so good, but she was also sure that some of that feeling was because she would soon be seeing people just like herself.
Then Aurora saw them off in the distance. Little spots of light dancing and playing and a lovely singing coming up from them, and sparks of joy flying up into the air. They looked so happy!
“I see them!” she cried, and her voice rang with joy.
“Yes, little one, we are almost there. But you must remember something once I put you down. That any time you want to go back you would simply have to call me, and I would come to take you.”
“You must be kidding!” Aurora yelled. “Go back? Why would I ever want to go there when there are people just like me here?”
“You never know,” Feng said. “One day you may miss old things and you must remember I will be here on that day.”
Aurora secretly thought Feng had lost his mind, but perhaps wind people just thought differently. His kindness had made her feel kind, too.
Feng put Aurora down in the middle of the field where the other fire people danced. They came over all at once to see this new girl. A tall, beautiful fire woman stood in the front of the group. She appeared to be a leader of some sort.
“Feng, who have you brought us? Won’t you introduce your friend?”
Feng told the fire people Aurora’s name, and asked them to be kind to her, as the water people had not always been. Some of the fire children looked as if they didn’t believe there could be such things as water people, but the fire woman who seemed to be the leader did not seem surprised. She was the wise elder of the fire people, and she knew much about the world around her.
“Come then, little Aurora,” she said. “It is time you know what it is like to be with people who are like you.”
From that day on, Aurora no longer knew what it was to be lonely. The fire children had their own games, not unlike water ball, but which Aurora was always more than welcome to play. They had fire hoops, in which you danced through different hoops worth different amounts of points; they had fire basket, which is a little like basketball, but each team has a fire person with a bucket of water guarding the basket; they had fire bounce in which each team tries to bounce a little ball of fire high enough to see if they can make a new star in the sky. Aurora played and played with the other fire children, and the fire elder watched and waited, smiling slightly as if she knew that one day Aurora would have questions to ask her.
The first day it rained, Aurora and the other fire children hid inside, unable to play. As Aurora watched the water fall down from the sky, she felt a feeling she’d not had since coming to live with the fire people. It was sadness. Something about the water made her feel ways she did not understand.
But the rain passed, and the next day Aurora was back in the fields, playing games again. She forgot all about her sadness until the next time it rained. On that day, she found herself inside, and the fire elder with her.
“Why do I get so sad when it rains? I feel like my heart is far, far away,” she said.
“Once, you know,” said the fire elder, “I knew a boy made of earth.”
“What does that have to do with this sadness?” Aurora asked.
“Listen, little fire girl, and perhaps you will learn,” said the wise fire elder. “I was young, but older than you when I knew this earth boy. I was old enough and he was old enough that we wanted to marry. But all the people said that it could never be. That fire and earth must never mix, and that we were too different to ever be truly happy with one another. We listened, and I came here to live with the fire people. But some days, when the earth moves just a bit beneath the feet of all the dancing fire people, I wonder if everyone was right. I wonder if people who are not alike are really just as well suited to love each other as people who are alike. Yes, when we are alike, we understand each other, but when we are not alike, we have even more of a chance to understand.”
Suddenly, Aurora thought of Arliss. It had been some time since she’d thought of him, since before she came to play games with the fire children here in Fire World. She thought of him the last time she had seen him, standing off to the side of the other children, looking as if he wanted to help her. Aurora knew what she must do.
“I want to go back to Water World,” she said. “If just for a little while.”
The fire elder smiled at her. Perhaps she had known this day was coming all a while. Feng certainly seemed to, for no sooner than Aurora spoke the words did he swoop down, lifting her into the sky. Soon, she was flying along, waving goodbye to the fire elder, promising to be safe and come back soon.
The water children were playing in the field when Aurora got there. The first one to notice her was Aneaas.
“Look, she’s come back to hurt us!” he cried to the other children. He didn’t really believe it. He just wanted to cause trouble.
Arliss was never sure what made him act the way he did that day. Perhaps it was the site of the wind person, a kind of person he had never seen and was in great awe of. Perhaps it was how Aurora looked carried by Feng, majestic reds and oranges sailing through the sky. But all of a sudden the couldn’t stand back anymore.
“You leave her alone!” he cried, pointing at Aneaas. “You’re just a big bully and she never would have left if you hadn’t caused so much trouble for her. And, anyway, I heard you’re mostly salt water, so maybe you shouldn’t talk about how others are different!”
The other children, who had always known Aneaas was a bully stepped back and watched as Aurora was settled gently on the earth by Feng. Feng was gone as soon as he came, whispering in Aurora’s ear that all she had to do when she was ready for Fire World again was call. But for now, Aurora was so happy to see the one person who had tried to be her friend when everyone else would not that she barely heard him.
“Arliss,” Aurora said. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Arliss said. “I didn’t think you’d ever come back.” He looked down, a bit of red in his blue cheeks. “I guess I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.”
Aurora didn’t say anything. She reached out her hand towards Arliss’. At first Arliss was a little afraid to take it. But then he stretched out his own and linked it with hers.
“I have a lot to tell you,” Aurora said. “Water World isn’t the only place there is.”
“I’d like to hear all about it,” Arliss said.
Soon they would talk, but for now they just held one another’s hands and walked towards the sun, which was just about to set. Arliss’ hand felt warm and tingly in Aurora’s and Aurora’s felt cool and refreshing in Arliss’. Both of them wondered why they had never tried holding each other’s hands before. It was the nicest thing either had ever felt.