I wrote this for a “Picture’s worth 1000 words” challenge. The picture that inspired the little tale is below:
Children don’t play here anymore. Children don’t play nice anymore. They grew bigger and we grew duller and they left us here, in heartache, to agonize over our peeling paint and the sad, rusty flakes that sprout up in its place. Even the little ones won’t come and rotate with us, round-and-round-we-go, anymore. The moms and dads and nannies call our neighborhood “unsafe,” and think poorly of the pungent, bearded men who sleep on us every now and again.
But when you lead your life in a loop, when everything you know and live for is founded upon (shackled to) a rusty, yellow, pergatorial turntable that squeak-creak-shrieks at the wind’s lightest touch–a gentle breeze is a ticklish matter for this prisonous, cast iron wheel of cheese whereas a stormy gust in the night sends the cylindrical oaf into the most jarring fits of metallurgic mania you could ever be unfortunate enough to imagine–you begin to value the little things, insignificances. Either that or you lose your mind–your very connection to humanity and human contact, to the desire to feel something more comforting than the continuous corrosion that corrupts our friendly identities and masks us with an unapproachable layer of grime.
On one particular morning, as we awoke to the first glints of sunlight exposing to an apathetic world our shameful, perpetual path to nowhere, we discovered the dreadful transformation of one of the members of our increasingly melancholy ranks. His name was once Mr.Tiffin, and he had been the most magnificently resplendent creature of us all–a brilliant butterfly with colossal lime green wings that were capable of cradling a full-grown child each. We had all admired and envied him to the utmost degree, but when the big kids forgot about us and the little ones stopped turning up altogether, Mr. Tiffin’s heart broke to pieces and a darkness darker than the fine coating of filth that was beginning to blacken our once bright faces started to fill his loving spirit with a tempestuous distress that put us all at unease.
Day by day he grew more bitter, more heartsick and more devastatingly, bitingly cruel to the rest of us. His words were as cold and corrosive as his outer metallic shell and he began to frighten us with detailed accounts of his twisted nightmares, of perverse desires to hack off his lovely wings, to which he sneeringly began to refer to as “worthless rags,” as “hideous appendages” that meant nothing to him and nothing to anybody else. We tried to reassure him, to make him see, how much he meant to us–both his magnificent wings and his once gentle soul–in a world that was fast losing its beauty and its warmth and its children, its children, its children…
That ill-fated morning, we all awoke to the vague tickle of cockroach legs skittering over the rough contours of our pirouetting prison’s flaying, star-spangled exterior, as the sun’s early morning glare was subdued by the roiling mass of a large dusty cloud, tarnishing an otherwise pleasantly crisp pink sky. The change was not at first apparent. We were lethargic, growing into lackadaisical lumps of scrap metal, and, I will admit, our observational facilities at that point were not the keenest. But I still recall the first poignant moments of disbelief–of horror, even–when I saw the beast mounted in Mr. Tiffin’s place, absurdly posing as my dear, winged friend.
Everything about this insectile impersonator was unsettling, from his alarmingly elongated, green nose to the large, staring eyes, set hard in a squinted sneer, to the oily black top hat priggishly perched on his polished, pea-green head. This creature would not speak to us–would not communicate with us whatsoever but for a faint snicker that set us all on edge and made us yearn for better, brighter days.
The mutation of our friend, of old Mr. Tiffin’s disconnection with life and with joy-bringing, made us all start to gravely fear what was to become of us–if one by one we would each suffer such a distressing transformation. It was a dark time made even darker by the dust and the grime slowly congregating on our flaking surfaces and falling into our eyes.
But then she came. She came and everything and nothing changed.
The morning was a grey and bleary one. We were all silent but for the green thing’s sniggering, but even he had seemed more listless and unamused as of late. The wind had been sickly and sluggish for some time, allowing a respectably girthy coat of soot to gather in our dim eyes, so that we heard her before we saw her–a somber little voice singing off-key. Those sweet, discordant notes sent tiny thrills of joy into each of our still, rusty hearts, and we were almost overwhelmed by bliss when she pushed off the filthy ground and began to spin with us slowly, round and round, twirling and ensnaring us in that jarring, innocent melody.
She sat down right next to what was once Mr. Tiffin, leaning solemnly against his bulbous, black boot, totally unfazed by his horrible snickers or by the emptiness of his wide eyes. There seemed to be energy, tiny tremors, coursing up and down our entire length and structure–our very foundation shaken by this small child, sitting and rotating in the dust with us. We were embarrassed by our ugliness, but not nearly as embarrassed as happy and beaming and overjoyed that we had not been forgotten after all, that we wouldn’t be left all alone to rust forever and ever. We still had a purpose and that purpose at the moment was this serious little girl with the serious little voice who, for whatever reason, sat with us for a time–oh, and what a time it was!–and spared us some of her precious childhood moments. But, as all children must eventually, she had to leave. And as abruptly as she had appeared, she was gone, leaving Mr. Green Thing with a sweet, absentminded pat and disappearing with her song, which was carried on the soft breeze that continued to urge us along our creaking circular path long after she was gone.
When the melody finally died out completely, we noticed that Mr. Tiffin had grown silent. The little girl’s hand print remained on his side, having broken through the barrier of dust to the bright green paint beneath. In warm silence, we admired that small imprint and the brightness that it had exposed. She had changed everything, if only for a moment.