By Rachael Lucas, age 16
Once upon a time there was a little, shallow valley with a little, shallow pond in its center. Pretty clover and other simple wildflowers grew all around the water, and bees often found their way there.
One sunny day a pigeon of pure white with markings of blood red flew over the valley, letting fall a tiny silver seed. The seed fell softly to the ground, where it sprouted and grew. A slim silver-green stalk was swiftly sent up, its top crowned with a scarlet blossom beautiful to behold.
But as time went on, the red lily’s roots killed off all the other flowers that grew near, leaving the strange lily to grow unhindered.
That fall it burst into a white seedhead and scattered the silver seeds abroad. Time turned and next season came after a light winter. So the new seeds grew, shooting up stems of evenly spaced flowers that killed off all the other, simpler kinds of plants in the valley. But it would not be bare for long.
Winter came and left again, followed by the rest of the seasons. And twice again they went ’round before something else occurred.
An old fisherman made his way down to that pond and cast his line in. After a short time he pulled up a fish, then saw that it was covered in shiny scales of gold. Gem-like blue scales rimmed its eyes and it was altogether prettier then any fish the man had before seen.
He looked at it and thought “maybe I should throw it back in, being that I’ve never seen a fish like this before.” But then he shrugged and said aloud “it should not be here, so I shall take it home with me,” and the fisherman walked away.
So the pond was free of a fish that would have multiplied and eaten all of the other fish. But now the bird flew over again, dropping a silver acorn to the ground. From the acorn grew a sapling, slowly, and yet quicker then most trees are known to grow. And from that tree came many acorns and many trees.
After a time the valley’s ground was covered in many evenly spaced trees and flowers. A thick, dark moss grew between them and carpeted the earth, while birds of fantastic shapes and hues came to live in the branches.
One day walking through the woods came a young man who lived not far off. Like most who dwelt in that area he was a simple farmer, happy with his rugged life but quick to see the hardships in it as well.
This day he had decided to take a walk to the pond and maybe catch some fish for his supper. But as he came near the pond, and would have cast his line in, the earth began to shake and the trees to tremble. Then a tiny green island rose out of the water, and on it was a large grey clam shell.
The young farmer looked at it in amazement, then gave a cry of surprise. For the shell opened and a tall, pretty maiden was shown to be sitting within. The farmer stared at her, startled out of his wits for a time.
The maid also made no move to speak, sitting demurely gazing at the nails on her fingers.
After a while of being ignored the farmer gathered his wits enough to call softly: “Good day! Are…are you a ghost or real?”
“Real.” The maiden did not look up but said this quietly, as if to no one.
“I don’t know…” the farmer went on. “Would you mind coming over here so that I may see?”
“Are you blind not to see?” The maid laughed softly with this saying: “I can not come to ye, you must come to me.”
So, through curiosity, partly, the farmer unfastened his shoes and flung himself in. It was deeper then it had been, deeper then it looked. But he made the other side, and when he came out the maiden laughed again and said, “If you can get me back to the other shore without one drop of water touching me then I will be your wife. But if I get wet, even a drop on my shoes, then I will vanish forever.”
The farmer speculated that he could do with someone to cook for him and take care of his house. Especially someone that pretty.
So he swam back ashore, built a little raft, and pushed it to the island. There he slid the whole shell onto the raft and shoved it back into the water. The maiden sat like a queen of the deep, sunlight sparkling on her hair and a shell as a throne, her servant a soaked farmer.
But when the new couple came home from the wedding, the farmer found that his wife would not cook and could not clean. She required servants and handmaids and did nothing but look pretty and talk.
Then the trees began to eat up the farmers’ fields, the flowers and moss following soon after. But the wife would not suffer him to cut them down or till them up, saying that they could live off the seeds and fruits now there. Neither could he hunt the birds without her saying “leave them be!”
So he became hungrier and hungrier, but the wife did not seem to care. The thin feed of seeds and fruit agreed with her perfectly.
By now they had four children, all strangely beautiful and easily filled by the trees and flowers.
As the years turned they grew and married the native farmers, and farmers’ maidens, and an odd thing happened: the trees followed to every farm, eating up the fields. Anyone that tried to clear them away disappeared mysteriously in the night.
Most of the children born now were as beautiful as cold starlight and delicate in all they did. But once in a long while was born a stout child, rugged and plain. This child would wander to the pond and look in at the plain and rugged fish, saved by the fisherman long ago, and wonder at how things had changed to a beautiful but ugly world of no variety.