I’m blessed to have Casey Wilkinson, aka Lady Sparrowhawk, a gifted artist as a friend. She provided the artwork for this story (which also appears on my Patreon feed.
Once upon a time, when a small, magical child lived in a magical woods, a horrible thing happened. Someone left the child outside in the cold, rainy, wet damp of dawn. It doesn’t matter if this happened once or a thousand times. When you are a child, even once is enough.
It so happened, as the child grew into a boy, that others came by who were blind to the child and the boy and splattered mud as they passed. The mud covered the growing boy, its coldness reminding him of being abandoned in the cold, damp dawn.
The child grew into a clever boy. He kept his eyes open and watched the flowers spreading their petals to let in the morning sun, spiders spinning delicate webs stronger than the strongest steel, and squirrels and ants busying themselves gathering winter’s harvest.
Over time the boy fell in love with the world around him and decided that no matter what happened to him, he could learn from it. Quickly the boy’s wisdom grew as he watched and studied and quietly observed until he became quieter and wiser than most in the Woods.
But while he grew, there was a mud caked child inside, a child the wise boy knew nothing of, crying in the cold, damp dawn. The boy lived with the ache of the child inside so long it became like a cloak which no one else could see and which was more real to the growing boy than anything else in his world. The boy sat and watched the mud that caked around him as others splashed and noticed it hardened as it dried. The child gave the boy an idea.
“What would happen if I took some mud and fashioned a cloak around myself?” As the mud hardened he could make the cloak stronger and harder. Eventually the cloak would keep out the cold and the rain and protect the boy and child from pain.
The boy grew into a man who grew on the cleverness of the boy. The cloak became more and more a wall, growing thicker and more impenetrable over the years, eventually giving the man the look and feel of a giant. The man learned to move the giant-like cloak without harm. Sometimes the man would do things that cracked the shell. Then the small child within, remembering the damp and cold, would find more mud to reinforce his prison.
For that is what the giantish wall, the cloak which looked like a giant, truly was. It protected the man who was once a boy and would always be a child, but few could see the child hidden deep within.
And occasionally, every so often and in the quietest of times, the frightened child would peer out from the giant’s eyes in wonder at the Woods.
One day the child did this and saw a small white bird perched on a tree. The giant sat and watched the small white bird. “How beautiful,” thought the child and boy and man. “To be so delicate and as graceful.” Just as he thought these things, the bird looked at him and beat its wings until dust clouds rose from the ground. Then it took to the air and began flying directly at the giant.
The child was worried the bird would be crushed when it struck the giant face. The man tried to move away but wasn’t fast enough. The little bird flew directly towards him and, just as the boy thought it would die, it crashed through the hard face the man wore.
It flew down, faster and faster, down the caverns and darkness inside the giant, past the fears and sorrows the man had gathered over the years, past the rills and rents others had given the giant not knowing of the boy, deeper and deeper down to where the magical child lay.
“Do you want walls around you forever?” the small white bird asked.
The small white bird spread its wings. It gathered the light coming in high above through the giant face and began to spin. It stayed in one spot, hovering over the child, huddled and frightened beneath the light as it shined and dripped from the little bird’s wings. The light splashed the walls of the child’s giantish prison. The child looked at the light and realized it was a fire of joy and sorrow which splattered the walls around him. The walls steamed and cracked and began to chip away.
The little bird burst into flame and grew in size as the fire of joy and sorrow boiled the prison walls. The flames lit up the child, boy, and man. At the heart of the flames, in the core of the fires, was a great Eagle, an Eagle with the magical child’s face, spinning as did the little bird before it.
The man, more frightened than ever before, stayed huddled underneath the flames. The boy, more curious than afraid, watched the flames melt away the giantish walls. It was the child, remembering the cold, damp dawn, who felt the warmth of the Eagle’s fire and stood up underneath, straight and tall, straighter and taller than he ever had before. As he breathed, the fires of joy and sorrow rushed through him, doing to him what they had been done to the walls around him.
The child grew. In odd and strange ways, he grew.
The magical child got taller and stronger. The boy stood up and the child felt himself move into the young boy’s body. Next stood the man, and the magical child in the boy walked into the man as well. For the first time, the child knew who he was and felt both the boy and the man with him.
“How can a child grow thus?” He thought it must be the Eagle, spinning and churning, pulling his body and making it grow.
The Eagle flew higher and faster, a blazing tornado pulling the child up through the layers of the giant. On the outside the giantish shell grew hot and red and began to crack and splinter. Just as the Eagle flew through the opening the giantish form exploded.
The child looked around him. Pieces and fragments of the walls he’d made lay all around him, some smoking, most scattered and turning to dust. The Eagle was still before him. “Look around you, small one.”
The child did but it seemed he still looked through giant’s eyes. “What have you done to me?”
“Nothing, little one. All you see around you, you have done yourself.”
“How could I? All that I created to protect myself is destroyed, but I still see through giant’s eyes.”
“But now they are your eyes. Your eyes are now seeing your truth. Only those who are truly free can see their own truth. When you see who you are, you see all others as they are. Your freedom is your truth. It is knowing your truth that sets you free.
“There is no cloak, no wall, no giant other than the giant you are.”
The child looked at his arms and legs. He was indeed a giant, far more a giant than the mud caked walls and cloak he’d always thought to be.
“All the wounds you protected yourself from, all the pains you buried deep within those walls, share now. Share them with me and others in and out of the Woods. It is time, awake, you have a song to sing.” The Eagle flew up into the sky.
The child felt wings of fire grow from his back, and, spreading them skyward, followed.