A Girl Who Knows Her Rubies

By Donna L Greenwood

When the rubies come, mama tells her to sew them into her cloak, so others do not see their power. She wears her cloak to school even though mama warns her of the hyenas who prowl outside the gates looking for girls and their shiny jewels. She’s not afraid, she knows these streets well; she understands their steely greys and hard twisting ways. She walks past the graffiti-splattered half-houses and the spooling concrete giants, feeling the confidence of one who has only just discovered her rubies.

Lurking in the grim, granular morning is something with fur and teeth. It eyes her madly, drools and leaps in front of the girl who gleams with such obvious gems.

‘Let me walk you to school, cutie,’ says he.

‘Okay,’ says she and swishes her sparkle in front of his eyes.

The mist births more of these fang-toothed droolers, they slink in the fog, all cackle and gags, following the smell and the dazzle. The girl pays no attention, she is unafraid. She skips and trollops through the streets without a care.

‘Why don’t you jump in my car,’ says her companion, ‘We’ll get there quicker.’

‘Okay,’ says she and hops in his ride, not seeing the others already inside.

They drive away from the school to a place the girl does not recognise. It is a yard filled with rust and junk.

‘Why have you brought me here?’ she asks.

‘All the better to spend some time together,’ chuckles the hyena. His brothers are poised, ready to pounce. The girl smiles, ‘Good, I’m glad nobody can see us’ and jumps out of the car, laughing much louder than the hyenas.

They unfold their hairy legs and crawl out into the dusty yard, angry at the young girl’s insolence. They’ll teach her a lesson she’ll never forget. They form a snickering circle around her.

In the centre, the girl is still smiling. She twirls her red cloak and begins to spin. Around and around, she whirls, unfolding like a scarlet universe and one by one the rubies reveal themselves. They turn into a glorious, crimson liquid and gush from the girl. The sea of red pours into the eyes and ears of the monsters, clogs their nostrils and pulses into their throats until the red wet drenches their lungs and there is no more laughter.

The girl stops spinning and fastens up her cloak. She smiles and continues on her way to school. She hasn’t strayed too far from the path; she’ll soon find her way back. She skips along singing an old song about a bad wolf and doesn’t once look back at the pile of fluff and broken bones she’s left behind.

Hideous Treasure

There’s something unholy in the pond

“There’s something unholy in the pond,” he said, and then he grabbed me with his ancient claw, rolled his bone white eyes around his shrunken head and died.

He hadn’t been popular so few came to the funeral and even fewer stayed behind for the wake.  I drank cheap rum with his last three friends.

“He said there was something in the pond the last time I saw him,” said one.  They turned and looked at me.  I was the only remaining occupant of the house.  Had I seen anything in the pond?  I smiled and reassured them that the pond was cleaned every month and, as yet, there had been no discovery of any hidden treasures.

After they left, I unhooked my coat from behind the door and trudged down the garden path; curiosity had gotten the better of me.  Had he seen something?  He had been particularly agitated in his final weeks and he had been out there when he’d had his heart attack.

The pond was the size of a small pool and quite deep.  I bent over the side and gave the water a quick stir, shifting the water lilies to get a better view of the depths.  Beneath the green scum, on a ledge below the surface, just out of reach, I could see it.  It was a child’s hand.  The tattered skin around the bony fingers fluttered like white lace in the murky dark.  I looked around the sides of the pond and found a rock about the size of a baby’s head.  I dropped the rock into the pond. It quietly splashed through the dark water and fell as if through treacle upon the ledge.  I watched the tiny fingers delicately thrum a final tattoo before being pulled down to the bottomless-black of the pond by the gently settling stone.


Ask Grandma, her bones talk


Published in FormerCactus magazine 2017 and one of the winners of BR-Lit flash competition

by Donna L Greenwood

Lights out and the creeping starts.  She pulls the sheets over her head as the air begins to whisper its insanities.  From an unseen corner the wolf growls and she hears the clickety clack of its claws as it circles the room.   In the middle of the night its mouth can widen and swallow you up in one gulp.  Ask Grandma, her bones talk.  At the end of her bed, the goblins are yacking in a low dark tone.  Their bone white eyes shine in the murk as they look for her.  Their tongues loll with appetite.

She stills her breath, trying not to alert them to her presence.  Under the sheets, the witch sleeps beside her; crooked hands are entwined with the child’s hair and a hairy knee rests on her thigh.  The child lies as still as death but she is not afraid, for this child is a child of the times and she knows about monsters.  She closes her eyes and feels for her weapon, careful not to disturb the gnarly skin bag by her side.

Down her chimney climbs Blue with his sooty beard and bag full of bloody heads.  She knows he comes for her family tonight and her hands tighten around Mama’s scissors.  She must be brave; cry-babies die in the dark so she stifles her fear lest they smell it.  Familiar with fighting for her life, she acts quickly – snip snap – she cuts off the witch’s tongue, rendering her filthy spells useless.  Now she is just an old woman whom the child bucks off and pushes out of bed.

Next – stab stab – she pops out the goblins’ eyes; they writhe in pain and, like salted slugs, dissolve into muck.

Blue stands behind her.  She falls to the ground and tumbles backwards through his legs.  She has the advantage now.  When he turns, a sickening smile tearing through his skin, she holds the scissors steadily in her hands and points them towards his belly.  He raises his murderous axe ready to claim his prize but years of easy terrorising have made him fat. And slow.  The child is quicker; she lurches forward and stabs the scissors into the monster’s gut. Streams of intestines splatter to the ground and Blue follows them, a puzzled, cheated look fastened to his face.

A growl behind her and claws rake her back.  Even now she makes no noise though hot pain rips through her skin causing tears to erupt in her eyes.  She falls to the ground and the wolf pounces. Its breath is warm and salty on her face.  She brings the scissors up and through the jaws of the beast.  It falls and joins its blue-bearded cousin on the floor.

Lights on and Mama appears.

It’s late.  Go back to bed.

The child obeys.  The lights go out.

Mama and Papa are safe for one more night.  Beneath her sheets once more, the child licks her scissors like ice-cream.

The Innocent by Donna L Greenwood

People spoke of the witch in hurried whispers as though their words were spies all too willing to betray them.  Snatches of their gossip were woven into the wind and carelessly dropped by her ears. Of course, she paid them no heed because, but for want of a friend, the witch was happy.   The years had yawned a hole in her memory and she was no longer sure who she was but she knew that her cat’s name was Hecate and she remembered to water and feed her tomatoes most days.  Best of all, she still had one good eye with which to watch the rising of the sun each day.  She felt blessed and so the hard words of her neighbours did not take root in the softness of her heart.

One day, as often happens in these tales, a brave child walked past this garden that grew wild with tomatoes.  They looked so juicy and so ripe that the child could not help himself; he hopped over the fence and plucked one from its vine.

The witch was sitting on her porch when she spied the small child with her one working eye.  As quick as a snip-snap, she ran across her garden and yelled – for her ears were not what they used to be – Don’t eat the ones by the roadside, come and take one of the juicier ones further in.

Now this child had heard the tales carried by the wind and one look at this crooked crone with her sawn-up eye sent him running, all mouth and tears, to a neighbour’s house.  And the adults knew by his screams that there were far worse enemies of innocence than witches.

That night they came for her.  No mercy was shown.