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.

The Bone Queen by Donna L Greenwood


vintage_bride_queen_mum_by_mementomori_stock-d5oiax1 (2)As published by ‘Occulum’ magazine and long-listed in the InkTears competition 2017

Dust and rot fill her mouth as she eats.  The food is cloying.  It does not sit well.  She is alone but for the sycophantic phantasmata who surround her, constantly back-combing her nerves.

In her palace of filthy black, her bony fingers strain the muck, searching for someone who will not cower when she smiles.  Her hands bring back nothing but detritus and her heart remains parched and un-whole.

“It has to be a prince,” she tells the fades as they clown and cartwheel around her.

And so they go in search of a prince who will break the spell.  Their mistress is all bone and cannot weep for lack of wet.  Her need is their greed so they hunt with teeth and lungs that scream down the night.

They find a lowly man sitting in an ordinary place, weeping over some poem.  He cannot understand the noise that the wind makes as it blows through his mouth and his mind but he knows that he must search for her.

He reaches her palace, dreaming of madness and art, and he begins to weep again, for the ground is hard and the air spikes his throat.

As she smells his tears, her shrunken heart rejoices.  Her skeletal hands lift her robes and she clicks and clacks through the murk, searching for his light.  Her body quickens, for a thousand years of dust have made her desire unfathomable.

He sees her through the gloom; her eyes are the sea and he sails and he sails.  He takes her bones and he holds them and he sings her flesh back and he sings her heart full.