When I went home for Thanksgiving this weekend, I found that my mum had gotten out on of the last novelettes I ever wrote: The Hanged Dove. Like most of the stories I wrote between age 9 and 14, it was inspired by the novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Celtic mythology.
The Hanged Dove is a 60 page fantasy I wrote when I was 14 years old and here are the first 3 pages (Chapter One) which can be read as a short story by itself. It vividly portrays the place I grew in, the nature of my dog, and me as an innocent 14 year old girl.
(The only things I’ve changed was the excessive use of commas and the dog’s name from Pussy to Billy. Somehow, 8 years later, the name Pussy seems mildly inappropriate… I wonder why? Hm.)
Gwen skipped merrily along the dirt path as her Dalmatian/blue-heeler mutt, Billy, raced ahead. Her dog looked very happy to be running free through the woods. His rosy pink tongue hung out of his mouth and his tail wagged like a metronome at full speed. She giggled to herself as she watched him bound after a black squirrel, which scurried up an oak tree to Billy’s disappointment.
The temperature was cool for late May. Bright and beautiful sunlight seeped down through the green leaves of the trees, creating a dappled atmosphere. All the trees around her were very tall and had grey bark. They were lovely things and Gwen wouldn’t wish to live in a world without them.
The path she walked on was brown, earthy soil made up from years of rotting logs. From here, Gwen could see much of the wood stretch on around her. Sticks, seeds, stones, and twigs were strewn across the ground and occasionally Gwen would step upon a piece of someone’s unwanted garbage.
Beyond the path lay a blanket of green. This blanket was woven from many plants, many of which Gwen could name. There was garlic mustard; a common plant that lived in clusters, with triangular leaves and small white flowers on its top. There was dames rocket, which grew tall with slim, long leaves and purple four petaled flowers. Of course, there was the famous poison ivy in the wood as well, with its brown stem and three pointed leaves that Gwen tried to keep away from. Among this mass of almost completely green, was the frosty purple, arched dogwood. Gwen loved dogwood, for they often looked as if they were covered with front- even in the summer!
Gwen began to feel bored with the path she travelled so much, so wandered onto the blanket of green. She could hear the traffic on the main road that blocked any bird’s song. She was used to the buzz of traffic though, and trudged on.
Gwen, who wasn’t really heading anywhere, soon came upon an old, flaky vine which had wound itself around two trees to form a rectangle that resembled a door. Gwen remembered that Celts had once called these ‘magic doors’.
“Come on Billy!” She called to her dog. “Lets see if some old legend’s true.”
Gwen walked through the vine ‘door’ with Billy at her heels. Looking around, she saw that nothing had changed and she could still hear the distant sound of highway traffic from behind the trees.
A noise alerted Gwen as a large, light brown animal scampered across the forest floor. Billy leapt forward to chase after it.
“O-o-o! A bunny!” Came an unfamiliar male voice.
Gwen scanned the wood for the owner of the voice, but saw no one. She quickly became frightened for she had been warned against strange men, and this voice had been so close!
“Billy! Come!” Gwen called as she began walking back towards the path home.
“No!” Came the same unknown voice, this time from behind.
“Billy! Come” Gwen called out again, feeling very afraid. She had already trusted Billy to warn her of any on-comers, yet this time he hadn’t, and to top it all of, he’d left her alone in the forest.
As Gwen approached the slope leading up to her house she saw no stone steps, no log fence, the roof of her house, or even the NO TRESPASSING sign. She must be ill, she convinced herself. “For what I think I see is not true.” It was impossible, odd, and unreal. Could that Celtic door have really sent her into another world? Unbelievable things like that only happened in fantasy books. She had heard traffic earlier- or had that sound been coming through the magic door. What was she thinking? The whole thing seemed stupid.
Gwen put out her hand to where the gate and fence should be. Expecting to feel wood, she only felt air; nothing. Gwen stepped cautiously forward and looking down, saw no gravel driveway at her feet. Frightened of what she may see, Gwen forced herself to look up and saw… no house! Her home was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there lay a valley covered with wildflowers with a small creek running through its centre. A cardinal flew over a dwarfish apple tree, which was in full bloom, and the breeze carried the sweet scent of fresh blossoms. This would have been a sectacular sight to beheld if she hadn’t been hoping for something different.
“Billy…” Gwen croaked, her throat feeling as dry as a desert. “Billy?”
“What?!” Grumbled the same voice she had earlier run from. Turning around, Gwen saw Billy trotting up the slope with what appeared to be an over-grown rabbits in his mouth. The animal was hanging by the scruff of it’s neck with a sour look on it’s face, dragging along a green straw hat in one of it’s paws.
After all she had just seen, she figured the voice belonged to her very own dog. It was odd to hear a dog speak plain English. It was especially strange to hear it from one you had raised from a puppy and, as far as Gwen knew, was a misbehaving, non-human understanding basket of trouble that only barked, whined, and growled.
“Billy! Put that rabbit down!” Was Gwen’s second thought.
“Why should I?” Billy said through his teeth and rabbit.
“Because…” Gwen hesitated, watching with astonishment as the captured animal placed his mangled hat between his two long ears and started thumping Billy on the noise. Billy appeared indifferent. “Because… I’ll give you a cookie!”
“O-o-o!” Billy abruptly dropped the rabbit and sat down in front of Gwen with his tail sweeping the ground.
Gwen dug into her pocket and drew out a Milkbone, which she tossed to her dog as the rabbit hopped away. As soon as Billy had swallowed the cookie, his head snapped to the right as the rabbit’s white tail disappeared into a plume of ferns. Gwen grabbed Billy by the collar just as he was about to leap forward.
“Don’t hurt that rabbit Billy!” Gwen tapped him on the noise as they had taught her to do in dog training school. “If you behave, I’ll give you canned dog food when we get home!”
Billy sat back down and tilted his head back, giving Gwen one of his perfectly adorable looks. “But it was a funny bunny!” He whined.
“Funny bunnies don’t like to be bothered by dogs like you, Billy.” She said as she clipped on Billy’s leash.
“Well, the name my mum gave me was The-Great-One-of-the-Butterscotch-Moor… not Billy! Maybe bunnies like dogs by their real names?”
Gwen didn’t want to argue with her dog, even if this was the only chance she’d get. He didn’t make much sense anyway.
Gwen and Billy made their way back down the slope and into the wood. A lazy breeze ruffled the leaves, carrying a new scent of lilacs. The distant croak of frogs sounded like the twang of a bass string and a skylark could be heard above in one of the trees. Gwen couldn’t really appreciated this though as Billy was tugging her along the path by his leash.
Sure that there was no fox-sized rabbit in sight, Gwen let Billy off his leash. He bounded on ahead of her, stopping occasionally to sniff a tree. Gwen truly did not want to leave this magical land now, where dogs talked and rabbits wore hats, but her inconvenient homework was waiting. This was a unique place that maybe only she had visited. Such a place would be handy to know of, but what if she couldn’t return once she’d left? Come to think of it, what if she couldn’t return home?
Gwen quickened her pace to the magic door. As she neared it, she could hear the familiar sound of distant traffic.
“Come on Billy! We can come back tomorrow!” Gwen turned to face where Billy stood, sniffing a mayapple that was about to bloom.
“You better keep that promise.” Billy said, walking over reluctantly. “That and the canned dog food!”
“Take my word for it.” Gwen said with a huge sigh as she put one foot forward and stepped back through the door of twisted vine.
The sound of traffic instantly over took the song of birds. The new single Butterfly by Crazy Town boomed out of a passing car. Looking down Gwen saw a muddy Mr. Big chocolate wrapper at her feet. Billy ran ahead of her and upon seeing a squirrel, he barked.
They were home.
Copyright 2001 Nell Chitty