Stories 2

Crow Brings the Daylight
An Inuit Myth

Long, long ago, when the world was still new, the Inuit lived in darkness in their home in the fastness of the north. They had never heard of daylight, and when Crow, who travelled back and forth between the northlands and the south, first explained it to them they did not believe him.
But many of the younger folk were fascinated by the story of the light that gilded the lands to the south. They made Crow repeat his tales until they knew them by heart.
"Imagine how far and how long we could hunt," they told one another.
"Yes, and see the polar bear before it attacks," others agreed.
Soon the yearning for daylight was so strong that the Inuit people begged Crow to bring it to them. Crow shook his head. "I am too old," he told them. "The daylight is very far away. I can no longer go so far." But the pleadings of the people made him reconsider, and finally he agreed to make the long journey to the south.
Crow flew for many miles through the endless dark of the north. He grew weary many times, and almost turned back. But at last he saw a rim of light at the very edge of horizon and knew that the daylight was close.
Crow strained his wings and flew with all his might. Suddenly, the daylight world burst upon him with all its glory and brilliance. The endless shades of colour and the many shapes and forms surrounding him made Crow stare and stare. He flapped down to a tree and rested himself, exhausted by his long journey. Above him, the sky was an endless blue, the clouds fluffy and white. Crow could not get enough of the wonderful scene.
Eventually Crow lowered his gaze and realized that he was near a village that lay beside a wide river. As he watched, a beautiful girl came to the river near the tree in which he perched. She dipped a large bucket into the icy waters of the river and then turned to make her way back to the village. Crow turned himself into a tiny speck of dust and drifted down towards the girl as she passed beneath his tree. He settled into her fur cloak and watched carefully as she returned to the snow lodge of her father, who was the chief of the village people.
It was warm and cosy inside the lodge. Crow looked around him and spotted a box that glowed around the edges. Daylight, he thought. On the floor, a little boy was playing contentedly. The speck of dust that was Crow drifted away from the girl and floated into the ear of the little boy. Immediately the child sat up and rubbed at his ear, which was irritated by the strange speck. He started to cry, and the chief, who was a doting grandfather, came running into the snow lodge to see what was wrong.
"Why are you crying?" the chief asked, kneeling beside the child.
Inside the little boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to play with a ball of daylight." The little boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words.
The chief sent his daughter to the glowing box in the corner. She brought it to her father, who removed a glowing ball, tied it with a string, and gave it to the little boy. He rubbed his ear thoughtfully before taking the ball. It was full of light and shadow, colour and form. The child laughed happily, tugging at the string and watching the ball bounce.
Then Crow scratched the inside of his ear again and the little boy gasped and cried.
"Don't cry, little one," said the doting grandfather anxiously. "Tell me what is wrong."
Inside the boy's ear, Crow whispered: "You want to go outside to play." The boy rubbed at his ear and then repeated Crow's words to his grandfather. Immediately, the chief lifted up the small child and carried him outside, followed by his worried mother.
As soon as they were free of the snow lodge, Crow swooped out of the child's ear and resumed his natural form. He dove toward the little boy's hand and grabbed the string from him. Then he rose up and up into the endless blue sky, the ball of daylight sailing along behind him.
In the far north, the Inuit saw a spark of light coming toward them through the darkness. It grew brighter and brighter, until they could see Crow flapping his wings as he flew toward them. The people gasped and pointed and called in delight.
The Crow dropped the ball, and it shattered upon the ground, releasing the daylight so that it exploded up and out, illuminating every dark place and chasing away every shadow. The sky grew bright and turned blue. The dark mountains took on colour and light and form. The snow and ice sparkled so brightly that the Inuit had to shade their eyes.
The people laughed and cried and exclaimed over their good fortune. But Crow told them that the daylight would not last forever. He had only obtained one ball of daylight from the people of the south, and it would need to rest for six months every year to regain its strength. During that six-month period, the darkness would return.
The people said: "Half a year of daylight is enough. Before you brought the daylight, we lived our whole life in darkness!" Then they thanked Crow over and over again.
To this day, the Inuit live for half a year in darkness and half a year in daylight. And they are always kind to Crow, for it was he who brought them the light.

A Strange Turn of Events
By Brenda Diskin

©Brenda Diskin 1996

(First published in True Colours - Brixton Prison magazine in June 1999)

Marie was having bad dreams, they had been reoccurring since her grandmother died three months ago.
Marie didn't get on with her grandmother she always called her 'the old witch'; she was a very difficult woman.
Marie's grandmother, whose name was Ellie, lived in Seymour Place and Marie thanked her lucky stars they didn't live on the same road.
Ellie put very strict values on her life and other peoples. She had been brought up to know the difference between right and wrong, she had standards and she set very high boundaries.
There were certain things that good girls didn't do and Marie had crossed these boundaries more than a few times. Marie was nineteen and you name it she had tried it. Her worse fault was wanting to impress her so called 'friends'. Marie was not working; she had lost the last in a long string of jobs she had tried since she left school. She wasn't particularly worried, she didn't need much money. Her mum fed her and gave her a roof over her head. When she went out she just bummed around the streets with her mates; that was until that day just over three months ago.

Marie was walking down her street on the way to the dole office in town, just as she turned the corner into Seymour Place she heard someone calling her name. As she turned around she saw her friend Jenny running breathlessly after her. "God you walk fast" Jenny gasped. "I thought I wasn't going to catch you. Are you coming to the Rave tonight? The Ghouls? You know!" Marie looked taken aback. "Oh! I'd forgotten. I thought it was next week. I need a new dress; and the entrance fee; and other stuff too. I don't get my dole for two days".

Jenny looked at her with raised eyebrows. "So, what's the problem? Whenever I need some cash I just go out and get it".
What d'you mean, go out and get it?" Marie asked, puzzled.
"Well you could go out and do a job with Brett and the boys; usually a shop or a hotel, but there isn't enough time for that". Jenny thought awhile. "Or; you could mug someone; old people are a piece of cake they don't fight back".
"Mug someone? Jenny, I've never done anything like that". But Marie was desperate.

"Catch you later then, gotta get myself ready for tonight" Jenny grinned and sped off in the direction from which she had come. Marie continued on her way to the dole office.

When she got there it was the usual rubbish, long queues.

Ellie looked at her watch, 10.15 am. Time to go for her pension. It was a bit of a trek for someone her age, after all she was nearly eighty two years old; and her legs didn't work as well as they used to. "Just take it slow old girl", she said quietly to herself.

It was a good half hour later when Marie finally reached the front of the queue. Luckily it was straight forward and she left the dole office at 10.55. It would take her about 10 minutes to get home. She walked fairly quickly until she got to Seymour Place, just before her own turning. She stopped for a while, lit a cigarette. She took a few drags and thought about what Jenny had said. Could she really do something like that? She stubbed out the cigarette, as she did so she heard shuffling footsteps about to turn the corner. Now was the time to find out.

The old lady rounded the corner; she was moving slowly, headscarf covering most of her face. All Marie could see was the handbag dangling from the old lady's frail hand.
Marie pounced, grabbing the handbag. The old lady held on tight. "This wasn't meant to happen; Jenny said it would be easy. A piece of cake she had said". Marie lashed out hard. The frail figure fell to the ground, hitting her head hard on the pavement. The headscarf slipped backwards revealing the woman's face and the blood streaming from the huge wound on the back of her head.

Marie looked down. Staring in disbelief at the old woman lying at her feet. It was her; it was 'the old witch'. Realisation of what she had done hit her like a sledgehammer. Suddenly very afraid she ran dropping the handbag as she did so…..

The streets were unbelievably quiet for this time of the morning. It was fifteen minutes before the man found Ellie, fifteen minutes that could have made all the difference.

The police arrived a few minutes later, followed by an ambulance, followed by Marie whose curiosity and possible remorse had got the better of her.

Ellie was drifting in and out of consciousness as they lifted her on to the stretcher. A young policeman took her hand and held it. "Who did this to you love? Did you see them?"

Ellie opened her eyes and found herself staring into Marie's terrified face as she was carried through the gathering crowds. But it wasn't just terror she saw; there was something else there too. Sorrow? Compassion? Ellie couldn't be sure. Ellie looked at the young policeman. "I don't know who did it ", she croaked. Marie was sure that she did know. Suddenly an overwhelming desire to hold her grandmother and tell her that she was sorry came over Marie. She darted forward. "Please let me go with her, I'm her granddaughter". They placed Ellie in the ambulance and Marie climbed in behind. Sitting next to her grandmother and taking hold of her hand just as she slipped into complete unconsciousness.

Marie had wanted to tell Ellie her how much she wished she could change what happened and ask her why she didn't squeal on her. She never got the chance her grandmother died two days later.

Marie's mother couldn't understand why Marie was taking her grandmother's death so badly being as she had never really liked the old girl.

Marie changed. It happened almost over night. She needed something to take her mind off the feelings of guilt that were torturing her. She had taken a job at the local library. At night she shut herself in her room, she had no desire to go out.

The dreams had started almost immediately. In the beginning she was never really sure if they were dreams but later, as she became more and more tired through disturbed sleep, she was convinced they were. They were always the same.
She would see her grandmother, sat in the comfy chair that she had refused to get rid of, at the end of her bed. It was as though she was trying to speak to her. Ellie's mouth moved but Marie could not hear what she was saying.

It was three months to the day since Ellie had died. It would have been her eighty second birthday. Marie had been feeling pretty low all day.

She got home from work; her mum had laid her dinner on the table. Marie didn't feel much like eating, she had picked at her food. "Mum, I'm going to have an early night, I'm beat; Had a hard day at work". She lied, so that her mum wouldn't think anything was wrong. She just wanted to be on her own with her thoughts. She climbed the stairs. Went into her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

She lay on her bed desperately wanting to sleep, but sleep wouldn't come. She stood up and walked over to the window, closing the curtains. She felt a prickly sensation on the back of her head and neck, shivered, wanted to look round but for some reason was afraid to do so. She forced herself to turn and face into the room. There in the half light sat her grandmother surrounded by an unearthly yellow/white glow. Marie rubbed her eyes, closed them. When she opened them again Ellie was still there, smiling. Marie had never seen her smile before. There was a kind of whirring and buzzing, like a radio that had slipped slightly off its station. Then Ellie started to speak. "I forgive you Marie and I want you to forgive me. I was so bitter, feeling I had been dealt a rough hand in my life. I didn't take time to get to know you. To help you through those difficult times when you thought no one understood you. I do love you Marie and I wish I had told you before, maybe some of this would not have happened if I had. I just want to tell you that what you did was wrong but in a way you did me a favour. I hadn't told anyone that I had stomach cancer, terminal. I had been in a lot of pain for several months, kept trying think of ways to end my suffering.
Your mother found out after I died but thought it best not to tell you because of the way you were behaving, she thought it would add to your grief. I'm telling you this now Marie because I believe it will help to lift some of the guilt you are feeling. I didn't tell the police about you because I believed you weren't all bad and that you deserved a second chance. It's a shame that I had to wait until I was dead to tell you all this. I have been watching you over the last few months and I can see you really have changed. I want you to put all this behind you and get on with your life. I won't come again even an 'old witch' needs her rest. I love you Marie, make me proud."
Marie smiled, suddenly feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "I love you too gran and I'll do my best I promise."

With that Ellie's light started to grow dimmer until it faded almost completely. Only a small bright star remained which darted around the room a few times and then even that disappeared.
Marie opened the bedroom door and ran downstairs. Her mother stood in front of the kitchen sink, she looked tired and drawn. Marie threw her arms around her mother. "I love you mum, everything is going to be fine from now on." She then ushered her mother to a chair, sat her down and began to wash the dishes.

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© Brenda Diskin 2008