Sprites

Linda awoke just before daybreak, full of energy and anxious to explore the forest. She jumped out of bed, brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and examined herself in the bathroom mirror. Her straight, shoulder-length golden blonde hair shone brightly in the mirror, framing her pretty face with its pale, cream-colored skin. Blue eyes, the color of the sky, looked back at her as she stared intently into the glass while fussing to get her cherry-red lipstick put on just right.

When she was satisfied that she was presentable, she danced into the kitchen, humming a song her mother used to sing to her when she was just a toddler.

She prepared a breakfast fit for a king: ripe tomatoes, hard cheese, kippered herring, and  a piece of dark rye bread. After washing down her breakfast with a cup of strong, black coffee and a glass of water, she set out for a hike.

During the cool morning hours before the sun’s rays warm the forest floor, attentive eyes can see sprites skipping from leaf to leaf and blade to blade, splashing and sipping water as they dance through the forest. Sprite-spying was one of Linda’s favorite pass-times, after reading, of course. She’d often play games with forest sprites, peeking around the trunks of big pine trees just far enough so they could see her, then quickly slip back behind the tree the moment a sprite spied her.

On this morning, Linda spied several sprites and played her games with them, laughing quietly at their sounds of surprise and dismay when she disappeared from view. (Sprites are, intellectually, quite inferior, you see, so they don’t quite understand how slipping behind a tree can make an object disappear.)

As she disappeared from view and heard the clatter of sprite surprise, she also heard another sound; something that sounded like a coarse rasp drawing slowly across a piece of wood. The sound seemed to come from behind her, so she wheeled around to see what made the awful noise. There, not fifty feet from her, was a huge feral boar that had huge cutter tusks extending up and out from its lower jaws. The raspy sound she heard was the beast’s upper whetter tusks scraping across the cutters to keep them sharp and deadly. The monster’s eyes fixed on her; the moment Linda’s eyes met those of the hog, the animal rushed at her, its hooves ripping through the underbrush, flinging dirt and mud and pine needles every which way.

Linda had no way to escape. She was far too slow to outrun the creature and too delicate to fight. She might have been able to climb into a tree to avoid the rush, but the branches were too high for her to reach. Just as she opened her mouth to utter what would have been her last scream as a living being, something impossible happened. A whirlwind of sprites, sparkling with the dew on their tiny bodies, swooped across the pig’s path, startling him and causing him to turn to avoid running into what the animal could not understand was before him. As he turned his head to the right, one of his cutter tusks ripped into the trunk of a pine tree. As the tusk broke, its tip twisted backwards, turning toward and running through the feral monster’s head, killing it in an instant.

The whirlwind of sprites dissipated as quickly as it had formed, leaving Linda breathless and confused, but thankful for the impossibility of being saved by creatures of inferior intellectual capacity.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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