I was trying something here; writing without planning. Yes, it's writing a myth as well. But the Mother character has just sat down and is telling this story, or at least that's how I wanted it to come across. There are holes in it, because it's not planned, and she finishes it rather hastily because she's fed up, maybe, or the child wants to sleep. I'm quite pleased with it, as simplistic as it is.
“A story, is it? Very well.” Mother sat on the seat next to my bed, her knitting needles clicking quietly together. I sat up, suddenly not at all tired despite the heaviness of my eyelids. My duvet was warm, my pillow was soft and the fire crackled in time with the clock on the wall.
“My tale begins hundreds, no, thousands of years ago, and on a world far from this one. Man and Woman huddled frozen in caves, afraid of his shadow, their only friend the dogs that they could tame. He hunted for meat, scampering across the plains and through the forests, spear in hand. She stayed in the cave and cared for their young.”
In my head, the landscape unrolled. It was cold, night-time, everything lent a bluish tinge by the moonlight. A man with a thick brow, scraggy beard on his chin and dressed in an animal skin. It was cold, and his breath made little clouds in the air as he moved stealthily towards some sort of deer. His spear was raised, the tip a sharp flint.
“Man despaired of his life getting any better, and in desperation he turned to the other people who lived there. A race of Stone Giants lived in the mountains, and, while they were not entirely friendly, they could talk peaceably enough.”
The viewpoint swooped up from the hunter, over the vast forest and flew towards a mountain range that soared over all. Moving so slowly at first, rocks seemed to rise up and move around, scaling the peaks with ease. Snow covered the mountains, and the tops of the tallest ones poked up above the clouds.
“Now the giants were a proud race, and they begrudged the Man and the Woman their place in the world. So when the Man came calling at their door, asking for help, the King of the Stone Giants was less than impressed.”
Mother put her knitting on her lap for a moment and looked at me over the top of her spectacles. I struggled back up on to my pillow from where I had somehow slumped.
“The Man fell to his knees in front of the King and begged for help to improve his lot. He wanted fire. The Stone Giants, being made of stone, had fire for their blood, and the Man’s request caused them no end of problems. One of the giants would have to die to give the Man what he requested.”
This didn’t seem to make perfect sense for me, so I blinked and shook myself. “But Mother, couldn’t they just open a vein like Doctor Williams does, when he bleeds me?”
Mother fixed me with one of those looks that said ‘How can you be so silly?’
“Because the Stone Giants were made of stone, their skin could never heal, as stone cannot grow; if one were to have his veins punctured, the fire would pour out of him until he stood as cold and empty as the mountains.”
She went back to her knitting, and I snuggled back down, safe in the knowledge that this story once again made sense.
“Now the King was a wise and crafty soul, and he promised to help the Man. He picked him up and carried him back to his wife, a journey that had taken the Man four days to complete on foot. In just an hour the Man was back with the Woman, and the King cast a magic spell.” Mother yawned, and I yawned in sympathy. The wind howled outside as I imagined the Stone Giant King casting a spell. I had to wait until Mother continued before I could let him finish, though. There was a long pause, and then she picked up the thread again.
“A rainbow, beginning at the Man’s cave, arched into the sky, and the end couldn’t be seen. The King told the Man and Woman to walk along the rainbow, to take their young and leave the cave, for there was fire aplenty, and a better place to live, at the other end of the rainbow. The Man trusted the King, and they set off along the path in good faith. But the King had other ideas, and he started to eat the rainbow road, uprooting it from the ground, almost as soon as the Man and Woman had disappeared from view.
Meanwhile, the Man and Woman had journey to the end of the rainbow and found themselves in this world. They were amazed to see, almost immediately, a camp fire belonging to another Man, complete with his own Woman. They found a branch and lit it from the fire, intending to take it back to the world of the Stone Giants.”
Mother had finished her knitting now, and had her eyes closed. I closed mine tightly, trying to see the world she was seeing. Mud huts and penned animals floated to the surface as I seemed to drift over them.
“Alas, as soon as the Man stepped on the rainbow, it came free of the ground and floated off! You see, the King had destroyed its roots in his realm, and a bridge with just one side anchored will never last for long. The rainbow floated away, and the Man and Woman were left unable to get home.”
I yawned and tucked myself further into the duvet. It was warm, like the campfires of the Man.
“The people in this world took the Man and Woman in, and they found heat, food, friends and wealth. Out of someone’s hateful action, something better was forged.”
“What about rainbows?”
“That rainbow that the Man and Woman crossed floats around the world even now, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to see it after rain, when the air has cleared and it can fly here. And now, it’s bedtime for you, little one.”
“Yes’m,” I murmured. Just like she did every night, Mother kissed me on the cheek and tucked my duvet up to my chin, but If she put the light out I can’t remember.