Historical Fiction Sad Kids

The island of Quadra was strung with lights and lanterns. Strings of popcorn lined the dirt streets, cranberry ropes adorned the necks of tall faceless candle-lit buildings downtown, and turkeys lined up innocently to the slaughtering block.

The islanders were preparing for Thanksgiving.

A thicket. Densely wooded with blackberry bushes and blackthorn trees scattered haphazardly, the sky was hidden by the knit of thorns and thin twigs. Miles from the coast and miles from the town. The thicket of Quadra was the middle of the island, and the coastal towns squeezed themselves to fit onto the land, avoiding touch with the thorns. The thicket stretched on and on and buried lost travelers and kidnapped wayward children and kept the secrets of the hermits who lived within.

There was no Thanksgiving in the thicket.

A house, in the middle of the thicket. Small and made of stone. Thorny ivy climbed up the walls. Discarded buckets, wheels, string, items of value, things that made a life, lay littered on the semi-cleared ground in the yard.

A book, tossed by the wind and the waves far from this house, lay like a dead bird’s body next to an empty watering can. Wrinkled with water, faded with wind, unread by human eyes.

Inside the house was a starving girl.

Luminaria had been hungry for too long. She could not eat thorns, and boiled nettle soup did not keep the hunger away. The last time she had eaten… she ticked off the days with her fingers… four days. And the last of the pond was drying up.

Looking at her dry fireplace, Luminaria wondered if she was going to die.

She had lived in the thicket since before she could remember—she would not know, but the thorns did—That as a toddler she had stumbled into the thicket, during winter, and the thorns and the trees had cared for her. As a young child she did not learn how to read or add and subtract. She learned how to kill the thrushes that flitted from brush to brush, how to aim a sling at the gulls high overhead, how to boil down nettles and thorns and blackberries for a partly nourishing soup.

To her, Thanksgiving was something that existed only in her dreams. Food enough to satisfy her, family to love her, friends to laugh with, people to remember her when she died.

She lifted her head.

“Hey, Spotty,” she called to her stuffed bear. It sat, blank-eyed, on her plain wooden bed. “Hey, Spotty, what are you looking at?”

It did not answer.

It seemed to ask her a question.

She sighed heavily. “Spots, I don’t know. We may starve. If I could find a rabbit—gut it, kill it, eat it raw—then it’s another story.

“But if a rabbit doesn’t come by, we’re toast.”

She sighed again and put her head down on her arms. Her belly rumbled and groaned, and a tiny tear fell onto her lap.

She was nine years old.

Luminaria fell asleep troubled that night. Her stomach would not allow her to sleep. She had never remembered hunger this great, not even the winter when ten blizzards had come, all in succession. At least then she’d had food stored up.

Today, tonight, as the stars leered down icily, she was not sure that she would live to see another blizzard.

Luminaria lay huddled on her blanketless bed and shivered as she tried to fall asleep.

The townspeople of Quadra knew someone lived in the forest. They’d seen gulls shot down midflight, seen the sudden fall in the thrush and rabbit populations, seen the darting figure race through the thickets at night.

They could not have known it was a girl the same age as many of their children, children lying in bed this minute, worrying about decimals and negative numbers. Worrying about the monsters that lurked underneath their beds and in the thicket and in the dusty books at the library.

The people tsked their tongues and told stories and tried to carry on with their Thanksgiving.

But they could never shake the feeling that someone—an unknown person, perhaps a witch or wizard—was alone in that thorny woods, alone without family or food or a turkey one November night.

Thanksgiving was looming, the joy of a full belly and yellow flickering lights illuminating each loved face. Luminaria could feel in her bones that Death was looming larger and larger with each passing day. Looming with open arms.

Others on the island were ordering frozen turkeys from the mainland. Some were plucking their cranberries or mashing their sweet potatoes. Luminaria huddled in her cold bed and prayed for a thrush to come by.

The night before Thanksgiving, Luminaria went outside. She had turned Spotty to face the wall. She couldn’t look at his mourning, hungry eyes.

She lay on the ground outside and gazed up at the stars. She could recognize some constellations—not growing up with other humans she didn’t know their proper names and instead had given them names of her own.

“There is the Gull, and there the Thorn. There is the Spoon and there is the Fire.”

Her voice was hoarse and dry. “And there—there is the Luminaria.”

She had named it such on the winter solstice three years ago, in honor of herself. Lying outside now, she asked the constellation Luminaria if anyone would ever remember her. Anyone. Spotty would forget in an eternity. Would anyone know she existed? Would anyone care?

Oh, girl, said the thorns among themselves, we will remember you. We will.

But she couldn’t hear them.

Luminaria watched the Milky Way swirling, and she thought about food. She thought about food piled high to the ceiling, of a belly so full it hurt, of a table laid out with a thousand foods and clustered around with humans like her who would love her and feed her and remember her when she died.

Luminaria did not weep. But she did dream.

Perhaps a bird…

Perhaps a bowl of cranberries…

Perhaps a boiled potato to calm her stomach…

But when she reached out to grasp the vision, it had disappeared into the inky night. 

June 01, 2020 17:48

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Sophia Sandy
07:35 Jun 21, 2020

Loved it, pls read mine too, u sound like a great writer, I would love some insights


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Harken Void
13:49 Jun 09, 2020

Poor girl. So close to her dreams, yet out of her reach. If she would only poke her head out of the thicket and see the village and the people. It kind of reminds me of how we often limit ourselves; solutions hanging in front of our noses, yet we cannot leave the thicket of illusions and grab them. Well done!


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Maggie Deese
16:54 Jun 07, 2020

This is a late response but I loved this story! It reminded me of The Little Match Girl, for some reason. Really well done!!


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Corey Melin
03:20 Jun 03, 2020

Enjoyed the read!


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Vrishni Maharaj
11:07 Jun 02, 2020

Hey, this is a lovely story! Very engaging read. Good job :)


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Rhondalise Mitza
22:35 Jun 01, 2020

Like an ethereal Cinderella, almost.


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Ranya Navarez
18:16 Jun 01, 2020

So sweet. Makes me feel for Luminaria and want to go give her a hug and tell her she'll be alright. So well-told.


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Agnes Ajadi
21:12 Jun 02, 2020

Hi, Zilla! This is an amazing story. Great job.


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Pragya Rathore
04:25 Jun 02, 2020

What a sweet, fairy tale-like story! I really admire your writing style! (Is your name from the novel Babbitt?) Please review me too!


Pragya Rathore
07:17 Jun 02, 2020

Such a sad yet realistic ending... I really like how you portrayed the reality of starvation in the form of a fairy tale... Please let me know about my stories too!


Pragya Rathore
09:16 Jun 02, 2020

* I meant that please read and comment on my stories too!


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Zilla Babbitt
13:11 Jun 02, 2020

Babbitt is right!


Pragya Rathore
13:13 Jun 02, 2020

Great to meet another Babbitt lover :) ... Thanks in advance for reviewing! I'd love your feedback.


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