“Go inside, Marigold,” says Mum.
“Go inside,” says Dad.
“Come inside,” says Gruff Guy, “Wapiti bones.”
My timid finger touches an antler. I shudder. My yellow striped dress crisped with starch and firm hands scratches, damp trickles behind my knees. Blood or sweat? I curl my body backwards to check and see blood on the antler.
“She’s shy,” says Mum. I’m cautious, sensible, wise to you old Gruff Guy Tourist Guide. I won’t go in this rattling in the wind house of antlers.
Three staring adults with sorrow in their eyes. Such a plain little face, so mousey, hair scraped into a stiff plait.
“Let’s add a ribbon for prettiness,” says Mum. “And smile for heaven’s sake.”
I don’t want to smile, I dislike ribbons in my hair, and the House of Antlers repels me, but I am a brave child.
I remember Jacob Stevenson, who pushed me off a swing and made a face when I read my poem in class, and later I pushed him off a swing and he grinned at me not against me.
“Well?” says Gruff Guy and prods me with an antler, like antler poking was a joke.
But I hear music when the antler touches my wrist, I’m riding a horse and saving a boy, larger than Jacob, a boy stolen by Wapitis and held in a house of antlers. I grow taller, stronger than boys, parents and Gruff Tourist Guide Guy. I march into the House of Antlers.
“Want company?” asks Dad the too late peace maker.
“Help me,” says the boy tied up inside the Antler House.
The music slows and echoes with danger. My fingers struggle with the knot.
“Don’e be such a girl,” says the boy.
The music falters.
“I don’t have to untie you.”
He looks pathetic but doesn’t apologize. There’s thunder.
“Elk feet,” says the boy. “That noise is elk feet.”
“Hooves," I say.
The last knot undoes and the boy whizzes away. Coward, I think, you’d eat the wicked queen’s poisoned Turkish delight.
A gleam of orange sunlight catches on an antler, rich and golden like the yolk of an egg from a well-fed chicken.
I touch the sunlight on the antler and my body sparks alive with the stories of a thousand wild animals. Their strength flows in my blood and body, my skin bristles with expectation, my muscles stretch and flex and I am all powerful. The hooves thunder closer. I wait. I have the power of the ages.
About the author
Alexina Dalgetty lives in Camrose, Alberta. Her short fiction has appeared online and in print. Her first novel The Cleaning Woman's Daughter debuts in the fall of 2023. (Liquorice Fish Books)
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)