Isobel

Isobel lived by herself in a skeleton like so many creatures of this earth. These creatures cowered in this knowledge and searched for a safe haven that would protect them. Their bones haunted them and quaked in their insides. They shivered and rattled in their teeth. Their bodies were too big for their homes and their windows were too small for their eyes. Everything they touched felt like it had been trampled on.

Isobel had black spots for eyes and their pools were older than the earth, and like the darkest night terrors that shook the mountains and the forests. She fitted in her universe perfectly with eyes like hers to guide her.

She lived in an old house. It wrapped itself around her and she felt as quiet as the world inside it. She loved its presence for no one knew she was there. No one could see her because she lived in the walls, and the curtains, and the corners and cracks that sheltered her. She was not a ghost. She was a gold moth and a twelve year old human.

Life roared outside her window. It crashed and bellowed like thunderous waves on the sea. The house was vast with its precious objects that time left behind. As a moth she scaled its minute detail. One evening she gazed at her reflection in the window as her eyes squinted into their human form but there was no time to meet her self as she stood face to face with her friend Chen. He took her hand. “Will you go with me”, he whispered. Isobel nodded.

Their hearts almost stopped as they heard a growl from behind the long wooden door at the bottom of the stairs. Isobel stood in suspended silence and watched Chen slowly dissolve before her eyes and fly above her head. He bounced and caught the air with his long stick legs until he landed as a dragonfly on the silver embossed wallpaper. She knew too well who was at the door and dissolved like dust and hid in her beloved brown curtain.

The door heaved open. The battering ram had arrived. This was Isobel’s death sentence. He shook his head violently and raindrops scattered in all directions as the water dripped from his coat and made a trail after him. His angry footsteps vibrated against the furniture. Isobel could feel the tremor against her tiny legs and gold wings. Her uncle and guardian Tobias tumbled from room to room roaring her name and sweeping in and out of every door. It seemed like he was taking the house apart in his search. Isobel did not emerge. She had promised Chen.

Isobel clung to the curtain as Tobias brushed past and disappeared into the darkness until the front door clanged shut. Isobel appeared at the window. She watched Chen glide towards her and tip her nose. Then he appeared. It was strange that after the presence of such a storm in the house, they both smiled.

Chen pointed at his eye and out the window at the stone wall. Isobel looked at the light of the moon. It was an airless night, still and flickering. He caught her hand and they moved through the black to the eye on the wall that waited for their arrival. His fingers moved along the strips of moss that grew and made the eye that stared back at them.

He showed her the cracks in the wall within the eye. “You will travel through here, ok?” he said. She was afraid and watched Chen’s blinking eyes as her gold wings fluttered into the stones. She cried and cried. Her uncle had made her feel so weak she did not know if she could be strong. In his presence, in his language she wondered why she was alive at all.

She crawled through the wall and made a wish to the moon. She could see the face of an owl carved into the stone ahead of her. She gazed at the long black tunnels the owl had for eyes. There was nowhere else for her to go and she moved forward into the left eye. The wall began to shake violently. It was cracking and falling all around her. The owl’s strength surged through her and lifted its wings through the rocks that crashed and the wall that crumbled. She looked out through the windows of the owl’s eyes as they flew towards the moon and knew that her uncle would never find her again. She finally slept in the towering warmth of the owl’s feathers.

Isobel woke on the forest floor and met the eyes of Chen. He had been with her during the night and studied her face as she slept. He could see there were monsters that lived in her breath, and he spent the night catching them with his hand and throwing them into a book. He held invisible air but he knew the monsters were there. Isobel felt leaves crunching beneath her hand and the deep grooves of something harder. She brushed the leaves aside and sat up against the tree in the cold morning. She felt the grooves with her fingers. The letters emerged as her name, Isobel. She picked up the red leather bound book.

Chen handed Isobel some bread and water. “Listen well, Isobel. You have breath in your lungs and food in your stomach”, he said. “You rise and sleep with the star that gives you life but your mind is black.” Isobel understood.

Living with her uncle Tobias had made her sullen and she never spoke. She chewed on her bread and water filled her eyes. Her throat tightened. The book flickered open and they watched black veils of smoke dance in the air. Isobel held Chen’s hand and they crouched down with their heads together. The black air pressed against them and roared through their bodies until it gradually loosened and then suddenly disappeared. They were wrapped around each other until they felt certain the monsters had left. Chen crawled to the book among the leaves. There was a message scrawled in black ink on the first page. It read ‘Flight path’.

He held up the book to her and underneath the word there were black and white drawings of many gold moths and dragonflies. They blinked before her eyes and she moved in closer to examine them. She turned the pages carefully and discovered thousands of tiny lines dotted across them. They all glowed like golden rivers. These were places and each page of the book was filled with maps. Isobel looked to Chen and found him smiling. His fingers stroked little dents that marked the pages. They were the markings of two distinct bodies; a gold moth and a silver dragonfly. At that moment she knew she had chosen the arms she was wrapped in and their will felt like it was made of iron. Suddenly the book fell through the earth. “Jump Isobel”, he shouted. There was no time to think. Isobel jumped with Chen. Their feet found the pages in the dark, the feet of the gold moth and the dragonfly.

Streams of water brushed under their human bodies. They woke from what felt like a deep sleep. They stood up and took in a vast coastline. The sea was lapping gently. Isobel had never known peace like this. The shore was completely deserted. The blue sky was mirrored in the shallow water that lay on the sand. They turned towards the town that sprawled from the cliffs. The most prominent feature was the pointing steeple of a church but nothing echoed with life. It was soundless except for the constant waves that moved towards them. Chen and Isobel followed in the direction of the steeple, pushed on by the hunger they felt in their stomachs.

They reached some stone steps at the far end of the beach. They scaled the hill that lay ahead. All they could hear were the sounds of their feet, and breathing. They stopped walking when the first signs of life signalled from a window, covered with ornaments on dusty glass shelves. A light shone from a lone light bulb in the middle of the shop. It seemed like a resting place. Isobel went to the shop window and started to push in the door. Chen pulled at her sleeve and pointed to the display in the window. She knew what it was just by looking at him. It was the book they had jumped into. There it was again, untouched on the glass dust filled shelf. She beckoned him towards the door and they gently pushed it in. The tinkle of a bell sounded as they entered.

They waited a few moments in the centre of the square yellow room. The shop was packed with ornaments and toys but looked untouched. A quiet sound came from a door opening. A plump lady with black greasy hair shuffled forward to meet them. “Your uncle won’t find you here, Isobel”, she smiled. “I’m Maggie”. She held out her hand and Isobel shook it in relief. “You have my book” said Isobel and gestured towards the window. “Ah, yes, the book of rivers, where your tears fell as streams”, she replied in recognition. “Come inside. You must meet Bet and bring your book”. She disappeared behind the frosted glass of the wooden door. Isobel reached inside the glass shelves and brought the book with her as she followed behind Chen into the great unknown.

Isobel and Chen stepped down into a cosy living room. A thin woman with short black hair sat in an armchair by a red glowing lamp. Bet raised her eyes and looked under them. “Come and sit by me” she called. They moved closer to her. “I see you have your book, Isobel”, she noted. “Lay it down on the table, won’t you”. Isobel slid the book across the table. There was a pause.

“Well, aren’t you going to open it?” Maggie asked from behind them. Isobel dutifully opened the cover and met with the golden threads that flowed like rivers in a series of maps. “Where am I?” asked Isobel. “Home” said Maggie and Bet in unison. “You will always find your way back here” said Chen.

Bet stood up from her chair and all four of them gathered around the book on the table. “This is your flight path” said Chen. “You will be company for when boys and girls above the earth need to talk to you just as I had been. Isobel could only imagine who she would visit and how happy they would feel when she showed them how to become a gold moth or dragonfly. “For now you and Chen shall eat and rest” said Bet.

Isobel hugged Maggie, Bet and Chen. She smiled when she remembered herself looking at the dragonfly she talked to in her uncle’s yard. She always wondered where it went when it flew away.

Lena O’ Connell

Lena O’ Connell graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2009. She
specialised in fine art, sculpture. Lena currently lives and works in Tipperary, Ireland.
She teaches art to children and is aspiring to undertake a higher diploma in
art teaching.

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