It was the little one who found it.
The rest of us hadn’t noticed anything different. We walked the same path as we did every day, balancing our packages on swaying hips and backs and shoulders as we chatted.
The little one had noticed, wandering over to the edge of the path and shouting for us to come over, look, there was something in the leaves!
None of us understood what the little one was on about.
There was something in the leaves, that was true enough. But it was just a very large stone, after all. We almost turned away from it, left it there as we continued on our way back home.
The little one insisted, carried on and kicked the leaves into a whirlwind and shouted, until we agreed to carry the large stone home with us. In it went, into a clean and empty basket and onto a hip, swaying with us as we made our way back home.
We left it outside, ignoring it for a time.
The little one sat near it and spoke to it every day, tenderly washed it, rubbing small hands over its surface, sliding tiny fingers into crevices to clear out crusted mud and bits of leaves, whispering words we could neither hear nor understand.
We watched in amused indulgence, and soon passed by these tender ministrations without a second thought.
The little one’s washing ritual and conversation with the stone became a part of our surroundings, worth no more thought than the rustling of the leaves overhead or the crunching of leaves beneath our feet.
We wouldn’t have noticed anything had changed, if not for the shifting light as the sun sat lower on the horizon with the coming of winter, glinting off the stone one early evening to cast a golden glow over the little one.
It was then we saw the stone had a distinct shape – the shape of a child, curled over on its side with knees pulled up to its chest and arms wrapped around its legs, with head bent and hair spilling over to cover half its face. The child’s features were unclear, as if the little one hadn’t quite finished smoothing away its coating of mud.
The stone was no longer the stone-gray it had been. We couldn’t make out the colors of the child’s skin, hair, eyes, but we could almost – almost – sense colors beneath the surface, waiting, waiting for the moment to burst through, and the setting sun glowed brighter gold from contact with the stone.
There was life in this stone the little one had rescued from the side of the road.
The little one is working some terrible magic, some whispered in terrified dread.
But most of us watched in awe and amazement.
Who or what or where this child had come from, we had no idea.
We only watched as the little one stroked and soothed and spoke a child into life.
Notes: I woke up from an early-evening nap with this story in my head. Without even turning on the light or getting out of bed, I pulled my laptop over and typed this up. I have no idea what it means. I do know that I had watched Smurfs: The Lost Village the night before, and it’s likely that the image of a lifeless child came from there. As for the rest of it – strange and wonderful things happen during sleep.
I wanted to pair an image from my coloring books with the story once it was done. I flipped through my book, marking “possibles” with my fingers as I went – and then I came to the very last page in the books and immediately let all the pages fall back into place, because this was it – this was the image that belonged with the story. Again, I’m not sure why. The fox is curled up as the stone-child in the story is. But that’s not enough of a reason. It just feels right, that’s all. And that’s enough for me.
This whole story is magical, in a way 🙂