This turned into a complete short story. Very much inspired by the season. I have posted the unexpected detail as the story is quite long.
Her father’s study smelled of leather mingled with the sweet scent of apple wood from the smoldering fire. Above the fireplace, bunches of holly and mistletoe were draped over a painting of a racehorse named Fortuna’s Palace. Thomas, Amelia’s father, was the 23rd Earl of All and Sundry, 5th cousin twice removed from the Queen.
Amelia sat down on the winged Chesterfield and folded her white hands on her lap. Her breathing was difficult today. She was asthmatic, and once again she had disappointed her father by not being well enough to ride the Thoroughbred horse he had bought her for her birthday.
The door opened. A rush of cold air came in, the click, click, click of something hard on the floor. It was most definitely not her father’s step. Amelia stood up and turned to see who it was.
The creature stood upright on two legs, his human torso was naked, but his legs were covered in thick pale brown fur and he had black cloven hooves. His hair and goatee beard were the colour of a tortoiseshell cat, all blacks and browns and chestnuts mixed together in a pleasing mess. His ears stuck out at a 90 degree angle and they were small and covered in bristly fur, as if he had stolen them from a pig. He wore a red woolly scarf around his neck.
‘Do you have an appointment?’ Amelia asked, in between wheezes.
The man, or whatever it was, shook his head.
Amelia reached to pull the bell to summon a servant.
‘Please don’t do that.’ The creature said.
‘But, you haven’t been invited and I was expecting my father, not a mythical creature.’
‘I have to tell you something about your father.’
Amelia squinted. The creature was a dark outline against the Georgian sash window. Outside the first snow of advent began to fall.
‘He won’t be coming for Christmas. He has duties in town, at his club.’
‘That’s just ridiculous. Papa is the life and soul of Christmas. That’s like saying there won’t be carols, or candles or Christmas pudding.’
The creature shrugged his shoulders. ‘My name is Mr Tumnus and I have come to take you to the magical world beyond the wardrobe.’
Amelia frowned. ‘I grew out of the Narnia stories a long time ago.’
The faun stroked his goatee beard. ‘Oh, but it says here...’ he took a letter from the pocket of his ridiculous hairy trousers, ‘Father Christmas, please let me visit Narnia for Christmas.’
She stood up and took the letter from his hand. ‘I wrote that seven years ago! I am a woman now. If you could cure me of my asthma and find me a handsome man, that would be more than I could wish for.’
‘That sounds like a job for Aslan. The lion in Narnia, you remember from the stories?’
The faun reached out his hand and Amelia took it. Some tingling sensation in his fingers transferred to hers and travelled all the way up her arm, as if she had touched a live electric wire.
Sensory Detail + Angela
Fireflies whisper through the skies. Wings alive and translucent pulsing with light that echoes the rush of blood through my ears. Always beyond my reach, the approaching night is tender as black cat’s fur. I recall the softness of the cat from my time in Arles. She always looked at me in a haughty way, as if I had fallen off the back of a farmer’s cart.
Stars whirl into clusters and collide. A blacksmith hammers red hot iron on the anvil, the chink, chink, chink so loud I have to cover my ears, and shield my skin from the sparks that land and burn. Stars part again and fall into silence. After this come the cicadas, their wings chattering like the village women who smirk at me in the street. Look me up and down and make that tutting sound with their mouths.
A smell in the air, the smell just before a storm breaks. Smokey and soft, my father’s sweet tobacco. The hills roll like waves and sky and horizon merge into one pulsating mass. A dragon’s breath falls on the people of the village. A turquoise halo of light around each one as if some child with a crayon had an uncontrollable need to pick out their outline.
Beyond my room all is movement. Here not even rats and insects move. A freeze frame in the poisonous asylum. The witch breathed out toxic air and we all lie trapped in her cobwebby threads waiting until she comes for us. Dark phlegm of her lungs pulls us down into another place, cellars of the psyche. In her realm nothing can live. Her mass is upon me at night, and my chest labours to get air. If I could take the train of death to reach the dancing stars, would I?