karenhealey: Rainbow Dash overcome with excitement (My Little Pony) (Default)
2012-03-28 12:44 am

Awesome Week of Goodness: "The Unicorn Bell"

Internets! The Awesome Week of Goodness continues, with, as promised, my short story, "The Unicorn Bell".

"The Unicorn Bell" was my first ever story to appear in an anthology. In February 2011 there was a nasty earthquake in Christchurch that destroyed huge chunks of the city and killed 185 people. The aftershocks kept happening, and people were demoralised and scared and angry.

Something like three days after that deadly quake, Anna Caro and JC Hart started putting together an anthology called Tales for Canterbury: Survival, Hope, Future. All proceeds go to the Red Cross. I really recommend it to you - there's some sensational work in there, and it was all donated.

My story, "The Unicorn Bell", was an original piece written for the anthology. It's inspired by a few things; my relationship with my own grandmothers, the strange bell that was in a cluttered stone cottage I stayed in during a writing retreat with friends, and the wild nor'wester winds of the Canterbury plains. They plagued me when I lived in Christchurch, but I missed them when I left.


by Karen Healey

Nana's house was full of magic things, and the unicorn bell was the most magic of all.

Sophie liked to list the other things in groups of three, because she was seven, and Nana said seven and three were the luckiest numbers. She had to think hard about her three favourite goblets, but she decided on the biggest glass one and the smallest pewter one and the one made of battered brass, polished until it displayed her own face, glowing brown in the metal. The Sophie in the goblets had a wild smile, with sharper teeth, and the real Sophie was a little afraid of her.

The Sophie in her three favourite teaspoons was much easier to understand; the same girl, with huge eyes or enormous chin, depending how she tilted them. The magic in the teaspoons lay in the pictures of castles on the handles. The castles were called Monea and Duino and Versailles; strange names that Nana had to help Sophie say, with all the enchantment of lands across the sea.

The paintings were much less interesting, and mostly of deer or dogs or horses. Mum couldn't afford riding lessons and Sophie didn't like horses anyway. Her best friend Tracy Cho was learning how to ride, and talked importantly about manes and fetlocks and mucking out. This was a secret code, and not very fair. Still, Sophie picked her three favourite paintings. Two of them were dogs. There was a big painting of a lady in a long skirt and a blouse that buttoned all the way up her neck. She was sitting on a bench with a lot of books and leaning her chin on her hand, her forehead wrinkled like Mum's was on Thursdays. Sophie chose that as her most favourite. The lady was clearly studying spells, not Mum's accounting books, but homework was homework.

Anyway, horses were stupid.

There were many goblets and spoons and paintings. There were mirrors and brooches and books. There were records and china statues and butterflies pinned down in boxes. Almost nothing in Nana's house was by itself; everything came in groups, like Tracy and Sophie and Jade. Or like Sophie and Mum and Nana. There were three photos of Nana and Grandad on their wedding day, with Nana's hair smooth and black instead of white, and Grandad in a brown uniform looking excited to the tips of his big ears. It was the exact same photo three times. That made it hard to pick the favourite, but Sophie decided on the one with a long scratch in the frame, because it needed her to love it more.

But there was only one unicorn bell.Read more... )

Yesterday: Wilful Impropriety: The Covernating!
Tomorrow: A snippet from my forthcoming novel, When We Wake