by Holly Hawk


One day, when Jack was lounging in her backyard under the elm tree that her grandmother planted the day the wall was built, staring up at its leaves, she considered how lucky the tree was. It was so tall, that its very top leaves could see out beyond and into the valley. Jack hadn’t seen the valley since she moved here, almost three hundred and forty six years ago. She could still recall the vast stretches of purple and mauve flowers, magenta grasses and those little white pompom fellas, swaying in the breeze. She missed the valley. Everyone did. Her memories of it were dull at best, both a tragic reminder of lost magic and a comfortable place to fall when she allowed her mind to drift off on those bitter sweet summer afternoons. She wouldn’t have traded them for anything.

            On this particular day inside Jack’s wandering mind, something rather peculiar indeed occurred. As jack was in the midst of dreams and demons, a speckled long nosed wonder-popper flew overhead. Now, you might be asking yourself what is so peculiar about that.. After all, the wonder-poppers have been around since the beginning and they have always had free range of this territory. But you have to understand, the wonder poppers defense mechanism when the wall went up was 2 fold. One: they lost their memories of love, just like everybody else. Two: they became invisible. The wonder-poppers were said to be in such states of mourning that all of their previously golden feathers turned so dull, you couldn’t even see them anymore. The people only knew that they were still around because you could hear the wind through their wings as they passed overhead. So, on this tender afternoon, Jack instinctively opened her eyes to look towards the flapping of its wings, and that’s when she caught sight of those golden outstretched feathers, right there among the clouds. Jack wept with joy. She knew in seeing those feathers, that there was hope.

            Jack watched the golden bird soar through the atmosphere and over top of the wall, that stretched so high, it nearly touched Jupiter. She longed for her own golden wings. She held up her arms and stared at her pale blue skin, as if willing the feathers to emerge right then and there. She knew it wasn’t that easy. She had always been told, ‘your feathers will only come when you understand love, and the wall will only come down when all of the people and creatures know peace.’ Jack brushed a solitary tear from her cheek, determined to understand understand UNDERSTAND. She stood up and decided right then and there to hike to the Mother Willow, through the Forest of Fevered Fathers. She wasn’t scared anymore. Seeing the wonder-popper propelled Jack into motion, she was ready to know love again. She was determined to find peace. She put on her clogs and grabbed a slice of cheese for the road, and set off.

            Before we get into Jacks journey, I should tell you about the wall. The wall appeared all on its own, that fateful day in June, the same day the old elm tree began stretching its tiny roots into the soil. On that morning, the people of the valley experienced what will forever be known as The Great Forgetting. The wind was hot that morning, and a with it, an evilness that no one knew was possible. The wind swept through the town, and everyone rushed to their windows and out onto their lawns to see what the commotion was about. If they had known that the wind was going to take their memories of love, of course they never would have touched it. Of course they would have hide under their quilts and pulled down their blinds and kept their sweet memories tucked well inside their hearts. But they didn’t know. and the wind raced through the valley and collected every last memory of love. It swept through so quickly that even the wonder-poppers couldn’t out-fly its ravage. The memories of love were gone in less than 4 minutes. The people rushed out after them, forgetting their clogs and abandoning their games of checkers, the pieces falling to the ground with little plink-plonk noises. The people ran after their memories, the birds flew with all of their might and purpose, loosing their soft undercoats of down in the fury, tiny near-gold feathers floating soundlessly to the ground behind them. The whole entire planet ran and ran, barefoot and frantic, but they couldn’t catch their memories. The wind, as old as Rome, swallowed them up. With its barrel chest forwards, the wind threw up the wall as it outran the people of the valley. It made the wall high and thick, in order to keep all of the memories to itself. The people threw themselves and every cannon they were capable of making into that wall. They built ladders and rope swings, in an attempt to scale it. They dug tunnels and tossed paper airplanes into the breeze. They tried to ask the wonder-poppers for help, but they couldn’t find them anymore. The memories of love were gone. Jack knew it.

            Now, getting back to Jack’s journey. Jack had been without love for all of those three hundred and forty six years. On that day, Jack had enough. Jack was tired of feeling alone, feeling nothing but like a lost speck of dust. So into the forest Jack went, to seek guidance from Mother Willow. Everyone knew that Mother Willow was the oracle of hope and happiness, but they also knew that the Forest of Fevered Fathers was the darkest and most foreboding place in their galaxy, never yet mapped or crossed. Jack wasn’t scared. Jack was prepared. Jack had a mind full of yearning and a belly full of cheese, and knew it was the recipe for success. So, into the forest Jack went.

            Jack walked into the forest and the Forest of Fevered Fathers said, “Jack, there you are! You know, you should smile more.” At that, Jack had all the courage and anger to take out her machete and swing and swing and swing until every single last branch and twig and vine was pulverized. Jack swung, blind with rage, until suddenly, the cool hand of Mother Willow was on her shoulder. Exasperated, Jack dropped her machete, fell down to her knees, and looked up at Mother Willow and whispered, “please.. Tell me.. How can I find my way back to love?”. Mother Willow’s limbs stirred, a slow sway at first, that soon turned into a delicate waltz, and Jack found herself in the midst of a dance that she somehow knew every move to. And together with Mother Willow, Jack danced. They danced until the moons on the horizon rose and set 14 times, they danced until they could hear their ancestors applauding, they danced until Jack could feel love, deep in a place she had forgotten was there. When the dance was over, and the 2 of them finally sat down, Mother Willow fell asleep, and Jack knew what to do.

            Jack spent the remainder of the day walking back to the wall, determination and ancestral knowledge tucked into her belt. As she approached the wall, she repeated over and over, “there is no wall, there is no wall, there is no wall…”Just as Mother Willow had told her. She was a mere 5 feet away from the wall, her voice loud with resolve. Her heart strong with the memory of dance. THERE IS NO WALL. THERE IS NO WALL. THERE IS NO WALL. Jack stretched her hands in front of her closed eyes, gathered up every last morsel of courage and rage, kindness and passion, and forcefully, with all of the greatness and loneliness in her palms, Jack charged forwards and let out a bellow that woke the town and momentarily stopped the planet from spinning. She charged, expecting broken wrists from impact, expecting blood and pain and humiliation. That is why, when Jack found herself lunging forwards, opening her eyes at the very last moment, she was shocked to see the wall dissipate into cotton then dust, dust then air. Jack stopped. She looked deeply into the valley of the lost memories.

            She knelt down and saw her first dog, Rucks, looking back at her with a happy tail and eager eyes. She saw her first lover, Diane, gentle with the memory of the first time they said I love you, in that rainstorm on Tally Lake. She saw a pen and paper, and all the possibilities for her hands to reach out and touch them, create with them. She saw a piano, one missing key, and a tune playing that touched her soul in that way that she had forgotten so long ago; beautiful and broken. Jack swam in her memories of love, she let them reach into her and become her blood, the energies shifting swiftly and effortlessly. She did this for the next 4 months.

            When Jack finally stood up, she was in love. She touched the white dancing pompoms, she marveled at the magenta petals, and noticed the golden feathers of every single wonder-popper she encountered. She came to realize 2 things. The first thing was that the love she felt was coming from a new place, and although she had been asking for her memories of the past all along, she now basked in the wonders of love as it occurred right now. The second thing was that wall. She searched for morsels of it, bricks or dust or nails, anything, but Jack found no trace of the wall in sight. It was as if it never existed at all.

            When Jack turned around to head home, she was overcome with excitement at having broken this barrier to love. She couldn’t wait to tell the town what she had done, how she had triumphed. She ran home, hot lungs and tingling hands. Once she got there, she exclaimed with glee, “I DID IT. I BROKE THE WALL!” and everyone came to see what the commotion was about. Jack said it again, “EVERYONE! I did it! Look! The Wall is GONE! We can finally reclaim our memories of love, they are right here for us.” But the town stared back at her, blankly. “What wall?” they said. Jack said, “the wall to Jupiter, the wall that kept us all from love, the wall that took the golden feathers away from the wonder-poppers.” and the town said, “Jack, there was never a wall here, we have been looking out into the valley of magenta for all of time, we don’t know walls. Any wall that you saw, was yours alone. We are happy you are back, we missed you, but this wall you speak of is made up of the stories you told yourself. Come inside, tell us about the gold you found. Tell us about the dance you had. Tell us about Rucks. Tell us about the wall you broke, we want to know because we love you, but that wall was yours alone. That barrier you made, all the way up to Jupiter, was made only of your own demons, and we are so glad you took it down.”

            Jack couldn’t believe that she spent three hundred and forty six years of imagining invisible wonder-poppers and non-existent walls, but she sat down eagerly and told every soul in that town about Rucks and Diane and dancing and writing and song. All of their eyes twinkled with joy. Then Jack stood up, went outside, and walked down into the valley in the warm summer breeze, love swirling around her feathered skin. 

About the Author

Holly Hawk is a northern-hearted wanderer, currently living in the forest of their dreams. They prefer the comforts of a wood stove and a dog called Finn over any fixed address. Holly uses writing to shine light on the beauty of life's in-between moments and to take up space in a gentle way. When Holly isn't purposely trying to get lost in a forest, they are searching for stories waiting to be told from every person they encounter. Holly’s dream is that we can all listen to those stories to better understand one another. Holly once found an eagle feather in a rain forest and their favorite season is spring.

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#thesideshow| Flash Fiction| January 2020