Journey through time to an amazing land

1844: a young boy by the name of Jenkins, the son of a penurious fisherman, gingerly made his way down towards the river.

The sun lingered unnoticed upon the mountain's silhouette, then dipped below, leaving the winter forest in twilight.

At once, the clouds rolled in - first red, then mauve, green, silver and black, as though all the colours in the world were being drawn out.

Darkness spilled on to the pathway which was tangled in thickets of thorn.

The vegetation was dense and snow flakes scrambled to reach the ground; he could hear the faint sound of children laughing back towards the village in the hills.

As the boy drew breath and exhaled, he watched it unfurl like smoke.

Aside from the brown boughs of trees denuded of leaves, the only colour was the cerulean of his tattered woollen gloves, which clung to his father's note.

He felt loose river pebbles move beneath his feet.

As he passed, the stones puzzled back together, as if to conceal his trail.

He looked upon the iced-over river, where in summers past he and his father had come to while away the afternoons.

They were the fondest of his childhood.

They would lay their red and white checkered blanket, unpacking a basket full of newly picked fruits, cheeses, crackers, cordial and jam sandwiches - bare of crust.

They would let their feet dangle off the river's edge, setting rods and await the first nibble.

Shouts of men and hard-struck horse hooves drew the boy back from his reverie.

Pressed, he stepped forth, on to the frozen water - brittle, transparent and crystalline.

The trees on the far side of the river, slightly upstream were mirrored on the ice, as if leaking a desolate shadow, obliquely making its way towards his feet.

The ice cracked, creating thousands of intricate pathways from where Jenkins stood.

Time came to a standstill.

The hand of his watch measuring time's passage faltered upon the hour, and at once a great deluge of arctic water beckoned him downward, as the grey light of the forest faded to black.

A long thread of silk attached to a baited hook caught the reflection of the sun, and the light began to tremble.

In desperation the boy took hold of it and was pulled upwards out of the water and landed like a fish on a bank of buttercups.

The first thing that caught his eye was the hundred colourful helium balloons - lustful reds, azure, aureolin.

Some in bunches, each trying to escape the other, others had parted and set upon their own journey.

The sight enthralled him. It was like a child's painting, as if darkness didn't exist.

A man, or something of the kind, stood before the boy, almost twice as tall as a normal man and more than three times wide - a creature to neither patronise nor pity.

He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so foreign: long matted golden hair and a beard hid most of his face.

His eyes were the grey of a clear evening, and in them was a light like the light of stars.

In a great gesture, the giant man lowered a hand the size of a bear's paw and patted the boy on his head.

The whole thing seemed unfeasible ... impossible!Until, he felt in his hand a wet note, it was barely still recognisable - not that he needed words inscribed on an almost now worthless piece of paper to remind himself.

Out of the blue, between and amongst the boulder like feet snug in feather boots, other animals, smaller were peeping out their heads, coming into sight - badgers, beavers, dwarfs, fauns and foxes.

What lay beyond these faces lay a land which was full of wonderful, fantastical things.


• By Aleisha Hildred, Year 13, St Hilda's Collegiate School



Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter