Ecological Fairytales

 

I love writing stories, and I am particularly interested in combining my love for the natural world with my interest in fantasy. This has lead me to write 'Ecological Fairytales': stories that tread the line between fantasy and reality, swooping in and out of imagination and realism, but always with the natural world at heart. I have published a few of my favourites here for you to read - I hope you enjoy them!

 

Miniature Kingdom (Bloom in Doom, 2021)

 

It runs over gravel boulders and grass blades not with a whisper, but a clatter. 

Six legs tap out an even rhythm as it comes to an abrupt stop in front of her. Grass-stained knees and wide eyes stare in fascination at the Devil’s coach horse beetle which stands before her like a midnight stallion. It arches its tail up at her in threat, and she is entranced.

Her days are spent searching through the tiny jungle, overturning pebble mountains and peering into pastel flower palaces. Bees in crocuses wake sluggishly from their small-sleep, and ants crawl along her fingers as she examines their well-organised march. The butterflies are beautiful, but they have nothing on the giant Leopard slugs which leave silver trails behind them on the garden wall. She thinks the silver is stunning – a gift left from the slugs – grateful for the chance to chomp through dock leaves and dandelions.

At night, her mother comes and sits with her in the garden as she chases the first moths of the evening, dog yapping affectionately at her heels. The moths spiral effortlessly through the night – the bright golden flashes of the Yellow Underwing cutting through the dark like a knife slicing through butter – just out of reach. She tumbles into the lavender bush and a plume of micromoths erupt into the night sky, dotted with distant stars and far-off solar systems. 

But she doesn’t care for the cosmos. Her eyes have found what she has been searching for. The acid green and electric pink wings flutter in front of her, and she waits patiently for the Elephant hawk-moth to land. 

It spirals through the dusk, a golden-pink star that is descending slowly to Earth. Her curious eyes widen as it lands before her, and she examines it with a burning love – the kind of love that comes from studying something for weeks in picture books and encyclopaedias, and hunger to see it for herself.  

Her father takes her pond-dipping in the back garden, but she is happy to lean over the edge and peer in at the larvae scuttling around on the bottom of the pond. She squeals in delight when a large twig moves, and gasps when she is shown the caddis-fly larvae hidden inside. 

As evening comes again, she makes herself a daisy-chain and wraps it around her twisting curls like a crown. Around her, the invertebrates rustle; some going to sleep, others just waking up. She notices a violet ground beetle, running along as if it is on an urgent mission, and she curtsies to him as he scampers past her. 

Her daisy crown stays nestled in her curls until bedtime, when she carefully hangs it up on the back of her door, and falls into a whirlwind of dreams. 

Dreams of watery-worlds and petal palaces.

Dreams of a miniature kingdom. 

 


Moorland Fairground ('Connections with Nature: 50 moments of meeting the wild', 2021)
 

When the wind calls you to the moors, you can’t resist, can’t say no – not for a moment.

 

Her hair whips around her as she runs, weaving through the heather which pricks at her legs – tripping on the burnt stumps and roots.

She had heard the rumours, the whispers about the wind calling for you. Some said it called for you when it was lonely, others said it called when it had something to show.

Shoes thudding into the peat bog, mud splashing up to her calves – she’s never really been one for rural legends, but the moorland wind – that is something worth believing in.

The wind ruffles her hair like an old friend as she gasps for breath, at peace on the moor at last. She sinks onto a tuffet behind her, ready to be shown what she’s here for – why she’s been called.

The booming, bubbling, shrieking, wailing calls of a dozen moorland birds commences, whirling into an orchestra which swells with the wind’s whistling – an intricate, eerie melody which fills the air in the same way a warm stew bubbles up in a casserole dish. It is comfortable, and it feels like coming home.

Snipe burbling up and down like tuneful yo-yos, and lapwings swinging around each other like ice dancers in the sky – the moorland has become a playground for wildlife and wilderness. A fairground for water and wind, feathers and fur, heather and gorse.

The tuffets and heather around her twitch as a hare peaks its nose tentatively out, and slowly the rest of its golden fur follows, until it is peacefully munching through stems, long ears pricking at the slightest foreign rustle on the breeze.

Further along mice and voles scamper like jet-propelled toffees through wavering grass, and a family of short-eared owls test out their wings and hunting skills by following their weaving trails.

She watches, her eyes growing wider with every rustle, every song, every new creature joining the fairground.

She is almost holding her breath with anticipation: what will come next? What more has the moor got to show her?

The curlew’s cry lights up the sky, splitting the calm lull of song like a lightning bolt. Tawny-speckled wings sailing through the morning sunlight – it can go anywhere it desires, yet it chooses to drift in front of her, as if asking her “will you join us?”

Her feet are moving before she realises what’s happening, and she’s running along the old moor paths, setting up clouds of dozing moths and spiders scuttling into their burrows. Soft purples, twinkling yellows, gentle greens splash through her vision like paint, and the song of wildlife rises around her like multicoloured wings.

She is so happy, she feels like she could fly; join the curlew on its journey through the morning.

 

When she returns to her home, the evening moon is peeping over the horizon, bathing the woods and the outskirts of the moor in a creamy light. She hesitates before going in, aware that the wind may not call her to the moor again – this may have been her one chance to see the fairground, hear the orchestra.

The stars twinkle down at her in their all-knowing way, and she suddenly realises why the wind only ever calls you once to the moor.

Because it only needs to show you once.

 


Rooftops and Stargazers (Bloom in Doom, 2021)

 

It had taken three months to clean the rooftop of the gravel and broken bricks. The plastic straws and glass bottles were swept away into bags and trundled away to the recycling bank. The discarded plant pots collected up, cleaned and stored for later; the patches of soil bagged up neatly, ready to be reused.

Then the planting began. Large ice-cream tubs became plant pots, and hollowed-out bricks became troughs to plant tufts of lavender and pockets of pansies. Over time, the couple nurtured little seedlings with soft words and droplets of water, until the rooftop became a sprawling jungle of honey yellows and juniper greens; bushy nettles and waving smooth leaves.

 

They spend their afternoons and weekends gently tending their rooftop – marvelling at the golden pom-pom bees that lazily hover in front of dandelions, which are unfurling wavering leaves through concrete cracks.

She hangs up a bird feeder, watching from the top of the metal stairwell as the first visitor greets the feeder: the whistling call of a great tit, chiming “teach-er, teach-er” at the top of its voice, delighted with the gift of seed. It’s joined by a volery of long-tailed tits, which swirl down on the feeder like a waterfall, their twittering splashing on the flowers like rain.

He fills an old washing-up bowl with pebbles and stones, digging it into a hole in the flowerbed to form a small pond, and pushing in a clump of earth attached to a sprig of purple loosestrife. When birds sip from the ripples, and butterflies feed off the flowers, his face lights up with happiness.

 

Night falls like a magician dropping his cloak. Together, they ascend the metal spiral steps from their flat to the rooftop. He lays out the old red rug and they sit together, surrounded by nocturnal moths drunk on nectar from sweetly-scented honeysuckles.

Mugs of hot chocolate sit beside them. The steam curls into the air like the pheromone trails of moths desperately chasing down a mate under the cover of darkness. The city lights wink in the distance, stars of ruby, emerald and sapphire — but they haven’t come to gaze at this urban light-scape.

Their eyes turn to the sky: moths and flies swirl towards the paint-brushed milky-way and pin-pricked stars — a shadow darts across the waning moon, and she gasps, her mug paused on the way to her lips. A bat snaps up some of the unsuspecting moths as it skims over their heads, its weaving trail criss-crossing the cosmos, until it melts away into the darkness.

They settle back against one another, content with their urban paradise of mossy buckets and twinkling stars.