I love taking an object or a photograph and using it as inspiration to write a short story. This is very much a children’s story.
The bottle looked empty but was sealed with a cork, wax and an old tattered ribbon. When Harmony found it on the beach, it was hidden between rocks where it had been resting for some time. At ten years old she was absolutely delighted with the object that fit so perfectly in her little hand. Her first thought was to show her father the new treasure, so off she trotted over the rocky shore like a billy goat.
At the sight of the bottle Harmony’s fathers stiffened. He sensed something that he could not put into words.
“Harmony, must show this to the village elder. You have found something that needs an explanation. Harmony handed the bottle to her father and nodded as she watched him wrap the delicate object in a scrap of cloth.
Father and daughter stood before the wise elder as he inspected the bottle. Carefully examining every aspect of it, he decided that an ingredient was missing. Harmony stepped closer to look and to understand what the old man meant.
“There is glass, water, wax, ribbon and cork,” he said. “I feel we should add fire.” With that, he held the glass bottle over the flame of a candle. Before their eyes an image began to appear. It was a creature, part woman, part fish and part fairy. Her wings were dazzling. They shimmered with silver and green when she moved. Her flaming red hair floated around her as if it had a life of its own. Harmony was entranced the creatures beauty and wanted to keep her.
“We must get her back to the sea,” said the elder, “Otherwise there might be hell to pay. This is a creature of great magic and worth to someone. I am not equipped to understand or handle this kind of magic. Come quickly,” he said, “let’s get her back to whoever lost her.”
“Will you be able to show us exactly where you found it?” asked the elder.
“Yes sir I know exactly.”
Without further discussion, the three took off to the shore with Harmony leading the way. When Harmony showed them the precise rock, the little girl was handed the glass bottle.
“You must be the one to replace what you took,” said the elder.
Harmony took the precious object and knelt down on the rock. She was about to place it exactly where she found it when the ocean began to swirl in a spiraling eddy. From the center emerged a creature very much like the one in the bottle. He was half man and half fish.
“We are pleased that you chose to return what did not belong to you. For that you shall receive the ultimate gift. Something that has been sought after since time began. Your gift will be knowledge.” He said the word in a whisper as if the word itself had power. “You shall know all the secrets of the world, the stars and the universe!”
As quickly as he appeared he disappeared back into the sea.
Harmony looked back at her father and the elder. They both nodded for her to proceed. Ever so gently she placed the bottle back in the crevice of the rock where she found it. The second it touched the rock the lid popped off and a silver stream of smoke twisted around the little girl and then vanished. Her mind raced for few minutes as she absorbed what had just happened. Then she began to see the world filled with facts and figures, stories and history all in a flash of pictures like a film on fast-forward. There was so much to understand and it was all so gloriously rich and beautiful that when she stood to face her father, she had tears of joy in her eyes.
With the support of her father and the village elder she was able to live a happy, though sheltered life. The townspeople thought she was a sorceress and shunned her but her father and the wise man understood. They allowed her to talk endlessly, to explain the workings of the world, the stars and dimensions that seemed more like fairy tales than fact.
As time went on, the elder wise man died and Harmony relied even more on the company of her father. When it was his time to go, the poor girl was left totally alone. As a fully grown woman she was able to handle herself quite well but after a time she began to feel lonely. She longed to talk to someone, to anyone, and share all that she knew but there was no one.
One dreary evening, when the winds were blowing and sea churning, the isolation and solitude wore deeply into her heart. She missed her father and the wise elder with such sadness that she decided to go back to the rock and call the sea creature to her. She hoped that she could “return” the gift of knowledge that made everyone around fear her and made her so lonely.
As she made the walk to the shore, huge tears began to fill her eyes. When she sat on the boulder to begin her plea to the ocean, the rock began to shake. It only took one of those huge tears to hit the rock to break a powerful spell. Harmony fell backward as her perch began to transform under her feet and slowly a man took shape from the stone. He wore clothing that had been worn centuries before with a cape and hat with a feather. He was handsome with greying hair and a gentle smile that assured Harmony that she was not in danger.
“I’ve been waiting many years for you,” he said as he helped Harmony up. “I understand your surprise,” he said observing her awestruck gaze. “Let me explain. I had the same exact experience as you when I was young. I found and returned a beautiful glass bottle and was given enormous knowledge but was then shunned by my people who thought I was a wizard because of all the experiments I made at my home. I was so lonely that I came back to the shore and asked the man of the sea for help. It was then he told me that I had found the bottle too soon. In 200 years your true mate will shed tears of loneliness on you but you will be preserved as a rock until that day.”
Harmony’s mind was reeling with this information. This was someone with as much knowledge of the universe as she and that thought filled her with joy.
The handsome gentleman talked and as he did, he continued to hold her hand. He too felt great joy, first from his release, and more importantly to be greeted by such a lovely women who would understand him like no one else in the world could. Little did they realize that as they talked they were drifting towards the night sky. Further and further they went until they found just the right spot to stop. On that spot they became two stars, together forever and shining and sharing their immense knowledge of the universe.
It is said that if you look to just the right spot in the sky, you’ll see two stars, snuggled close to one another. If you watch and listen to them, you too might learn some of their secrets.
The glass bottle was found one more time along the shore of creek, hundreds of miles from the ocean. Walking through the wood along a path that followed the creek, an old woman spotted it and picked it up. It charmed her even though it had no cork, no wax seal, no ribbon and nothing inside of it. Cracked and dirty, it still had enough magic to be enchanting. Now it sits on a shelf with no one to tell its story.