Sonja Danowski – Zoltán Sopotnik: The cord that made her sad

Beyond the Seas, International Fairytale Project in Hungary
El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares, Hungría
Translated by Luca Szabó

At the end of Floppy Street, there was a bush. Everyone called it a bush, even the colour dragons, even though they had to have a good reason to call someone or something that. A supernatural and secret reason. The bush was as big as a flat with three rooms; it was a real, unknown plant, whose name nobody could remember – even the person with the best memory forgot it in three minutes. Floppy Street was full of wonders and miracles, but everyone was afraid of it, even Lieutenant-Colonel Feeble, which was surprising, as the clods have already sipped all love out of him. Twice. In this plant-flat there lived a little girl, whose name was Acacia. At least as far as everyone knew. Noone ever saw her enter or leave, but it was a kind of unwritten rule that she lived there. Just like magic blood. Acacia spoke a language that nobody knew; not even the magicians could translate a word of it, yet everybody understood what she was saying when she spoke. She was always kind and all smiles, but at the bottom of her eyes there sat something resembling a cord, and it was sad. It was stretched there, yes, that’s the word. Sometimes it spiralled around her neck like a scarf; on days like that, she didn’t look like a little girl, but like a well-behaved angel, or even a goddess. She had two pets to keep her company; one was a big dog with exciting eyes, the other a green parrot which kept pecking at the green cord around Acacia’s neck. But if this wasn’t strange enough, the dog squawked like a bird, and the parrot barked. It isn’t extraordinary that on one occasion even the stall-keepers of the market in Bump Street fled when she set out to buy shuddering mushrooms. The cord in her eyes or on her neck became thicker. That was the day when the magician Fop wanted to buy spelt sage to cure his migraine; he got really angry. No, he wasn’t angry, he was rather sorry for the girl, and he had a feeling that he had to look into the matter. As he was a magician, he felt the threatening sadness; he could almost see the cord snaking at the side of the road. That evening he called Lieutenant-Colonel Feeble and Amelia the colour dragon to discuss the problem.

Illustration made by Sonja Danowski, german artist

Illustration made by Sonja Danowski, german artist

“Isn’t it strange that we don’t even know how long this little girl has been living in the neighbourhood?” asked Fop quite wisely. “Isn’t it strange that we don’t know what language she speaks, but we understand her nonetheless?” he went on.

“Erm… erm…,” Lieutenant-Colonel Feeble muttered. The magician could feel how his terrible painter’s brush moustache touched the receiver.
“I am trying to remember when that bush first appeared at the end of the street,” Amelia mused. “But I can’t. Phew, why haven’t I thought of that?” cried the colour dragon suddenly. “Maybe my timeflute can have a word with memory. Alas, whenever I blow it, I get at least ten years older, but never mind,” she said and started looking for the musical instrument.
The timeflute is a dangerous instrument, and Fop knew it well, but he got more and more convinced that Acacia was some kind of a hostage and that cord was not just something sad. Two days later, at eight in the morning sharp, Amelia blew her flute. By then, Lieutenant-Colonel Feeble had visited every house and told every single soul to close all doors and windows and not to risk a peek, nor to leave their houses whatever may come, because the timeflute is dangerous indeed. By the time he got to the end of the street, it had become as cheerless and as grey as the towns where ordinary people live. Lieutenant-Colonel Feeble closed his house, as well, but he stood ready, just in case. Although he knew quite well that he wouldn’t have the slightest chance in case of just in case. Fop and the colour dragon stepped right in front of the bush at the end of the sighing street. When the magician signalled with his eyes, Amelia blew the flute. First, the sound was like that of a hobgoblin before the war, then it became softer and softer, and in the end it was as beautiful as the angels’ harmony. In Floppy Street, it seemed that some houses collapsed, then rebuilt themselves, then collapsed, and so on, as long as the flute was singing. But what really frightened both of them was the transformation of Amelia. For a few moments, the kindest fairy creature of the world turned into a terrifying monster that outreached all human and magical fantasies. On top of all that, the colour dragon got at least fifty years older. Nothing like that had ever happened. They knew what they had to do at once – they rushed into the bush flat, because it was true, there was a flat with three rooms hidden in the depths of that bush. They found themselves in the middle room, and they froze like a rookie dancer: Acacia was sitting in a wicker chair, her head bowed, seemingly reading a book. The dog was sitting at her feet, looking into the air, and the parrot, as usual, was pecking at the cord. The cord was snaking through the room, got tangled in some objects, it even touched the tip of the dog’s tail. It looked as if it was the rope of the hammock that has ravelled out. Even Fop and Amelia noticed that the book Acacia was reading was also hanging from the cord. The little girl didn’t even look up when they barged in; she was too busy staring at the page. Otherwise it was a cosy room: many books, old, cute furniture, knick-knacks, some tablecloth, and a spotted floor lamp. This was more or less what the room contained. You could feel a nice grandma was missing from it, as if her absence was yawning from two rooms at once. So much that Fop and Amelia shuddered, grrr. The girl didn’t look up, the dog didn’t move a muscle, and what’s more, he didn’t even see the intruders. Only the parrot growled in dog language while pecking that accursed cord.
“This is some kind of a curse,” Fop stated mysteriously.
“It’s not a curse, at least not the way you think it is,” Acacia whispered, but she was still looking at the book.
“I’m sorry, what have you just said?” answered Fop, but the girl didn’t respond.
Meanwhile, Amelia was walking around the room, looking at everything. She peeked behind the bookshelves, and a big tear was sitting in her left eye – the memory of turning into that creature. As she was creeping about, she noticed that the cord came from the two dark rooms.
“I have it, I have it, I have it, hooray,” she cried happily. She started dancing so wildly that even the parrot raised its beak.
This dance was quite similar to Luigi the hairdresser’s, which he performs once a month while sleepwalking on the rooftops. Okay, this one was a bit weirder. As Amelia was dancing, one spot of one corner of one dark room was becoming gray.
“This is it! Shadow rule!,” she shouted, then she said to the astonished Fop, “I’ll be right back, but until then, take care of them. I have to talk to the Great Council of Dargons.”
Then she flew away in a haste.
There’s no way to know what was said in front of the Council, but she returned with a whole plan. She was so happy that her colours were glowing – from her ears to her tail. They assembled everyone from Floppy Street, Bump Street and Bell Street. They convinced the people that someone should visit Acacia in her bush flat once a day. They shouldn’t be afraid, just go ahead, and whatever strange thing happens, they shouldn’t do anything, especially not run away, because noone will hurt them. And if they could bring some presents… That would be jolly good. For two whole months, they kept visiting Acacia. Even the band named Doggerel came from Bump Street, and played the nobody-nowhere sonatas by Eugene Peanut for a day. Gustave Genre hung two of his paintings on the wall. Ben Bluff, the popular philosopher didn’t bring anything, but kept staring at the girl and her two pets unwaveringly, so much that the parrot didn’t even bark. The first step was made during the visit of the Hallucin brothers. The parrot had stopped barking, but the dog growled at them a bit, just like a dog should. Hooray! When Louise, the cook showed up with her world-famous cream bun, the poor soul almost fainted: the dark in the two rooms lay lower, and now you could see two heads similar to that of Acacia. Poor Louise couldn’t have a good night’s sleep for months. When Doctor Quiet came, the waists of the two girls could be seen, as well. It was as if someone had been unwinding the darkness. As more and more appeared of those girls, who looked very much like Acacia, the dog and the parrot were slowly vanishing. Well, they weren’t exactly vanishing, as Hesitant, the astronomer pointed out, but they were starting to appear on the pages of the book. Fop, the magician flipped through the book, and he saw that the three little girls had been abandoned by their mother. And their grandmother. And their father disappeared in the war. Acacia even made tea for Hesitant, but there was no way of knowing if she had noticed what was happening in the other two rooms. Their grandfather was swept away by a tornado. That was when the darkness started.
After two months, the whole town gathered to celebrate the three smiling sisters as they stepped out of their bush flat. They were called Acacia, Lavender and Brooke. Everyone was so happy that noone saw when the bush flat disappeared, then reappeared on a page in the book, which Acacia was now hugging to her chest, and a cosy, cheerful little house took its place. But it was okay.

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