A Childhood Tale
Book: House of Glass Cards | Sub-volume: - | Chapter: - | #: Reminiscence | Title: A Childhood Tale
I remember an old, old tale from another place, another realm, where the stars shone like elsewhere none and the harmonies of the universe could be heard day and night like the never-ending music of a wondrous orchestra. That was where I spent my infantry of another timeline—the childhood of my entire existence. In that place was a story passed on from generation to generation as a fairy tale told to children in the eve, before laying down their heads to sleep. That was the story that stuck with all of us there throughout each and every line of time we’ve lived through; the fable that taught us goodness and grace to carry on for every moment of our being.
It was the tale of a girl, sweet but lonely, whose strange habit was playing with pieces of glass. She used to collect said pieces from all over the place: from broken windows of abandoned structures in town, or the unserviceable glass cups her family and all maids and butlers in the house thought would only be suited for waste. Then, she took them to her own chamber, where no one would find them—not that anyone would have been looking for such items either way, especially not at her.
When she found herself some freedom—which she found lots and often—, she carefully washed her treasures clean of grime, then she wrapped them into soft fabric to dry them free of water. And then, when she had the entire collection neat and immaculate, she began creating valuable little things out of them.
Each day, she set up a new structure like those castles built of playing cards, positioning them each somewhere on the floor, and she assigned a dweller to every one of them. That is how it came that the first glass castle was metaphorically inhabited by a stray kitten. Likewise, a wounded dove and a man living in poverty, all kinds of people and beings whom the noble wouldn’t even throw a glance—they all were given shelter, and slowly the space on the floor of the girl’s room was filled with glass castles. It didn’t take long until she had to make her steps very carefully so as to not crash any of them against the hardwood beneath her feet.
It happened once that the girl had just returned from her scouting for glass shards when she found an unexpected visitor inside her chamber. As she closed the pinewood door behind herself and turned around, she saw a man, to her consternation, dressed in noble clothes and standing by the window. “You scared me!” the girl yelled out in shock.
“Well, well, aren’t you a little too on your own here?” the man asked, sending the girl into puzzlement.
“What is that you mean?”
“Aren’t you alone within the walls of this noble room?” he clarified.
The girl searched the man’s gaze with her eyes, trying to get better hold of what his words covered. “...I am not alone. I have a kitten here with me, as you can see, and a dove and an old, poor man.” She gestured towards the small glass castles on the floor. “I have all of them here to keep me company. And now you are here to keep me company, too.”
“I am Sir Solitude,” the man told her.
She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Is that not a bit ironic?”
“It is as you please.” He answered the girl’s slight laugh with an equally slight smile. “Don’t you crave someone real to be here with you?”
The girl’s expression now shifted back into befuddlement. “But you are here, Sir.”
The man’s eyes sparkled as if he had expected the girl to respond with that. “Though am I real, is the question.”
“To you, my young Miss, I am; to others I am mere fable and myth.”
To that, the girl said firmly, “Then I do have a real person to keep me company.”
“Not so much a person, rather a feeling,” the man said with a soft voice resembling dreariness. He then looked the girl in the eye. “Before I leave, though, let me warn you of one thing. Look into the mirror and never forget the sight before your eyes. Be careful not to lose yourself in solitude.”
“Where are you going?” the girl asked, not wanting to let go.
“Nowhere, Miss. I will always be here within the walls of thy room,” the man said lastly before his form fading away.
The girl stared at the cold place of the man with eyes reflecting mild bewilderment. Despite the feeling, though, she turned to the mirror hanging on the wall. Her reflection looked back the same way as always: eyes blue as the clear spring sky before sundown, the curls of her hair falling beside her face and onto her back with a golden amber colour, and cheeks a healthy pink. She didn’t understand how there was even any chance of her losing the image that had been looking back from the mirror for years and years straight. However, she decided it was best to leave it up to the man’s words.
That was not the only time of a visit having been paid to the girl. On another occasion she was setting up a pair of glass shards atop the table when a different man’s voice broke the silence reigning within the walls. “Why, you seem to be racing your mind on things aching to the heart.”
The girl turned around in her seat and saw him standing by the window. The man had dull-grey hair and his misty-blue eyes stood out against the colourless rest of his appearance. She looked him in the eye and asked, “Whom do I have the fortune to meet?”
“I am Sir Sorrow, cousin of Sir Solitude whom you might have met before, Miss. It is my pleasure to meet you.” Sir Sorrow bowed, but his movements seemed unlively. “May I ask, Miss, what is that you are so eagerly putting into consideration?”
The girl looked at him with softly gleaming eyes. “There is no important thing on my mind that would be worth sharing.” She then turned back to balancing the pieces of glass atop the table one against the other.
“Why, that is implausible, Miss, for I never show up without reason.” The man’s voice was now filled with earnest and worry.
The girl paused from all her previous movements and looked up at the wall opposite of her, with a smile bittersweet at the core. “Why should a heart ache when one has everything to keep them joyful?”
“Do you truly have everything to make you content, Miss?”
The girl stayed in silence, thinking about what response to make. It was obvious that there was no lying to Sir Sorrow. She had to admit her feelings of gloom. Hesitant, she breathed in. “I…” she began saying as she turned to face her visitor, but couldn’t finish her phrase for Sir Sorrow was nowhere to be seen any longer.
That way, the girl entered a perpetual state of contemplation and cognizance. She paid attention to all that befell inside of her and all emotions she felt throughout the days. Not once it happened that she was so caught up in her thoughts that she didn’t cease sheltering beings even after setting up the first glass castle for the day. Thus, the space on the floor had also become too little in quite a short time.
The girl found solution in a long process of work paired with patience: she decided to move each glass castle closer to one another, one by one. That way, she could gain more space for new glass structures to complement the already lengthy register of her sheltered companions.
She was in the midst of the aforementioned process when, from somewhere the other side of the room, a woman’s delightsome voice could be heard. “Greetings, my child.”
“Greetings, Madam,” the girl answered as if it had been no surprise to her to see a new visitor.
“Madam, you say,” the woman constated. “You may call me Ms Envy, if you please.”
The girl nodded her head but she didn’t look up. Rather, she continued with voicing the thought on her mind. “Why are you here, Ms Envy?”
The expression on the woman’s face grew mild. Alike to a caring mother, she said, “Only to see you, my child. What are you occupied so much with?”
“These are the shelters of the outcast,” the girl replied as she turned to face Ms Envy, spreading her arms in a gesture towards all her hand-built structures. She watched as the light in the woman’s eyes faded and dullness took over despite the smile that was still plastered on her lips. But the girl continued nonetheless. “There dwells a wounded dove, next to it a stray kitten. Right there, a bit to the left, is the castle of a poor, old man.”
Ms Envy dragged her gaze over all that lay in front of her eyes. Then, her attention was caught by something slightly different. “Whose is that one?” She pointed an arrogant finger at the glass house atop the table.
“It is mine,” the girl stated.
There was silence.
After recovering from daze, Ms Envy asked, “Do you envy them?”
“Whom?” the girl asked back befuddled.
“Those who have it. Acceptance and love and a place to belong, that is.”
The girl looked down at the ground. “...I am ashamed of it.”
The woman pulled her lips into a thin line and breathed in sharply. “Well, my child, you shall not free yourself of jealousy unless you first accept your feelings.” And with that, she was gone, too.
In a week or so, the girl was looking at the lot on the hardwood floor: the city of shelters she’d built throughout the past months. Her heart was filled with joy as she observed the way the numbers had arisen since the day she set up the very first pair of glass shards. ‘And perhaps someday I will be able to do the same in the world outside this chamber as well. But growth is what needs to find me first—or rather it is what I need to find myself,’ she thought with the same feeling of lingering felicity.
As she so was examining her creation, she caught a glimpse of a feminine figure from the corner of her eye. She turned to front her and bent down in a bow. “Welcome to my humble room, Miss.”
“My gratitude to you,” the young woman said. “My name would be Miss Hatred. My pleasure.”
“Likewise mine as well,” the girl answered.
The unshaken calmness and utter honour the girl showed didn’t go unnoticed. Miss Hatred was prompted to ask, “Were you expecting me?”
The girl shook her head in contradiction. “Not at all, Miss,” she said, looking the young woman in the eye. “In truth, I am taken aback to see you here.”
Miss Hatred found a rare dichotomy in what the girl said and how she acted. However, she ultimately decided not to give it too much attention. She looked around in the chamber, taking in the sight of glass shelters. Knowingly, she turned back to face the girl. “Why do you build them homes? Why do you give them love?”
“Because if I don’t, then who will?” The girl looked at Miss Hatred with eyes shining like stars in the clear midnight sky.
“You must truly hate yourself to empathise with them so easily.”
The girl chose to stay in silence. She diverted her sight towards the glass castles, where it fell into nothingness—the look in her eyes became empty.
Miss Hatred tried to catch her gaze. “Or perhaps even those who don’t give you the same.” And she faced the reality of not receiving a response any longer. “Very well, then. I will leave you to it,” she said just as she walked towards the wall and her form seemed to fade into it.
In the middle of a late autumn night, the girl had been pacing back and forth in her room. Her mind was filled with thoughts conflicting to an unendurable extent. She had tried putting herself to sleep; she even counted sheep in a pitiful attempt of boring her own mind. But nothing seemed to be of any avail.
As she was walking the same circle for the hundredth time, her chest tightened and she felt the presence of a malevolent being.
“My child, you seem desperate,” a woman’s sweet voice said. The girl looked around, searching for the source of the sound. She found the woman was sitting on the windowsill, behind the curtains. “What is that hurts your dandy soul?”
Surprised by the well-intentioned manner of the visitor, the girl felt the tightness in her chest loosen. She looked directly at the woman but it was as if she didn’t see anything. Her mind wasn’t clear, she couldn’t stop her thoughts from wildly running around. She sighed. “...The lack of love. I feel neglected. It feels as if my own family would see a wrong thing inside my soul and would push me away for that reason. Although, I cannot say—I love them lots. There is no idea in my mind about what would be if I didn’t have my sister. Or Mother. Or even Father… But deep in my heart I wish I would get the same from them. To know what I could change in myself to be better, to be decent in their eyes. To be given warm embraces in return and not only cold looks. I still await that day…”
“Sounds like misery,” the woman chimed in.
The girl’s eyes won back some of their liveliness, her being seeming to have been pulled a little more into the reality around. “Well of course it does. However, I am willing to make all efforts it requires to stand stable against it.”
“Are you certain you are standing stable?” The woman’s voice had a questioning tone to it.
“What do you mean, Madame…”
The girl cut her breath short. She faced the woman and fear seemed to creep into her now vivid gaze. “...Are you here to make it even worse?” she asked with a trembling voice. “This feeling, when it is already unbearable? The hate and the envy and unhappiness combined and stored inside a heart too weak to even stand stable under the weight? All I want is to love and to be loved in return! To be cared for and not to be left to solitude…”
“Then why do you keep creating these broken window sheds and not—”
“Because it is the only thing to keep me going forward.”
Madame Agony’s heart seemed to soften as her eyes fell behind a veil of lucidity. “Corrosion has already started consuming the metal of your fragile heart. Be careful, my child.”
Those were her last words before disappearing into the night.
Days passed and they turned into weeks that turned into months. The girl was clueless about what to do. Her only wish was to be shown a single spark of love. She craved for a friend to be around, a member of her family to embrace her. She had grown distanced from her sister—the last person whom she had imagined to lose. What was more, the feeling of distancing was worse than losing someone to death. She knew her sister was a few doors away from her, yet still unreachable. The girl felt numb. She sat there at the table beside her own glass shelter, looking down upon her precious creations, trying to keep together what was left for her. Until she couldn’t any longer.
Lord Ruin came with thunder and storm. His arrival broke the glass cards, scattering millions of tiny shards across the hardwood floor, not leaving a single inch free of cover. The girl was sitting on the edge of her bed at the time, her thoughts racing inside her mind more intense than ever. The lord’s sudden appearance caught her unprepared.
“They told you to beware, but your fate was not to be unmet.” Lord Ruin’s voice boomed within the walls as he addressed the girl who was rendered speechless and wedged by shock. “May you as well meet destiny at no other moment than this.” He swung an oakwood staff towards the glass castle atop the table. The girl sprung and reached out to save the fragile structure, but it was too late. The glass pieces fell to the floor, shattering into hundreds of small fractures. As he brought his staff back beside himself, Lord Ruin pushed the girl to the ground as well. Then, flinging his dark and heavy velvet cape, he turned and walked away. When the girl looked up with teary eyes, he had already vanished into thin air.
The girl brought herself to her knees, brushing the glass off of her wine-red velvet gown. She took a handful of glass shards and looked at them with an aching heart. She glanced up at the mirror on the opposite wall. From within the cracks on its surface, the lass who looked back was unrecognisable to her: she had hair black as the midst of the night, skin pale as porcelain, and the remains of a pale shade of blue in the irises of her eyes shifted into a piercing silver colour.
She crawled back to her bed, leaning her shoulder against it and tilting her head sideways. Then she just sat there, numb and heavy at the soul.
And that was how the tale went, how they taught us it to go. If the girl had been shown grace by others, the outcome would have been different as well. That is why we must not judge but show acceptance to those around us. For if the glass cards ever fall and hit the ground, even though their shards might be once reunited, the very same cards will never be back—there will stay the traces of the cracks on the surface.
However, only few know that not only a person's soul may be as fragile as glass in this world…