Once upon a time, a girl named Rose Carver wandered into a hedge maze and made the wrong turn and ended up in another world.
This new world was called the Everdream. It was exactly like our world except where you’d see a tree in our world there would be a talking tree-person with a thousand branches speckled with multicoloured leaves in the Everdream. Everything had a translation. The people of Everdream–the starlings, cloudlings, snowmen, sand sprites, and more and more–called our world Boring World. To them, theirs was the real world, and ours was just a boring translation of it. To Rose Carver, the Everdream was the opposite.
She just needed to find a way out of the maze.
The flowers that grew from the hedges whispered “this way no that way your left no your other left no your other other left” and Rose, who at first found herself kin to these strange talking roses, learned quickly to ignore them. But they were insistent–they would reach to whisper in her ear as she passed, and if she didn’t listen they would scratch her with their thorns.
Any attempt to push her body through the maze caused the hedges to tighten. Brambles would form, leaves would turn into scale-like walls, and it was simply impossible to cheat.
Eventually she wound up in an open area with several different paths to take. In the middle of the open square was a hedge-carved flamingo made of pink leaves. It was itching itself with its beak when Rose appeared.
“Excuse me,” said Rose. “You wouldn’t happen to know where the exit is, would you? I think I’m lost.”
The hedge-flamingo snipped off a few pink leaves with its beak, then craned its long neck at Rose. Its eyes were big ladybugs that opened and shut their wings to look like the flamingo was blinking.
“Lost, is it?” said the flamingo in a far manlier voice than Rose would have expected of such a pink creature. “What, you think you’re so special for getting lost?”
“I never said I was special,” said Rose, suddenly uneasy. The hedge-flamingo’s head was stretching ever closer, and she found herself backing up. The ladybug eyes narrowed their wings suspiciously.
“No?” asked the flamingo. “Pity. I might have helped you if you were special.”
Rose wasn’t sure how to gain the flamingo’s trust. She thought if she said she was special that the flamingo would call her dishonest. But if she said nothing at all, the flamingo wouldn’t help her.
So she asked, “Are you special?”
The flamingo huffed a manly laugh. “Absolutely not. A flamingo with pink leaves? How trite. No, I’m not special, but I do need help. A favour for a favour?”
Rose looked around the square at all the empty paths. She had been tricked before, but maybe this time…
“Deal,” she said.
“Grand,” said the hedge-flamingo. “I’m afraid I’ve picked up a bit of an itch that my neck, for once, cannot help me scratch. It’s way in the haunches, there, moreso on the left side. That’s my left, dear girl. Do you see what might be causing it?”
Rose stepped around the flamingo to its left side. Something was sticking out of the pink leaves. “I see it,” she said, reaching for the object. It was a small handle, just big enough for her small hand. She tugged, but the flamingo’s leaves seemed to clutch the rest of the object. She twisted, and the flamingo hollered manfully. She apologized. The flamingo harrumphed. Then she yanked the object out while the leaves were distracted by the pain.
It was a sword–a small, red sword, as though it was already painted with blood. It fitted Rose’s hand perfectly–she had no trouble holding it aloft. It almost felt weightless.
The flamingo swooped his neck around its body and examined the blade. “Ah, of course,” it said. “The Rosecarver.”
“Excuse me?” asked Rose Carver.
“The name of the blade,” said the flamingo drolly. “The last lost girl used it to silence those babbling roses. I don’t know how it made its way in my belly.”
Even though the flamingo had a beak seemingly made of bramble and branch, it smiled. Rose backed away.
“Just don’t try to use it to cut through hedges,” said the bird. “The hedges might cut back.”
Silence. Even the babbling roses ceased their chatter.
Then the flamingo stretched its neck lazily and said, “Take the path right behind you. Two lefts, two rights, a left, eight rights, twelve lefts, and then try to remember your fifth Christmas, and on your next three rights, you should be back in Boring World. Something along those lines, anyhow. Best of luck.”
Rose tried reciting the path to herself, but she got tripped up by the Christmas comment. She asked for the flamingo to repeat itself, but it refused, instead going back to itching under its wing. Rose looked at the sword. She wondered what it would be in the real world. A stick, or a broken golf club. But she liked the sword–its sheer redness, its intricately-designed etchings in the blade to look like a bramble of thorns. She didn’t want it to be a stick. She didn’t want to go somewhere hedges couldn’t talk.
She didn’t want to go back to Boring World. So she took a different path. The flamingo watched her, shrugged its pink, leafy wings, and waited for the next girl.
Today’s three prompt categories were, “A maze,” “A fairy tale,” and, “Maybe this time.”
Fairy tales are fun. So are flamingo tails. (Do flamingos have tails?)