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Children's Story

Children’s Story
by Paul L. Mathews


In a house with a garden, a see-saw and swing there lay a toy box of mysterious things.

Within lived a monkey, all patches of twine, who stared from the windows most of the time. An inquisitive thing who loved to explore, he’d seen through the windows and longed to see more.

Stretching and yawning, he woke up one day. Stretching and yawning, he wanted to play. But he couldn’t find Dad, he couldn’t find Mum, and he called for his friends of which he found none.

The sun hadn’t risen but the stars didn’t shine, so he set out to look, he set out to find.

* * *

Across oceans and cities the days turned to years, and the monkey confirmed the worst of his fears. He found as he searched, roamed and explored, that the stars had been stolen and the sun shone no more. Mankind lay dead and the animals were slain, the clouds black and swollen, with fire in the rain.

In need of repair, confused and bewildered, he trudged through a forest reduced but to cinders. Suddenly he paused, peered as hard as he could, and saw a hill where a tree still stood. From its branches a soldier hung hanged, so the monkey hurried to help the man.

“Lo!” the man gasped, “I am but a soldier whose foes left to die--but I can’t pass away without telling you why. So tell me your story and I will share mine. But you must tell me quickly, for I haven’t much time.”

“I set out to see!” said the monkey, “And I came here and saw that the stars have been stolen and the sun shines no more. Mankind is dead and the animals are slain, the clouds are swollen and there’s fire in the rain. So please won’t you tell me as best as you can, won’t you please tell me the story of man?”

So the soldier told him the sorrowful tale, and the monkey cried out with a lachrymose wail:

“I’ve heard all your story, of your Dresdens and Troys, how you’ve squabbled over borders and fought over toys. But please tell me one thing--I need to know more--why all the violence? Why all the war?”

But the man couldn’t hear, he had finally died, and the monkey gave a long and most sorrowful cry.

“My fur is threadbare, my stitching undone--but who’s left to fix me? There must be someone!”

Alone in the darkness, stung by the rain, the monkey called out again and again. But nobody heard, his voice tired and feeble, so he dried his eyes, took some twine and a needle.

“If no-one shall fix me, if there’s no-one to help, I will learn how to mend things and do it myself. Then I’ll learn how the stars shine and what makes the rain, and then, with my work done, I’ll go home again.”

* * *

Across oceans and cities that man torn asunder, the brave monkey travelled and fixed the world’s wonders. As he went he found toys, all bent and all broken, and he mended and stitched them, and then he awoke them.

“Lo, I have fixed you, and the world is mended. The stars shine bright and the darkness has ended.”

Clapping and laughing, the toys danced and sang, then paused a moment for the memory of man.

Then when the sun rose and the rain clouds parted, the monkey led them back to whence he had started, to a house with a garden, a see-saw and swing, and a box stuffed with toys and mysterious things.

* * *

First published on The, April 2007.

* * *

Paul L. Mathews, formerly a professional concept artist and illustrator with credits in TV, video games and magazine illustration, has now swapped his pencils for the keyboard. To date his work has appeared in various magazines, websites, comics and RPG publications. He lives in the UK with his wife, her daughter and other assorted animals.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

To try and pin my inspiration down to one source is pretty tricky, if not impossible. A lot of my work has a number of different inspirations at play within the same piece. However, whilst one story could feature a plot remembered from a dream, a main character inspired by a chanced upon name, and a setting invoked by a painting, the next tale could feature a whole different set of influences.

As an example, this particular piece was inspired by a Nick Cave concert, of all things. It made me want to write the sort of narrative rhyme that you might find on an album by the likes of Cave, Tom Waits, Barry Adamson or Peter Gabriel. It illustrates how big an influence music has been on my output, with imagery from songs, titles and even characters from certain tracks having a heavy impact on my own work. Add this to cocktail various documentaries, art galleries, history books et al, and I'm very fortunate to be able to draw on a varied--and bottomless--source of ideas.