My Dear Friend,

I'm Sorry not to have written sooner but there's been so much to do lately and one thing drives out another if you take my meaning. I hope all is well with you and yours and that your life is treating you well. As I've said I've been very busy recently what with moving into my new home. It's nothing like the old one, it's darker for a start. This kind of dark is to black what silver is to white and although I've been here a while I've not really got completely used to it yet.

There have ben very few visitors since I moved in, Uncle Jack and the ghosts but not to trouble me into holding a house-warming party or anything like that. Not that I think it could really become properly warm here, it's been getting colder, icy, even. I;ve noticed, despite having such a lot to do, out with the old (maybe you remember all those ornaments I used to like to have around me) and in with the new. I call it new but it's all so familiar, as if it came out of storage from some time past that's been nearly forgotten. Certainly I don't remember it like it is now, I think it may have been even darker then for one thing though I think maybe the door was easier to find - I've not actually been looking for it this time. The days seem to pass more quickly this time too, I seem to do a lot but nothing much actually happens, that's me really, I don't like to allow things to happen nowadays, it's safer that way I guess but the walls aren't really as thick as I'd like and sometimes I can hear the voices outside. Some of them are sort of familiar but I can't really put names to them and they wouldn't hear me if I answered them, which I don't anyway.

It's very dark but I find my way around by brushing my fingers along the walls and at least there's no furniture to clutter things up and fall over. Quite often you get little crackles like lightning that come stabbing out of the dark and everything is visible for a moment. Kida beautiful in a way I suppose. The only trouble is that the lightning stabs at you and holds you paralysed so you can't actually do anything while you can see. You couldn't do much anyway because the lightning hurts too. Don't be alarmed, it never marks me and the pain is over as soon as the crackle stop. Besides, there are ways to make the stabs less painful, like when you make yourself into a shadow for a while but its hard to keep it up for long. Sometimes I think that given time and practice I could make myself a shadow permanently and then I'd never have to worry about the lightning again. Well, that's one of my goals while I'm here anyway.

So time passes, I rattle about being busy and no one seems to really notice anyone living here at all, which is great because they'd only try and visit or get me to come out or something and that would defeat the purpose of moving here in the first place. I keep pottering about but I suppose I know that the real work here eventually will be these walls, I mange to patch them up but one day they'll have to be replaced. I see that although they're very thin they are very strong the way they've been built and the patches I create reinforce that, but the voices outside can be very loud sometimes, one in particular, and the walls seem to shake and bend sometimes when the voices really get going. It feels as if they're trying to pull the walls down,. Does that make me sound paranoid? I mean it can't be that, can it? What kind of madness would it be to expose what's out there? Besides the voices, I mean? That one voice is the worst. I've thought about replying to it but I don't. I think it just wants me to acknowledge it. It doesn't know I've been trying to clear it from memory for a good reason anyway though I can't completely remember even that. So, as I say, I don't reply to the voices and they usually go away after a while. In time, perhaps, they'll stop coming back at all. I don't really know what will happen then, the lightning often seems to starts up after the voices, especially that one I was mentioning, so maybe if it does go away forever perhaps the lightning will too . . . or maybe the lightning will jut become continuous . . . all of which is why I'm working on permanent shadowing.

You get a few things in here to keep you occupied, pens, paper, that sort of stuff (that's how I'm writing to you now of course) but generally I've been too busy to use them. The truth is that even if I was less busy I'd not feel very inclined. I am writing now because I've realised that a lot of days have passed since I last wrote to you, more than I had noticed. You see I mark time differently in here. Ageing is divided into smaller, less regular measures: sleep-time, wake-time, eat-time, pain-time etc. but it's now definitely write-time now that the excitement of moving in has calmed down a bit and I'm getting settled in at last. I've not picked curtains, there are no windows. When it should be sleep-time I sometimes imagine it's even darker outside (that's why I'm here after all) and who needs to be looking anyway? By the way, do you know what time of year it is? Don't worry if you don't, I was just a little curious, that's all. I suppose you might think that asking you about the time of year is a sign that I'm out of touch with outside but that's not totally true, you see I do remember quite a few things but I have to restrict myself to keeping them vague, especially the one about the garden and the flower. Do you remember that one? When that bird found the flower tucked away in the corner of the garden all covered in weeds and used to sing to it? Well one day I was just thinking about that flower and how it used to raise its petals through those choking weeds and turn that bright white face towards the sun when I realised I knew a lot more of the story than I thought. I suddenly remembered how the sun shone brighter in the garden when the flower faced it and raised her petals while that bird sang for her.

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to stop for a while, I can feel the lightning starting again ...

That's better now, it was a bad one but quite short though and I managed to shadow in time. While it was happening I was thinking about writing this letter yo you when it struck me how you could be one of those voices outside, and that in turn made me realise that the one voice I keep hearing used to be a flower too but I don't know how I know that. I wonder if it could be the same flower I was telling you about? No, I suppose not, in view of what happened to that one and that bird with the broken wing. I think it got broken before it was a bird, actually.

I'd been hopping around for ages, not staying too long in any one place because I knew the old cat or one of the foxes might be about and all the hopping made me very tired so you could understand how relieved I was when I made it to the tree and found I could hide between some of the roots for a while. I didn't have a lot of strength left but I figured that it didn't matter much anymore because I could just flutter-climb up the tree and take a last look out over the garden. If the cat had come I would never have got away and I'd have already enjoyed my last look on the garden. Anyway, I got up on a low branch and looked about and I could see where I'd been hopping and I was surprised that it wasn't a very big part of the garden for all the effort I'd been wearing myself out with. I remember thinking that although it was only a small corner of the garden it was a pretty part now that I had a chance to look at it from above instead of just concentrating on hopping away from where the cat might be. And now I could even see the sky above the very top of the tree which I'd never looked up at in all the time I was struggling along, hopping. The sky was very big and beautiful and I thought "Well, I am a bird" so I just started singing a bit, right there on the branch. I don't know why I did but it seemed the thing to do. That was when I first saw the flower. To be honest I'd passed it a couple of times while I was hopping but it was so covered in weeds and I'd been so engrossed I'd not noticed it. As I sang I could see the weeds parting slightly and the colours of its petals were peeping out. The more I sang the more I saw those colours and, of course, the more she showed me the colours the more I wanted to sing and the more I sang the more songs I found I knew. This went on for several days, I'd sing and she'd bloom and I really started to love the little flower, not just because she was so beautiful underneath all those weeds but because she tried so hard to get free of them and be the flower she was supposed to be.

I don't normally let anyone see my weaknesses but we became so close, me and the flower, that I showed her my wing and explained why I couldn't fly away. Do you know what she did? She Laughed! I mean actually laughed! She said that my wing wasn't really broken and that I could fly any time I wanted to. Of course I've always secretly believed that this might be so but I never really tried in case I was wrong and I fell out of the sky. She said she wished she had wings too but she couldn't tell since all the weeds choked her up so tightly. Then it was my turn to laugh because all the weeds were long dead and really brittle and it would have been easy for her to peel them away and see if she really had wings or not. She said she was scared because she'd heard of the creatures who are attracted to pretty flowers and do them harm but I said that if she was a flower she should just work at being a flower and not pretend to be a bunch of weeds just to hide herself away. She seemed to think about this for a long time but she still wouldn't do anything. Then I thought that if she could see me fly she might shrug off the last of the weeds, even the imaginary ones and unfurl her own wings. So I took a big breath and leapt off the branch. To my amazement she was right and my wing now felt perfect for flying with. I was so happy just flying around that flower that I started to sing to her and she slowly began pushing off the weeds that had choked her for so long. She was even more lovely than I'd thought and those colours! So bright! But just as I thought she was going to spread a wing herself I saw her press too hard against an old bramble thorn and in my alarm I panicked and forgot I could fly. I was spinning down towards the ground but all I could see was her pushing harder onto the thorn as if she didn't know it was hurting her. I tried to turn my fall into a dive to knock the bramble away but it was no good and the last thing I saw before I hit the grass was the droplets of blood spreading out over her perfect white petals like a bruise. I tried to call out to ask her why she kept pressing on the thorn but I hit the ground before I could hear an answer.

When I woke up it was all a long, long way away from me. In fact it was several days before I even remembered I hadn't always been here and that I was once a bird at all! I do, as you know, believe in past lives but this isn't like that, I don't know, I can't explain, it was just sort of something I was before I was this but not before I was born. Now isn't that crazy, just having a past life in the middle of this one? Especially one where you were a singing bird who loved a flower? I wish I could sit here in my new home and figure it all out but when I try I know the lightning's going to come back and paralyse me again.

Well, I've used up this whole letter telling you some silly story but I hope you'll forgive me, you've always been better at figuring out reasons than me so you'll perhaps have an idea of why I can remember something so strange so vividly, do you think there might really be a reason behind it?

Well, I guess I've got to go now, there's so much still to do, you know how it is. I shouldn't write back to me here, there might be more lightning, but I thought I'd write and tell you my news since it was my turn.

Your Friend,

A. xx

p.s. I thought I heard a telephone ring just now but I don't have one here, for safety reasons you know. Still I half seem to remember answering it recently and hearing that voice from outside the walls talking to me down the line. I can't remember all of what it said . . . something about remembering being a flower again. Honestly, and they say I'm crazy ....

©Ashley Mortimer 1998