The Darling Diaries
By: Michael R. Lange
**~~~The House and Family Today~~~**
-Time has changed a land once innocent. Years have made the ageless evil. - The last sentence scribbled in an aged book. Michael closed the diary after scanning the rest of its yellowed pages to find nothing. There were so many different styles of hand writing but this last sentence seemed so, unworthy. Thousands of dear diary entries just to be finished by one sentence and then nothing but pages screaming for stories of their own. He could hear his grandmother climbing the stairs closer and closer. He shoved the old diary back into the ancient chest he had found it in. He quickly grabbed the closest box and carried it out to the truck. Michael's grandmother, Lily, had given up on living in the same house as her family had lived in for generations on end. The conversation why went something like this.
"It's about time I moved to the country; I am quite old after all." Lily would say for the hundredth time.
"But Mom, this house, it's been in the family for ages." Michael's mother would say pleading.
"And so have I, if you want the house, fine then, you take it, but my time here is long gone." Here is where mother and daughter gave one another a look of complete misunderstanding.
"Mom I just think that you should stay here, you've never lived anywhere else… to be honest, moving at your age isn't a good idea."
"At my age I should not be questioned, I am older, and therefore wiser, what I want is to be closer to my grandchild while I still can be." A look of guilt was sent from mother to daughter.
"Mom, please try not to talk like that, I'm sure you'll be here a lot longer, you are still young after all."
"I know I am very old, older than any women have ever been in our family. I have made up my mind Sara. I am not living here any longer; I am done with this house and all its shadows." Then Lily would comment on how the house only brought her heartache and regret and the conversation would end.
Michael took a box past her as she double checked the other rooms. One by one all the boxes were moved out of the attic and driven to the country side. There was brief conversation on which boxes were going to which rooms in the country house. The box full of old toys and books would go into the guest room for when Michael was old enough to have children of his own. The tea sets in a hutch in the dining room. And last but defiantly not least the art supplies would get their own room with the biggest window and most light. He got to the top of the stairs one last time and there Lily was looking at the chest as if she was waiting for it to open up and talk.
"Do you want me to take this one Gram's?" He asked her as he tried to move it.
"No Michael, that chest stays here. It belongs to the house, and whatever lucky family gets it next." Lily turned to him and shooed him out of the room. This made his mind race. Why was this chest the only thing she was leaving behind? And how did it … belong to the house?
A day or two passed and the house was emptied, all except for Michael's sleeping bag and the chest that he could not stop thinking about. His grandmother left him alone for his last night in the house.
"I am asking you for one night to protect this place." She said with a loving smile.
"Gram's there's really not much left to protect besides that ancient chest in the attic."
"Then you will have an easy time with your task I am quite sure, I shall see you when your mother takes you home in the morning, Michael." She kissed his forehead, he opened the door for her and she walked out of the house. Once his grandmother's car had left the block, Michael ran up the stairs as fast as he could to the chest in the attic. He looked around at the empty room. This room was the old nursery but had been used as an attic for thirty years at least. He opened the black chest gently; he could tell it had been there for ages just waiting, probably since before his grandmother was born. He took out some of the items placing them gently on the floor an old book, a few wooden animals, an ancient teddy bear, and a small leafy green box. He had never had the time to look at these things, only recently had he even known the chest was there. He palmed the small box, and opened it. Inside was a silver acorn on a thin long silver necklace chain. He held it not sure why it seemed as if it was calling to him. Michael closed the box again after putting on the necklace and went to read more of the book. He flipped through the pages and stopped to read.
It is spring time once again and I have a feeling this might be the one. I finally have my chance to join the stars. I noticed from my perch at the nursery window that the last few nights the sky has been suspiciously clear. I can see all the stars and I have tried to count them but I count differently each time so I am not sure about where the real star lies. I am wondering if Grandmother has been lying to me, Mom never speaks of such fantasies. That is all I have to write for tonight.
Page after page of Jane's entries spoke of the stars and the moon lit sky. Michael left the book open on the floor. He walked over to the window curious about Jane's stars. The sky seemed eerily clear; his eyes scanned every single star. Moonlight caressed the buildings, backyards and foliage of Kensington Gardens. He carefully unlocked and opened the window. Without any effort the window swung right open, not even a single squeak. A gush of wind rushed in flipping the books pages and closing the attic door. A smell rode the wind, crisp cold sea air. Michael backed away from the window and back to the book. The page read.
I know mother tells me that the stars will take me soon but since I have turned eighteen I think I have missed my chance. I have never seen the sky as clear as it is supposed to be. In short I have given up; I am locking the window since it is my last night in the nursery.
He flipped to the next page with his forefinger.
-Time has changed a land once innocent. Years have made the ageless evil.-
His feet took him back to the open window; one star seemed to stand out almost as if it was closer than all the others. The lights in the house flickered and dimmed, then went out altogether. Michael made his way to the attic door; his hand twisted the knob behind his back. Moonlight seeped in through the open window filling the room dimly, as shadows seemed to dart back and forth playing with Michael's mind. He was getting worried about what he had just gotten himself into, and just now started to think there might actually be something to keep safe in this house after all. He swore to himself that the shadows weren't moving, they weren't trying to crawl to the old black chest.
"After all, how could they be, this kind of thing just didn't happen outside of books" he thought. Suddenly a silhouette appeared in the window, a living shadow from a time long gone. It walked in a slow long stride towards Michael and the chest.
"Go away, leave, back into the night." Michael said with the box now at his side. He reached down fast, pulling out an old rusted sword. "I'll stick this right through you, I am not afraid of shadows." He lunged toward the shadow.
"Shadows aren't what you should be afraid of." A voice came from nothingness. The wind blew in from the window strong and fast knocking Michael into the old chest. He was soon joined by the diary and the other things as the shadows seemed to throw them in after him. The lid slammed shut trapping him in darkness, quickly after the slam a horrid scrapping noise surrounded him. Michael was being dragged across the floor. There was a sudden drop and nothing. But still the lid wouldn't budge as he kicked his legs as hard as he could. Soon his mind told him to give up, so he sat there for what seemed like forever.
**~~~A World Long Locked Up~~~**
Cold, isolated, desolate Michael awoke in darkness with the chest still surrounding him. Holding his fears tight beside him, he kicked and struggled shaking the box in an effort to get out. Water splashed against the chest's sides. He kicked as hard as he could and the lid finally popped open. His feet met with icy grey water up to his knees. Taking the diary with him, he walked onto the dulled gray sand of the beach. Michael left the other things behind. He looked at his new environment only to find an island that looked like it would be better off if the sea just flowed over it. It was as if all the life had been sucked out the island a millennia ago. The trees that lined the beach stood dark and lifeless, each and everyone had died in a slow tortured way. The waves splashed at Michael's feet over and over as he looked out to the sea, nothing but water and sky. The horizon where water met air was a malicious purple, its clouds threatening of violent storms.
Michael walked further onto the shore until the dead black forest ate him whole. Little black clouds moved from tree to tree fast as fire. Michael walked deeper into the forest hoping to find some little bit of salvation from this ancient place.
After about an hour or two he found another desolate gray shore. He noticed not too far off was a shipwreck, but it wasn't normal in the least. Michael approached it to find the ship to be covered in stone, old vines climbing its sides. Surly a ship could never float if it were made of stone as this one appeared to be. He dared not venture aboard, as he was afraid of the man bold enough to make a ship of rock. Michael took full stride away from the ship only to find himself deep in the woods, countless screaming tortured trees around him. With every slight breeze the sound of their agony heightened. He grew angry trying to find his way out of this desert of a jungle. Hour upon hour of the same trees clawing at his skin only lead to a clearing.
A circle of midnight black trees surrounded the clearing. And there in the exact middle was a single tree older than all the rest, still alive as well. Jealous green weeds all around it slowly crawling to it wanting to suck every little drop of life out. There was something about it calling to Michael, beckoning him closer. He obeyed without a single thought walking right up to the tree as if it were an old friend. Whisper's seemed to surround him from the hopeless trees. He could see darkness building, growing, stalking him just at the clearings edge. He touched the tree. There was an explosion of whispers as the little floating spheres of soot grew nearer and nearer surrounding him and the tree. Michael could understand little bits and pieces here and there.
"Thoughts, of sorrow….. Ageless evil….. Seek the fairy that once was his."
He pressed himself against the tree trying to stay away from these little balls of sadness. Michael felt the tree with his hands grabbing for anything to defend himself, as they got closer, louder, and darker.
"Thoughts, of Sorrow…Ageless Evil…Seek the Fairy that once was His."
He grabbed at a knot in the trees trunk,
"Thoughts, of SORROW" twisting the knot in his hand,
"Ageless EVIL" Michael grew nervous of what these little things wanted with him so he closed his eyes tight.
"Seek the FAIRY" Finally after about four fast twists of the knot the ground opened up beneath his feet,
"That once was HIIIISSSSSS" once again he fell into darkness.
When Michael opened his eyes, he found himself in a torch-lit cavern. The flickering of the flames bounced shadows across the dirt walls. He could see where the tree above had come from. In the middle of the room was a cage like structure where most of the trees roots met, with a nest built in the center. Cobwebs hung from the ceilings and small brown mushrooms sprouted from the floor. A few shelves and baskets hung around holding a strange array of items.
There was a shuffling from up above, something moving about above ground trying to get down. Michael looked for ways that whatever it was up there could get down. The hole he had fallen through closed up right after it had taken him. He felt the walls for another way out, since he really didn't want to find out what was above him. Michael felt every inch of dirt wall and root, just hoping one would lead him into another cavern or tunnel and not up. He found nothing on the walls or floor so he climbed into the nest. Once his full weight was on the nest it flipped plunging him into an underground river carrying Michael through bright blue caves. The walls shifted colors as the stalactites and stalagmites looked more and more like ferocious crocodiles. His heart beat like a clock, echoing off the walls and ceiling. Finally the flow deposited him in a large shallow bay.
**~~~Hot on the trail~~~**
Michael sloshed his way to the closest beach. This one was covered black with cooled lava, and vents that pumped steam out into the still air. Boiling pools of red magma spit searing juice straight up with the hot mist. He could see the mountain that had caused all this with its top blown off, as well as the border of dead trees where lava hadn't reached. This landscape seemed to shine as much as it bled. Michael stared in amazement as he noticed diamonds littered the ground. Then he noticed yet another oddity, there were foot prints also embedded into the solid waves of lava. They lead him all over the black hard ground as if there had once been a maze but the walls had faded away. Finally after a long walk looking down for his next step he looked up to find a girl, frozen in stone. Michael examined every inch of her stone skin trying to find some clue about who she was. With nothing else to turn to he opened the diary and searched. His diary spoke of Indians in some passages, pirates in others, mermaids, nymphs and other creatures. He read a description of the Indian Princess. It was a match.
"Poor girl" he thought to himself and walked away leaving her once again alone.
**~~~A Dark Dance~~~**
As he got closer to the forests edge he could see the darkness within, the little balls of soot shot about. His ears could hear sharp cords of music, which made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. His feet found the beet of a native drum, with the crunch and snaps of the twigs at his feet. Michael seemed to pick up a dance once immersed in the woods and the cloud creatures were his audience. It was slow, tedious, and draining but he resisted the urge to run from it, it called to him beckoning him further and further into the woods. Michael closed his eyes as words formed deep in his mind.
-dah dah…. Dah dah…. Destroyed is joy. Gone is light, and rising is the nightmare. Dah dah… dah dah…- the words repeated, stronger and repeated again as his body swayed through the dead brush and trees.
-daaah dah… Find boys of old, in caves of shadows past yet not quite forgotten. Daaah dah…- the first part was sung again and it took on a cycle. Then a new line was added, the words made Michaels eyes shoot open as they screamed in his head over and over,
-KILL THE DARKNESS PLAUGUING US-. He started running still to the beat, his body out of his control.
These clouds of soot gave him yet another trail to follow, another path with no others options. Each mental whisper, no matter which one it came from, urged him to move toward the stone ship as much as he feared its hard cold presence he wanted to get these things off of his back. He scaled its side, dashed through a stone arch way and stumbled down some stairs into a dimly lit chamber. There was a creature, not quite human but not like anything Michael had ever seen before. Its face was hidden from him; somehow he had snuck up it. The being's hands on an ancient piano, its long brown hair hung past its hips. A few notes played from the old piano as its gentle odd fingers hit the keys. Light from above hit its hands to finally show their true color, it turned to him. Her midnight purple face, her empty brown eyes, her skinny dark form, darker then the spheres that had guided him here. She was like that color of the night sky with a new moon, yet you could still see every little freckle and scar.
"Hello boy." Her voice seemed to be accompanied by a chime of bells.
"Hi…" he was stunned by her unique beauty.
"By that look on your face I can tell you have plenty of questions to ask me."
"Do I look that lost?"She shook her head "I don't know where I am, or even why I'm here?"
"You're a Darling, I can tell by those eyes. You should know the name of this place; it's in your blood… its part of your family's history."
"You are home. All of the birds have a home in the Neverland." she said as his face filled with utter disbelief. "Don't believe me… I wouldn't either not after so much change. This place used to be pure imagination now I think it is more of a nightmare, as do most people."
"What do you mean? How does a place just simply change I thought this is where all the happy thoughts and day dreams went."
"It was, a long time ago, before he couldn't leave. When the fairies first had me bring him here he had such a strong imagination that the island just became a part of him. He is so strong when it comes to emotion. Then something changed, I think it had a lot to do with your world, it was leaking in. Making the Neverland go from summer to fall. Then, that day he couldn't leave was when it finally lost the ability to go back."
"Please… tell me what happened here, what it used to be like." Michael sat down across from her.
"It used to be a lush jungle, clear warm blue water, and there were beasts that could never be found anywhere else. Now sadly I don't think they will ever be found again. One day, somewhere around spring cleaning ages ago, he tried to leave, but he never made it past the horizon. It seemed he was locked here, as much as he believed he just couldn't escape. So he grew sad, which in turn made his shadow grow. Did you know that's where all your sorrow goes… into your shadow?"
"No I didn't. What did that have to do with this island though?"
"Well, when he grew sad the water turned icy and grey, the trees started to die one by one. I went to try and save it all but I failed horribly. I went to the Fairy King to make a wish so I could be his happy thought. It made him worse; he hated me for trying to replace the Darlings." Michael's jaw dropped.
"He grew angry, furious in fact, then the volcano blew, fires destroyed the native camps, lava took down the maze and the entire fairy kingdom. I blame myself for half of what's gone on around here; the fairies blame me for all of it. They punished me to be the darkest glow of all so that he would never love me. They are still furious with me, which is why they have become the little spheres of soot that I am sure you've seen."
"Yea they kind of took me here; I just couldn't stand their voices in my head anymore."
"You're lucky they talk to you… in fact I am very surprised you understand their language. Maybe it's that Darling in you. They have been ignoring me along with the children from your world for years now… they only seem to have one emotion. A fairy can only have one emotion at a time but there used to be such a wide range now it's just… anger."
"They kept asking me to find the fairy that once was his… are you the one they were talking about."
She looked at him with a blank expression. "You can save us…"
"How can I save you?" He asked totally out of it.
"I'll get their attention; I will distract them long enough for you to run… I will draw you a map and show you where to go, he will be there… find him, save him... Save us please." She moved around franticly.
"Ok... I'll do it..." They planned it out, the midnight fairy would use the last bit of her magic to fly above the ship distracting all the little angry black soot clouds, then Michael would run as fast as he possible to find the shadow boy. He took the diary from his pocket, quickly scribbling in directions; the midnight fairy drew a quick map. They were ready for anything… she walked out on deck and soared up to the crow's nest, light breaking and cracking through her midnight skin. The little black clouds jetted toward her as if to stop this light from escaping. Michael ran out over the side of the ship and rushed looking over his shoulder as her now white pure fairy form was engulfed by darkness. An explosion of light and the noise of bells emerged stunning the dark fairies, Michael fell from the force of it, and quickly got right back up. She was gone; the fairy that once was his would never be seen again, when there is enough of it anger can kill. She had traded her life to save this place, Michael hoped as he ran through the dense wood that he would not make her death a waste.
**~~~From Boy to Bird~~~**
He went full stride as fast as he could away from the ship, into the dead forest, hoping to find this spot the fairy had showed him. Each tree seemed to move out of his way giving him space so that he could get to his destination as fast as possible. Then behind him grew impassable thorn bushes to stop the onslaught of fairies trying to end a light that now seemed to be a part of him. He felt lighter on his feet now, almost as if his feet weren't even touching the ground. He could hear the voices again they were getting closer making his head throb.
"Snuff…extinguish…kill" is all he could hear now circling him, Michael stopped as the woods became pitch black around him there was no escape. They would extinguish his light as easy as one would blow out a candle. Suddenly he felt a surge inside of himself. His skin was radiating a pure gold. They rushed at him now, and he shot straight up into the air his body jetting out of the tree tops. The fairies collided in the space he left behind. He floated there for a second unsure of what was going on… then it hit him… he was flying. Michael smiled and took off as fast as he could to find the shadow boy.
**~~~Too Long In-betwixt and In-between~~~**
Michael could see the entire island from this height; he opened the dairy and looked at the midnight fairies sketch of the island. She had placed an X on the ocean, he thought it might be a mistake but trusting her he flew the way he was directed. There on the horizon in the middle of the water rose a collection of boulders that looked eerily like the remains of a destroyed castle and a skull all at once. As he got closer he could see skeletons lining where the waves and stone met. Some creatures did still inhabit this part of the water and as soon as he saw them, they saw him. The creatures plunged into the water head over tail. From what he could tell they were bony copper skinned creatures with long seaweed green tails. He didn't want to think about a water landing being that the only things he had seen here so far, besides the midnight fairy, had meant some kind of harm to him.
He landed softly on the rock high above the water possibly an old balcony that resembled one of the eyes of a skull. The glow from his skin faded as soon as the cold sea air hit his back making him walk deeper into the eye.
Out of the wall walked the shadow that had taken him here. The shadow was his size and shape in fact it could have been him if it weren't purely shadow. Michael backed up from it, to no avail, he found himself on the edge of the rock. About to fall backwards into the sea Michael spoke in an effort to not join the bony sea creatures.
"Who are you?" he called to it, it stopped its advance.
"I am youth, I am sorrow" the shadow said, Michael was stunned… he had heard his own voice for the first time.
"I was sent here… by a girl with midnight skin."
"Why didn't she come with you?" The shadow boy was clearly untrusting of anyone.
"The fairies got her… I'm sorry." Michael took out the diary. "Are you the one that all these girls were writing about?" He handed the shadow the book, the shadow could not hold onto it, the book feel right through his black hands.
"I can't touch it… if I could I wouldn't be able to read it anyway… you read it or I'll push you off into the sea with the merthings." It pulled a black dagger from its side.
"Ok…ok… Calm down I'll read it." He flipped through the pages and read a few entries about the fabulous adventures of Darlingbirds and a boy named Pan. One about the time they defeated a hooked villain disguised as a ringmaster, another describing their adventures with the Indian princess, the last one about how the boy saved the entire fairy kingdom by playing his panpipe. The last entry he read was one of the first, about how the boy has saved the first Darlingbird, her brothers, as well as his own gang from a hooked villain and an entire ship full of pirates on his own.
"That's enough… stop... I am him." A tear rolled down its cheek. "How did you get your hands on such a book?" It asked holding its dagger to Michael's bare throat.
"It was in an old chest in the attic, I think my grandmother was the last one to write in it."
"And which bird was she?" It withdrew its dagger.
"That's the thing; I don't think she was one. I don't think you ever showed up for her… so she closed the window... and locked it. The last thing in here is what happened when you didn't show up."
"I don't need to hear that. I know what happened she locked the window and trapped me here."
"I don't think she meant to… she just didn't believe. In fact I didn't believe in the stories either until I ended up here." It started floating as if to take off deep into the skull.
"Wait… I think I can help you." Michael stepped closer to it, it took off and he chased it. Tunnel after tunnel twisting and turning here and there so far that he had no clue which way he had come. Then suddenly a door, Michael figured that the shadow must have gone right through it. He pushed it open into a room with no ceiling, high stone walls and the cold grey sky, a small pool of water in the center of the floor. The shadow was floating above the pool its arms crossed one leg bent the other hanging straight down.
"I don't need your help." It stated in a monotone voice.
"She sent me to help you, does that mean anything… My grandmother Lily left me in the house to protect your chest… does that mean anything?"
The shadow grunted "There's only one thing to be done…"
"If it gets me home I'll do it."
"I was given everlasting youth in trade for my love."
"Love, you can trade that?"
"With fairies yes… for a long time I enjoyed it but the second I first talked to the Wendybird I wanted to have it back."
"You would have aged for her…?"
"She has my love and she always will. I gave it to her to keep her safe."
"I'm sorry but... She's been well dead for ages now."
"I know that." It uncrossed its arms then crossed them again. "Without my love I can never leave. I can never grow old and age seemed to please her... I am guessing it will make me happy too."
"That means one day you'll…"
"I know. I need you to find me my love, it was somewhere in that chest. Go back to it search it, find me my love."
"How do I get back there though…? I don't think those creatures are going to let me go by water."
"Simply need to get there and you will find a way." The shadow said fading into the walls behind him. Michael looked up at the gray sky wondering if he could fly again now that the shadow was gone.
"Simply need" Michael thought to himself.
"Guess that's the same as think happy thoughts- he sat on the cold stone floor and concentrated, trying to focus on what he needed.
**~~~Clouds of ash, became fields of beauty~~~**
His needing thoughts lead Michael's mind back to the beach only to see the empty box all its contents gone, then his mind wandered farther to places in the Neverland that no one had ever ventured to. With his mind fixated his body soon followed, like a bolt of lightning he was off. Over the choppy water, the shore, trees and to the charred remains of the natives' camp and fort. He landed walking beyond the desecrated camp. Michael stumbled upon a field filled with strangely vibrant flowers. Each and everyone seemed to have a different color and bud; no two would ever be the same. Michael took his first step and where crushed flowers should have been there was a ghost like mist. It was as if the flowers that should be beneath his foot had never existed. He kept walking; whenever he lifted his foot the mist took shape of the strangely vibrant flowers once again. He moved further into the field hesitant of the magic that kept these buds of mist alive. He noticed the mist more and more with each step, he saw his questions coming to life as if to taunt him. With every step he could see his words wisp around his feet, they were white and thin.
"What is this place?"
"I am alone, why do I feel like someone's watching me struggle?"
"Is this my quest or was it meant for someone else? Then the ghostly mists would lead into his next step, another wisp, and twice as many questions stung his mind slowing his pace."
Out of his view the words like snakes slithered upon each other all building up into a being that's feet no longer touched the ground. A spirit, a ghost, purely made of white mist. The heavy white words formed its boots, pants, long captains coat, its wicked face with ice cold blue eyes, the long greasy hair that seemed to be the darkest words, and finally on the end of its right arm was a sharp steel hook. Even made out mist you could see the glimmer of the blade just waiting to claw into flesh, craving to take away unending youth. The ghost made its way towards Michael who was getting weaker and weaker with every step he took.
Michael froze at the sight of this man, who was clearly not dead but no longer alive either. The spirit got close enough for Michael to see every little detail in his smooth face, and most of all those piercing baby blue eyes. Then pain, suddenly filled the side of his chest. He looked down at where the spirits right hand should have been, what he saw was the ending of a very sharp very deadly sinister steel hook. He could feel the hook buried deep in his side, cold as ice. His clothing started to deepen in color, there was a red emerging where there shouldn't be. He knew there was no hook, no blood, but the world around him was fading as he feel to his knees, gripping his side, then finally he fell face down into the mist.