In the Earth’s Shadow

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The sun is moving between the clouds, so the sky gets illuminated in black and white. The clouds are moving all in grey and white, and the sun absorbs their dark palette. Lena observed.

“Lena, Lena!” called Anna her classmate. “Hurry up; ten minutes remain until the ‘iron dragon’ arrives.”

Lena was day-dreaming, she moved and caught up with her friend. A blonde boy came down from nowhere in front of her.

“How can I get to the train station?” The boy asked
“Come with us.” Lena blinked surprised but continued following Anna.
The train reduced its speed before it stopped and the blond boy asked again:
“Are you going to Inchiza?”
“Yes yes, we are” – Anna replied, pulling Lena to get into the train.

The three teenagers settled comfortably in the passenger compartment — and there was a brief silence.

The unknown boy initiated a conversation:
“I am Alessio, and I have moved to Inchiza recently. I prefer to walk to school, but I do not know the routes.” The boy smiled.

“That’s impossible. The distance is enormous! You’ll have to cross forests and rivers too.” Anna explained.
“I belong to the woods, and I lived there for twelve years without knowing the cities, the villages and even the transport,” Alessio answered.

“Who taught you to read and write?” Lena asked eagerly.

Alessio smiled and promised to explain. He then pulled a wooden piano made of cherry wood out of his bag. The keys of the musical instrument were made of ebony and amber. The two girls leaned over him and noticed some inscriptions over the keys. The amber keys had the names of the days written, and the ebony ones – the names of the months. Lena and Anna looked at the beautiful piano and hastily pressed the keys, but the piano made no sound.
“This piano taught me the days of the week and the names of the months.
There, in the mountain forest, every key has its melody” Alessio explained.
Lena’s eyes grew larger, the edge of her eyelashes almost touched her beautifully shaped eyebrows:
“And will we be able to hear the music of the day as well as the music of the month?” She asked.
“Yes, but only in the mountain forest and during the approach of Wolf Moon.” – the boy said quietly.
****
It was January 21, 2019, the day the astrophysicists had announced about the phenomenal coming-out blood-spattered moon, to full moon. The morning was bright, the sky blue, the air fresh, cold and everywhere – strangely quiet. One could hear from afar the approaching “Iron Dragon”.

Anna and Lena looked conspiratorially and suspiciously to see if anyone followed them and hid in the ‘head’ of the ‘dragon’ with their new friend Alessio.

The train entered the mountain and curved between stone heights, swamps, rivers until it reached its last mountain stop. Lena, Anna, and Alessio jumped off the train and walked towards the woods in the spirit of discoverers. They heard a dog barking. They looked around when in front of them appeared a beautiful Dalmatian joyfully circling Alessio and almost knocked him down.
“Lucky, Lucky, my friend!” Alessio’s blue eyes glowed, trying to cuddle the dalmatian’s muzzle.

Lucky fled, and the friends followed him until they reached a stone house with a mud and straw roof. They entered the house, and Alessio lit a small gas lamp and put a log in the steel stove. The walls were decorated in maps illustrating paths in the wood, peaks, and animals. At the very end of the room were Alessio’s books placed on a centenarian-oak. Lena and Anna couldn’t stop themselves from opening every book, and their eager eyes were following page after page.

******
Their fairy tale begins here.

They went out into the woods, and the two girls followed Alessio accompanied by the proud dalmatian until they reached a high tree. These wasn’t the usual tree. Its branches were covered with winter butterflies. The small beetles spanned their colourful wings, flew up and landed back on the branches.

Lena pulled a camera from her bag and watched the flying beauties through the camera lens, shooting endlessly until some gentle music interrupted her. Alessio had pressed a key on the wooden piano. A piece of music was carried on to the tree intact with the movements of the butterflies as if they were little orchestra musicians, where each of their actions changed a note of the melody.

The mountain celebrated, enwrapped in the music of January. Alessio pulled his finger off the amber key of the piano and the music gradually stopped.
The moon swallowed up a purple-red light and glowed in bloody red.
Lena pressed the camera button again when Lucky fled up to the top of the mountain. When the dog reached the highest point, he stood up on his hind legs and barked under the Wolf Moon. His fur coat absorbed the moon colour and turned red with blue-green spots.

“My Lucky talks to the moon!” Alessio joked.
Anna grabbed the camera from her girlfriend’s hands. Lena was irritated and flapped her hands up in the air.

“Anna! You cannot take my camera like that, get it back to me, get it back.” The little photographer begged.

Anna’s eyes got frozen when she looked at the last picture on the camera screen and shouted:
“Alessio, Lena has taken a magic photo!”

Lena stood beside her friend annoyed but decided not to lament. Three pairs of eyes were on the camera screen looking at the colourful butterfly tree, the red-coloured Lucky, the Bloody Moon, and behind all this was a grand round Shadow.

“This is the Shadow of the Earth.” Alessio pointed with excitement. “Let’s hurry! I can show you the magic of the river.”

Lena glared at her friend, taking back her camcorder and said nothing. Alessio whistled to Lucky and then turned to the girls:
“Look at the pine trees to the south, if we follow them, we’ll reach the river.”

The three teenagers strolled around pines, stumbled over stones, jumped over oaks until deep blue river appeared before them. Next to the river was a vast swarm of birds, as if the forest had “planted” them like trees. If looked from above the overall picture would look like a white carpet with grey spots and yellow shades (the birds’ beaks) – thought Alessio. The birds strolled, squawked, and Lucky tried to chase them until he heard his master’s voice:
“Lucky! Do not get close to the birds!”

The dalmatian growled with frustration at the presence of the flying aliens.
“The red moon may have misdirected the birds.” Lena, who was silent the whole time irritated by Anna’s earlier behaviour said. She pulled out some jam pastries from her rucksack and fed the birds. In no time, she was surrounded by them, and they roared in gratitude. Lena photographed in different directions and guarded the camera against the rapacious birds.

Meanwhile, Alessio and Anna approached a huge bird with long legs, in white and black strips, feather-strands on her head, like a hat with a visor. They held their breath in front of the bird, who spread her wings. Gradually, the wings covered the nearby bank of the river.

“We’re under the wings of the Queen-bird!” Anna named the huge bird Queen.
Anna looked at Lena pleadingly, hoping to get forgiveness. Lena stood beside Alessio, zoomed in on the camera screen and said:
“The next miracle on my camera screen…” She paused and turned the camera towards Anna and Alessio – all of us with the birds under the shadow of the Earth.

Lucky was spinning, wagging his tail and looking at the river’s blue waters. When the birds rose and flew over the river, Lucky run towards the waters and waded in. The birds flew higher over the river and circled near the shore. They were orbiting over something like a ‘hemisphere’ that was flowing down the stream. The children ran towards the waters, and as they approached the river, the light coming from the ‘hemisphere’ grew stronger. Lucky swam towards the light, started snarling, something stopped him from moving, he began to drown. The Queen-bird came to his aid, lifted him with its wings and dropped him into the glowing ‘hemisphere’. The bright body approached the excited young adventurers.

“This is the amber tulip boat!” Alessio shouted.

“Looks like a blooming tulip with open leaves,” Anna said excitedly.
The tulip glowed, and the magnificent bird pushed the boat closer and closer to the children. They stepped into the water, took hold of the boat and began to climb. First, Alessio jumped into the tulip-boat and pulled Anna inside. Lena looked with doubts and did not dare to get closer to the amber tulip.
She looked at Alessio and said:
“I cannot swim; I cannot get on the boat. I’ll wait for you here.”

Saying this, Lenna felt her legs detached from the grass and thought that she was flying. The big bird had lifted the girl on its wings. Lena looked towards the moon, the blue river, and soon she landed inside the boat. Beside her were Lucky, Alessio and Anna. So, they floated along the river. The amber tulip glided until it reached cascades with waterfalls. The boat sloped from the high, and children’s voices echoed, and struck the mountain peaks. Lena grasped one of the tulips’ leaves’, and Lucky was right next to her feet. Anna was sitting in the middle of the beautiful flower-boat, and Alessio held her by one hand, while the other, he was leaning against the tulip wall. They could hear the hum of the water, and they could see the opposite wall of the tulip.
The amber tulip began to change its colour. It switched from dark amber to dairy and finally to transparent-gold. The fear of the children intensified when the tulip leaves began to close. The friends were saved. Strange fish, jellyfish, pebbles, algae, crabs, snails, river stars floated around them. Lena switched on the flash and began to shoot through the transparent amber wall.

“We’re like an in a submarine.” – Alessio said.
“Yes, yes!” said Anna and embraced Lena. “I was afraid I would sink, and you would be still angry with me.”

Lena looked at her friend, took a photo of Anna in a sign of reconciliation, and showed her the picture. It was Anna’s warm brown eyes looking from the camcorder’s screen.
Lucky scratched with his paws on the amber boat walls, watching the floating water-habitants and the creatures that passed. The children were staring at the water world around them when they heard a voice from the Underwater Kingdom: “You know the moon, but you do not know the underwater ditches, our lives.” A gentle, odd little pink animal, touched its face on one of the amber leaves. Lucky bounced, Anna, Lena, and Alessio glued their faces in parallel to the transparent amber wall of the boat, staring at the strange creature. Lena’s camera began to snap, and the most unusual thing happened – voices came out of the camera.

“I am from the Underwater Kingdom. In the depths of the underwater world, we are many different species. We breathe with the oxygen that was left to us millions of years ago from your world! Keep the Earth and its Shadow safe …”
Lena held the camera-‘Speakerphone’, and the tulip boat rose steadily to the surface. The boat leaves opened, and the fresh air and breeze freshened the little adventurers. The tulip headed towards the shore. The children jumped out, Lucky barked happily, and when they turned back – the amber tulip already was far and shone in the distance.

Lena looked at her apparatus, and on the screen, she saw the beautiful Earth with its rivers, mountains, forests, and behind her the strange shadow of Our Planet.

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