Ms Schumacher's Grubby Little Friends

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    I could just about see my left foot. It was stuck pointing right. I couldn’t feel it.
    I’m not sure how I even fell into the pit. Last thing I remember I was turning off the high street.
    I wanted to scream but I could taste copper right at the back of my throat and had to cough it out.
    I checked my arms were still okay, reached out. I touched the corner of the dollhouse. It was a present for April, my little sister.
    It was in pieces. I was in pieces. At last I shouted at the top of my voice.
    I stopped when the sky clouded over. I could barely hear myself and the bad penny taste was coming back. It hurt to move so I tried to stay perfectly still.
    Then I heard scuffling. Though I could only turn my head an inch to the right, I was sure I saw something. Another sound popped up to my left and I looked that way but there was nothing there.
    I glimpsed shadows flitting about within the dollhouse. For all its damage, the upstairs bedroom was still just about intact.
    I raised my head for a closer look and heard definite chattering inside.
    Who’s there? The chattering stopped.
    I half-suspected I was going mad. I had lost a lot of blood and I’d been screaming since morning.
    Still, when the two tiny figures showed themselves, I felt certain they were actually there.
    They were the grubbiest thing I’d ever seen, barely taller than my hand. Cautious too: one lobbed a toy pillow at my head. When I reacted, they were startled but seemed satisfied. Perhaps little creatures couldn’t believe their eyes either.
    When I finally calmed down, I gave them a smile. Whatever they actually were, I called them elves.
    They flitted around me, touching and examining my various wounds. It was like I was an extension of the dollhouse, another discovery to explore. I let them. They seemed harmless enough.
    When I sneezed they ran away. I called for them, whispered even. They had small ears: I didn’t want to burst them.
    As night turned to day I tried to work out how to get them back. Between brief spells of sleep, I remembered something: their feet. These were the grubbiest part of them: red and scratched too. It probably hurt to hurry around with feet no bigger than my little toe.
    I reached across for the dollhouse again. The bottom floor had shattered into so many pieces but I could still grab some things: a hat stand, a carpet, a shoe rack.
    When the elves returned the following night I had two pairs of plastic shoes ready in my open hand.
    The one that threw the pillow was first to approach: picking up the white trainers and raising them to his nose. It seemed like a male: his twitchiness reminded me of an old boyfriend from high school.
    Still, he put them on and then so did his little friend. They dashed about the pit floor, picking up speed.
    I must have passed out again because, the next thing I know, one of them was dragging out a length of cloth from one the cracks and they both began to wind it around my wrist. They were dressing my wounds.
    Though I wasn’t sure how much they could do, the elves seemed to fix me up all right. I felt the makeshift bandages with a pressure I found oddly comforting.
    I thanked them as best I could but I’m not sure how much they understood. They ran away again soon after, disappearing into the holes in the earth around me.
    Feeling like I had achieved something, I let myself sleep for a while. I was so thirsty and I thought about April again. Now Mum was gone, I was the next best thing. This stupid dollhouse was meant to show her I was there for her, that I was going to make a home. My lips dry, I let her big blue eyes lead me away.
    When I woke up, I felt completely wrapped up. It was almost as soft as a silk bed sheet but smelt moist and earthy.
    I opened my eyes and there were my two little friends staring down at me. They were smiling just like I had smiled at them before.
    They leapt off my chest and disappeared in separate direction. At last I noticed the full body cloth beneath me and the tiny strands that went high up, almost to the very top of the pit.
    The strands pulled taut and I felt the cloth beneath me begin to rise. As the strands slowly shortened, I ran my fingers across the cloth. It was such fragile material: I came across frayed ends and even a hole. Nevertheless the chattering in the walls distracted me, relaxed me. My new friends were helping.
    When I reached the top I thought I would see them again, the two elves followed by an army of their friends come to see me back off into the world above ground. But of course not. The sun was high in the sky and they were probably so tired.
    I thanked them anyway and rolled onto solid earth until my fingers felt grass between them. I called for help again and this time it came.
    April visited me in hospital. I realised that her dollhouse was still in a pit somewhere and I cried. She thought I was sad. Sad, happy, relieved: I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I just touched her face and wiped away her own tears.
    I don’t care if anyone believes me. One way or another, I was saved that day and now I’m home. I’m there for her.
    Miracles might be nice but I like to think of grubby elves with pristine plastic shoes.

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