Read Jabberwocky Online

Authors: Daniel Coleman

Jabberwocky

 

 

 

Jabberwocky

 

 

 

Daniel Coleman

Based on the poem by Lewis Carroll that appears in the book

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There

 

 

 

Jabberwocky

Daniel Coleman

 

Published by the author at Smashwords

Copyright Daniel Coleman 2011

www.dcolemanbooks.com

 

Cover Design by Jodie Coleman

[email protected]

 

 

 

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

 

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

 

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

 

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

 

“And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

 

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

 


Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There

 

 

*See the Glossary at the end of the book for unfamiliar terms.

 

PART I

 


Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

Misha and Teia stood on the outskirts of the wabe, peering into the crowd of townspeople gathered to witness their Sixteenery. Each held a new red ribbon with gold tips, to be tied in their hair until their wedding days.

The majority of the town of Dehva showed up to witness the simple ceremony signifying their passage into womanhood. It was one of the rare occasions that took people away from their fields and flocks, their shoring and shingling, and their tending and trading.

The menfolk were anxious to return to their vocations. The women contemplated their kitchens, for brillig rapidly approached. The eleventeen-year-olds stared at the two maidens with wide eyes, while young men fidgeted, furtively calling dibs on the young ladies.

A large sundial stood in the center of the grassy wabe, the usual meeting place for celebrations and ceremonies.

Two mome raths meandered across the open lawn, their flat, upturned snouts seeking a decent wallowing bog. Finding none, the pale green raths outgrabe repeatedly—their wheezy bellows and interspersed snortles were all that upset the peaceful ambiance.

Pitiful borogoves cast mop-shaped shadows as they flew overhead and Mayor Arad strode to the center of the wabe. No one in the assembly paid attention to the shaggy birds until one shadow grew unnaturally, covering nearly half of the wabe.

Along with the oversized shade came a rush of wind that carried the scent of decay. An odor like a putrefied wound filled the wabe and brought with it the taste of rotten meat. The crowd looked up to see a malformed beast descending. The monster was a tangled mass of limbs, teeth, wings, and tail all in the wrong proportions and angles.

A cry of “Jabberwocky!” went up and the assembly was released from its trance. The wabe was thrust into pandemonium as people scattered like an uncovered nest of dormice.

The Jabberwocky clattered onto the stone sundial, which crumbled under the impact. Its simmering eyes were heavy-lidded, giving the creature the appearance of dim-wittedness. However, its irises burned a fiery red that waxed in intensity as it bellowed. The eyes displayed both fury and stupidity—a terrifying combination.

Mayor Arad had the misfortune of standing within reach of the Jabberwocky. With serpentine speed the monster lashed out and clamped down on the mayor’s chest with its jaws, leaving the mayor’s body twitching in the mayhem.

The Jabberwocky lumbered forward and scooped up the unfortunate cobbler in its jaws. Bones snapped under the power of the creature’s teeth. It opened its mouth, releasing the body and the cobbler’s bones crunched again as the broken corpse collided with the ground.

Chaos surrounded the Jabberwocky. It scanned the crowd until it saw the fleeing forms of Misha and Teia. In four slinkish strides it closed the gap, catching a girl in each of its scaly, clawed hands. A few bravish lads rushed to protect the girls, and were rewarded with a brutal blow from the creature’s tail, which sent them sprawling limp as cloth dolls.

Once the creature’s fury was quenched and its quarry was snatched, it bounded into the air. Men returned with swords and bows only to see the sinewy frame silhouetted against the sky with two fragile figures dangling in its grasp.

A red ribbon fluttered in the wind, still clasped in one girl’s hand.

 

*****

 

Tjaden loved water. It was dependable. Consistent. He watched a trickle escape a small pooling in the irrigation and set off on its own, finding the correct path. Water always went straight. Not forward or north, but straight down. He knew it didn’t have a will, or the ability to make decisions, but he admired the steadiness.

He had heard about the open ocean that tossed large ships to and fro, and the mighty waves on beaches or in desert floods that knocked men down and dragged them under. The worst he’d seen were violent monsoons, but even then the wind and lightning caused most of the damage.

The irrigation was running smoothly and he had indulged himself long enough. There was work to be done. Walking back to the uncleared land, he joined Ollie, who picked up his axe when Tjaden approached.

“I don’t even think the Jabberwocky’s real,” Ollie said, continuing their earlier conversation as he swung his axe at the base of a tree.

“How can it not be real?” asked Tjaden, chopping at his own scrubby mesquite.

Ollie leaned on his ax and asked, “Have you ever seen it? Do you know anyone who has seen it? Has anyone within a hundred miles spied so much as one of its filthy claws?”

Tjaden stayed focused on the tough tree trunk. Between breaths he answered, “Go ask the families of the girls it’s carried off.”

“You introduce me to just one of them and I’ll be happy to,” Ollie replied.

Still swinging, Tjaden said, “The silk merchant’s guard said it killed a dozen people and snatched two girls from their own Sixteenery in a town called Dehva last month.”

“Dehva? Really?” Ollie asked with mock interest. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s always a town on the other side of the kingdom that no one’s ever heard of.”

“You go look for the Jabberwocky if you want. I’ll stay here and clear this land so my father can plant orange trees in the spring.”

Ollie cursed as he half-heartedly chipped away at his tree again. “Fantastic fables for feeble folk. The Jabberwocky’s a myth invented by peddlers and minstrels. The King’s Elite encourage it so they can take credit for keeping us safe from things that don’t even exist!”

Tjaden’s next swing barely caught the edge of the tree and his face flushed. “How can you talk about soldiers who risk their lives every day as if they were greedy liars?”

“I’m sorry, Jay,” Ollie said. He seemed genuinely apologetic and his voice took on a bit of a whine. “But bandersnatches? Barbantulas? The Jabberwocky? They’re all too fantastical.”

A stubborn saltbush took the brunt of Tjaden’s frustration before he answered his friend. “Personally, I’m glad we don’t have any of those around here. But as far as barbantulas, my father’s seen one, so cross those off the list of creatures you choose not to believe in.”

It wasn’t a hot day, but the sun was intense. Sweat rolled down Tjaden’s face and off his jaw line to the ground. He paused to watch a few drops fall, as water always had and always would.

Ollie stopped swinging again, and stood watching Tjaden mercilessly finish another mesquite tree. “I don’t care much, as long as old Jabberjaw doesn’t come around here picking up maidens and hauling them off to who-knows-where.”

“He’d just be doing you a favor, Ollie, saving you from all that rejection,” Tjaden said with a smile.

“Oh, but you have nothing to worry about from your beloved Elora.”

At that, Tjaden picked up a fallen branch and playfully took a swipe at his smaller friend, who grabbed one to defend himself. After a minute of sparring, Tjaden traded his stick for a saw and started on a scraggly creosote bush.

He was tired of arguing about creatures they might not ever see so he changed the subject. “What are they doing at Falon’s shop today?”

“Gathering tallow,” Ollie replied with a disgusted look. He was using the flat edge of his axe to pummel a thick tree. “Working here we have good days and bad days, but there it’s one filthy mess after another. How can making soap be so flamin’ dirty?”

Tjaden wasn’t envious of his friend’s situation. Ollie’s parents had died more than a decade before. Three families in Shey’s Orchard had ties to Ollie’s parents and instead of one family adopting him, he spent two days at each house every week. On the seventh day he had his pick and usually spent it with Tjaden.

The adults assumed it would make him well-rounded and give him opportunities. In reality he grew up without any stability or prospects, and there was very little he took seriously. He worked alongside the families to earn his keep, but unlike his foster brothers, he had little hope of an inheritance.

Less than an hour remained until the sun fell behind the expansive cotton fields that lined the horizon. As they inched toward the string Tjaden’s father placed to mark their work for the day, Ollie continued grumbling about making soap. “Everything is ‘Measure this exactly,’ ‘Pay attention to that,’ ‘Don’t let that boil.’ It’s always messy and hot…” he trailed on.

Tjaden had to admit that his friend was more of a hired man than a son. He rarely succeeded at anything significant because he was always given unimportant tasks. Every month he picked up a new hobby or interest, but he never put enough effort into any of them to be successful.

To hear Ollie talk no one would ever think him an underachiever. And though he rarely admitted it, Tjaden appreciated Ollie’s wit. He was secretly jealous of the ease with which Ollie enjoyed life. Even as Tjaden moved across the terrain, felling anything in his path, his friend’s words made the afternoon seem short. With just enough light to gather the tools, they reached the string that marked the end of their workday.

Instead of taking the road, the boys cut through the familiar orange groves. It was only a quarter mile to the shed behind the house, where they stored the tools. Light flickered from the house through the glass window that Tjaden had helped install before the previous winter.

As the boys washed hands and faces at the well, rich aromas from the kitchen lured them toward the door. With the sun down, Tjaden’s sweat chilled him and he looked forward to the warmth of his brick home. The pale, red brick offered warmth at night, and cool during the day.

“How was work, boys?” Tjaden’s mother, Lira, asked as she set plates around the table.

“Your son always tries to keep pace, but I work way too fast for him,” Ollie replied, shaking his head.

“Is that so, Ollin?”

Tjaden loved it when she called him that.

With a grin for Tjaden she told Ollie, “See if you can’t get him to pick it up a little tomorrow.”

Tjaden rolled his eyes. “Yeah,
Ollin
. Show me how it’s done tomorrow.”

Tjaden’s father, Mikel, entered, hung his bow and quiver on a hook by the door and greeted Mother with a kiss on the cheek. There was no doubt Tjaden was his father’s son. They were both medium height, with light brown hair and a stocky build. Mikel was brawnier than Tjaden, but it wasn’t hard to see that Tjaden’s frame would eventually match his father’s.

“Just in time for dinner, Mikel,” his mother said. “Sometimes I wonder if the three of you wait outside until your noses tell you there’s no more work to be done in the kitchen.”

As they sat down to eat, his father asked, “You boys finish the section I laid out?”

“You doubted us?” Ollie said with an offended look.

Tjaden ignored Ollie’s joking. “Yeah, we finished. How’d it go with the buyers?”

His father shrugged. “Not bad. Lemons and tangerines sold quick but I barely got rid of the oranges. You never know what the nobles’ buyers will be looking for.”

Shey’s Orchard was a relatively prosperous town due to the temperate climate. The villagers never had to deal with snow, they could work through the winter, and many crops thrived that wouldn’t grow in other parts of the kingdom. This meant a fair amount of commerce passing through the modest town.

The oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, orangeberries, and lemons they grew were delicacies in most towns. But the majority of their crop sold to traders who took it to Palassiren, the capital of the kingdom.

“I need you to pick two large bins of tangerines and haul them to town in the morning,” his father said. “Remember to put the bins on the wagon
before
you put fruit in them this time.” He looked at Ollie, apparently waiting for him to make an excuse.

“C’mon, Mikel. I did that one time, and it was over two years ago,” Ollie said.

His father continued. “Illander will meet you on the south side of the wabe to take delivery. I have to meet a couple other merchants in the morning, but should be back around lunch. We’ll clear land until the Swap and Spar next week, then it’ll be back to picking fruit.”

Ollie spoke up. “We should pick the lower fruit first, then go back through with ladders the rest of the week to get the higher stuff.” It was obvious Ollie was trying to avoid the difficult task of moving the heavy ladders.

With a guarded smile, his father said, “I was doing you a favor letting you pick the upper fruit on the days you were here. Stretching to the tips of the branches might help you grow an inch or two.”

“The crop looks full this year,” Tjaden commented. The only topics his father ever talked about were citrus and the weather. Tjaden always did his best to keep the conversation going once they started talking. Not being much of a talker himself, Tjaden spent much more time trying to come up with something to say than actually saying it.

“It should be a good winter,” his father responded, returning to his meal.

Ollie groaned. “When you say ‘good winter’, I hear ‘hard work’.”

By the time the sun crested the horizon the next morning, Tjaden and Ollie were ready to start work. Father usually took one, if not both, of Ollie’s days to meet his other obligations so Tjaden wouldn’t have to work alone.

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