Sprites - Floret and Baby
Floret clambered down onto the shelf, using a pile of books as a staircase. They wound their way past piles of tiny folded socks, a stack of clean nappies, and little onesie that looked like a dinosaur.
The trip from the shelf down to the floor was too big a distance to jump, so they stepped into the mural on the wall of the room. Inside the painting, they grabbed onto a cloud that slowly sank to the carpet. As they landed at the base of the scene, they waved the cloud goodbye and stepped back out into the room. With soft little paws, they adjusted their bunny mask, straightened their satchel, and began to wade through the tall, shaggy, carpet.
The noise was tough to bear, such a racket this fleshy new human could make, and no agency to help itself. What a travesty.
They climbed over toy dinosaurs, and around duo blocks, till they made it to the crib.
Unfortunately, it was painted a plain yellow, no drawing they could navigate. They sidled up to one of its legs and looked up at the smooth finish and dizzying height.
With a sigh they pulled a handkerchief from their bag, looped it around the leg and pulled it tight. One foot after the other, they began to climb.
With each step the noise got louder and more desperate. Floret was finding it difficult to concentrate, but eventually they made it to the top and in a deft leap, grabbed onto the corner of a blanket and heaved themselves into the crib.
Baby was crying inconsolably. Probably lost its dummy again. Silly thing, keeps spitting it out and then complaining when it’s not in its mouth anymore, like an absolute child.
Floret surveyed the blankety landscape, all soft and yellow with a silk lining. Baby was chucking a tanty in the middle, like a goddamn wimp. They looked around for a dummy, hidden in a divet or a fold, but there was nothing to find.
“Baby, did you swallow it?” They accused. Floret climbed up onto Baby and kneeled down on its chest. Baby looked down at Floret and gurgled. “Say ahhhhh.”
Baby opened its mouth wide, showing a few shallow teeth poking through its gums, but no dummy to be seen.
“Those are some big chompers you have there, Baby”. Floret frowned and scratched the chin of their mask. “Don’t fret, loud one, I will find the chew toy and return it to you safely.” Floret placed a tiny finger to Babies mouth, and back flipped off its chest onto the blanket. “No more tears”. They ran to the edge of the cot and slid down its leg to the floor.
Through the carpet forest they waded, out to the door of the room. They peered around the frame to look down the hall and into the lounge room, where Jenny, Thrasher of Dreams, resided. Jenny surely held the dummy but blocking her path was Trevor, Duke of Drool. Trevor was not nearly as palatable as Baby. Trevor was hairy from head to toe and insisted on dropping his fluff wherever he went. It was quite distasteful. He also found it entertaining to treat Floret as seconds to his large breakfast helping and Floret was not very fond of that. Now he slept in the middle of the hallway, between them and the dummy.
Floret began to slip down the wooden hallway, sliding along the wallpapered walls. They had attempted to meld with this design only once, and had found its geometric style and earth tones quite unpleasant to move through.
They slinked along the wall, arms outstretched, quiet feet slipping over each other. They kept unblinking eye contact with the hound and slid their back along the wall with roguish stealth. They were a ninja, a shadow in the night, a –
‘Uh oh’. Floret looked down at the squeaky toy they’d stepped on, and slowly back up at Trevor, who had one eye peeled open and a growing string of drool ebbing from the corner of his mouth. Floret stayed perfectly still. Trevor opened another eye. Floret held their breath and pressed their back tighter into the wall. A dopey grin spread across Trevor’s face as he heaved his rolly polly body onto his squat little legs and began bounding toward them.
Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope! The last time Floret had been a victim of Trevor’s drool, the paint making up their left leg had smudged and they’d walked with a limp ever since. They’d risk the wallpaper.
They pushed back further into the wall until they merged with it. Trevor slammed into the wall head first. He whimpered for a moment before the squeaky toy captured his attention. He collapsed to the ground to gnaw at it.
The wallpaper was uncomfortable, like those game shows where you need to contort your body to fit through the hole, except all the different shapes are just in one big stack and you have to move through them all at once. And the colours were real gross.
Floret shifted through them, trying to keep from itching or barfing. They shuffled through until they were around the corner, safe from Trevor's gaze. They stepped out of the wall and scampered down to the end of the hallway, into the lounge room.
Floret could see her now. The Thrasher of Dreams, Devourer of Sweets, Bane of Baby. Jenny was sat on the lounge, flicking through channels, absentmindedly scrolling through her phone (as if everything she did wasn’t done absentmindedly). She chewed food in her mouth but didn’t swallow it, like some animal. And Da Vinci, look at how uncoordinated her outfit is. Disgusting.
‘The dummy must be here somewhere’, they thought. Floret scampered across the carpet and peered under the lounge. There were chip packets and trading cards, a remote control and crusty tissues. They huffed and put their hands to their hips. No dummy.
They retrieved two toothpicks from their satchel, and one by one jammed them into the soft fabric of the couch, climbing up the vertical slope.
They heaved themselves up onto the arm and looked out into the expanse, illuminated by the bright colour box. They remained vigilant, hiding behind a cushion. Jenny was stupid and also dumb, but they’d seen her obliterate a spider like it had made a personal threat against her family. Floret would be careful to avoid her wrath.
They hoisted themself onto the back of the couch and slinked along it, holding their breath as they passed behind Jenny’s head. Beside her, on a low table, was a small pile of Baby’s possessions. Baby’s puppo plush, it’s rattle, and bot bot. Bot bot does have a squishy little nub like the dummy, but Baby’s feeling chewy, not hungy, and Floret isn’t about to cut corners on such an important mission. There was a note as well, some brutish scribbles all in straight lines. It was gibberish, and boring. Not important.
Floret had been certain the dummy would be there. Where else could it be? They pondered for a while. No, it can’t be. They spun around to look through the archway that lead into the kitchen. Mistress Kaitlin sometimes took the dummy away for cleaning. Baby always complained that it never tasted the same when it came back. That’s the only place it could be.
“Ew! What’s that!?”
‘Oh no’. Floret had moved too quickly. In their haste the beast Jenny had been alerted to their presence. Jenny rose and began to turn, catching only a glimpse of Floret as they tumbled off the back of lounge, landed heavily, and rolled underneath. Their leg throbbed. The fall had twisted their line art and reopened the smudge on their leg. They pulled it close to their chest and rocked back and forth, eyes shut tight.
After a moment, they dragged themselves slowly to peer out from under the couch just in time to see the nozzle of an insect spray can being lowered in their direction. They squeaked in terror and held their breath as the space around them flooded with the noxious gas. It seeped in behind their bunny mask, making their eyes water and nostrils burn. They held their breath till their lungs were aching.
The stream of gas stopped and Jenny leaned down cautiously trying to spy her victim. Floret took their chance. Running through searing pain, out of her line of sight, Floret dove forward into the pattern on Jenny’s horrific floral shirt. Instantly they felt a wave of anesthesia wash over them. Their colours were bright yet soft and the calm patterns of the waves and palm trees washed away the pain in their leg and lungs. They sat down, on a small sandy island and waited.
Jenny rose slowly from the ground and began to make her way out to the kitchen. Dropping the repellent on a bench she pulled open the pantry and started rifling through packets of snacks. Floret leaned back in the sand and tisked. Goodness Jenny. What poor eating habits you have formed. Baby has only existed for a matter of months and already sustains itself on bananas and pumpkin. Baby will be strong Jennifer. You could learn a thing or two.
Jenny seemed satisfied with a packet of orange triangles and turned to leave. Floret made their move and scampered up a palm tree onto Jenny’s shoulder. Wait for it. They readied themself. Wait for it. They bent their knees. Wait for it! They took a deep breath. Now!
They jumped like a frog out of Jenny’s shirt, somersaulting onto the bench, and in a sudden rush, all their pain returned. Their leg buckled beneath them and they collapsed to the bench top, coughing up splatters of paint. Their lungs felt like sandpaper and their leg was all wrinkled but they’d come this far and they wouldn’t let Baby down now.
They dragged themselves to the edge of the counter and looked down. The machine was closed. They gritted their teeth and slowly began to brace their arms on the bench and slowly lower their good leg down to push open its door. They tried their best to take in a deep breath and began to push. At first there was no result except for the cry of pain Floret let out but then with a sudden click the door swung down and with it a rush of hot steam billowed out. The heat and water loosened Florets grip and they fell, deep down into the machine.
Floret awoke to a pain so vast it was numbing. Their vision was blurred from the heat and they’d lost all feeling in their right arm. They blinked and looked over to the side. They’d landed on their back, on the now horizontal door, but their arm, outstretched, had landed in a puddle of water.
They tried slowly to lift it but it had soaked through and as they cradled it, it fell apart, running through their hands like wet sand. They cried, and painted dripped down their cheeks and into the heart of the dishwasher. They held onto their empty shoulder and watched as their paint coloured the water.
They sat for a moment till slowly a sound echoed from another room in the house. Baby still needed them.
They pulled themself to their feet, leaning to one side and looked ahead to the cutlery cubical. There it was. The dummy. Red and white and clean. They hobbled forward and pulled a hook from their bag, a ribbon tied to its end. They looked toward the dummy, trembling, and began to swing the hook round and around before releasing it and letting it fly through the air. It landed in the compartment but missed the dummy.
They swung, the hook went sailing and hit the dummy, but didn’t hook onto it.
Come on. One more try.
They swung it hard and let it fly. It arched through the air, bounced off a plate and hooked onto the dummy’s handle.
Floret let out a strained grin and began to pull on the ribbon, dragging the dummy towards them. Finally, they picked it up, shook it a few times as retribution for the trouble it has caused, and tied it to their satchel.
Then, they turned.
How in Disney would they get back. Surely they wouldn’t survive another encounter with Jenny, not with one less arm and a busted leg. And they couldn’t risk waiting for her to fall asleep. Baby needed the dummy now. They lowered themself to their knees and rested their head in their hand.
But a sound grew closer. They looked up slowly to see Trevor lumbering into the kitchen toward them. Tears began to roll down their cheeks.
‘No, why now?’ they thought. They couldn’t bring themself to move. They sat in silence and hopelessness as Trevor approached and sniffed deeply. Trevor looked at Floret with big brown eyes and slowly lowered his head to match the height of the dishwasher door. Floret hesitated, cradling their shoulder but when he didn’t move or make a sound, they slowly crept forward and climbed up over Trevor’s head and onto his back. They nestled into his fur and held tight to his collar. When they had settled in, Trevor rose to his normal height and plodded off back into the living room.
“I swear it was the size of a goddamn mouse, Lucy, it probably had rabies.”
Jenny, Thrasher of Dreams, Devourer of Sweets, Bane of Baby, was curled up in an armchair rambling into her phone. Floret swore to one day seek revenge, even if they had to be recycled into a newspaper that would tell her her favourite band was breaking up to do it. Jenny probably still read newspapers. Like a dork. As Trevor spirited them into the hallway, Floret spat a wad of paint onto one of Jenny’s shoes that was sitting by the door. Eat lead Jenny, this is my house now.
Trevor wandered down the hall and into Baby’s room. It cried and wailed to the uncaring void, thrashing its weak arms in protest. Trevor trotted up to the cot and parked himself alongside it. Floret leaned forward and hugged him around the neck.
“Thanks Trevor,’ they whispered, ‘you’re not so bad after all.” Trevor stood on his back legs to give Floret a boost as they grabbed onto the blanket and pulled themself up into the cot. Baby flailed at the injustice of the world and didn’t notice Floret approach until they were beside its chubby face.
“Hello Baby. I have returned.” Baby looked at Floret and let its cries fade to sobs. “Baby. I am pleased to inform you that I have retrieved your dummy.” Floret reached down and untied the dummy from their satchel. They held it up high and with a happy gurgle, Baby grasped it with both hands and popped it in its mouth. Baby chewed gratefully and closed its eyes, cuddling up in its blanket.
Floret smiled weakly and made their way down from the cot. They limped through the carpet field and with a heavy breath, climbed back into the mural. A cloud was already waiting for them. They took a seat and slowly it raised them up. Under the painted sky they climbed their soft green hill and sat beneath the cherry tree. They watched as Baby drifted off to sleep.