GERTRUDE THE OCTOPUS
By Terry Barnett
There was an octopus named Gertrude.
Her body was pink and her head was too.
Gertrude had lots of dolls,
Such as fish dolls and dish dolls.
Dolls that cry and dolls that squeak,
Dolls that laugh and dolls that peek
Good and bad dolls
Happy and sad dolls.
The only doll Gertrude didn’t have
Was an O C T O P U S doll.
So Gertrude went out the door,
And headed right for the toy store.
She found a box that had lots of dolls
And lots of balls.
Finally she found an octopus doll.
It was purple, and Mildred was what it was called.
Happily she strolled back to her home,
With a new octopus doll of her very own.
by Kate Appleyard
Harry was thrilled when his friend Arn told him of a competition in the local paper.
“ Top prize for the best essay on any animal is a visit to Disneyland “,Arn announced with a glint in his eyes.
An essay Harry thought. What was there to write about? Most people would choose cats and dogs, that he was sure of. When dad heard about it, he suggested a visit to the cinema.
“ Maybe that will help you come up with an idea . “
“ Have you been to the new cinema in town,” Arn asked.
“ Nope, I rarely got money to go to a cinema, so why should I be interested?”
“ You Ignoramus,” Arn remarked, just a little bit haughty.
“S’pose so, but am I complaining?”
Arn burst out laughing and looked at his friend.
“ This time you will be interested. This cinema is special , dead cool in fact , just you wait.”
Dad, who never minded a bit of extra pocket money for a good cause laughed and pushed a note onto the kitchen table.
“ You write that winning essay and it will be money well spent ,” he told Harry.
When they reached the building that housed the cinema, Harry could not help being surprised. Seven floors full of whatever and there was an incredible din. No wonder, when the ground-floor housed any number of shoot them ups and racing games. Right in front of Harry a huge, green sign kept flashing.
“ I got it, it’s a virtual cinema! “
“Shut up and look for the elevator, we’re be up quicker”, Arn whispered.
What a turn-out. Inside the lift, there were monitors build into every wall. Without warning, the screens came alive and a vaguely human looking blue blob began to scream.
“ Attention, especially you who think you know it all. When inside the cinema, sit down and put on your seat belt immediately. If you have trouble, raise your arm “!
Harry shook his head. This was weird. Why should you need a seatbelts in a cinema?
Arn smiled and told him to do as requested.
When the screen went dark, Harry stared at the Australian Outback baking in a pale yellow sun. A boat with several people was gliding down a narrow river and when the picture closed up, a blond man turned round and looked at him.
“ You are now part of an expedition to find out the habits of crocodiles. Stay close behind, but never think you’re safe. Crocs are reptilian dinosaurs, who have adapted extremely well. They are masterpieces of prehistoric survival. In a minute you will see them lying on the mud banks, warming their cold blood. With sight, hearing and smell second to none, keep very still, the slightest vibration in the water will alert them “.
Harry stared into the cloudy, green water and felt his throat tighten, in fact his whole body was full of apprehension. He knew that crocks were very strong- willed creatures, that would attack even large animals with extreme ferociousness. It was precisely that speed and ferocity that made them survivors.
“ We are now sailing into a mango creek , were crocs are absolute masters on the river ‘ the blond man explained again.
Harry felt his hands go damp and shaky, but his eyes kept searching the scorching landscape.
What was going on? Why did it feel as if he was in the action?
And there they were. Gaping mouth’s turned towards the sun showed rows of vicious, razor-sharp teeth. The boat stopped and he kept close to the men, who seeking better protection, decided to make for higher ground. The sun had almost gone and soon enough it was dark. The eerie sounds of the night came out.
Then he saw them pulling a small mesh cage from a landrover on standby.
“ Crocs are more active at night ‘, the blond man said as he climbed into the cage and held the door open for Harry.
There was little choice, so he crouched into a corner, his eyes following some horrible, putrid bait they were throwing out. Fat, white maggots dropped into the water and Harry started retching. A bright light came on.
“‘ Its to stun them, a sort of defence, “ someone murmured.
Harry nodded and told himself it was not real, but the fear that kept rising from the pit of his stomach refused to go away.
He could not see any faces. They were all wearing glasses and a mouthpiece that reached to the lifesaving oxygen tank on their backs.
Time went, but the crocs who did not like the light stayed away.
“ Did you see the little man in front of the boat, “ the blond man whispered again.
“ He can call crocks with incredibly weird sounds; so don’t worry, you will see them”.
Who wants to see them Harry thought. I just want to get out of here. But before he could make a decision, there they were. Hundreds of them and it felt as if they were crowding in on him. The cage, being just below the water surface, allowed him to see the countless snouts rising from the murky water. Every hair on his body stood up and he stiffened. When the attack on the cage began, he screamed his terror into the night.
“ Help, Help me.”
The bait tied to the top of the cage bounced as soon a first body hit it. Cold eyes stared unblinkingly at Harry, as he kept howling with fear. No doubt, those crocs would rather pull the cage to the bottom of the river, before letting go of the food.
The water was swirling madly and Harry, breathing heavily and ready to give in to destiny, saw a small herd of buffalo arrive further down the river. The croc’s took the opportunity and when one shot out of the water, it broke the buffalo’s neck just snapping it and going into a death-roll.
Harry was still screaming when the lights went on. Once outside, he realised he had lost his voice, but gained the perfect subject for that all important essay.
By Kate Appleyard
He had faded away beautifully. One day, when people no longer talked about him the unicorn had closed it’s eyes. The warm sun no longer reached him, but gentle, white clouds had carried him to the little planet where all mythical creatures go when their time comes to an end.
Now he was alone in a barren, limitless plain with just an old tree for company. The tree had only rough, gnarled branches to offer, and having no other shelter, the unicorn laid down, teardrops in his eyes.
“ Come now Sonny, it’s not that bad, there’s no need to cry”.
Where did the voice come from? He could not see a soul.
“Look up silly, it’s me!”
Raising his head, he noticed a pale image on the trunk of the tree. So that’s what it was. The spirit of the tree was talking to him. Not great, but better then nothing.
“I’m sorry, but being in a place I’ve never seen always gets me down,” he sniped.
The spirit of the tree looked wistful.
“Hm, I’m around for nearly a thousand years, take my word you get used to it.”
“But I don’t want to get used to it,” the unicorn cried.
“Alright, so you don’t want to, but like the others you have to.”
“There are others?”
“Well of course Sonny, even those who are not real need friends.”
“But I am real,” the unicorn cried.
The spirit grew silent, but only for a moment.
“It’s sad, but fact is you’re only real as long as people believe in you.”
Before the unicorn could object again, a huge, fearsome Tatzelworm jumped through the air toward him and settled in the grass. Nostrils flaring and glowing, the dragon squinted and stared at him. Having never seen a creature like it, the unicorn tilted its head, his curled horn ready to attack.
“Chill out, I’m a bit old for that. In fact, I can not even remember ever breathing fire,” the dragon groaned. “I mean no harm. Look on me as a welcoming friend who passes on the things you have to know. You don’t want to upset the Griffin with your ignorance, do you?”
“I’m sorry, I did not know,” the highly embarrassed unicorn cried. “ I just, I just…”
“Never mind, lay down and listen.”
The old tree, trying hard to provide more shade, shook his crown and was all ears as well.
“Here goes! All creatures ever created by mans imagination end up on Rainbow Planet, but the planet only exists as long as we believe in it. When we stop believing, it will simply vanish. The same thing happens to all of us. People stop believing and we have to go.
“There was a time when I was beautiful and green, but that was long ago,” the spirit of the tree whispered.
“There was a time, when every living creature feared me. I could breath fire like no other, I think,” the Tatzelworm remarked.
“Are we then here to stay forever,” the unicorn asked.
“O no, there will always be people who believe and when there are enough we can go back.”
The dragons eyes looked sad.
“I have not seen the start of a rainbow for many a year and the Griffins time is stretching into centuries. They do no longer need heraldic creatures. That’s why he now is our king, so show him the respect he deserves. Don’t focus on him too long, for he is touchy beyond belief.”
“I’m sorry, I do not mean to offend,” the unicorn whispered highly embarrassed.
A shadow fell onto the group and a beautiful winged horse now slightly out of breath glided down.
“Hi everybody. Hope you don’t mind me joining Tatz. Got great news for some, but first I must rest.”
The dragon turned towards the unicorn.
“ Now this is Pegasus our daily messenger. He lets us know when we can slide down the rainbow and go back to earth.”
“It won’t be long Sonny,” the spirit of the tree declared.
Things got too much and the unicorns eyes began to get heavy. Just before falling asleep he saw a bright red sun falling into the clouds.
A new day dawned. When he woke up a giant who had sat beside him shook his head.
“I have been waiting here for hours.”
Sonny recognized him immediately. It was Argus with the many eyes.
“I’m here to lead you to our daily meeting.”
Sonny kept quiet as he trudged beside the huge man through a valley with a lovely fruit orchard. The path was covered in purple clover and fat, green grass.
“Don’t walk through the grass,” the giant urged, but unable to resist the soft bedding on his hooves, the unicorn paid no attention. Shortly after he began to feel hungry and soon the pain in his stomach became unbearable. He reared and picked up a fruit hoping to still the nagging ache. Almost instantly he dropped it when it began to move in his mouth. The orange burst open and out flew a fruit fairy furious and screaming with anger.
“I don’t believe it. A tree laden with fruit and you have to pick the one that’s my home. Go away, or I put a curse on you.”
When the startled unicorn pranced, Argus reached into his pocket and threw a handful of ash-berries at her. Almost instantly she dashed away. The giant shook his head.
“Let’s go before you attract more grief.”
He picked up three apples and gave them to the unicorn.
“You better eat these before it’s too late. You walked on hungry grass and most of us die, if we don’t eat soon after.”
In the distance stood a crowd and as they came closer peculiar beings crossed their path.
Suddenly he saw the Griffin in all it’s glory. Perched on the edge of a small rock, he had lost nothing of his former splendour. His wings glistened in the sun and his golden eyes shimmered. The terror people once felt when looking at his beak and claws had created a majestic aura around him. The vibes that came from the rock were strong and clear. Scary and fierce, he was a born leader, a paragon of force and beauty.
At his side was, well, it must be the Queen. A phoenix so lovely, it took his breath a way. Her crown of wispy feathers shadowed gentle eyes and when the sun fell on her plumage, he could see all the colours of the rainbow. The unicorn stared in awe, only just remembering what the Tatz had said. Averting his eyes, he froze and only moved when Argus touched his mane.
“Time to go, we are last.”
The rest of the day was spent lazing by the river and Argus told him more about the fairies.
“If you were a real horse, you’re hooves would protect you. Fairies don’t like iron, you were lucky. They are a devious lot, pretty, but devious. Next time be prepared and listen to those who want to help you.”
Months passed by and eventually the unicorn lost track of time. Then one day Pegasus called for him.
“Your time has come Sonny. See the spirit of the tree and she will tell you what to do.”
Unable to speak, the unicorn only got excited when he heard the familiar voice again. He could not wait to do as she suggested. When eventually he stood on top of the rainbow, he closed his eyes and made a wish. As he opened them again, he saw a meadow where lots of animals were grazing. A peacock strolled over and in the distance he could see children play. Was the Tatz right when he had told him that those who believed could see him? As he slowly walked towards the children a young boy suddenly cried out.
“ Look at the beautiful unicorn!”
The peacock opened his tail feathers and as a hundred eyes looked at the unicorn he heard the voice of his friend Argus.
“ Keep on walking Sonny, this is your day.”