She danced above the stage. Twirling and bending so gracefully. Her black dress and shoes glistening under the spotlight, as she glided before the audience. Tears spilled out of his eyes. He was so proud. There, his granddaughter danced above him, fulfilling a dream that his daughter once had. Claps echoed in the chamber, as the lights came on and the music came to an end. A flash. He smiled, knowing it was one of his grandsons, capturing the moment with the new photography spell they’ve developed.
He could still remember the night that he found them all…
He drew in a ragged breath, as he stopped to wipe his sweat. The hill grew harder to climb every year. Had it not been for the snowstorm, he probably would’ve been at the top already. He paused, sitting on a log to take a drink of water. Despite the howling winds and the bone-chilling cold, dehydration was still a prevalent problem. He’d been travelling for days now. At his current rate of travel, he’d be home in less than an hour’s walk the following morning.
As he tucked the waterskin back under his belt, a pink patch in the snow caught his eye. Strange. Although he was at the entrance to the woods, in his experience, due to the prevalence of human activity, it wasn’t common for animals to frequent the area. Was someone injured? He let out a breath as it became clear to him that the source of the color wasn’t a stain in the snow, but an object buried in the white covers.
Bending down, he sucked in a breath. It was a ballet shoe. Memories flooded into his mind. Some beautiful, others not so. But memories that he cherished nonetheless. He sighed, turning back for the path. A distinct wail resounded behind him. A sound that he’d never forget. Pausing in his steps, his heartbeats audible in his chest, tears stained his cheeks. With a deep inhale, he turned to face the direction of the shoe.
His mouth fell agape. Hidden beneath the underbrush next to the ballet slipper were three infant cradles, each carrying a different infant. How could anyone choose to leave their children behind in such cold? His old limbs already felt chilled to the core, despite having passed through the route many times before. How could mere infants tolerate the cold?
Without hesitation, he lifted the cradles. These would be his children now. He was never one that put much weight to local superstitions. Recent beliefs had it that making sacrificial offerings of children to the forest brought about good luck. Doing his best to move along with the three cradles, he continued his walk toward home. Although, he could probably rest for the night, he couldn’t say the same about the children.
The cold unforgiving winter air blew against his face, as he moved one cradle after another, lifting and placing one down before returning for another. Slowly, he made progress. Hours later, he set down the final cradle at his front door, after having traveled at a rate several times slower than he was used to. Sweat drenched his clothes. Every inch of muscle burned, threatening to force his old bones to rest.
He gritted his teeth, denying them victory. Straightening, he unlocked his door, and towed each cradle into the little log cabin that he called home. Forcing himself over to the fireplace, despite the weight of his arms and legs, he started a fire. Then, moving the cradles toward the fire, and sitting before them, he opened them, one at a time. Smiling children looked up at him. Smiles that he returned. Tears fell from his eyes, despite his tiredness. He was going to be a grandfather at last.
“Grand-papa!” His granddaughter shouted, as she ran over to him, still in her black dress and shoes that he has specially prepared for her for this event.
He smiled, accepting her into a hug, as he was joined by his two grandsons. He had lost his wife and daughter early, but the Lord was kind enough to bless him, in his old age, with three more children of his own. A ballet dancing granddaughter. Two magically-talented grandsons. Three new members to his family that he would forever be grateful for.
He couldn’t stop the tears that fell from his eyes, as he closed all three children into a hug. He couldn’t have been happier that the Lord led him into the forest that day. No matter what others might’ve felt about sacrificed children, these three would always be a part of his family. His grandchildren. He lifted his face to find them smiling up at him. Smiles that he would cherish and protect for as long as he lived.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
The MacGuffin “Not the plot, just the object essential to the plot” THE PLOT: An old man is left to care for three orphaned children THE MACGUFFIN: A pink ballet slipper