The Dream Twister - September 2003
The Boy, The Girl, The Magician, and the Donkey - Alex Crosse
(page 9/14)

The Boy, The Girl, The Magician, and the Donkey

Alex Crosse

Long ago, in the days of the Western Han, there lived an elderly widow and her only son. Even from an early age the son had shown much promise, showing devotion and wisdom that was far beyond his years. But when he was still young tragedy befell the family and his father passed away. With no one to earn money for the family, the widow and her son soon fell on desperate times. Although still slight of years, the boy felt he should shoulder the responsibility of supporting the family and caring for his mother. So while others of his age enjoyed the pleasures of youth, the boy worked hard to earn his keep. He soon became very lonely and longed for companions to share his life with but his devotion to the needs of his family prevented him from meeting those of his own age and so the boy remained alone.

Years passed and soon the time came for him to travel to the capital at Nanjing to take the Imperial examinations. Although apprehensive of leaving his ageing mother, he understood the benefits this would bring him and his mother in later years, for a good mark would ensure a secure employment as a magistrate. So he gathered together a few belongings and some food and set off on the long journey to the city of Nanjing, many miles away. It was late afternoon when the road passed through a small wood. As he entered the shadow of the trees when he caught the sound of someone crying. Following the sound the boy soon happened upon a small clearing. In the clearing he found a donkey, and standing next to the donkey, with her arms around its neck, was a young girl. He was immediately struck by here stunning beauty and at once fell madly in love with her. Seeing that she was in a state of great distress, he hurried over to see if he could do anything to help. The girl explained that the wood, where she had lived with her mother and father, belonged to a magician and in return for their home her father had worked for the magician. But when her father had died there was no way that her either she or her mother could pay the rent and after many months of not paying the magician had become angry and turned her mother into a donkey. She told him that the magician had just this day left for Nanjing and that all she could do was wait for his return so she could beg him to restore her mother to her true form. The boy explained that he too was on the way to Nanjing, and so moved was he by her plight that the boy offered to catch up with the magician and persuade him to return and remove the curse from her mother. He asked her how he could recognise him The girl told him that him that the magician had the body of a man but the head of a boar. The boy then bade her farewell promising to return soon with the magician. He then set off in the direction of Nanjing, buoyed up by a new sense of purpose. He travelled quickly but despite cover a large distance he saw no one on the road. By late evening he still had not found the magician and as darkness fell he was forced to stop at an inn for the night. As he sat eating his evening meal his attention was drawn by a cloaked figure sitting in a shadowed corner. The rest of the inn's patrons seemed loathed to go near the figure, even those waiting on him approached with a slow caution before hurrying away after delivering his orders. The boy squinted into the darkness but could see none of the figure's features for he was shrouded in a large travelling cloak and a large black hood obscured his face. The boy watched him and as he did the person leaned forward and the glow from the fire briefly illuminated the inside of the hood and the boy saw he did indeed have the head of a boar. Plucking up courage he approached the magician and introduced himself. He then set about explaining how he had found the girl and the donkey in the wood and what they had told him. He then offered to pay as much of the debt as his little money would allow if he would change the mother back to there true form. The magician thought for a moment and then, admitting he had been a little harsh on the unfortunate family, agreed to return with the boy the next day to the clearing. So early the next day the boy and the magician set off back the way they had came. It was about midday when they finally reached the clearing to find the girl and her mother waiting patiently. The girl was overjoyed to see him and thanked profusely for the trouble he had gone to help her. The magician walked silently over to the donkey and with a wave of his wand the donkey vanished to be replaced with a jet-black mare many hands tall. The girl with a cry of joy ran over to the mare and threw her hands around its neck. "And now," said the magician, "to return you to your true form." And with another wave of his wand the girl vanished to be replaced with a sleek black foal. With one last glance at the boy the mare and her daughter disappeared into the darkness of the wood. Wide-eyed the boy turned to the magician but to his surprise he too had vanished. With a heavy heart the boy returned to the road and continued his journey to Nanjing alone.