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the Girl and the Smile People
for Kim - December 11, 1997

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived with her family in the Village of Happy, near the River of Bears. She lived there for most of her childhood only leaving for short periods of time with her family to visit the Outside World. She spent most of her time playing with her small friends, the Smile People, who lived amongst the others in the village.

The Smile People were a gleeful group of people. Just being around them or even thinking of them would bring a seemingly everlasting smile to the girl. There was nothing that she would rather do than to spend all her days playing with them and listening to their great stories and wisdom. They believed in dreams and their beliefs gave them a great strength. Even in the face of their greatest fears, they were always able to find a smile.

The girl had known the Smile People for all of her young life and she believed with all her heart in the great fairytale life and love that they believed in.

As a young child, the girl had heard the tales told by the village elders, warning about the Outside World and the evil people who dwelled there. Because it was considered to be a very dangerous and dark world, it was very rare that she would leave the village; and when she did, she was always accompanied by a care watcher.

It was on one of these trips to the Outside World that the girl came upon a special boy living in a small home in the Town of Friendly, near the River of Saints. He had been playing outside one day when she happened upon him. She was surprised to find the boy and found herself familiarly attracted. Still, she was sure to heed the warning of the village elders; only spending brief moments at a time watching him, and always from a distance.

The boy was very aware and curious of the young girl who watched him. He had never experienced anything like this and was nervous and unsure of what to do; until early one morning, when he got an idea.

Later that day, when the girl went to watch the boy again, she came upon a trail of sweet candy. She followed the trail, gathering the candy as she went, until she saw that it led to the boy's home. Realizing this, she stopped, frightened that this might be some kind of trap. Then suddenly, she was overcome with a great smile and the feeling that she should keep going. As she arrived at the end of the trail, she was met by the boy, who had been waiting anxiously for her. The two stood quietly, looking into each other's eyes.

It was a few minutes before the girl found the courage to talk to the boy. Having done so, she found it more and more difficult to stay away for long; and so she would meet to talk with him as often as she could sneak away from the care watchers.

For several days, they talked and played secretly together. Never had either of them had so much fun as this. The girl wished so greatly that she could stay, or that the boy could return with her to the Village of Happy; but, she knew this would never be allowed. She feared losing the great smile that the boy had brought to her and, as the end of her trip drew near, she became more and more saddened by the thought.

Finally, the last day of her visit had come and she was afraid that she would never see the boy again. She awoke before the sun, in hopes of sneaking out to see him while her care watchers still slept. But to her surprise, they had already awaken. She was worried that the boy would think she had forgotten him when she did not arrive as they had planned. She waited until finally the care watchers turned away, then she hurried out of sight. In moments she was at the boy's side.

"I can not stay, but a moment." she said sadly, "I only have time to say good-bye." With those words, the girl turned and left the boy's home.

The boy found himself deeply saddened with the thought that he would never see the girl again. His head hung down as he began quietly weeping. At that moment, he felt someone come to his side. He looked up to find the girl standing near him. She quickly kissed him on the cheek and spoke softly, "I will miss you always." Before the boy could reply, she was gone.

Saddened, the girl returned to her home. Several days had gone by, where all the girl could think of was the boy she had met. She went to her friends, the Smile People, and told them all about the boy and the great smile she had shared with him.

"The boy that you speak of is one of us; but, he has been separated from us since he was very young." they said, "He is indeed special, and you have been very fortunate to find him. But, you must know that you might never see him again."

"But, why?" she cried, "Was it chance or fate that we should meet?"

"That can only be told by the path that lies ahead." said the Smile People, "That path will be decided by you and the boy. But, be warned. If you choose to now seek him further, a great time of silence will burden you. It may be a time of life that you can not escape. For it takes a great strength to survive the time of silence, and few people believe strongly enough."

Although she understood the warnings given to her by the Smile People, she could not ignore the feeling that she had to find a way to communicate with the boy. She knew that the only way she could communicate with someone in the Outside World was to call upon the aid of the village scribe, who often travelled outside the village.

She anxiously started writing of all that she wanted the boy to know. About how she missed him so and how she wished that they could be together again. When she had finished writing all her thoughts and feelings down, she rolled the paper into a scroll, tied it with ribbon and sealed it with wax dripped from a candle. She then quickly went to the scribe's home.

"I need your help." said the girl.

"Anything, my child." spoke the scribe.

"I need you to take this letter to a boy in the Town of Friendly." she said, "He is a very special boy who does not belong in the Outside World. We have been placed apart and I know not why. The Smile People have warned me about it, but I so much long to see him again." she cried.

"The Smile People are very wise, but I can see that you belive very strongly in this." said the scribe, "I will do what I can to help you."

As he readied himself to leave, the girl spoke, "When you have placed my words into the boy's own hands and he has read them, please wait and return with his reply."

The girl waited, what seemed like months, for the return of the village scribe. Finally, after a couple weeks had past, the scribe arrived with a reply from the boy.

"There are no words to tell you how happy the boy was to receive your letter." said the scribe, "He misses you greatly."

"And I miss him, too." cried the girl.

For a very long time the boy and girl continued to write, as often as the scribe could deliver their letters. But as time went on, the boy noticed that the girl's words seemed sad, as she began to write of a village far from her home.

Eventually, the scribe brought word to the boy that the girl and her family had moved to a large village much farther away. "I will continue to deliver your letters, as best I can." he said, "But, I am an old man, and her new home is very far from my village."

"I understand." said the boy, "You are a good friend to have helped us this long."

"I have come to believe in this, too." said the scribe.

The boy and girl continued to write, but the greater distance meant that their letters would be less frequent. And they were, much so.

Over time, the girl's letters grew more and more distant and concerned. In one, she spoke of a man that had been watching her for some time, "He is a very dark man and I wonder of his intentions towards me." she wrote.

When the boy's following letters received no replies, he became worried and decided to make the long trip to see the girl.

Upon his arrival, the boy was greeted by the girl, who seemed very happy to see him. Though it had been a very long time since they had seen each other, she seemed much quieter than he had remembered.

The boy was tired from his long trip, so he laid down to rest. When he awoke, he was immediately confronted by a very dark and strange man. "Surely, this is the man that she had written about." he thought. The boy recognized immediately that the man was hiding something; but what, he could not be sure. Sensing the boy's suspicion, the man avoided him as much as possible, but always stayed close enough to keep a watchful eye.

The boy was worried for the girl and tried to speak with her every chance he could. But no matter how hard he tried, he was always deterred by the man's constant watching.

Finally, one unexpected day, the boy awoke to find that the girl was alone. When he was sure that the man was not hiding nearby, he quickly went to speak to the girl.

"I do not trust this man." warned the boy, "I'm convinced that he wears a disguise. You must free yourself of him, before it is too late."

"This man chased after me for a long time." explained the girl, "I fled from him, until finally I grew tired and could escape his pursuit no longer. I have been with him ever since. I do not understand the hold that he has on me; but I feel I must stay with him. Please, understand."

The girl sat down next to the boy and gently rested his head on her lap, "I am afraid for you, if you stay here. I can not know what this man might do. You must leave soon."

"I will go, only because you have asked this of me." said the boy, "But know, that I will always be there for you."

As the boy started to get up to leave, the girl stopped him and carefully placed a special ring on his ear, "This will help you to remember me and to believe, no matter what happens." she said softly.

The boy returned home, very sad and worried for the girl. Although he wanted very desperately to write her, he thought it best to wait in hopes that the girl would send word to him that she was okay.

Several months passed and the boy had heard nothing from the girl. Finally, he could wait no longer. The boy sent for the scribe and carefully instructed him, "Make sure the girl is alone before giving her this letter. I know not what the man might do if he knew." With that, the scribe set out on his way.

The scribe had taken an unusually long time to return and when he finally did, he came with bad news, "I went to where the girl had been living, but she was no longer there. I asked the other villagers about her, but none knew of where she had gone. Some rumoured that an evil man had taken her away."

"You have done all that you could." said the boy, "I thank you with all my heart. Go home, my friend. When I find her, I will send word."

The boy packed a small bag of clothing and food and set out, determined to keep looking until he found the girl.

For many years the boy continued to search, in hopes of finding some clue or path to follow. But in all his efforts, he could find nobody who knew of the girl or knew where she might have been taken.

He remembered what the girl had written to him of the Smile People's warnings. He knew now, that this was the time of silence that they had predicted. Despite their words of discouragement, he refused to give up.

Having travelled all around the world looking, with no signs of hope, the boy eventually returned to the village where he had last seen her. Among the villagers, he heard rumours of an Evil Keeper who had imprisoned a girl in a dark stone castle on a high garden hill, near the Park of Neverlasting. "Could this be her? Could she have been here in this same village all of this time?" he wondered.

The boy decided to go and investigate the rumours. As he neared the castle, his ear, where the girl had placed the special ring so long ago, began to grow unusually warm. "This is surely a sign that I am close!" he thought.

Excited, he circled around the great castle in search of a way inside. But strangely, he could find no doors or windows. "Perhaps, if I could find a way to the top of the castle." he wondered.

The boy thought for a few minutes and then got an idea. He began searching behind the castle where he came upon an old abandoned barn, which he entered.

In one corner amongst cob-webs, the boy found a chest pushed up against a pile of cloth and rags. He quickly tried to open the chest, but it was locked. Anxious to keep working, he pushed the chest aside and dragged the large cloth outside.

He ripped the old rags in to very thin strips and used them to carefully sew the larger cloth pieces together. Then he went to the nearby woods and gathered tree branches, which he wove into a large basket. He fastened the basket to the sewn cloth with rope and filled the basket with large rocks. When he was done, he built a fire in the center of the basket.

Over the next while, the large cloth filled with air heated by the fire, until it had risen up like a large balloon above the basket. When it was full, the boy climbed into the basket and began throwing the large rocks out onto the ground. As he did, the basket began to float up into the sky.

Within minutes, the balloon had risen up above the castle. But, the boy was dismayed to discover that the castle was completely roofed in stone. Sadly, he put out the fire, and as the air cooled, the balloon slowly returned to the ground.

A great crowd of people from the nearby village, having seen the great balloon in the sky, had come and gathered around the castle to see what was happening.

"Are you here to help the girl who has been imprisoned by the Evil Keeper?" came a voice from the crowd.

"Yes." the boy said, "But, I have searched all around and above the castle and I can find no way in."

"Perhaps, if you dug down under the castle." shouted a voice from the crowd.

The boy called for them to help him, and within minutes, dozens of the villagers were digging into the ground around the castle walls. For many hours they continued, but no entrance was found. When all seemed hopeless, the villagers stopped digging and returned to their homes.

For many hours the boy sat alone, staring at the castle. "There just has to be some way in." thought the boy. Just then, a family of Mice People appeared from a small crack in the castle wall. The crack was much too small for the boy to enter, so he talked to the Mice People.

"Is there anyone inside the castle?" asked the boy.

"We know of a girl who lives within the castle, but we keep away from her because she is guarded by a large cat." spoke one of the mice.

"What of the Evil Keeper?" asked the boy, "Does he live inside, too?"

"We have heard that he has imprisoned the girl in this castle, but we have never seen him." said the mouse.

"One of you must go to the girl and tell her that I am here to help her." said the boy.

"Why should we risk our lives to help you?" said the Mice People, "What is in it for us?"

The boy thought for a moment and then spoke, "If I am able to free the girl from this castle, I will see that the cat leaves too. Then you and your family will have the whole castle, safely to yourselves."

The Mice People were convinced and, when they were sure the cat would be sleeping, one of their bravest went to deliver the boy's message.

Shortly after, the mouse returned, "I found the girl and told her your message, but she could not hear me. She seemed to be in a very deep sleep. I tried several times to awaken her, but she continued to lay there without a sound. I had to leave, for fear that the cat would awaken from the noise I was making."

The boy was saddened, but believed with all his heart that there was still some way to help the girl, "Wait here for me, I will be back soon."

In a few hours, the boy returned with a small handful of seeds which he gave to the Mice People, "Take these into the castle and bury them in some dirt near the girl."

"But, there is no sunlight inside the castle, these seeds will never grow!" explained one of the mice.

"These are magic seeds." said the boy, "They will grow almost immediately after you plant them. Take them and put them where the girl will be sure to see and smell the flowers that will grow. Then, wait to see what happens."

After a short time, the mouse returned, "The seeds, they are truly magic! They grew quickly, as you said they would, into a beautiful garden of roses. The beautiful smell awoke the girl and she sat up to see. But as she did, the flowers withered and died, as fast as they had grown. I tried again to speak to her, but she quickly fell back into her deep sleep."

Again, the boy was discouraged, but knew that he had to keep believing. He sat and thought some more and then spoke, "There is only one more thing that I can try. I will send a message to the girl's home in the Village of Happy for all of her friends, the Smile People, to come. They will know what to do!"

Many days and nights passed while the boy waited for the arrival of the Smile People. He continued to try and stir the girl from her deep sleep, but nothing seemed to be enough to keep her awake for more than just a moment. The boy had grown tired and confused. He had done everything that he could think of to help the girl find her lost smile and to remember who he was. He had tried to fight the Evil Keeper's sleeping curse, but he knew of nothing else that he could do.

The boy started going over the past days in his mind, hoping that there was something that he had missed. In doing so, he remembered the old chest that he had discovered in the barn. "Maybe the answer is inside that chest." he thought.

He picked up a large rock and went to the barn. Inside, he walked over to where the chest was, knelt down and began to brush the dust from the top. As he did, he noticed that there was writing scratched into the wood. He carefully wiped the surface clean, revealing the words "I once believed, with all my heart."

The boy took the large rock and smashed it against the lock, again and again. The lock broke open and fell to the ground. He opened the chest and found it filled with the girl's keepsakes, memories of everything from her past and hopes for her life to come.

Set to one side was a package, wrapped especially and with great care. The boy picked it up and gently opened it. Here he found all the letters that he had sent to her for so many years.

Greatly saddened, the boy began to cry uncontrollably, "What great evil could have brought this girl to fear her own smile and give up on all of her dreams? What life could be so cruel?" he shouted.

The boy continued to cry, until he was completely exhausted, and then fell into a long sleep. He was awaken by the Smile People who, upon their arrival, had found the boy curled up in the barn.

Deeply saddened by his failure, the boy showed the Smile People the girl's abandoned hope chest and told them of all that he had done to fight the Evil Keeper who had hidden the girl from her smile.

"I've tried with all my heart and with all my belief." the boy cried, "I can find no way to defeat this Evil Keeper who has built this great wall around the girl. I fear that I am too late to help her."

"You can not defeat what does not exist." spoke the Smile People, "For many years it was true, the Evil Keeper hid the sun from this girl. But, he has gone from this place and left her alone. The battle you fight is not against him, but against unknowing and blindness. You have shown the girl all that she needs to see, and how to find her way. Understand that she has lived in this darkness for much of her life. Now you must find the strength to let her find her own light and her path. Trust, that she will see your heart, for it is truly beautiful. Believe in her, for she will find her smile again."

The boy understood what the Smile People had told him, and he agreed that he had done all that he could do. Realizing that it was now time to return to his home, the boy moved his hand to his lips and placed a soft kiss there. Quietly, he turned towards the castle and blew the kiss to the girl. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then turned and went on his way.

Upon arriving home, several days and sleepless nights passed. The boy could think of nothing else but the girl he had longed for so long to find and, having finally done so, how he had failed to find her smile. He hoped that, someday, she would come to understand how important she was to him. So, one night, he began writing down the great tale of all that he had been through.

He continued writing for several days and when he had finished, he sent for the village scribe who had helped them so many times before. When the scribe arrived, the boy placed the story in the scribe's hands, "Go to where the girl is. Wait there, for as long as it takes, until you can place this in her willing hands."

"Trust, that I will do as you have asked." spoke the scribe.

"And when you have seen the beauty that is this girl and you have placed my story in her soft hands, say to her these words from me..." The boy paused and began to cry.

"Know that I will always believe in you, and that you will always be in my heart. Find in me, as I have found in you."

- The End  -

© 1997 dhomas trenn