Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: The flight of Little Wren


Arnold Bocklin : Isle of the Dead, 1883


‘Is it beautiful?’

I wake from dozing, the swaying grass and humming bumble bees that escorted my dream still clinging to me as the dimly lit sick room reasserts itself. Something inside my chest cracks, I’m certain, as the meadow fades, stealing away the scent of leaves and summer flowers, sweet memories of Connie smiling, Connie happy, Connie struggling through the hip high grass, bedecked with daisy chains.

There is my Connie now. Lying in bed, arms pale as the sheet that covers her. Dark smudges blot the hollows under her eyes, though her cheeks are unnaturally red as if she’s just come from running in the meadow.

I’m unsure if I dreamed her voice, so I wait for her to speak again, or not. I have learned patience over these weeks, if not acceptance.

‘Is it beautiful?’

This time, I am not mistaken. I lean forward, smell the sour scent of her breath, the bitter tang of her body. Though we wash her daily, the smell clings, the grave staking its claim on her.

‘Is what beautiful, dearest?’ I whisper, lips close to her ear.

‘The Isle of the Dead.’ Her voice is so faint, I struggle to catch that last.

Is this some fairy tale that foolish maid has spun? She is full of old wive’s tales, of cures for coughs and broken hearts and ways to find a husband. I know Mama would want me to call the story out for a lie. Say the only way to redemption is through surrender to the Lord. But my sister is so tiny, so frail a thing, so very close to whatever lies next. The thing I wish for most is to smooth the worry lines from her face.

I take up her hand, no bigger than a wren cradled in my own and I begin to speak.

‘Oh, yes, a lovely place, dear one. Running with crystal waterfalls, so sweet on the tongue. And cypress trees taller than St Mary’s steeple. There are rocks to climb, though they will never cut your palms or graze your knees and birds that sing so sweetly, the sound will break your heart …’

I speak till I am hoarse, till the sun is full up and my little wren has flown.


Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge # 20. See the wonderful painting and write a tale to compliment it. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

22 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: The flight of Little Wren

    1. Thanks so much Joy. It sounds ridiculous, but I felt emotional writing it. The thought of holding a loved ones hand as they slip away. And tales like that are just little gifts, passed on to make the going easier. Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That’s exceptional, and there you go with that word Crack, from a recent comment, some sonic reference to one of my posts. You’re in the zone…keep flying there….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a nasty feeling it would be one of those words that came up way too often if my writing was subjected to the appropriate algorithm! Thanks Bill. Your feedback is always valued 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The image, also. It reminds me of Fantasy book covers from the 70s. The artist who did some of the early Conan the Barbarian books. Or modules from D&D, Gary Gygax style. — Bill

    Liked by 1 person

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