Heads & Tales 2021: HUM 243


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Foreword


The Tale of Nimsay
Polkadedot
The Hungry Man and Squirrel
A Tale of Just Desserts
Earthly Tallies
The Ocean and the Cliffside
Amanita and Sunti
Philipan Stag and the Hunter
Between Two Kingdoms
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Mark




The Tale of Nimsay

-
Adisa Radoncic, CivE’24


Art by Sommre Philips, A’21

Thou wretched child
Who if remain wild

Shall become displeasing
Unless thou stop teasing

If not, when 18
It shall be foreseen

Dawn of thine gremlin
Until life's endin’

This was the curse of Nimsay, the second daughter of a family of five.  Their family lived in a village, and because their parents were no longer there, they had to provide for themselves. They lived poorly, trying to make do with what they could. One could not assume that all five girls have similar dispositions, for Nimsay was a greedy sister with immoral behavior and a terrible temper. As one of the eldest, Nimsay had responsibility to care for her younger siblings, but she only took care to cause trouble at home and in town. Her sisters always cleaned up the messes Nimsay would leave behind, consistently warning her that her behavior  one day will lead to trouble beyond their repair. Nimsay chose to never heed their warnings.

The sisters lived just outside of town, across the bridge over the Alayk river. Nimsay made this journey almost everyday,  for she greatly enjoyed stirring up trouble. One day, an elderly woman walked opposite Nimsay on the bridge. She was carrying the most hideous purse Nimsay had ever seen. She couldn’t resist the itch, the urge she had, to bother this old lady with the ugly purse, so while the old lady had paused for rest, she came up from behind and grabbed the purse. Without even a pause Nimsay threw the purse over the bridge’s railing into the rushing river below them. The old lady, who  was in fact a witch, grabbed Nimsay before she could run away and with a furious look in her eyes, muttered the curse that doomed Nimsay’s future.

Like the past words and warnings from her sisters, the witch's curse fell upon Nimsay's deaf ears. Nimsay’s disregard for the curse did not mean an absence of the curse. Every mischievous deed caused her features to grow grotesque. Once she’d thrown her sister's chicken that produced the eggs for their meals into the local water well, causing warts to sprout upon her left hand. Another time,  she had set up a tar trap for the local baker in town before running off with and single-handedly wolfing down a loaf of bread causing rashes to appear under her mouth and along her chin.  Nimsay claimed to never feel or see any changes, but her sisters saw everything as Nimsays looks were beginning to match her personality. This mischief and disfiguration continued for three years until the week before Nimsay’s 18th birthday.

The five sisters would go all together weekly to the market to purchase groceries. And every trip, as they would cross the bridge, Nimsay looked below into the river, as if looking for something.As usual, Nimsay glanced at the water, but this time she found herself suddenly weightless; her feet were no longer on the bridge, falling to her death into the raging waters below.

Or it would have been her death, had Nimsay's increasingly repulsive face not caught the attention of the water nymphs below the bridge. Every week, the nymphs in Alayk river studied Nimsay, laughing at her features. Nimsay’s scream had caught the attention of all the nymphs around, but one nymph recognized the hideous girl and chose to save her and bring her home. The impact of Nimsay hitting the water was cushioned by the nymph, although it did knock her unconscious. By casting a layer of air around Nimsay’s body, the girl could breathe underwater and was brought to the home of the nymph who saved her.

“WHERE AM I?” shrieked Nimsay upon waking up in a strange room.

“Oh, silly girl, you are in the Kingdom of Alayk. I am Asid the eldest daughter of King Temis.”

“What? Why am I in a kingdom in a river?”

“You were falling from the bridge above. My sisters and I chose to save you, and just in time too! We need a new maidservant.”

“MAIDSERVANT! NEVER, I AM NOT A SERVANT, I AM NIMSAY,” she screamed, scuttling away from Asid.

“Oh, you see, it will be such a lovely time. You will love taking care of us, as we are quite easy to manage. Otherwise we would have no choice but to chop off your legs and throw you away with the other river trash, and that would be devastating for us all,” Asid’s sickly sweet tone put Nimsay on edge.

“Okay, I shall serve since I have no choice,” whispered Nimsay.

“Of course you have choices, some are just much more agreeable! You shall be serving me and my sisters: Alia, Amik, and Ahsia. You shall start right now. Tidy our beds and clean up the kitchen, Ahsia got algae everywhere. Toss it in the Cavern of Smeche when you finish.`` Asid floated out of the room, leaving Nimsay to begin her servitude with the nymphs.

These nymph sisters were not easy to serve. Asid lied constantly, Alia's greed knew no limit, Amik had a temper, and Ahsia was so mischievous. Many servants had their legs cut off and thrown into the Cavern of Smeche due to the dissatisfaction of the sisters. In this endless cave the kingdom would dispose of any waste that would get caught in their waters. Many others had chosen to take their own lifes, as death was much sweeter than the sisters. For Nimsay their treatment was no different and her options quite limited.

The second day of her arrival introduced her to the malicious ways of Ahsia. The youngest and the cruelest, she loved to pull cruel pranks on the maids. That morning, Nimsay awoke to flames covering her entire body and became hysterical. Although she felt no pain because of the  layer of air between her skin and flames, the fear was extremely real. After finding a way to extinguish the flames, a realization occurred to Nimsay: she had never been the subject of a prank. Amidst the heat from the flames, there was the heat of growing emotions, and not only of fear. Nimsay was a stranger to all of this and had never felt anything other than the urges that drove her to act out, but the prank fromAhsim stirred something else in her…some unknown feeling that Nimsay has been ignoring for all her life.

The next day was as hard as the last, as early the next morning Akim had a horrible temper tantrum. She had had an argument the night before with Nimsay, and the anger remained with her all night. At the sight of her comb being slightly out of place, she lost control. She had hurled items from the sleeping chamber the sisters shared everywhere, leaving everything in disarray for Nimsay to pick up after and clean. As she was flipping back the beds and clearing glass, she was reminded of a prank she pulled long ago where she spent all day putting her sister's beds on the roof of their home. At the time she thought it was such a funny sight, but in the nymphs' sleeping quarters she saw no humor. Again her new emotions left her confused, although unbeknownst to her, her blemishes were beginning to vanish.

The fourth day of her arrival she awoke to find her few belongings from her life on the surface missing. In her process of cleaning she found it stored away in Alia’s dresser, for this sister's greed compelled her to steal them even though they were not worth anything to her. Nimsay knew a few things about how hard it is to resist urges, but that did not stop her from getting upset. This nymph that had everything already chose to take from her, a mere servant, and did so without an ounce of regret. For the rest of her day, she pictured the many faces of those from whom she had stolen and how their eyes would dim upon the sight of her. The unknown feeling within her heart grew once again, reversing some hideousness from Nimsay’s appearance.

The fifth day she was promised a restful night by Asid after working so hard the past few days. But Asid was known for her lies and Nimsay overheard her tell her sisters,

“Nimsay is stealing our goods and using them all up. She is a thief, just look at her. Her face is not as it was at her arrival.”

Ahsia whispered, “What shall we do? We can not have a thief be our maidservant.”

“I know! We shall chop off her legs and throw her away in the Cavern of Smeche.” said Alia maliciously.

“No, no, we do that every time. For her, let’s chop off her arms and legs,” Amik suggested.

Nimsay did not stay to hear the rest of their plan. She knew that whatever they decided would not be good, so she chose to run away. She gathered what little she had and ran deep into the Cavern of Smeche, since that would be the last place they would look for her. During her servitude, throwing out the garbage of the kingdom allowed for Nimsay to enter the Cavern of Smeche, where she had recognized some possessions of the people of her village, half of which she had tossed in during her rowdy days up on the surface. Each visit to the cave would allow her some time to rummage in the rubble, looking for something specific. No nymph ever entered the cave, so in her escape she knew the sisters would never look in the depths of the cavern. Nimsay was searching for one thing and she needed to find it.

This one item was hidden deep in the cave, beneath two rocks, and was still as hideous as it was three years ago. The purse of the witch was one that Nimsay never forgot and had spent all those years peering over the bridge's railing looking for. And here it was, in the kingdom of nymphs who wanted to kill her. Nimsay felt different holding that purse in her hand, identifying the emotions she had been ignoring. The guilt had grown so much these past few days, guilt of her behavior to her sisters and community. This recognition not only transformed her core, but changed her appearance, leaving a  fair, average girl in place of the near-gremlin which had been. Nimsay needed to get home, she needed to apologize to those she had wronged. Desperate to flee the Kingdom of Alayk, so she looked in the bag hoping for something that could aid in her escape.

“An address book and this ugly shawl. WHAT am I supposed to do with that?” questioned Nimsay, starting to flip through the pages of the little book, examining the scrawled handwriting. To her surprise the book didn’t contain names and addresses, but rather, recipes for spells.

“Bubbling Brook: rise as foam for one full turn of the clock. Now this seems promising. I need to make this potion without delay,” mutters Nimsay to herself reading through the ingredients needed for the potion.

Two breaths of a guppy

A palmful of algae

Three threads from a handwoven fabric

White feather of an Egret

An ounce of regret

Using a worn bottle, Nimsay went to collect what she needed. The shawl provided the thread, the algae she gathered from the batch from the first day of her arrival, and the breaths she shook from a guppy passing the front of the cavern. Hoping for the best, she swallowed the potion, praying the regret that lives within her would be enough for the potion to work.

As soon as the potion was swallowed, Nimsay turned into a group of bubbles. In this form, Nimsay could leave the Kingdom without drawing the attention of the nymphs. With an hour in this form, Nimsay had a choice to make. She knew that nightfall would bring her future as a gremlin, today being her 18th birthday. She wanted to apologize to her sisters but also wanted to return the purse to the witch and get the curse reversed. Either path is possible through the river and both are so important to her. She chose to find the witch, knowing that reversing the curse would allow her to surprise her sisters when she shows up on the eve of her birthday as a young maiden again. So as a group of bubbles, she made her way down the river to the witches cabin. Emerging from the river she became herself, bare and holding the purse. Using the shawl as cover, she stood in front of the witch’s home. With one knock on the cabin door, Nimsay heard a croaky voice yell,

“WHO IS IT?”

“It is I, Nimsay, and I come bearing a possession of yours.”

After a moment, the door creaked open and the face of the old lady Nimsay met years ago peeked through.

“Possession of mine? Impossible…” Nimsay held up the purse and the witch paused, observing the purse which Nimsay had tossed into the river long ago. The witch quickly snatched it from her hand, turning her gaze to Nimsay’s face.

“I assumed you would be on the brink of gremlin-hood by now. Something must've changed when you were pushed off that bridge.”

“Pushed? I was not pushed, I fell.” Nimsay said, indignant.

“No, you daft girl. Those girls you were with pushed you when you leaned forward. They wished for your death before your birthday.”

“My sisters would never,” Nimsays steadfastly claims.

“Oh but they did, and I turned them into goats for it. I have been tending to them so I can have a goat feast soon. But now with my purse back, I have no use for them. I can turn them into humans again if you please.”

“Goats...my sisters...humans… Please do, please turn them back and release me from my curse. We will never bother you again.”

“Silly girl, you have reversed your own curse. I shall be back in one moment.”

The witch went to her animal pen where she transformed the sisters back to humans and brought them the Nimsay. They had a tearful reunion of apologies and remorse. Leaving the witch’s cottage, they rushed to their home, not stopping on the bridge even for a second.
Mark