cactus calm

By Rachel H Grant

Morag walked blissfully through the Cactus House at Duthie Park Winter Gardens, her parents deep in conversation several steps behind. The cacti towered above her small five year old body, like sentries to a heavenly kingdom in the skies. Their green arms danced all around, a ballet of green bristles.

Slowly, Morag extended her hand, her auburn locks fluttering on her shoulders shyly. Gently, she touched a cacti arm. A shiver of energy coursed through her body. The greenhouse magically changed around her. It was a different, an old-fashioned but beautiful garden space. Her parents had disappeared. Ahead, were an old couple in dark, the lady in a long skirt, the gentleman in a black suit.

Something had happened, a mystical moment stopped her senses and all she could do was stand there, like a puppet unattended.

Then the cacti began to speak.

A whisper inside her mind, a piece of paper rustling deep within, its words unclear at first, then becoming audible like a radio that had been retuned.

“Hello, friend of cacti.” There were far less cacti here, and they were so much smaller.

“You have come here from our future. You have arrived back in time to meet us while our energy is still young and strong. We have a gift for you. It is cactus transformation energy. When you feel scared, from this moment on you can turn in to a cactus until the danger is gone. It is time to go now, but take our gift with you. You may need it one day.”

The greenhouse spun and changed again before her eyes. “Morag! Where have you been?” Her anxious mother ran towards her, as the cacti towered all around, secrets in their hidden eyes.

Morag looked down at her hands. For a second, they seemed to glow green.

Days passed then weeks, and she slowly forgot her mysterious cacti encounter. Then one day, two school bullies cornered her in the playground, their pigtails swinging in the wind, their eyes like thorns. “Dinner money now!” they commanded gruffly.

Green energy rushed through Morag’s body, and she watched in horror and surprise as her arms turned green with bristles. She looked down. Her body was cacti green.

The two bullies screamed and ran away. Morag’s body slowly returned to normal.

She sighed in disbelief and also relief. A cactus calm overcame her. She had a special gift, and from this day forward she would never be scared again. The cactus in her heart fell to sleep once more … until the next time.

That night, she dreamt she was in the Duthie Park cactus house. A smile licked her lips as her hands glowed green. And in her dream, she was a cacti princess, dancing alone in the hot house. Perhaps she would never wake up, doomed to dance forever.

The moon shone through the glass roof of the Duthie Park arid house. If you were to look closely, you could now see eight cacti spin magically, and then turn in to children, dancing through the house as though tomorrow would never come, beauty in their steps, a fairytale in their moving feet. Perhaps they would wake up in a cosy bed somewhere, a victim of a nightmare, as reality hushed their minds.

The next day, eight cacti had vanished. The Duthie Park grounds staff could not believe their eyes. The mystery was never solved.

Somewhere, eight children were still dancing, a ballet that defied the morning sun. And somewhere, all children are happy, and dreams really do come true.