TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Bluebonnets danced around her white skirt as she turned her face toward the sun. She only needed a few for the vase. Perhaps a little joy would soothe the inevitable unease at the table that night. It was always tense when meeting with her neighbors. She hoped enough time had passed. They had to know there was nothing she could do to change what had happened, right?
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Blue bonnet stew was on the menu today.
Niara, one of only a few sanctioned farmers in Vishal, the land of giants, approached a sprawling enclosure she’d fashioned using gargantuan boulders. Every crack had been painstakingly plugged with earth plaster and rock, an especially important task when raising bonnets. They were mischievous little creatures, escape artists by nature.
Niara turned her face toward the sun. There was little time left to deliver her harvested ingredients to the cook before lunch. Vishal giants lived communally, and she was expected to contribute her share. She hurried over the wall.
Colorful bonnets scattered at the sight of her. They were notoriously skittish. A vase-like bowl in hand, Niara began picking blue-bonnets. They squirmed and screamed as she snatched their tiny bodies up off the ground.
One by one, they went into the bowl.
Eight, nine…ten. Just five more to fulfill her farm’s quota, yet she couldn’t see any more.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she sang. They were growing increasingly sneaky and adept at hiding. She’d have to dig up the enclosure for hidey-holes again soon.
Naira had created the categorization system all by herself, back when bonnets were still called ‘people’. Blue for females, black for males, and yellow for children. Red bonnets denoted elderly stock, very rare.
Having the system meant giants could discern between flavours with ease. Niara had been celebrated throughout all of Vishal, and her giant heart overflowed with excitement…until the incident.
She lifted and checked countless tiny wood houses and barns. Bonnets of all varieties scurried about. Niara grabbed a blue one, shaking off a clingy black and yellow. They’d latched on tight, refusing to let go. It was so irritating when they did that.
The little yellow wasn’t even wearing a bonnet. She growled. They were forever switching colours around, or removing them entirely. Especially yellows. Niara supposed she understood why these ‘people’ would so fiercely protect the youngest of the herd, but that didn’t make it any less aggravating.
Every single time she harvested, she had to diligently check they weren’t mislabeled.
Her bowl full, Niara slung her bag over her shoulder and headed into the village. As was common practice now, she scrubbed each bonnet clean, presenting them for approval before the cook would allow her to drop them into the stew pot. He nodded.
She turned, walking to the pot to release her fresh ingredients. Giving it a thorough stir, she smiled back at the cook. “Looks delicious.”
The grumpy giant scowled.
In the dining area, Niara avoided making eye contact with her brethren as she found her seat. It was always tense meeting with her neighbors, their eyes belying a lingering resentment she’d hoped would have dissipated by now.
Enough time had passed. Five long years. Niara had apologized, explained, and been found innocent by the high council…yet giants, it seemed, were prolific grudge-holders.
Niara remembered it vividly. It had been black-bonnet burrito day, and she’d harvested like always. Not noticing that the little wretches had slathered their bodies head to toe with a concoction poisonous to giants, she set off to deliver them to the cook.
But on that fateful day, two giant children living next door had intercepted her, begging for a snack, full of smiles. Swearing them to secrecy with a wink and a grin, she’d given them a body each to munch.
Minutes later, they were dead.
How could she have known that bonnets might be so intelligent? Such a thing was unheard of. Niara blinked her tears away.
“Murderer,” Olwyn, the children’s mother spat as she passed, sitting at a table nearby. Niara shifted uncomfortably in her seat, staring down at her hands until the meal came.
Each bulbous-bodied giant received a steaming bowlful of blue-bonnet stew. Sounds of slurping and vigorous teeth gnashing surrounded Niara as her giant brethren devoured their share. Having no appetite, she sighed, picking out tiny bits of ‘people’ clothing mixed within the gravy.
She leaned back when the coughing started.
Around the room, desperate hands scrabbled at necklines, sweat dripped, and eyes bugged out. Niara crossed her arms, smiling.
One by one, their heads hit the table.
Niara stood and walked over to her gasping neighbor. They’d brought this upon themselves. All of them, with their unforgiving hatred. Nobody had noticed the small vial she’d poured in place of her blue-bonnets. Bending to Olwyn’s ear, she whispered, “Murderer indeed.”
Moments later, only silence remained. She realized revenge was bittersweet.
She was alone now.
Niara returned to her farm, and yanked a boulder free from the bonnet enclosure, tossing it to the side with a heavy thud. She retrieved the fifteen blues from her bag, all alive and well.
“It was important to follow routine. I had to present you to the cook to get close to the pot,” she explained matter-of-factly. “I will honor our deal. In exchange for your poison, you are free.” She set down the handful of tiny ‘people’, waving them onward.
A mob of bonnets rushed to escape the enclosure, movements swift, lest she change her mind. They ran far and fast, without looking back. And she didn’t blame them.
They were smarter than they looked.