Geiselhart by Natasha Minchin
Geiselhart is a small town secluded far, far away from Ahoy. In the deepest, darkest part of the Forgotten Woods, the rays of sunshine sometimes never meet the eyes of residents that call this mysterious place home. The bones of past ancestors lay beneath the wet, nutrient rich soil, and out of respect, no one is to tamper with the ground, aside from farmers. All citizens treat each other like family – whether they are related by blood or not. As blissful as it all sounds, there is one ground rule everyone must follow…
Josephine Agnor, or Josie Ag, stares outside the window of her willow tree house. It’s a gloomy, miserable day – so the clouds decide – coming together to drop heavy pellets of rain. The long leaves attached to the branches of her house act as an umbrella, sheltering all the eager, bargain hunting shoppers.
“There’s Flavinius!” squeals Josie, putting her mug of warm coffee on the table and taking the wool blanket off her crossed knees.
Getting up, she wipes the foggy glass with her sleeve and opens the window excitedly. Flavinius notices Josie’s efforts and hops towards her.
“The weather’s looking a bit grim today,” states Josie, sticking her hand outside but quickly bringing it back in.
“Ah well, I’m sure your father’s told you. I wouldn’t miss the Sunday markets, even if it’s coming down in buckets!”
“Where is Hingestone, by the way?”
“Oh he’s in the study, working on some article about the power of crystals and spirits.”
“Better leave him to it then, eh?”
Josie smiles before Flavinius turns away and disappears back into the crowd of buyers.
“Who was that?” calls her father, all the way from his study.
“Just Flavinius saying hi.”
He doesn’t respond. Josie waits; her ears prick in anticipation. Once she figures the conversation has ended there, she gets up from the couch and slumps angrily down the stairs.
It is the following morning, and this time, the clouds decide to separate and not drench all of Geiselhart. It is also Monday, Josie’s least favourite day. She wakes up, puts her uniform on, brushes her hair, cleans her teeth and runs out the door, all within twenty minutes.
The subtle, fresh, pollen infused wind lifts the strands of Josie’s hair and sends her wispy eyelashes on a little dance. She walks, as there is no way she is physically able to run the entire distance. Josie loses track of time before realising she has lead herself down the wrong path. As if waking up from a coma, it takes her a few, very confusing, seconds to see where she is.
During the time of absent minding frolicking, her over imaginative mind has led her to the very end of Geiselhart. She sighs. Josie wants to go further, but she can’t. Seeing the line which separates the darker, wet soil from the dryer, light soil, she actually comes to the conclusion that being here isn’t half bad.
“Huh” she says, feeling the dirt.
Hingestone had always told her about where the border of Geiselhart lies, but actually seeing and feeling it is truly another matter. While Josie continues to be in a state of absolute awe, she begins to hear a faint giggle amongst the chorus of birds chirping. As she focuses on this particular laugh, Josie notices that it sounds familiar…
So she stands up from her rather peculiar squat position, and looks around to see if the location of this giggle can be detected.
“Hey, is that you, Ramil!?”
A little boy, who was also in a state of absent minding, turns around somewhat startled, as his eyes dart back and forth – in an attempt to see who called his name.
“Oh, it is you Ramil!” exclaims Josie, narrowing down her pupils to concentrate on the boy’s round face.
Unexpectedly, Ramil converts from an angsty child, one who is prepared to emerge their fight or flight response, to a boy who is bubbly and content.
“Josie!” he screams, running towards her, throwing his chubby, inflated hands to the air.
Just as Josie is about to receive a hug from an overly excited Ramil, she stops smiling and puts her hand to her mouth. It couldn’t be. There isn’t a possibility in all that remains on planet earth. She told herself that she is hallucinating, from the very little that she consumed for breakfast or from staying up last night talking to her friend’s over the phone.
“Ramil, what are you doing!?”
“I’m giving you a hug, that’s what I’m doing!” he asserts, leaving Josie no choice but to accept his dumpling shaped body to wide and open arms.
“I don’t mean that. I mean, what are you doing over there? You know you’re breaking a very serious and consequential rule right now.”
“Ugh, you sound just like my mum-”
“Mrs Estelle…” mutters Josie, grasping that yes, this little boy does have a mother, and yes, she is of one that wouldn’t want her son playing around the border.
“Anyways,” continues Ramil, “you sound just like her and literally everyone else in Geiselhart. Why do you have to follow the crowd?”
Josie is shocked by this little boy’s intelligence.
“I’m not following the crowd.”
“Yes you are. Some stupid rule made up hundreds of centuries ago shouldn’t dictate where the citizens of Geiselhart can and can’t explore!”
“You’re being disrespectful,” hisses Josie. She taps her feet on the ground, signalling that the past ancestors buried beneath them are listening.
“Hear me out, okay? Our mum and dad tell us to abide by this order because their mum and dad told them to do so. It goes all the way back to when the rule was first created. Don’t you want to be the generation, one of the few people, that decides to destroy this made up order and allow the future of Geiselhart to settle anywhere across Ahoy?”
Josie is absolutely bewildered.
“Wow Ramil. I’ve been brainwashed all my life, and I feel like you’ve just snapped me out of it.”
He continues to poke at the different soils, making quite a mess, and jumping over the two borders. Josie stands there, still in awe, looking at the little boy who announced a speech that would lead her to make a life changing decision…
“Okay what?” asks Ramil, peering up at Josie.
“Leaving where?” he queers, and thinks for a second, “you’re leaving Geiselhart?!”
“Yes. I’m leaving Geiselhart,” acclaims Josie, with a big smile encroaching a very enthusiastic face.
Now it’s Ramil’s turn to say wow.
“I’m coming,” he affirms, zipping up his school bag.
“No you’re not,” Josie laughs.
“Yes I am. You are my one chance to leave this town! Do you seriously think I’d like to die in the same place I was born in? No way. I’m coming with you, and together, we’re going to explore Ahoy beyond Geiselhart!”
“What about your mum, and your dad!? They’ll be so worried, you’re too young – I can’t take you with me!”
“I’ll tell them I’m staying up at nan’s place. She doesn’t have a phone, so they can only communicate with her by letter. By the time they see each other’s letters we’ll be back home here!” explains Ramil, in an organised and logical tune.
“Fine. Call Mrs Estelle now about that plan and we’ll leave right away. We need as much time as possible to discover what lies outside this border before they figure we were lying.”
Once Ramil had spoken to his parents over the phone, the two stepped foot over the boundary and were officially on their journey…