Prose

The Remarkable Quests of Raddish and Quill: Poetry Through Time and Space

7 May 2019

Quill slumps over a desk littered with papers and lit by a flickering candle—placed a safe distance from the flammable stationery, of course. They had thought writing by candlelight might bring inspiration, but the gentle heat radiating towards their feathers just makes it more difficult to keep their beady bird eyes open.

With a SQUAWK, Quill startles awake and clicks their beak—they must have drifted off.

This poem is refusing to come out onto the page. But Quill is determined to finish it tonight, even if it means staying up past an appropriate bedtime.

“Why are you still awake?” Raddish’s accusation rings through the study door.

“Inspiration waits for no man, woman or non-binary individual! If I sleep I might miss it.”

Raddish slams the door wide open, causing Quill to jump with fright and knock the candle into the ink pot (it wasn’t a safe enough distance after all), which spills over the papers, which are now on fire, which spreads across the whole study, and both bird and cat are shouting until suddenly they’re not in the study anymore.

 

It’s daytime. Quill looks around—they’re outside, on a street. But not a proper paved road, a dirt one. And instead of cars, there are carriages.

“Are we in the past?” If Quill had to guess, they would say America, maybe Baltimore, mid-1840s.

Quill looks around the other way. There’s no we either. Raddish is nowhere to be seen.

Quill approaches a local human woman wearing a long dress and bonnet, and carrying a parasol and newspaper.

“Pardon me.” Quill tries not to be offended by her look of shock; not everyone is accustomed to being addressed by such a good-looking raven. “Can you tell me when and where I am?”

The human woman simply says, “ABC,” and continues on her way. She tosses the newspaper in a nearby bin, never looking back at the befuddled raven.

Quill shuffles to the bin and retrieves the newspaper—the daily journal for Alternate Baltimore circa 1845. That seems to be the name of this world.

The date reads 10 March 3019.

“We’re not in the past, we’re in the future.” Quill chirps to Raddish, before remembering they are quite alone.

Where could Raddish have ended up? It’s going to be hard having adventures without their fellow adventurer.

 

Raddish’s eyes blink open. They shut again. Then open. There’s no difference, it’s very dark here. Raddish isn’t sure what to make of their current situation, but they sure are getting hungry.

 

Quill plonks down on a bench next to a drunk poet. The man takes no notice of them—he is too busy drinking and writing poetry. Quill remembers the unfinished poem on their desk, probably lost forever in the teleporting flames.

With a grunt, the poet scrunches up his parchment and throws it earthward, where it lands at Quill’s claws. Suddenly the poet is staring at them, eyes wide with artistic lust—Quill recognises the look of inspiration, the very thing that had eluded them last night.

“You just gave me a great idea for a poem.”

The man reaches out a hand to shake Quill’s wing. He introduces himself as Edgar and gives Quill a business card, saying, “You’ve done me a solid, oh mystical raven. Call on me if you ever need a favour.”

Looking up from the card, Quill once again finds themself alone.

 

Raddish is very hungry now. They decide they can’t wait any longer for Quill to find them, they must go search for food. They bat a paw at the darkness, but can’t seem to find a light switch. In fact they can’t find any walls, either. They walk for what feels kilometres, but come across nothing except more darkness and their own grumbly tummy.

 

“Hang on, Raddish is that you?” Quill thinks they hear the faint whisper of a switch in point of view.

 

“Quill, can you hear me?”

 

“I think so? Where are you?”

 

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m nowhere.”

 

“Well I’m in Alternate Baltimore circa 1845, so I suppose I’m actually better off than you.”

 

“You’re in the past?”

 

“The future, actually,” Quill explains, “just hang tight, buddy, I’m going to get help! I’ll get you out of nowhere and we can have a nap and it will be lovely.”

 

“Please hurry. I’m getting hangry.” Raddish rubs their poor rumbly tum and curls up on the ground that isn’t there.

 

Quill pulls Edgar’s business card out of their feathers. It just says:

call if u need, E. A. P. xoxo.

Quill shrugs. It’s worth a shot. They fling their head back and crow for Edgar.

Nothing happens. Then Quill remembers they are a massive raven and takes flight above the crude city of Alternate Baltimore circa 1845. The bird’s eye view works like a charm—Quill soon spots Edgar stumbling down a side street and descends on him.

Edgar’s moustache trembles with recognition when Quill lands.

“I need your help,” Quill cuts to the chase, “I think my friend is stuck between parallel worlds, and really needs a snack. Can you help me get them out?”

“Definitely.” Edgar ushers Quill further down the side street, until they come out facing a neat row of houses. “I don’t have long because I have to meet my cousin for lunch, but I know what will do the trick.”

They walk through a regular front room into a very irregular back room, lined with shelves packed with glass jars full of glitter.

“A good ol’ séance should work. Good thing I’m a witch and I can do those.”

“I thought you were a drunken poet?”

“A man can be two things.”

There’s a flurry of activity that Quill finds hard to follow. Soon enough, Edgar is surrounded by pink candles and sitting cross-legged on a silvery carpet, hovering a few inches above the ground. He motions for Quill to join him, and, chanting various incantations under his breath, sprinkles glitter in Quill’s feathers.

“This will allow you to commune with the space between worlds.”

Quill hears the unmistakable rumble of a hungry cat tummy. They would know that rumble anywhere! They call out but get no answer; the connection seems foggier this time.

“It’s not enough,” Edgar murmurs, “we need something stronger than your voice—something so strong it will attract your friend’s attention even across perspectives.”

Straightaway Quill knows exactly what they need. They hop to Edgar’s fridge and—with a stroke of narrative convenience—find exactly that: garlic bread for cats. Quill rips the packaging off and hovers the cat-friendly garlic bread over the candles. Soon enough a delicious garlic scented trail of steam is dancing out of the loaf. Edgar sprinkles glitter on the garlic bread.

 

Raddish can hear the smell of garlic bread cooking; it’s an uncomfortable sensation because usually smells go in the nose rather than the ears. Hungrier than ever, and keen to leave this place, they turn and follow the sound of the smell.

 

Quill jumps as the loaf is whisked out of their claw. They spin around to see Raddish hunched in the corner of the room, going to town on the garlic bread. It worked! They high five Edgar and swoop their friend into a big hug. Raddish’s eating is interrupted, but they don’t mind. They missed Quill too.

Quill sniffles. “The power of food and friendship.”

“And witchcraft.” Edgar chimes in.

“Ah yes, that reminds me. Would you be able to use those powers of yours again to help us get home?” Quill smiles innocently.

“I would if I could, but I really have to get going. I’m running late for lunch with my wife.”

“I thought you said you were meeting your cousin?”

“Yes.”

And with that, Edgar disappears.

“What now?” Raddish asks, gulping down the end-piece of the garlic bread.

Quill shrugs. “We stick around here and see what happens? I suppose you won’t be ready to eat lunch for a while now.”

Raddish chortles. “Oh, sweet small-stomached friend. I’m always ready for lunch.”


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