Categories > Books > Peter Pan4 Reviews
All children, except two, grow up.
Dedication: for my dearest Anne Laurie, who likes this sort of thing.
Author's Note: I make no promises as to when, or even if, this will be completed, so please read only if you can enjoy the pleasure of a fragment, without needing further satiation.
All children, except two, grow up. It is a weakness in the recording adult that lets one of them duck out of view, so that the adult mistakenly concludes there is only one such child.
On a far distant shore, one monster dies, and another one springs back to life. The first, huge, bloated, and coarse-skinned, has waddled at long last to its final resting place in the sand. Now keeled over it lies, heated and dried by the sun of this eternal present, until the shrinking skin, stretched to the limit, splits and bursts. All such protections have limits, you know. From within the carcass a man uncurls, stands, stretches, and, giving a fastidious shudder, saunters to the water's edge to cleanse himself. He is a fine, strong swimmer, and his long tangle of black curls cling deliciously to his muscled shoulders, his taut belly and slim hips an uncomfortable pleasure to behold - but there is no one to behold. When he grows bored with the exercise he seems to realize this. He stands, scans the empty beach, confirms that he is unregarded. A grim smile settles on his chiselled features, and memory stirs. He sets out to look for his former prey, his favourite opponent, his playmate. "Teach him some respect," he mutters, but is he telling the truth?
Meanwhile, a boy sits carelessly, fearlessly, on the highest branch of a tree, heedlessly kicking his heels and whistling as he watches the strange new creature that has entered his world. He cannot make up his mind whether this is a trespasser or a companion. [She, for her part, knows she is an explorer: she has crossed yet another door, gap, barrier, and is, once again, in another world.] Whatever it is, he decides reluctantly, it's attractive, with its long golden curls and froth of petticoats and questioning blue eyes. Perhaps it would like to be a mother, he surmises. He slips to the ground and walks towards it, deliberately casual, scuffing through leaves (wait, when did leaves fall? Isn't this place timeless?), hands stuck defiantly in his pockets, lips pursed in an enticing half-pout.
"My shadow's been torn off again," he informs her, which isn't quite the truth: this time, he ripped it off on purpose. She stares at him. "It needs to be sewn back on," he prompts her, wondering why she's so slow to offer.
"Then you'd better learn to sew," Alice tells the boy sharply, and he gapes at her, too startled to be offended.
"Don't you like little boys?" he asks, all wide eyes and charm, but Alice is too busy wondering if there's something wrong with him to notice. Besides, what does he mean, little? He's a head taller than she is. Quite old enough, she decides, to talk sense.
She opens her mouth to tell him this, but more-or-less all at once a number of things happen: there is a rustle in the bushes, a flock of birds fly off in raucous alarm, a sword is hurled through the air and embeds itself in the trunk of a nearby tree with a drawn-out thwack, and Peter grabs her hand and cries out, "Run!" Without stopping to argue, or to pull her hand away, she flees alongside him.
At last, panting, the children stumble to a halt. "Who was that?" Alice gasps. Her cheeks are pink from running, Peter notes with approval.
"That was the pirate, Captain James Hook," he says importantly, drawing himself up to his full height and throwing his chest out as he adds, "I defeated him." Then doubt flickers across his face. "At least, I thought I did," he says uncertainly. "I thought he was dead."
But Jas. Hook, still standing in the bushes, rigid, is very much alive. Never more so: the blood courses through his veins with new fervour, pounding, driving him, demanding action. The image of that slim, white girl as she fled from his view is searing itself into his memory, pulsing through him, insistent, vital, changing him, drawing all his energy and desire.
"Now that," says Jas. Hook, softly, to himself, "that was something like!" The boy was nothing, now, temporarily forgotten; all his will was devoted to this new prey. The thing to do, he knew, was to approach her properly, as a gentlemen. Young, bright, well-formed girls like gentlemen, especially gentlemen with style. And Jas. Hook has style, in abundance.