And the Cow Jumps Over the Moon
by Min

Lighting white, lightning bright
Paint a wide streak in my eye
Hear the roar, hark the flight
Thunder comes after the sight
Rolling logs across the sky

Midnight; the heavens were illuminated from the eastern end to the western end, by a spectacular display of atmospheric pyrotechnics. It was lightning; slashes of white paint splashed across the canvas that was the sky while thunder, with brotherly wrath, followed in the aftermath. They forked with diabolic measures, piercing the clouds with their countless barbed tongues while Snow Valley, Massachusetts languished below, an earthbound entity lost beneath the fanfare of the celestial symphony.

This was the time of summer storms; the thunder and lightning displays may forewarn the occasional shower but otherwise, it was simply nature's way of making a lot of noise. This was also the time for school holidays and it explained the reason why many of the rooms in Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters were dark and uninhabited. Almost all of the students have returned to their homes for summer holidays several days ago.

Emma Frost had only begun to appreciate the feeling of a well-earned rest. Tonight's lightning storm had made her realise the luxury of being able to watch the sky without compunctions of having to make telepathic scans over the whereabouts of her wards. Sean had left for Scotland to visit Moira. The constant buzz of mental thoughts was unaccustomedly silenced and the physical orchestra was the only thing she could hear.

Putting down the book she was reading, Emma walked forward to throw open a window. The curtains billowed in the wind. A streak of lightning illuminated the room followed by silence and then a roar of the thunder. She stood there, absorbed by the spectacle in front of her. Sometimes, the thunder roll was so loud that she could feel the ground tremble under her. It was one of the biggest storms she had ever seen and she lingered at the window for some time before retreating to her bed to do some more reading.

Lightning flashed nearby, causing the electric currents to surge and drenched the whole compound in darkness. Emma sighed and put down her book. The heavens evidently have other plans for her, she thought darkly.

It was during a lull between one thunder crash and the next. She heard the soft pattering of running feet outside her room. Instinctively, she reached out to the trespasser and was caught off-guard when a small figure carrying a brown teddy bear dove into her bed, hitting the backrest with a muffled thud. It emitted a small gasp of pain.

Emma lifted her eyebrows.


As a response, the little girl began digging at the covers.

"Did you hurt yourself?"

A shake of the head or what looked like it as Vicky burrowed deeper into the bed. Finding a measure of protection at last, her trembling was finally reduced to an occasional quiver.

To say that Emma was surprised was an understatement. Things like this don't happen as a rule. But the girls' dorm was devoid of company; that, with the storm and the blackout would do wonders to a child's imagination, she'd suppose.

Another flash lighted the room and she saw little hump beneath the blanket brace itself against the inevitable crash that was to follow.

"Victoria - Vicky? Are you afraid of the thunder?"

It came and Vicky stiffened with fright. Superfluous question, Emma thought and tried another tactic.

"There is nothing to be afraid of. It's simply noise, that's all."

Vicky peered at Emma during one of the lulls. She shook her tousled head.

"I guess you'd prefer to remain here for the night?"


Emma sighed. She made ample room for the child on the bed while Vicky simply hugged her teddy bear closely, keeping to her allotted side of the bed. After a while, silence reigned in the room.

The storm outside was showing signs of abating when Emma redirected her attention to the window. The lightning came with less and less frequency, leaving the room in increasing periods of darkness. It was during one of those moments of rare illumination that she chose to turn her head back to the room. Vicky was staring at her intently, a serious expression on her young face.

"What's the matter?"

Emma was disconcerted and felt that she must fill the silence with something. How long had the girl been staring at her? "Can't go to sleep? The storm is ending soon."

A quiet nod.


Then, soft as snow -

"Tell me a story?"

Emma frowned, perplexed. This had never happened before.

"What do you want to hear?"

"Something new?" Asked tentatively.

She could have refused, Emma knew. But she realised that so little was asked of her most of the time, even when it was within her duty to give.

Nevertheless, after she had struggled over that wall of indifference, there was another difficulty to surmount. What to tell for a story?

She dug into her memories, looking for stories from her childhood. There were none; she had not been told much. Or if there had been any in the first place, she had plainly forgotten them. State senators, arch-villains and mutant-haters, she could handle all those just fine -

Emma looked out of the window, desperate for some sort of inspiration. Finally, her eyes lighted on a lone tree standing beside the biosphere. She smiled and was brought to mind the strange phenomenon that occurred there every dawn and twilight.

"See that tree over there?" She pointed beyond the window.

Vicky raised her head to look.

"Do you remember how many birds would land on that tree every morning and evening?"

The little girl thought for a while and asked: "What kind of birds?"

"I don't know -" Emma was irritated by these little distinctions. "Crows maybe?"

She ploughed on with her story. "Anyway, there is a reason why that tree is so special to them. These birds - ravens -"

"Crows," Vicky put in helpfully.

"- Crows would land on the tree, countless of them, every morning and evening. This was for the sole reason of holding a competition. A competition to see which of them could - could sky-dive the best -"


"Yes. Now stop interrupting!"

She saw that Vicky was suitably chagrined. But Emma knew that she was clutching at straws. She was prolonging the inevitable, the moment when her imagination would fail and expose this pathetic story-telling endeavour of hers.

"It was a difficult competition to win. The rav - crows had to settle on the topmost branches of the tree. There they would fold their wings and drop like a stone to the ground. But before that could happen, each competitor had to unfold his wings and fly away. Or he'll hit the ground, like this -"

Emma scurried for the book she had been reading, opened it and laid it faced-down on the bed to demonstrate her point. She was strangely proud over her ability to provide such an example.

Vicky looked as if she was on the verge of saying something, but finally chose to keep silent.

"Now there was this one crow who wanted to win, although he had no intentions to injure himself because of the competition. So he had to find some sort of help somehow. This crow, we'll call him - Caw. Caw knew that ordinary help wouldn't matter so he went to specially ask, ask - Zephyr, God of the West Wind for aid."

Outside, the lightning storm had subsided totally.

"Caw flew to the westernmost part of the land where the god lived, to ask for an audience. Now, Zephyr didn't have a body; people simply feel a strong wind blowing at them when he talked. So when Zephyr spoke to Caw, Caw was almost blown away."

Emma stopped to look at Vicky. The little girl's head on her hand, and she had settled into a sleeping position.

"So Zephyr asked Caw, why should he help him? And Caw said, 'Because I'm clever enough to come and ask you for help.' But Zephyr said that that would be cheating. And Caw replied: 'I could've pluck all my feathers off if I didn't want to cheat in the first place.' In the end, Zephyr was so impressed with Caw that he agreed to help."

"So the day of the competition arrived and it was Caw's turn to jump. He knew that Zephyr was suppose to conjure up a strong wind that would carry him away before he hit the ground. And so, Caw closed his eyes -"

Emma turned again to look at Vicky. The child was asleep, clutching to her beloved teddy bear. She breathed a sigh of relief. She had been at her wits' end over how the story would end. That was not important now, considering that her listener was already in a slumber.

But to all things, there was a resolution, even if such a resolution was never intended to occur in the first place.

" - And so the cow jumps over the moon while the fork runs away with the silver spoon."

She finished off lamely. The rest of the room was her only audience. The soft pattering of rain outside came through; it did rain after all. The window displayed a blurring mist of watery patterns. The rich, invigorating smell of the earth seeped into the room and the frogs in the nearby ditches began to croak.

It was a pathetic effort and Emma saw it for what it was. She saw the sleeping child, lulled to a dreamy oblivion by her miserable attempt of a fairy-tale, she was sure. Words could not describe what she felt. The story telling was meant to be a diversion but it had become much, much more.

She looked down and she looked away, seeking for the strength to continue. What came to, was a compromise; she could never do this if Vicky had been awake.

Reaching over, Emma brushed her lips over her daughter's cheek with a goodnight kiss.

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