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Peter of the City: A Modern Fable

There are stories told about men and there are stories told about gods, and sometimes these stories intersect.  However, this is not one of those stories.  Instead, it is the tale of Peter, not yet a man and one who had never seen a god, much less considered the possibility that he might have powers that other children did not.  Peter lived in a city, and though he was quite small–barely seven–he walked himself to school each and every morning.  He bounced and bounded, flounced and flew, carried along by the motion of the crowded sidewalks and his own private, quiet terror. For, you see, Peter was afraid of the three-block walk to school.  Afraid of the busy businessmen and the gangly teenagers and the barking dogs.  Afraid that a brick might fall out of a tall building and smash him flat.  Afraid that a van driven by monsters might pull up beside him and yank him within.

Like many children, and not a few adults, Peter feared the Unknown.  Feared the stories his mother told him about what happened to Bad Boys Who Talked to Strangers.  Feared the stories his own fantastic imagination painted within his mind each time he stepped out of the safety of his home and into the noisy street.  But Peter, despite his fear, was blessed with an inner core of steel, a kind of bold bravery that allowed him to fight his terror and make the short journey every day, his heart in his throat and his back wet with sweat.  Until the rainy Monday that the worst finally happened and the Monster Van tried to take him prisoner.

The man who jumped out and grabbed his wrist looked normal, like every other person on the street, but his eyes were like fire and his breath stank of burnt matches.  His dirty fingernails bit into Peter’s wrist as he tried to drag the struggling boy into the idling van.  Peter tried to scream for help, but no one noticed.  Tried to pray for help, but no one answered.  It seemed that men and gods had left Peter to fight his battle alone, and so the small boy focused on making himself even smaller.  He felt himself shrink to the size of a sparrow, felt his new wings spread forth and lead him into flight.  Flew above the Monster Man and his Monster Van, heart racing as he realized he was safe.  A bird, yes, but safe.  The city streets might be dangerous for a boy, but a bird could go wherever he pleased.  And so Peter flew through the city and did not go to school that day or the next, and though his trials and tribulations were many, those are tales for another day.