Summer Selections: Through the Eye of the Ortrix
by Charlotte Bown
When Ivor Meer was nine-years-old, he and his family walked out into the deserted red canyon. They were there to see where his Father first met his Ortrix. Ivor’s mother hadn’t been convinced by this idea but Ivor’s Father had managed to get her to go with them.
They stopped at a rocky cove and carefully made their way to the flat rocks just by the waterfront. Clambering over piles of wet stones and the odd tree root, Ivor followed the steps of his Father and Ivor was followed by his Mother. Red brick was falling from the cliff; making plopping noises as it hit the water. Ivor and his Father began a count of the splashes as they walked along the rocks.
Ivor’s Father began his story; the same story Ivor’s Grandfather had told Ivor’s Father.
‘When you turn ten-years-old, your Mother and I will give you a plant,’ his Father explained, as he carefully stepped onto different rocks to show a safe pathway for Ivor and his wife to follow. ‘This plant is the one your Mother and I were given we you were born. The better you tend to this plant, the better the outcome. Then on your thirteenth birthday,’ his Father stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face Ivor. ‘Something will happen and your plant will turn into a creature, that will be your Ortrix and it will give you a second life,’ Ivor looked at his Father, confused at what he meant.
‘What will happen? What do you mean a second life?’ asked Ivor.
‘Well, when my Ortrix came, there was a massive tornado,’ Ivor was shocked. ‘I got sucked into it and then my Ortrix appeared,’ Ivor smiled, excited by what he was hearing. ‘And,’ Ivor’s Father continued, ‘if for some horrible reason you are in a position where you need to come back to life,’ Ivor’s Father, continued to walk down the rocks backwards, ‘the Ortrix will give up its life for you.’
‘Oh wow! So I could live forever? What will the creature look like?’ Ivor asked, almost to quickly for his Father to hear clearly.
‘Aha, not quite Ivor … it will only do that once,’ replied his Father, ‘and that’s the best thing about it, everyone’s creature looks and acts differently.’ His Father turned his back to Ivor again and carried on working out a path for them all to follow.
‘Is yours and Mum’s Ortrix with you now?’ asked Ivor. ‘Can I see them!?’
‘Yes, my Ortrix is but your Mum’s isn’t. Unfortun-’
‘Harry, don’t,’ warned Ivor’s Mother.
‘Sorry, Edith,’ said his Father, ‘like I said Ivor, my Ortrix is here but only I can see it. Only the person it belongs to can see an Ortrix.’
Ivor tried to move in front of his Father so he could ask more questions but misplaced his foot and slipped. In a split second the right side of Ivor’s head felt cold and sticky and the side of his off-white t-shirt became soaked in deep red as he lay looking up, watching the water fall down from the rocks to his right. Ivor’s Father told him to carry on counting the plopping noises whilst he moved Ivor’s numb limbs to check him over.
‘Stay awake Ivor,’ his Father said calmly, ‘remember, whoever counts the most rocks falling into the water gets a prize when we get home. Edith can you help?’
Ivor’s Mother, who hadn’t wanted to join in their game which she believed was a distraction to Ivor, stood watching a few feet behind.
‘This is why I told you to pay attention whilst you were walking Ivor,’ she said, her arms were crossed over her chest as she looked down at them. ‘Stop screaming and get up Ivor. That will teach you for not paying attention,’ turning to Ivor’s Father she said; ‘Harry, I told you not to tell him the story before we got there but yet again you didn’t listen to me. Leave him to get up for himself.’
‘Edith, can’t you see he’s hurt? Come and help or at least try and act as if you care,’ Ivor’s Father carefully ran his rough but gentle hands around Ivor’s head, as though handling a baby bird, checking for any injuries.
‘Well, that’ll teach him; and you for a matter of fact. You should pay attention when you’re walking on wet brick.’
‘Edith, can you for one minute just not be so selfish and help me sort out this mess?’
‘No. You caused this mess, you sort it. I’m going back home.’
This was one of Ivor’s first and last memories of his Father before his Father left a few months later, just before his sister’s fifth birthday. The accident left him with five stitches in the right side of his head, which left a deep scar. His right wrist in a cast for eight weeks but despite this, his mother still expected him to go to school the next day.
Ivor’s Father never got to tell him before he left how to take care of his Ortrix. Ivor’s Mother banned them from talking about Ortrixes and their appearance as she didn’t want any more distractions for Ivor. His Father knew this was something Ivor would find hard to work out on his own. He knew that it was something that would come back to haunt Ivor.
Ivor couldn’t bear to remember the time he caused one of the worst argument’s his Mother and Father had ever had, maybe even the one that made his Father leave. He couldn’t bear to remember the time he had made his Mother and Father hate each other. Even after Ivor’s Father left, his mother never talked about the accident in the cove but Ivor thoughts were frequently pulled back to the day in the canyon.
At the age of ten, Ivor’s friends decided to make a massive den in one of the most closed off coves in their canyon, the same one his Father had taken him to. When they had got there, Ivor explained to his friends that this was the same area both his Father and Grandfather had first met their Ortrix. This excited all the other boys and they couldn’t wait to have their names added to the long list of people who had first met their Ortrix there.
The den was hidden behind a collection of bushes, which had overgrown creating a thick, green wall for them to escape behind. Until they turned thirteen years old the five boys would meet at the den two hours before their curfew. Each evening they would build a fire whilst crafting swords and making bows and arrows out of the branches of the bushes.
On each of the boy’s birthdays, they would all creep out of their houses, sneaking past the house guards and meet at the den. The boys decided that on the eve of Ivor’s thirteenth birthday they’d all have to find a way of getting to the cove later than usual without getting caught.
Ivor was the first of the five boys to turn thirteen and they had all made a plan so they could see Ivor’s Ortrix appear. It was dark when they arrived so they lit a fire made from dry twigs and placed rocks of all sizes around it so it wouldn’t spread. They sat around, passing the presents and cards they had all brought for Ivor to him. He put them in a pile in front of him, and waited eagerly for his Ortrix to appear. Thomas placed his father’s watch on one of the rocks, which Ivor had asked him to bring.
‘Guys, we have to be careful,’ said Daniel, looking around cautiously. ‘We can’t let the fire get too crazy, someone might see the smoke and realise we are here.’
‘Stop worrying,’ said Oliver. ‘Most people will be asleep; and besides we’re too far out for anyone to notice.’
‘Well,’ stumbled Daniel, ‘maybe we should just check we haven’t been followed? Just to be on the safe side.’
‘Just sit down and stop being a scaredy-cat, we’ll be fine,’ replied Oliver.
Ivor sat his plant pot, which had a single stem reaching up out of the soil, next to the pile of presents his friends had brought him. The plant, which had grown no more than when he received it three years ago, had a green bud hanging from the top which was shaped like a walnut.
‘Ivor, move the pot closer so we can see it,’ said Oliver, nodding his head towards the pot. ‘We’ve all been waiting to see this since we were first told about Ortrixes.’
Ivor moved the pot onto a flat rock from the fire pit they had made, the boys stared at the plant waiting for something to happen.
‘My brother said when his Ortrix came out on his thirteenth birthday it caused a massive storm!’ said Oliver as he reached over to flick the hanging bud. Ivor hit Oliver’s hand away hard.
‘Ouch,’ Oliver said, cradling his hand in the other and sitting back in his place.
‘My sister said when her Ortrix came out,’ said Patrick, ‘there was a big flash of light!’
The boys all sat and wondered what would happen when Ivor’s Ortrix appeared.
‘What do you think will happen Ivor?’ asked Patrick.
Ivor sat and stared at the plant for a few seconds longer, ‘My Dad once told me that when his Ortrix appeared there was a massive tornado,’ he said quietly, nervously reaching out to flick the bud of the plant.
Thomas looked at the watch.
‘Guys, we only have twenty seconds until it’s midnight!’ The boys jostled with each other for the best view of the bud. Ivor did his best to put the pot in a position for all of them to see but the boys still pushed and shoved each other.
‘Ten – nine - eight,’ Thomas began to shout as he watched the little hand on his watch face creep closer to the twelve.
‘Seven – six - five,’ all the boys join in, eagerly watching Ivor’s plant to finally see what happened when an Ortrix arrived.
‘Four – three – two - one.’
The bud slowly began to open, letting out a bright light that shot upwards into the night sky. The flower’s petals opened in the light of the moon, revealing white and purple stripes on the insides, reminding Ivor of the Passiflora Caerulea which grew around the outside of his front door at home. The outer styles grew taller before dropping outwards, leaving the middle style standing on its own. The stigma slowly opened.
The four other boys sat staring confused. They could only see the bud opening.
‘What’s going on? Why isn’t anything happening?’ asked Daniel.
‘Maybe the watch is fast?’ suggested Thomas as he picked up the watch, ‘my Dad did say he was having problems with it,’ Oliver snatched the watch off Thomas.
‘Well that’s useless, Ivor asked you to bring a working watch,’ spat Oliver.
Ivor, however, was memorised, staring at a ball of light that had floated up out of the middle of the flower. It stopped. It seemed to stare back at him. The ball broke in two, like an egg shell and in the middle of the two halves floated an odd little creature. Ivor knew it was his Ortrix.
The front half of the Ortrix was a bull, its red eyes glowing angrily and its horns sharp. The bull’s black coat of fur ended about half way down its body, joining onto the bright orange legs of a lobster and a lobster’s tail.
The strange creature floated towards Ivor, growing as it did so. It wrapped itself around Ivor’s body. The Ortrix lifted Ivor’s body upwards. He looked down towards where his friends were sat and realised; there were now two of him.
Ivor’s body was still transfixed, miles away from his soul which floated above. He noticed Patrick trying to wave his hand in front of Ivor’s face to get his attention but Ivor didn’t even blink.
A faint voice started to sing words that Ivor could not understand, at first. He listened harder to see if there was anything he recognised. The words began to get louder and clearer.
‘It is right before you, all you must do is open your eyes.’
The song began to slowly fade until it only lingered in Ivor’s mind.
All of a sudden the two halves of light which had first held the Ortrix came back together, smothering the Ortrix so Ivor could no longer see it.
Patrick sat back quickly after feeling a slight shock on the same hand which he had been waving in front of Ivor’s face.
Suddenly, everything went white, Ivor was gone.
‘Where’s he gone?’ asked Daniel, looking around the small area where they were sat.
‘Ivor, where are you?’ Thomas shouted. ‘Come out, come out wherever you are.’
‘Do you think he’s died?’ asked Daniel, suddenly a little bit paler than usual.
‘Erm obviously not,’ replied Oliver, ‘if he was dead his body would still be here.’
‘He’s probably just joking and gone and hid behind a tree,’ said Thomas. ‘He can’t have gone too far… Ivor!?’
All the boys began frantically looking for Ivor behind the nearby trees and rocks.
After no luck, Thomas suggested they all split up and look for him.
Patrick stood up and directed each boy to where they should look. They agreed to meet back at the fire pit no more than fifteen minutes.
‘Everyone clear?’ asked Patrick. All the boys nodded in agreement and separated to start their search for Ivor. ‘And remember,’ carried on Patrick, ‘don’t be any more than fifteen minutes, we can’t have anyone else go missing.’
Behind a nearby tree, Ivor’s younger sister Amelia sat watching what was going on. She had heard Ivor talking to his friends the day before at school about them meeting in the cove that evening. When she heard Ivor leave their house about an hour before, she had snuck out after him and followed the group of boys to see Ivor’s Ortrix appear.
When the flash of light threw itself up into the sky from Ivor’s plant, Amelia had darted behind a tree in shock. She counted to ten before she peeped from behind the tree trunk and looked back over to where the group of boys were sat. She saw the four of Ivor’s friends were looking at each other shrugging their shoulders before all splitting off in different directions. Ivor was nowhere to be seen.
When she was sure the boys had gone far enough so they wouldn’t see her, she ran towards where her older brother had been sat and looked around. All she found was the fire pit she had watched the boys build earlier. She carried on looking, hoping and half expecting Ivor to appear from behind a tree and laughing, ‘the look on the other boy’s faces were priceless. Do you think they fell for it?’ but Ivor never came.
After waiting a few minutes, she realised Ivor wasn’t coming back and her eyes filled with tears. She looked around for anything that may give her an idea of where he could have gone. She noticed a black stone where Ivor had left the plant pot. She bent down and picked it up, rolling it in her hand. As she turned it over, she noticed some markings inscribed on its edges. She studied the markings, following the words with her index finger. To her amazement the words began to glow gold.
Two owls twit-twooed in the moonlight as they left their perch on a nearby tree.
‘It is right before you, all you must do it open your eyes,’ she read aloud to herself. Little did she know, these were the last words Ivor heard before he disappeared.
Summer Selections is a FalWriting series bringing you a variety of writing produced this academic year by Falmouth students. It's a vibrant and diverse selection of work covering text forms from experimental poetry to forensic literary analysis, from gothic short stories to critical dissertations. This year the selection is guest edited by third year student Jess Hawes.