“Hush” was inspired by an old Swedish lullaby.
“Hush” also won UOB’s short story award (the Deana Morris award) in 2013.
Juthilda has hid under the child’s bed for hours. It’s a wonder she fits under there at all. She was born with a bulging stomach, broad shoulders, and overgrown hands and feet. With her thin locks of grey hair tickling her apple-sized nose, she presses against the floorboards and waits. Her slender tail, topped by a tuft of dark hair, taps gently against her leg.
The door opens and a gangly mother carries her infant daughter to bed. She tucks her in while singing a cheerful lullaby: “She smiles and sings so sweetly for seven lil’ trolls, and ties them by their tails so that she knows they’re safe. If she could only kno-ow, what they were dreaming o-of, she’d say ‘ayum ayum!’ and hide the cookie jar…”
When the infant is sound asleep, the mother tiptoes out the door. Juthilda waits until she can hear the telly flip on in the living room. Gently so as to not wake the girl, Juthilda scoops the infant into her arms and climbs out the half-open window.
She’s quickly cloaked by the dense forest of sky-high pines, birches, and firs. The summer breeze caresses her disproportioned face. The birch-leaves prattle excitedly, carrying the word like a game of Chinese whispers.
The search starts in the morning. The police bring their hounds and call out for hours on end.
In a great hole in the ground, made from a toppled-over, uprooted pine, Juthilda can hear their voices reverberating among the trees. She has put the infant next to six others in a cot made of white moss and freshly scented leaves, singing: “Ayum… Ayum!” She strokes the child’s blonde, silky-smooth hair. “Not let them take you. No, I won’t. You be happy here. Yes, yes. Grow strong and fine. Lonely no more.”
Tails have grown on the other infants. Juthilda ties them to herself and settles for a good day’s sleep. “She smiles and sings so sweetly for seven lil’ trolls.” The sky rumbles in preparation for a lightning storm. “Ayum… Ayum!”
About the author:
Sabina Ӧstman is in her third year studying Creative Writing (BA) Hons. She grew up in the forests of Sweden and is an aspiring children’s and young adult novelist.