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Jem and the Humans by Jamie Harbison

Early one morning, just as the birds of Wilderberry Wood started their song, Jem woke

 

up with a wonderful idea. He would go and see if he could find any humans. He had

 

heard lots about them in stories but had never actually seen any. The older elves in the

 

village did not seem to think much of them but Jem's mother had once taught him never

 

to judge another elf before walking in his slippers. He wondered if that went for

 

humans as well. He decided that on that very morning, he would find out for himself.

 

He was in for a wonderful adventure.

 

During his breakfast he asked his Dad about them.

 

"Where do humans live, Dad?" he asked.

 

"Well Jem," his father answered, "A few of them live on the other side of Deepstone

 

River but over there, beyond the hills, is a town where hundreds of them live."

 

"Can we go and catch one Dad?" Jem asked.

 

"Oh no," chuckled his father. "They are about a hundred times bigger than the biggest

 

elf. What would you do with such a thing?"

 

"Really Dad? That big? What do they do all day then?" he asked.

 

"Being so big, Jem, they are very clumsy and go around breaking things mostly,"

 

answered Dad. "Why Uncle Morris told me that just the other day, he saw some of them

 

wearing these daft yellow hats, smashing a perfectly good house to rubble."

 

"Why on earth would they do something so silly?" asked Jem.

 

"Nobody knows, my son. It's a mystery." "Can I go and see them Dad, can I please?" asked Jem. Not very happy with the idea,

 

Jem’s father told him that humans did not know anything about elves and could be very

 

dangerous. Jem begged and pleaded with his father who eventually gave in.

 

"As long as you're careful and you take someone with you," said Dad finally. With

 

that, Jem quickly finished his breakfast and ran down to Aelyn's house. Aelyn was his

 

best friend in the whole world and he would not dream of going on such an adventure

 

without him. After much persuasion, Aelyn's mother also agreed to let them go, but not

 

without a stern warning.

 

"They are mean and nasty things, those humans," she said. "If you get in their way,

 

they're likely to squash you like a bug. As long as you promise not to get into any

 

trouble and you're both very, very careful, you can go."

 

"We promise," sang Jem and Aelyn together. Aelyn's mother gave them both some

 

mushroom sandwiches and dwarf apples to eat for lunch, and she packed a small bottle

 

of dewberry juice in case they got thirsty. So off they went, headed for the hills in

 

search of humans.

 

Excited, the young elves skipped along the path and wondered what they would do

 

when they found what they were looking for.

 

"Let's catch one and make it our prisoner," said Jem. "With such a big slave, we could

 

make it do anything!"

 

"My Mom said that they are so stupid that they do more damage than good," Aelyn

 

warned. "So we will probably end up doing more work cleaning up after it."

 

"They must be an awful nuisance then," thought Jem as they came to the edge of the

 

forest. "Well, we'll just have to go and see," called Aelyn as he ran ahead across the

 

meadow. Jem raced after him. After a little while they found their first signs of human life. Jem was the first to spot it

 

– a great big metal thing, about twice their size with a hole at one end. It looked like an

 

enormous tin can and smelled just like cooking apples.

 

"There's something in there,” noticed Aelyn as they walked around it, inspecting their

 

find closely. Sure enough, when the little elves looked closer, they saw ants marching

 

in, taking turns collecting some of the sticky stuff that lay in a puddle at the bottom and

 

marching back out again. Aelyn was about to climb inside to see what the sticky stuff

 

was when Jem suddenly noticed how sharp the edges of the hole were.

 

"Look out!" shouted Jem.

 

"Whew, thanks mate," said Aelyn. "I didn't realise how dangerous this thing was."

 

"No problem," answered Jem. “These humans must be pretty awful to leave such a

 

treacherous thing lying around." They left the ants to their endless task and continued

 

on their way, not very impressed with humans so far.

 

After a brief rest under a tree and some delicious lunch, Jem and Aelyn continued.

 

They had not gone far when Aelyn noticed some smoke rising up from over a nearby

 

hill. They walked quickly to the top and peered over the other side. They were

 

dismayed at what they saw.

 

"What a mess!" exclaimed Jem.

 

"Whew, and it stinks too!" said Aelyn holding his nose.

 

"That must be the town where the humans live," said Jem as he started walking towards

 

it.

 

"Do we have to?" moaned Aelyn. "This is what we came for my good friend," answered Jem politely. They walked

 

together down the hill making sure they kept well out of sight. It was not until they had

 

reached the first set of houses that Aelyn stopped holding his sensitive nose. Despite

 

the smell, they were both fascinated by the sights and sounds of such a big place.

 

Everything towered over them and before long they had forgotten about the smell

 

altogether.

 

"Hey!" called Jem. "There's a whole lot of humans over there and they're carrying

 

something. Let's go see what they're up to." Sure enough, only a short distance away,

 

there was a group of boys carrying a very large sack, standing by a door. The two little

 

elves dodged in between some large flowerpots in order to stay out of sight. They

 

could not quite hear what was being said so they crept a little closer. When they got

 

near, they saw that the sack was absolutely brimming with toys of every kind. Jem

 

could see teddy bears and dolls as well as a train set and about a dozen multi-coloured

 

balls. The elves looked at each other, puzzled.

 

"What are they doing with so many toys?" whispered Aelyn. Before Jem could answer,

 

the door swung wide open. An enormous woman stood in the doorway and started

 

talking to the boys. Another human, this one very tiny, peeked out from behind the

 

woman's skirt. The small one pointed straight at Jem and said “Goo-ba!” This

 

surprised the elves a great deal because they thought they were very well hidden.

 

“Do-beeyuh-a-noddoo-mama!” said the little human and tugged at her mother's apron

 

while pointing at the elves. Luckily for the elves, the woman just picked her up and

 

carried on talking to the boys. The baby turned her head and looked down at Jem and

 

Aelyn again and smiled. The elves smiled back and were happy to discover how cute

 

the little humans were. What they saw after that horrified them. The mountain of a woman disappeared into the house, leaving the door ajar. Jem could

 

just see through the gap and watched her as she picked some of the baby's toys out of a

 

box and carried them back to where the boys were waiting. She gave the toys to them

 

(presumably to look at, Jem thought, because surely they did not need any more toys

 

when they had so many already) and one of the boys stuffed them into the sack with all

 

the rest. Jem could not quite make out what they were saying to each other after that

 

but the next thing he knew, the boys had gone and the woman had closed the door. The

 

elves could hardly believe their eyes.

 

"Did you see what just happened?" asked Jem in disgust. Aelyn stared back with eyes

 

big as saucers. He said to Jem: "Those horrid boys stole that nice baby's toys. I can’t

 

believe it! I never thought humans could be that mean.”

 

"Let's get them back!" said Jem defiantly. "They may be bigger than us but we must not

 

let them get away with such a terrible thing.”

 

"All right, let's go," agreed Aelyn, and off they marched in search of the group of toy

 

snatching boys.

 

Just by luck, Jem spotted them out of the corner of his eye. They had slipped around

 

the side of a very large building and the little elves raced to catch up with them. Before

 

the elves got there, the boys just managed to get the sack through a door, which was

 

then slammed right in Jem's face. He was not very happy with that at all.

 

"They got away!" he said angrily.

 

"Here, let's try the window," suggested Aelyn, already halfway up a nearby drainpipe.

 

Jem scrambled after him, determined not to lose track of the boys. When they got to the window pane, they had to squash their noses right up to the glass in order to get a

 

good look. Neither of them will ever forget what they saw.

 

The room was large and airy. There was hardly any furniture but that was just as well

 

because there must have been about a hundred little humans there, all sitting on the

 

floor with a few of the bigger ones walking among them. There was something very

 

special about these little humans that Jem could not quite put his finger on. They all

 

looked excited but at the same time very sad. He wondered where all their Moms and

 

Dads were. At the far corner a door opened and the boys with the sack walked in.

 

“Surely they would not dare steal any toys from these children,” whispered Jem. Each

 

of the boys went up to the sack in turn and took out as many toys as they could carry in

 

their arms. Then they went around to the little ones and gave each of them a present.

 

One by one they started to smile and Jem was filled with joy. He sniffed back a happy

 

tear and looked over at Aelyn. He too had a little sparkle in his eye and a dopey grin on

 

his face. The boys were not stealing from the little humans at all. They were collecting

 

toys from those who had many, in order to give to those who had nothing.

 

The two young elves could not wait to get back to the village to tell everyone what they

 

had seen, so they slid down the drainpipe and began the journey home. As the sun was

 

going down behind them, Jem felt glad that he had been given the chance to see just

 

how nice some humans could really be.

 

THE END

 

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