Like The Prose 2021 – Day 29

The penultimate day of the challenge asked me to go back to a previous story and rewrite it from a different perspective. I chose to return to my first story this year and write about Jimli, the bizarre mythological creature that my 17 year old son and I dreamed up a few weeks ago. In the first story, it was unclear whether Jimli existed or was just a bizarre idea in the mind of the protagonist’s work colleague. Here, Jimli becomes the star of the story and we learn a little more about him and how he is viewed in other countries as well as the Czech Republic.

Still Waiting for Jimli

Many believe that he is  just a figment of people’s imagination and indeed, at one time, this was true; but the idea simmered and bubbled, growing stronger and more powerful every day until, one winter’s night when the air was cold and the moon was fat, Jimli shimmered into being.

The Czech people will tell you that Jimli is many things, but their tales only scratch at the surface of his true terror. He has one hundred relatives and they are all his father – and his shoes are made from their skin. He eats his hatchlings, and then he weeps over his greed. His children are many and every one of them sows death and destruction. As for Jimli himself, he is the eventual nemesis of the living and the scourge of the dead. Whole villages wait for his appearance when one of their number hovers in the doorway between life and death, but his carriage is drawn by ten fat slugs and so the hour of death comes slowly. Nevertheless, all must wait for Jimli, whether young or old, for if Jimli does not see them waiting, he will hunt them down and steal their breath while they sleep.

In some countries, Jimli is known by other names. In Iceland, he is called þjófur tímans, which means ‘thief of time‘, and he is linked to the Yule Cat which prowls the land in December and eats the naughty children who are not given new clothes for Christmas. The Icelandic legends give him a chariot of bones and he is depicted with long fingernails and toenails which freeze into  icicles around the doors and windows of the houses where his victims dwell. The Finnish version looks a little like a Strömkarl, but instead of playing a fiendish fiddle to lure people to a watery grave, this incarnation sings loudly and tunelessly until dogs howl and windows crack and the townspeople hide under their beds in fright. He lives in a waterfall made from the tears of the children he has stolen away.

People sometimes ask what will happen if they do not keep the traditions and welcome Jimli when he walks abroad. Some mistakenly leave gifts of food, but Jimli has no interest in pork and oranges; instead, all who anticipate his coming should decorate their homes with branches of hazel and rowan for these are known to ward off evil spirits; and those who wish Jimli to smile on their families should leave gifts for him on their doorsteps: screwdrivers in muslin bags tied with ribbon, or tiny cakes in the shape of seahorses.

But for those who do not make him welcome, Jimli will enter through the window and then he will find the sleeper’s bed. And he will place his hairy hand on the sleeper’s shoulder and shake the sleeper to wake him up. And the sleeper’s eyes will open but at the same moment, his blood will freeze in his veins and he will be one of the mrtvoly: the living corpses who have no place in heaven or in hell but must wander the streets of memory for thousands of years until they turn into dust. Then, and only then, will Jimli forgive them, and he will dance with the unarmed raindrops and sing with the spiders in the dilapidated fortress of despair.

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