Seven Paper Men

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Lee didn't like living in the city. His solution was to build a little wood-and-brick cottage in the woods. He took a knife and his glasses, and went to live there. He wanted no help whatsoever.

It worked well, at first. But after the first month, he started receiving help against his will. It started small, just refilled water and swept floor, but soon grew to the killing of invasive mice and extra spices on his meat, and when it was winter he got brand new shoes and a sheep.

Lee didn't like this help.

He was dulling his recently sharpened knife in January when he found that there was a book on his head.

And then there was a second.

And a third.

When he thought he felt a fourth, he walked carefully over to the hearth and leaned over the fire. An little paper man fell in, while Lee watched in little horror. He did not try to save the man; He was sure being all burnt was better than half burnt.

The little paper man turned slowly to ash, and the little paper screaming stopped.

Lee went to bed.


The next morning he woke up, and his forearms were red and raw, covered in scratches, with the occasional small cut. He laughed nervously; it was like a lot of paper cuts. It didn't hurt much, but it would be very annoying as he tried to get on with his day.

He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and stood up, and fell down. His floor was covered in some greasy substance, making it almost impossible to stand. He finally gave up and scooted around as best he could. He got to the door, and found it was somehow locked, despite the fact he didn't have a lock.

There was a crumpling noise behind him.

He turned around to see a paper man walking towards him with some sort of special shoes on.

"But, but, you're gone! In the fire!"

"That was my brother Eyypatho." The little paper man stopped a foot away from Lee. His voice trembled as he said, "My favorite brother."

"I didn't mean to. Honestly I didn't."

"Does it matter? We gave you help, you were ungrateful. You killed one of us. The youngest! Hardly more than a child." The little paper man stopped, calming himself visibly.

When his face uncreased, Lee dared speak again. "Please, what is your name?"

"What's it to you?"

"Please."

"Xaptnr. My other brothers are Hartie, Fymara, Chartus, Carta, and Karatasi. I am the eldest. And I made a promise to our honored father concerning Eyypatho."

"Xaptnr," said Lee, pronouncing it wrong, "Can I do anything to make it up to your family?"

Xaptnr considered him disdainfully. "You can burn." He turned around and left. Just before he slipped through a crack in the wall, he said, "You know this means war, don't you?" and before Lee could answer, he was gone.


It took Lee a very long time to cut himself out of his house using an axe without standing up. When he got out he stood up as quickly as he could, having sore legs. The soles of his shoes were still slippery, however, and he slipped and fell into the mud. Evidently all the snow had melted since the previous day.

Lee started to look for suitable wood to make himself a new door. He was stopped a few steps away from his house by a little paper man.

"Xaptnr?"

"I am Fymara. I don't particularly like this situation, but I'm to stop you from leaving."

Lee went back in his house. He figured out how to walk carefully on his floor, and went to his shelf to find himself some food.

It was all gone.

Lee groaned, because if he couldn't leave, he couldn't get more food unless he sat outside until a rabbit hopped right up to him, and that would still be only one rabbit.

A little paper man stood up and stretched from where he had been lying on the shelf.

"Karatasi?" asked Lee. It was the only other name he remembered.

"Precisely. Turn around."

Lee turned. He blacked out.

When he woke up, his bed was on fire. He screamed as sparks flew out and caught the grease all over the floor. Through the roaring and the popping he heard voices, six paper men shouting at the same time.

"Burn! Burn!"

Lee ran out of his house, thankful he hadn't fixed his door. He rolled in the mud until his clothes stopped burning, and left the flaming house behind as he walked out of the woods. His entire self still felt like it was burning, and he could hardly see. He walked until he came upon a paper man in a tree.

"How did you get here first?"

The paper man fluttered down to rest on Lee's arm. "Where the wind will blow, I make my way quicker than you ever could."

"Which one are you?"

"Xaptnr."

"Am I forgiven yet?"

"Forgiven? Yes."

Lee sat down and started to cry, for pain and for grief of Eyypatho. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Not nearly enough." Xaptnr paused. "All my brothers caught fire."

"And you forgive me?"

"I would have forgiven you from the beginning. But you never asked, only how to save yourself from our wrath. Come."

Lee followed Xaptnr out of the forest and to a church.

Xaptnr: "I will see you again someday."

Lee went back to the city after church, and has not yet seen Xaptnr again.

He is happy now.





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