By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1438
Whenever the earth tremors or shakes, the old women in our village say that the souls of the dead buried beneath our feet are at war. "Our ancestors died with sins in their hearts and grudges on their souls," the old women claim. "They were not at peace with the world when they entered the ground. They shiver and shake in their graves, wanting to rid their souls of life’s filth." The old women spoke to us children, and I believed their words, I believed that when the ground rumbled, the dead were struggling to clean their souls. After my mother died and was placed in the earth, I learned to step lightly, to move without making a sound. I wanted my mother to rest, not to be awakened by the weight of and crushed by the weight of this world.
One last pear hung precariously from a tree growing on the other side of the fence. It glowed as if it was golden, and I could close my eyes and imagine the succulent juices falling down the back of my throat. Pear juice. An extravagance I could only dream about. But the more I dreamt of this luxury the louder I heard my husband's voice cry out "No, No," and I would fall in the misery of my discontent.
I forget sometimes what people tell me to do or not do. What they tell me slips away into the backwaters of my memory where it drowns in all other memories forgotten.
A child playing in the dirt asked me, "Where did you get your shoes?"
I told him I got them from my father.
One of them who came forward looked nothing like the others. She was dressed in white fluff and smelled clean. Her eyes were like a child's. "I'm in need of assistance," she said softly. "I need some help and I think you can help me."
"What weighs you down will make you drown," he said with a loud crescent shaped grin. I believed him. I may have been a fool but with my head thrown asunder by the crashing tides of water I took off my shoes and bag and threw them across the stream on the other bank.
The girl knelt down at my feet, pressing her furry costume against my skin. "Please help me," she said, and kissed one foot. She kissed the other. In addition, when I looked down, I found both the leather-bottomed shoes gone and bare toes remaining. They froze in the mountain wind. At my feet a white wolf with childlike eyes stared up at me, grinned, and ran off with two shoes in her jaws.
Inside my head lived a frightened little boy who nibbled at his nails whenever a strange man glanced at him. I could not leave that fright alone.
From the mountainside, I watched a giant crane fly down beside me and place two of its feathers onto my feet for flight.
"Let me go then," I said.
I left my home and family to find and entered the woods. I walked deeper and deeper into the world of trees that reached the sky and damp earth that smelled of life, into a world I had always been warned not to enter. The day I left my home, I could sense the adventure that lay ahead. Armed with nothing but courage in my chest and good sense on my shoulders, I let my feet lead me into the great unknown.
A woman with childlike eyes appeared before me. She looked very much like a girl I had seen before but older, and instead of crow black hair, she had white hair like snow. "You there, come here. Please help me." I shied away from her calls. "No, please, you don't understand. My sister is caught in a huntsman's trap and I need someone to help release her." I looked at where she pointed and indeed, there was the girl in wolf form hanging dangerously under a poisoned needle.
Holding my father's blade I cut what kept me from moving. I did not care to look whether it was a serpent's tongue or the branch of a tree.
Then the bird came down beside me, and thanked me graciously for my good work. In return, she left two feathers attached to my heels to replace the leather-bottomed shoes I lost. "They will take you where you want to go, and you no longer will fear the people the live in the ground."
As I closed my eyes, I could hear my father's voice guide me along the hidden pathways of the mountain unbeknownst to boys who sit and watch the sunrise and fall in their beds.
A foreigner stopped me on my rise toward the mountaintop. He had one eye and loose skin that folded around his body like paper cloth. Laid before him was a set of colored tablets and sticks. "Stay for a game," he said to me. "After you win your game with me I'll let you go on your way."
The blade struck me against my face and left a blood spot in the shape of a star.
But since I had been given my gift I did not fear what stood in front of me. As his body touched mine if fell to the floor covered in a carpet of needles.
With no one to block me from my path, I continued to follow my needle to the topmost peak of the mountain. There lay the lady of white hair and dragon scales bleeding with a wolf-girl licking her wounds. I reached inside her cut to take the strength she possessed in her creature form.
After all this time away, it seemed a mirage in a desert of hopelessness. My disbelief vanished when I saw my mother appear at the door of our small, cramped home of decaying wood. Home, I was finally home.
In my path stood a young pear tree that, on first appearance looked wretched and covered with soil. However, the second time I looked at it the sapling had already blossomed into a maturity. It grew pears the size of my mother's hands. It waved to me with its branches, beckoning me towards the sweet fruit. As I attempted to climb the three, the leaves enclosed me and stung my skin with nectar.
In an attempt to lose, my pursuer I took hold of the tall silver needle in my pocket and threw it to the ground, watching it form a wall of iron thread and knots.
When I reached a house, I knocked to ask for a cup of water to cool my senses. The lady, upon seeing my shoes, let me in.
My brother hit me on my head, and while I lay in a half-awake state, I felt him dig through my pockets and saddlebag. "Look mother, look what I have for you," he shouted.
"As a child, my son could dance along the soil so quickly that the men who died and live in the ground could not catch him. Prove this to me now,"
Without hesitance I lifted my pant legs began to dance in father's leather bottomed shoes. The soles breezed across the floor, cutting the mist with rhythmic motions. I then turned the ring on my finger and watched my father rise, soil shedding from his skin. His shaved face and clean hands stood against the paling crowd. This impressed the people who stood before me, as did the fact that my tongue did not bleed from the needle it held.
The man in heavy robes looked at the man beside me and asked, "So now I ask that you take the same truth by needle test that this man took."
Everyone then stared through the guise of the false man beside me. The person, who acted as a substitute for my accomplishments, began to bite his nails in a rampant manner.
Mother licked her fingers and placed them to my face, wiping the thick layer of dirt away. Then I truly began to look like my father's son, in form, face, and color.
The earth rumbled and the trees shook, and before the old hag could spit another curse at me, the ground beneath her split in two, swallowing her rickety bones and hollow heart.
I was offered a place in the palace, but I could not accept. I wanted to be with the mountain; I felt it move under my skin, as I knew part of me was in the mountain too.
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Here at The Fringe Magazine we publish Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Poetry in all genres and reviews of books, roleplay games, music and movies.
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