Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scent of the Valley

Scent of the Valley
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1372

In the bowels of the valleys where I live, the smell of anger comes in bouts. The smell rides down from the mountainsides on great horses wearing heavy armor and large blades; the smell drives at us with the sound of hooves pounding on soft valley soil. My father could scent this smell twenty-four hours before it came, but when he was hungry for something angry, to him the smell of war was everywhere. The day he left to find the source of the scent was the day he left me all alone.

Something inside told me never to venture farther than the fog allowed because I could never smell danger like my father could.

That sweltering afternoon day I opened the trunk my grandmother forbade me to open. Inside was a pair of leather-bottomed shoes, a cap, and an empty canvas bag.

A child playing in the dirt asked me, "Where did you get your shoes?"

"I can go anywhere I want to with a turn of this ring," I boasted to the group of asinine compatriots.

The man smelled my skin and laughed. "You smell like fresh meat," he said. "You smell like you expect to be killed and eaten alive. What kind of boy would run around this fog like that?"

I gave him my satchel and shoes as he asked me, then I shed my clothes as he advised me to do. "Wear this," he said, and he shed his own skin. It fell off in a pile on the soil floor looking like a tablecloth used in my home. When I clothed myself in his skin, I no longer smelled like my home or the valley. Instead, I became like the men on the mountain. I smelled distinctly foreign. I thanked the man and watched as he dressed himself in my own clothes. He said he would wear them until new skin grew on his back.

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. Moreover, 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.

My mother bade me to return home twice to comfort her hunger. Nevertheless, on the third time the hunger sunk such a pit in her stomach that it fell into the ground and would not move.

"Let me go then," I said.

There was nothing to pack into my satchel but a stale crust of bread, which I grabbed and ate on my way out of the door. I was finally leaving our old wooden house, the house in which my father had breathed his last, the house I shared with my empty shell of a mother, the house where my only joy was my friendship with the fat gray pigeon that visited our home’s single window daily.

I saw the devilish look in the serpent's eye as his spiny tongue wrapped around my body. My legs felt as if they were being stabbed with a thousand tiny needles.

After I took the needle from its place, I pried my father's bones from the floor and put them in my satchel.

The fairy placed a single seed in my palm, which I immediately planted and tended to for months. For days, I watered the seed, showered it with words of encouragement as it grew into a young sprout, and gave it proper space and care as it blossomed fully into a magnificent red rose that granted any wish that I whispered lovingly into its soft petals.

The mists grew heavy. When I stretched my arm out I could not see past my hand, but it did not matter. When I closed my eyes, my feet moved along with the rhythm of the mountain and its soils. Faster and faster, I could almost feel myself fly.

Then, as I was about to reach the top of the mountain, a giant form appeared before me in the shape of soil. As I came closer to it, I realized that it was not a giant form but composed of hundreds of small people from the earth. The mountain had come alive, and it did not want me to pass its presence.

The blade struck me against my face and left a blood spot in the shape of a star.

Through the blind frenzy of earth and shadows, I plunged my dagger into the creature's heart and watched as it melted into rain.

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.

So I began my journey 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.

As I felt the creature take me into her jaws, I saw my father come, from behind a tree. From thirty feet away he shot the creature and the jaws fell lose, emptying me onto the floor. The skin on my chest had impressions of teeth marks, but no blood appeared.

Before I entered the foreign kingdom, a general dressed in black and red wearing white paint asked me who I was and how I came. I told him about my shoes, about my needle, and about the creature, I had slain. His eyes opened in delight, and he scribbled down my boasts on a parchment of yellow paper.

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.

My lying brothers cried when they were forced to walk on the ground without their leather-bottomed shoes. I watched as they, as my father had once, were swallowed by the ground and mouths hungry for stinking flesh.

As the soil on me continued to turn into gold, the ground of our garden sprouted trees, fruits, and vegetables. My family and I stared in a daze as we watched our land grow rich and the people of the soil draw away.

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