This story is by Simon LeBark and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
There was never any intent to fall in love. The ocean mist glowed peculiarly under the light of the full moon. The image of a girl dancing in a white dress along the shore caught my eye. Calling out to her met with no reply, she vanished as fast as she appeared. Her image has haunted me for the past twenty-seven days after leaving Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia. Every waking hour, every dream, every thought has centered around her. For reasons unknown, resisting the pull of the island’s mystical powers to return to the islands was no longer an option.
My friend, who lives in the northern part of the island, was there to pick me up at the airport. Was it her kerchief making her stand out amongst those waiting for the new arrivals to make their way out; I’m not sure, but I immediately spotted her impatiently waiting for me. Dooriya Tarago’s natural beauty radiated through her lack of interest in her appearance. Most of her clothing was homemade, making me wonder if she was colored blind.
Dooriya’s home was situated on a secluded inlet, home to countless varieties of native plants and flowers. The tall pine, oak, hemlock, and redwood trees were spread randomly throughout the property before giving way to a beautiful sand and pebble beach. I ventured outside to soak in the view when I was greeted by a Dusky Shrew and a Pine Marten staring at me. Recalling my previous visits with Dooriya, I remembered the animals and birds visiting her property appeared to be unusually friendly.
My hope rested with Dooriya’s ability to communicate with the spiritual world to provide the answers I sought as to why my return to the island was being summoned. I had expected laughter when I relayed my story to her. Dooriya’s large black eyes widened as fear crossed her face. Dooriya spoke as if she was in another world. “Roman, the Island Gods are confused at how one of their chosen sacrifices was able to make contact with you.” In normal times Roman, random sacrifices were of outsiders wandering off to be never heard of again. These are not normal times; the anger of the Island Gods over those wanting to harvest the rainforest has intensified. Dooriya’s eyes closed as terror overtook her face. What vision had she just seen? Her silence filled me with fear. No words were spoken between us for the rest of the evening.
It was mid-afternoon when Dooriya walked into the kitchen and began fussing with the pots simmering on the stove. The look on her face concerned me, then she spoke. “Roman, the time has arrived for you to prepare for why you are here.”
The Totem pole marked the boundary between the end of Dooriya’s property and the entrance into the rainforest. I had been told never to venture beyond the Totem Pole. Dooriya now tells me, I must navigate my way through the rainforest, to save the girl and others from horrible deaths. “Failure brings death to you all.” Watching Dooriya methodically place four bottles of the herbal mixture she created around the Totem pole, instructing me to drink one bottle every two hours while sitting facing the pole. The powers and strengths, living within the Totem Pole, will be absorbed by your body. These spirits will aid you in your journey through the rainforest. Those were Dooriya’s parting words.
The noise of the animals and birds grew louder, making me realize the sunlight was fading. Above were the birds whose feathers glowed in the night, lighting the path for me to follow back to Dooriya’s home. Entering inside, Dooriya’s first words were “Roman, tomorrow brings the new day you have been waiting for, I gathered all the animals and birds together earlier.” She continued to say she informed them all of their role in making my mission tomorrow successful.
Every window was opened, but the air was so still no breeze was cooling the house down. The much-needed sleep evaded me; my mind questioned what I was willing to do to find love. The new day found me full of energy and of a clear mind somehow. I was ready, impatiently waiting for my time to enter into the forest.
I hugged the Totem pole, kissing it strangely calmed my fears. I hesitated before venturing into the land I had been forbidden to go. The humidity increased with each step into the rainforest. The varying levels of daylight played tricks on my mind. The further I went into the forest, the stranger, the things I saw became. Dryads appeared everywhere, these tree nymphs did their best to lure me into their grasp with the desire to possess me with their evil. I was lost wandering aimlessly around when I noticed two creatures coming towards me. The first looked like an old hag dressed in black sporting a long crooked nose and swollen eyes and what seemed to be horns on her head, but it was the long black tail sending shivers down my spine. Beside her was a naked woman with very long black hair, offering herself to me. The Banshee continued to stalk me, increasing my fear of death. Moments later, a man approached me saying if I entered into a pack with him, he would take me to my destination safely. I did not hesitate before saying no.
The animals gathered around me playing their musical instruments, singing songs I could not understand, but these songs made the hag, the naked woman, and the evil man vanish. Dusk was approaching when I came across these lovely girl fairies engaged in a frenzied dance. The adorable fairies “V” shape dance ended with the tip of the “V” opening and a voice calling out for me to come forward. Obeying the command, I entered a canopy tree covering. At the far end was a long bench with seven figures standing behind it. Standing before the Council of the Elders in their maroon robes with matching hoods, I knew the moment of my destiny had arrived. Each of the Elders wore a wooden mask, each painted displaying the powers of the Island Gods.
The center creature came towards me. A woman, I think, holding a golden chalice with three red rubies embedded in the base. She said, “For reasons unknown to the Council, the Island Gods have given you the chance to direct the course of the immediate future. Hold out your hands, drink from this cup, to make your desire become a reality.” The remaining six figures chanted, drink, drink, drink. Looking into the chalice, it appeared and smelled like red wine, I raised the goblet to my mouth. A crazy black, blue, and orange bird swooped down, knocking the chalice from my hands, the wine spilled onto the ground. Flames erupted from the spilled wine as the seven members of the Council fled. Was I now doomed in finding my quest for love?
The sky was a shade of purple haze, standing on the platform above the raging fire, fearing the plank would burst into flames, the higher fear was of the smoke people rising from the fire. Willing myself to fly like a bird, I soared above the forest, out over the ocean, I saw it. Smoke rising from a building on the shore. Oh my God, the Beach diner was on fire, just as Dooriya predicted.
The weird bird who saved me from drinking whatever was chirping away. Not understanding a single word it was saying, looking down two Orca Whales were circling in the water. This was the signal for me to land in the center of their circle. Landing in the water, I inhaled like never before, exhaling with such force a massive tsunami of a wave formed. It had to be fifteen feet high; one of the Orcas threw me into the air. Landing on top of the crest of the tsunami, I rode it. Using every ounce of strength, I maneuvered my creation towards the Beach diner. Moments before breaking over the restaurant, I jumped up, landing hard on the rocky shore.
Covered in seaweed and Hemlock roots, a sweet voice said, “I’m told the wave arrived seconds before the propane tanks were ready to explode. Are you okay?” Struggling to open my eyes, the faint image of the girl in the mist appeared before me. I asked her if she was real, laughing, she said yes, I’m Isla. She was more beautiful than any of my dreams portrayed her. Sitting up, I told her I’m Roman. Our lips met half-way, the sensual kiss left me longing for more. I knew at that moment, Isla was the love of my life.