This story is by Gloria Johnson and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The day I woke was the day I died…to this world. Today I would find a rebirth into a new beginning and I would never be the same. Let me tell you the journey.
It all started with a simple game of Hide and Seek, a tradition long ago established. My brother Dyami and I loved to explore, fascinated by what adventure we’d find round the corner. There was only one other time that my brother and I ventured too far and lost our way. I remember that day clearly and the fear that we both felt. It took us nearly two days to find our way out. This time was different, an unconscious sense of indefinite lingered in the air. What started out as a regular ritual now separated us. This day a new life began that would go from simple to a supernatural reality.
We grew up near the mountains in a small village hidden away from the world and all its distractions. We embraced life here and it was quiet. We were happy. Orphaned at seven, my grandmother raised us. I do not remember much of my mother except what my grandmother told me. Sometimes she reminisced with me before bed about how much I looked like my mother with my long flowing dark hair and giant sized dimples. She told me that I was named after a stream of water, Talise. Fifteen now, I had a petite frame with enormous chocolate colored eyes that I considered to be too big for my face. Dyami once told me that I looked like an owl and could probably see better than anyone else. We were a close family and he was my lifeline. I hardly did anything without him and felt indecisive when he was not around. My brother and best friend would now be with me always. As we were running through the woods freely, I didn’t see the 100 foot drop until it was too late.
The next time I opened my eyes, I saw a little red bird perched on a tiny rock surrounded by the sparkling stream flowing effortlessly around it. The little bird looked on me expectantly, alerting me that the sun had now risen. His birdsong a familiar sound, brought me some comfort that I was okay.
“Good day Red.” I said groggily. His cheerful chatter reminded me of Dyami. I looked up into the glorious sun shining down on me and let out a loud yawn that made my ears pop. A vanilla scent filled the air and I could recall being surrounded in the loveliness right before I woke. Slightly confused I sat up and realized the looming forest around me. The beauty and grandeur of the autumn leaves although breathtaking suddenly appeared intimidating this morning. I wondered if I had ever seen it in such a way before. I started to become aware of where I was and what happened. I wasn’t dreaming and I was alone. As I looked around, nothing seemed familiar. Feeling uncomfortable, the golden amber trees seemed to whisper around me Tah-leeeese… Trying to shake the sleep off, I winced feeling stiff all over not wanting to move even an inch. Looking back to the little bird I asked “Red, where am I?” He chirped at me expectantly and I could not understand.
In the quiet of the morning, I began to remember. I was in the woods running, with Dyami not far behind me. I stepped over a giant log in front of me and then my foot slipped beneath me. I could see myself falling and then nothing. A swell of dread suddenly filled my heart and I found it difficult to breathe.
“Dyami, where are you, Dyami.” I cried. I reached for the extended branch in front of me and pulled myself up, tears welling up in my eyes as a shooting pain rushed through my lower back. I began to panic, scared I would not see my beloved brother again. A flood of tears erupted as I began to sob uncontrollably, “Dyami, where are you? I need you now.”
Just then, a sudden movement caught my eye and I looked up through what seemed like a light mist in front of me. Then I saw it. “What?” I thought. Feeling slightly lightheaded and confused, I quickly wiped away my tears. There stood a large wolf with the bluest eyes I had ever seen and they seemed to glow intensely as they watched me. He was impressive in appearance and looked almost majestic. His powerful strength emanated in the air everywhere. The wolfs deadpan stare created a curiosity in me instantly eliminating any worry I had.
“Wolf, what are you doing here, do you know where Dyami is?” I asked now interested to see if he would respond.
He just stood there looking at me, expressionless. I quickly wiped my tears and stared back at it, waiting for it to do something, anything. After what seemed like an eternity, he turned his head and nodded into the forest, then looked back at me. He let out a loud howl and nodded at me again. He turned to go, then paused, waiting for me to follow. Filled with an unusual desire, I slowly walked towards the wolf and into the thick of the enchanting forest. It seemed so much brighter now as the wolf led me slowly though the orange and lemon painted trees. After a short distance, we came to a small clearing in the woods where a happy chatter of birds filled the air everywhere. The quiet was no longer and I was enjoying this moment immensely.
The wolf suddenly came to a standstill and waited for me to come closer. I began to imagine I could hear what it was thinking as I followed his gaze I noticed in front of me two paths, both filled with fluorescent rays of light. Golden yellow and orange leaves crackled under my feet as I now stood next to the wolf. It watched me expressionless.
“Wolf, which way?” I asked, waiting expectantly for it to choose. The wolf said and did nothing. I glanced at the path on the left and a fiery red winged butterfly lazily following the trail caught my eye. I always loved butterflies, they always seemed happy go lucky. My eye moved to the path on the right and it seemed lonely. No movement, just silence. I always thought the road less travelled was the one to take but now I wasn’t so sure.
“Dyami.” I murmured, “Where are you, are you in there somewhere?” A sudden wind blew through the forest and my buckskin dress clung to my frail body like a second skin. Shivering I called again to a reply of silence. My heart dropped as I sighed “I will find you Dyami, I will.”
Turning to Wolf, I asked “What can I do? I miss my family.” I was hopeful he would tell me. He looked up at the sky saying nothing. As I watched the wolf, in the distance I heard a voice whisper “I am your friend.” I looked around quickly and wondered if I was imagining things. I felt something touch the back of my head softly. It was almost surreal, like an invisible presence behind me whispering “Go this way child.” I decided to follow the voice.
Compelled, I said “Wolf, I will take the path on the left.” I was now determined that it would lead somewhere good. We continued on and quickly came to the edge of the golden lit path where the leaves glowed with pure opalescence. I was elated and exhausted to see the end of the trail. Hungry, my stomach let out a loud growl and my eyes welled up with tears. It was then that I saw him in the distance. I quickly wiped my eyes again and again. Could it be? It was a young boy walking towards me. Yes! It was Dyami. Breathless I walked into the field of rainbow-like hues that lit up the sky around me. I ambled towards Dyami with caution and then with an urgency to reach him.
Dyami, is it really you? I thought dumbfounded as I traipsed into the lilies in full bloom everywhere. It was a beauty beyond words in a field of pink, purple, red and yellow that merged together as one. A sea of butterflies danced around me everywhere I looked. I felt lifted to another world, all fear gone now. I could see clearer now, and my heart jumped.
“Dyami! It is you, I found you!” I screamed with joy. I turned to thank Wolf and discovered he was gone.
“Wolf, where did you go?” I called and heard a voice reply softly “You are home now.” I suddenly sensed that the wolf only came to guide me into the next world. A rebirth, I now knew my journey was just beginning.