This story is by Melody Veen and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
I stood atop the mountain, and though the wind whistled and my body swayed, my feet remained firmly planted on the high barren rock. ‘They should call this mountain the lonely mountain instead of La montaña del águila’, I thought to myself in despair. I looked around, my eyes desperately searching for any form of wildlife in the faint light of dusk, but finding nothing, not even the beautiful eagles the mountain was named after. Far in the distance, the colorful patchwork of my village could just be made out. How I wished I could return. Return to Madre making beans and rice for dinner, to my Abuela brushing my hair with her beautifully wrinkled hands, to Padre whistling as he returned from working the fields, to all my Tìos and Tìas, to home. They’ve all abandoned me though, leaving me all alone on this desolate mountain.
I pulled my thoughts from the past, returning to my present situation. They said the mountain was sacred now, ever since “The Storm” that occurred the previous summer where lightning struck its crest twice in the span of an hour. After that storm, only sparse plant life could be found in this strange place. I shivered, not because of the biting wind, but because I was completely and utterly alone. They said I had been blessed, but I felt cursed. They forced me to leave the only home I had ever known, making it clear they thought I shouldn’t return; they thought I belonged here now. What hope did I have? This was to be my life, my future, and I wasn’t sure I could survive it. I had nothing. I had no one.
That stupid horse! But no, I couldn’t blame that sweet animal, Brazier. It wasn’t his fault the cart caused him to panic; or that I stood too close, trying to calm him. It was the fault of those superstitious townsfolk. People I had once considered my own, and who I now considered cowards. Tears began to sting my eyes in righteous indignation and my shoulder throbbed in remembrance. “Why!”, I screamed, kicking a fist sized rock in frustration, watching it tumble down the slight slope as my echo mocked me. How dare they do this to me! It wasn’t my fault that my scar, which had then been a healing cut, happened to look like an eagle. I sank to my knees, clutching my chest and weeping in despair. The wind stole the tears from my eyes, robbing me of even that little comfort. My loneliness weighed heavy upon me because of such an unfair burden as my exhaustion overwhelmed me.
The next thing I knew I was woken by sunlight’s first fingers reaching over the horizon. Slowly, with my scarred shoulder aching from a night on the hard ground, I rose into the wind. And while I stooped to brace myself against the harsher gusts, I came to a realization. I couldn’t do this anymore. I had been up here for almost two weeks, and had repeated this miserable self-pity nearly every day. Something had to change. I stood up straight, now ready to face my new life, and prepared to fend for myself instead of wallowing in self-pity.
The first thing on my mind was food and water. I had been sent up here with bare provisions that I had finished those already two nights ago, my water skin cracking from old age even before that. How was I supposed to find such necessities in this wasteland? I scanned my surroundings for any plant life that looked as if it could provide me with some sustenance, or some hidden pocket of rain water to quench my thirst. Dismayed at finding nothing more than a few blades of tough, dry grass, I began to meander down the mountain. I contemplated my predicament as I stepped carefully over the rocks, all the while keeping my eyes peeled for anything edible.
I was just about to give up my search, my thoughts turning toward sneaking into the village and stealing from the people who had betrayed me, when suddenly I saw a brightly colored bundle not far away. Hopeful, I ran to it and found it to be better than I had ever imagined. It was a brightly colored blanket wrapped around a basket and filled with both fresh and preserved food. That was only the beginning, I discovered, when farther down I spotted a colorful shirt with a flower pattern. Not too far further was another basket with more preserved food, and next to that, a new water skin peaked out from between the stones, next to a well-made travelers pack. “Had these all come from the town’s people?” I wondered out loud to myself, finding all sorts of useful items scattered here at the base of the mountain.
Just when I had stooped to retrieve a second water skin, I spotted one more gift. Dropping everything I had collected, I ran to inspect this final present. I only hoped that my eyes were not deceiving me as I bent down to touch the familiar fabric, and I was not disappointed. Gingerly, I lifted my favorite blanket from the grass, surprised as a small bundle tumbled to the ground. Wrapping the blanket around my shoulders, I picked up what had fallen from the blanket. It was a letter. I unfolded the paper, stunned when my mother’s pendant rolled into my hand. I studied the elegant blue gem on its silver chain in slight disbelief before reading the message that accompanied it:
My dearest Elaina,
While it pains me that you are separated from us now, at the same time I am filled with pride that you are chosen. I always knew you would be destined for something special, though I never could have imagined this. I know this will find you in good health, for you have been blessed. Keep this necklace close, so that you may remember us. We all miss you very much, even Brazier.
Bitter sweet tears stained the page as I just stood there, holding it and willing it to be her speaking to me once again instead of just words on a page. After rereading it a couple more times, I gingerly fold it and place it in my front pocket. Strangely, the letter fills me with hope as I find my way back to where I had dropped the rest of the gifts. My arms now full of supplies, I head back up the mountain and send a quick thank-you to whatever gods might be listening. I guess this is what they had meant when they said they would take care of their “new prophetess.” Just when I’ve found a fairly flat space to set up camp for the night, I feel a presence and glance up. Far in the distance, near the peak of the mountain, stood a curiously shaped figure silhouetted by the now setting sun.
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