A nightmare untold.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Legends remain victorious in spite of history – Sarah Bernhardt.

In a flash of panic, I find myself waking up in an unfamiliar place. It’s pitch black here, cold and extremely damp. I find myself lying on a hard surface, cold to the touch. As I start to regain my senses, I notice my clothes have been changed. I do not recognise the fabric, nor do I ever wear pants. Women in our village are raised to always wear long skirts and body covering dresses. I try to move, but my body won’t budge, almost like I’ve got a huge rock weighing heavily upon my limbs. It just now snaps into my mind. Wherever I am and for whatever reason, I am stuck, I cannot get out and I’m unable to do anything about it.

After what felt to me like an eternity, I hear footsteps, feint and distant. I listen, as I cannot do anything else, until a sudden crack of light, accompanied by a huge burst of sound, almost like 2 rocks separating from each other, fills the cave. My eyes seem unable to take the blinding light in and my ears now ring with the deafening sound. I wake up again several moments later, coming to the realisation that I passed out at the sheer overabundance of incentives. As I regain my senses, I notice that somewhere in the dark, extremely close to me, someone or something is watching me. I can hear it breathing. I can feel it’s body heat, as well as it’s body odour. Both my body and brain are paralyzed as suddenly whatever this thing is, stands up and seems to be moving away from me.

I try to pretend I’m still fast asleep, figuring I’d possibly buy time to figure out what I could possibly do. Suddenly I find myself eyeing back to the life I had. I miss my family. My father was a simple lumberjack, working from early dawn till dusk, bringing home food every day with a smile on his face. My mother was regarded as the mother of our entire village. Caring, capable and almost uncannily able to control and nurture children. She was the nurse and caretaker of the village. I also had a brother, younger than me. He was studying hard at school, for he dreamt of finding out what could be discovered beyond the mountains that covered our village. Many had attempted to find out, but the mountains had bested them all. There was one legend however. One woman of a young age, had left the village and never returned. A body was never found, unlike all the other attempts. During an avalanche in the winter, several months later, a stone was found with a drawn message on it. It’s considered sacred amongst our people and believed to be a message from the woman who made it across. Legend says that she found a secret passage way along the mountain and impressed the gods so much, she became one herself as she now watches over us all. As for me. I’m a simple girl, 13 years old, studying to follow in my mother’s footsteps. The villagers have always been hard on me as their expectations are extremely high. I must excel at school and often, when mother is not available, I am expected to do the same job with the same quality and care. My mind suddenly asks itself: “How did I go from that life, to wherever I am now?”

“BAM”. I suddenly find myself right back in my predicament, as a sudden wave of smashes, produces a warmth beside me, accompanied by the crackling sounds of ember and fire. I quickly try to look around to see if there’s a clue to be seen of my captor, but find myself out of luck. A small ember seems to jump away from the flame, finding it’s way on to my arm. The ember burns my skin before dissipating and I quickly move my arm to swing it away. As quickly as the ember disappears, I realise I am able to move, even if it is slow and clunky. Besides the fire, I am still unable to see anything in the pitch dark, but touching my surroundings slowly, I realise I have to be in some kind of a cave.

I cannot just stay here, accepting whatever fate has in store for my presence. Slowly I get up and slide off of what is clearly a rock, finding myself on the ground as I can clearly feel the dirt between my toes. These clothes are very comfortable, not constricting my movements like dresses usually do. I slowly crawl around the floor, trying to remain as low and inconspicuous as I can manage, as to avoid detection.

Crawling as I go, I pass rock after rock, until I bash into what appears to be the other side of the cave. As my fingers slowly touch my head, I can feel a liquid with familiar touch. My head is bleeding from having crashed into the wall. I feel slightly disoriented, but cannot stop now. I need to keep pressing on, if I ever wish to regain my freedom and feel the warm embrace of my parents again. I slowly try to stand up, pressing my hands against the wall, where I notice some kind of lever. All kinds of scenarios now race through my mind, from pulling the lever and running away, to the lever being a trap and dropping a rock on me then and there. What is clear to me, is that whatever happens, it’s going to make noise and alert my captor to my actions thus far. I take a few deep breaths, try to calm my heart and convince myself that it will be okay, as I grab the lever and with all my power, force it upward.

“BAM”. That very same crack of light, accompanied by the same burst of sound, as I see the wall shifting away and glimpsing my freedom. A strong, very loud and deep voice suddenly: “Ahhh, my little chicken has woken up and seeks to escape. Good, I am not yet hungry, let’s play a game of hide and seek.” As these words sink into my brain, the hungry part repeats itself over and over. I suddenly find myself strong enough to stand properly and decide to not take any chances. I sprint outside, to see a small passageway going to my right. A small river on my left side and a forest path in between. My options as I see them, are to take the straight path of earth, where I am clearly visible and hope my speed will be enough to outrun my captor. To jump into the river of water and pray to our matron that she is not wild, but swimmable or carries with her, some other means of escape. Or to follow the air into its forest and let the winds guide me to my fate, be it freedom or food. As I hear footsteps approaching from inside the cave, I can contemplate no more and find body reacting on its own, I run for the path of earth, but circle to the left, on to the forest path, straight through several bushes and jump into the river. I hope that whatever my captor is, cannot make heads nor tails of my movements and becomes lost. As I land in the river, I find a strong current underneath, dragging my feet along, while I try to stay afloat. Within a matter of seconds, I catch a tiny glimpse of an underground space, underneath the forest path, barely big enough for me to be able to breath and hold on to and hide. I quickly grab on to the side and force my way in. My whole body now underwater with my mouth barely above, able to breathe as long as I tilt my head backwards. As I hold myself firm, I notice footsteps again. Dirt and rocks crumble above me, on top of my head, as I realise my captor is standing right above me on the road. “Where are you my little chicken? I’m getting a wee bit peckish! Blast it, no one has ever escaped my grasp, how could this silly thing possibly do so?”

I remain silent as can be, catching breaths in between the drowning waves of the river noticing my limbs becoming stiff from the cold of the water. Footsteps again, moving away from me. It’s now or never as I let go of the rocks holding me in place and the river once again drags me under, while moving underwater I catch a small glimpse of my captor’s shadow upon the surface.

Moments later I see a branch and letch on to lift myself up from the river and catch my breath. As I do, the branch cracks and I fall back in, which my captor also hears and rushes on over. I fall back into the river and cannot move, riding it out until I crash onto a rock. I quickly lift myself up onto the rock, noticing my leg is heavily bleeding, but still able to move. I crawl onto land and quickly find a leaf big enough to wrap around the wound, with several flexible twigs and mud nearby to hold it on place. Footsteps again, approaching fast, I have to move. I scan the area and find two plausible options. The tree is too high to climb in my current condition and the river too unpredictable to risk again. There’s a brush near my in which I can hide. There’s also what appears to be ground sliding under the rocks a bit further up, while I can’t see or be sure, it somewhat resembles the entrance to a hidden cave, but if I take this option and I’m mistaken, it’s over.

The brush however is simply too obvious next to a wet spot of dirt with clear footprints, so I make gently tap the floor moving on over, crawling through a small prickly bush and find myself a very tiny cave, barely big enough to hold a wolf. I squeeze on inside, which is very painful and uncomfortable, but tell myself it is all I can do to survive, as I hear the inevitable approach of footsteps. “Blast it all, where can she be! If I lose this little chicken, I’ll have no dinner for weeks!! It’s playing games with me, thinking it’s clever, but I am clever too. I’ll show it, I’ll show it good!” Footsteps seem to be moving away now, as I slowly crawl out of my hiding place. To make things even more difficult, a sudden burst of rain comes down from the heavens and I find myself standing in the middle of a storm not unlike the one from the legend. It was said that the day the woman left to cross the mountains, the gods themselves unleashed a tempest to bless her path. With my captor nowhere to be seen or heard, I stand up slowly and try to get my bearings. I’m standing in the middle of a huge forest, mountains all around me. Looking at the river, I can see that had I stayed any longer, or jumped back in, I would’ve died as the river crashed into a wall of spikes shortly thereafter. A dead end. The forest seems to also be secluded and covered by the mountains.. Looking up it is clear that climbing is not an option either. I’ve but one path to go, I follow the mountain towards the earthen path and hope for the best, all the while staying as low and invisible as I possibly can.

Having slowly walked through the forest for what seems like hours, even though it was probably only a few minutes, I realise that it is quiet. The storm stops and besides the crackling of a twig or two, there’s not even a breeze to pass my ears. Absolute silence. No birds or mammals in sight. Also no sight of my captor. Doesn’t seem like the type of creature to just let me go and give up, it said it was starving after all. I try to get a hold of my surroundings and notice a small passageway between the mountains in the distant.. I had found the earthen pathway and it led straight into the passageway through the mountains, clearly being the only way out. The problem is that the earthen road offers no hiding places, nor sneaking options. It is clearly visible from far and wide and the passageway itself is easily block able by my captor. I take a moment to think, if I step onto the road now, and my captor is near, I am done for. I go back into the forest, if I can cover myself in mud entirely and find a tree with greyish bark, I can cover myself to maybe be camouflaged while standing alongside the rocky mountain and very slowly move along its side. With a lot of effort, I return to the edge of the forest, as camouflaged as I could make myself.

After again taking in several deep breaths and calming myself, I step out of the first and onto the rock, pressing my body against the mountain and slowly shovelling along its side. Having eventually crossed quite the distance, almost approaching the passage way, I can’t help but have this voice in the back of my head, telling me it’s too quiet and too easy. In that moment I hear footsteps racing toward the passageway. “AHA! Thought you were clever to escape, but the only way out is through here and I just waited for you to come. Run little chicken, run! I am coming for you!” Before I even realise what is happening, my feet start running as fast as they can, through the passageway, which seems to go on forever. A straight passageway with no side paths, tunnels or caves to jump into, I have no choice. I dare not look behind me to see my captor, but I hear it running and approaching with speed. As soon as I reach the end of the passageway, I duck into the first brush I see, I catch my breath and find a stone I can barely lift. As the footsteps chasing me approach the end of the passageway, I lift up the stone and throw it, then duck back into the brush. Waiting for several seconds with my eyes closed, praying that I am now safe, I open my eyes to a startling sight. Beside me, in the passageway, my father lies bleeding on the ground, rock beside him, dead. On the opposite side of the brush all the village elders, horrified at the sight. I find myself becoming weak and fall down to the ground.

As I wake up, I realise I’m in my bed, mother next to me, holding me tight in her warm embrace. Regaining my senses, I think it all a bad nightmare. Mom picks me up and lifts me outside into the living room. All of the village elders, sitting outside, every detail of the horrifying nightmare crawls back into my mind. Mother lifts me into a chair opposite the elders and promptly, without saying a word, leaves the house, though I glimpse a tear crawling down her cheek. The eldest begins to talk:

“My dear.. Normally we are to congratulate you for succeeding in your trials, but this day weighs heavy on our minds. Let me explain what has befallen you. Unbeknownst to the young in our village, the stone we worship from our legends, tells of a tale. It is foretold that one day a girl from our village, who comes of age, will discover the secret route through the mountain and lead us into the world beyond. She will find the route only during extreme predicaments. As such, when the girl becomes 13, her parents put her through a trial, allowing her to escape her captor, in hopes that she is the one to stumble upon the hidden passageway. The captor chasing you, the very one you defended against my dear.. was your father. I’m sorry to say he did not survive.”

“I will give you and your mother time to grieve and talk.. but tonight, we must continue the ceremony and learn of your story.” As the elders get up and leave the building, I can only hear the crying sound of my mother, as she runs back in, embracing me and holding me tight..

Later that day, having mustered the strength to do so, we visit father, who was in the adjacent room, lying motionless on bed.. The rock I had thrown, left a wound that would’ve instantly ended the life of a bear, my father stood no chance. I ran out of the room.. into my mother’s lap, crying.. feeling shattered. My body was unable to move. Everything I knew.. gone.. for what? Some legend? Why did we need to go beyond the mountains anyway? We had food, shelter, a family, we were safe.

As the sun passed into the night, and as the elders had promised, they knocked on our door. I had no strength to move, let alone talk, but mother opened the door. Along with the elders, my brother was also there. As mother lifted me up, my brother became overtaken with rage, running at us both, knocking me out of my mother’s hands and trying to strangle me, yelling all the while: “YOU KILLED FATHER. I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!” With the elders and mom dragging him away, I felt my spirit leave my body, unable and unwilling to fight any longer..

I woke up several days later, mother next to me, nurturing my body. As I regained consciousness, the elders walked into the room, quickly grabbing my hand and urging me to regale my story, so that they might learn of the secret. With what strength I had, I whispered in detail, the horrifying event that had come to pass, but omitted one small part. The small cave under the river. You see.. at the time I did not realise it.. but during my stay in the cave itself, I did feel two different currents, one moving further into the cave underwater. I did not wish for the elders to know this, as I blamed them for what had transpired.

Months passed as I slowly recuperated from the ordeal. My brother had not once looked at me since as he took up father’s job and cared for mother. Mother herself had spend every moment since working as well. She cared for me and would do anything for me, but she couldn’t look at me, without seeing father. As my body had healed, I decided to go back and discover the truth for myself.

Sneaking out through the window, I found my way back to the passageway, still covered with father’s blood. Time had not washed away it’s traces. I found myself back at the cave, studying it from inside, it appeared to be a memorial sight to our legendary matron, that crossed the mountains. I next traced the river and with effort, found the cave underneath.

It was truly small.. only several inches above the river’s waves. Jumping back in, I could see the cave going underwater. I had but two choices. Take the plunge, see where it takes me and possibly drown, or stay where I was shunned and hated and feared as a murderer. Before even finishing this thought, I dove and allowed the currents to take me. Before I did though, I left, upon the river bed, a stone, depicting my intentions, to the villagers that should find it. The stone, even though it stood right on top of the cave, did not lead them to my line of thinking. It passed into legend, as it passed into myth, and joined my predecessor’s stone at the centre of the village. As for what happened to me, after I decided to let the flows of water take me under.. Well..  Let’s just say sometimes a legend is just that, and sometimes it is true. Either I’m lying at the bottom, or I’ve seen the other side. If you want to know which, you’ll have to follow me yourself.

©Raifiku


Submitted: October 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 raifiku. All rights reserved.

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