Journey

By: Jannelle Holder

About this story…

I began to write this short story about the metaphorical life of a fictional character, back in 2017. It is one of the earliest works I ever completed from start to finish.

I wanted to give the character struggles that I felt I was dealing with at the time among others. Translating those struggles into fiction was one of the only ways I could get through the trials of that year.

Giving this piece a lyrical style, though this is an early attempt at lyricism for me so I use this loosely here, was another way of coping for me. Taking the things and feelings I was dealing with and wording them in a way that was so distant from normal speech or thought helped me mentally step back from the topics I was writing and lay them out on the page.

Many of the things the main character goes through are things we will all face over the course of our lives. Love and loss, and the always looming goals of progress.

The Journey Begins

A hooded figure stood at the far end of the bridge. Waiting. I step down the sloped hill path toward the river that separated me from the figure. What drove my feet on must have been blind madness. Or maybe it was blissful adventure, but all I can tell you is that I needed to be on that bridge. It called to me, with a wanting that I had never been inclined to receive before that night.

My journey thus far has been one of beautiful success and awesome tragedy. At every turn of the seasons came new views of the mountains around me. And as I moved forward, being drawn here to this bridge, the landscaped morphed through every kind of biome this world has to offer me. Until, at last, I am here in this moment.

I went from boyhood down by the creek in the tall grass fields to the growing forest. Fast rushed the bending river rapids and all its vibrant life flowing, winding through the trees. Everything grew fast there in the forest. And I too changed day by day. Little me grew with the trees, trying to be the best among them, but at least one was always taller. Stronger round its base, or brighter in its beautiful being than I.

As a young man with many a year before me, I came to the mountain range. Reach the top, to see the sights, this was my fair and naive goal. And it gave me far too much strife, but I labored onward, upward, toward the heavens high. Many years did I study the ridges crests, learning how to conquer them best. Sculpting them to my will with my body still shaping too.

It was good for my wit to fight against the grit in my teeth, to see which would win out of these feats. The practice did serve me well, for the day did come that all of the mountain tested me. On that fateful day I had been making my way skyward, and the sun was gaining behind me steadfast. I reached a clean cliff and hoisted myself upon her. Rested only a moment longer, for I was not alone. When the feral beast bid me a low growl.

As slowly from behind the rocky landing I saw her beauty standing, majestically. Pacing, facing me. Her eyes burned bright, and they never left my sight. Nor did I leave hers. Round and round we danced for the day. Almost in a friendly way. Though remembering her now, I see the movements all calculating and severe. Perhaps it was my naiveness that granted me no fear.

At last the fierce tension had reached its boiling point, and we did break all the space between us. Pinned and crumpled, rolling over and again. Scratching, thrashing, and in the end. She came to hold me back against the edge, my head hung loose from the rock. Her breath beating at her beaten body, though no worse than I. 

So where it came from, in those beats of our heart, even I do not know. But the strength rose in me to be victorious. Off the mountain I did free battered beast. Slung her over by her furry feet. At this great defeat, forward a marvelous prize did rise, from behind her hiding place.

The lass was grateful for my saving her then. Together we did climb on. Again up the mountain side, I did begin to rise. This new travelling companion did prove wise and more than her share of useful. More than one night did she save my life, in return for my saving of hers. Against the rising stakes that fought us high.

Over the many hours we spent up in our own little towering tops of the mountainside, our bond did grow strong. That bond that could hold more strength than the heavy seas we would see together from the top of the mountainside. 

But for all that love that did grow us together there were trials too. Conditions that sent us from life then close to death, as we stood there three hearts beating within our lovers embrace,  and then two left alone to give tearful goodbyes at unsaid hellos. I would tell her the truth, that it was not her fault. The guilt grew strong. Until it did ask of her more than that of her waking mind, but too of her flesh and at last, everything. 

Once again I began to climb on my own. Stumbling over the places that would have been remarkably easier with her to boost me hither and thither, and I would have pulled her to my side up the mountain. Yes it was the last tenth of the way to the top, that felt as it took the longest, for I slid back a step for every two I could manage to take for myself. 

At the top, at last I sat, and pondered that view. All my life I had been pursuing this mountainous sight. There was an ocean, far off someone else’s sea. Here the waterfall fell hard from its tall crown. Again I moved forward, not satisfied with my grand prize, not after all the loss it had cost. Till I came falling down. Rushed, I guess, to get here. 

This error gained me more than I wanted. For the valley lie dark at dusk, and deep at night. In the valley I did learn, and I did forget what I had learned. The warmth of sunlight lost down here, so too were the memories of sights I’d seen. They fell from my mind, as tears from my eyes at the fear I despised growing on the inside. 

Jagged cuts deep my flesh, fell my blood too. Where the ground did take it willing and thankful for my offering. With all its ragged edges and scars I did bare. Through the valley brought me a great hardened stride. 

In time I truly made myself believe that I had found bliss in forgetting. It was too late to start from the beginning again. Now time had worn me so deep. Down to the bone I did sink in my face and my form. My body changing as much as my mind and my mind as much as the places around me. 

This dark night though it depressed and cursed me, it did cure me with time. Gave to me things I did not ask for. How it had been somewhat of a growing friend, that I needed and it needed me. Because I gave it meaning to be. Without me, my dear friend would too be lost in the dark. And until I could stand on my own for a while, long enough to carry on and to not need to be needed.

Only after reaching my self sufficientish, did I again find the river, my salvation. Some guidance. Wise wisdom that has brought me here. Following the river still I made it from the vast crevice into the land of the sun. Where baked earth made me beg for the peace of forgetful darkness and shade. Long for the face of my dearest friend. 

Here in the desert, sand worn down my thick skin. I had no choice but to keep going forward, not from hope of getting on to a place worth being, but because of this bridge. 

You see the desert led through to the fading forest. It was mottled and sparse, but from there I went deep into the thickness. To the muggy swamplands. My mind drove on madness at the looping round of flora and the clattering chattering of the fauna too. There I lost it all in the vines and the tweets of the exotic birds. So I marched, till the swamp bid me free, and the river carried me out from the rolling hills I grew so fond of till now. But the bridge does call for me.

Here at the end of the path from the hills, I see a figure standing there. Judging. But for all my time here and there about this ever changing vastness, I have no fear of him. He cannot work me worse than I did myself to climb the mountain. He cannot scare me more than the valley, he cannot set me into the fire I fought in the desert. He has not forgotten me, nor robbed me of my dignity. Over the last of the years, spread out over these hills, he was not the one who brought me my contemplation, but the one who asked me forth to contemplate. 

This fine figure must be my peace at last, least he stand in my path at the nearing end of my long journey. So onto the bridge I begin to step. With the cracking and snapping of wood in protest. Below me the river somber wideness. And in the chill a misty fog does set over us.

Forward I carry on, to the midway point I reach. Stopping here to rest awhile for my heart needs a seat. So I set it high in my chest to face the hooded figure, now half the distance there. To our left and right a mirror shows the river lies.

The cold night strolls with me, and in my stillness hugs me tight. Taking the river to in its greed to hold everything still. Shivers race through my skin and I begin to walk again. 

Frosty breath seeps from the hood of the man, drifting down to me and my breath up to him. So close now we stand but moments fast approaching. 

Laying here I can see that the river has been left behind, and the hooded figure is with the light. The light I need enter to take me from this frightful life. Long it has dragged me on too long. Come now to claim me, and I shall walk with you in blind faith, or was it madness now, who is to remember their grace. 

– The End –

To anyone who reads through this story to the end,

I am thankful and grateful.

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