American Fiction Teens & Young Adult

Around her, arrows flew, long black hair waved behind the men, war cries whooped, and redmen fell. The girl's last words were silenced by the yell of her fellow tribesmen at war. "Daddy..." His kind smile, dark brown eyes, coal-black hair, and tan buckskins floated before her caramel eyes. "Daddy." She sighed, breathing his last, cradled by the soft grass under the bows of the pink dogwood tree.

She could see him in the distance. She ran to him, her chest no longer hurting or covered in blood. She could see clear rivers with no end, fish of many colors swimming in the streams, mountains in the distance where Mother Earth met Father Sky. But, most importantly, there was her father. His arms were outstretched, ready to embrace her, as she ran for all she was worth. She was stopped short, at a pink dogwood, by the only black river in the place. She couldn't cross. "Daddy!" She cried. His arms faltered and the young woman began to weep, fearing she would never be able to cross over to her beloved father.


"James!" His earth-toned eyes focused as he ignored the calling. "James! Get down from there! You'll break a leg!" He laughed and shook his head.

"Mariella! I'm fine! Ain't nothing gonna hurt me!" He stood on the small, but thick, branch. "See? All fine, Sis!" He reached for the next branch up. Grabbing it, he hoisted himself onto the branch. Snap!

"James!!!!" She screamed. "Daddy!!" Clutching the skirts of her simple dress, she went running back to the plantation house as he fell through the branches, pink dogwood flowers falling with him. "Daddy!!!" He could hear her as she faded into the distance. He hit the ground with a thud, not even so much as a word escaped his lips as he breathed his last.

"Momma?" He could see her, but something wasn't right. "You died when Mariella was five..." She was clad in a simple blue dress that fell to her ankles.

"My boy, my dear boy. Too young. Why are you here?"

"I fell out of a tree." He had a vague recollection of it as if it was some distant memory, but he knew as he said it that that's what brought him here. His mother shook her head but held out her arms to embrace him. He could see the purple hues of the distant mountains, the clear & fish-filled rivers, the fields of golden wheat, and the pink dogwood tree he'd fallen out of back home. "Am I dead?" His earth eyes fell on a girl in a simple, buckskin dress. Her caramel eyes met his.

"Yes. You're dead." Her voice was so monotone as if she didn't care anymore about life or death. He looked across the black river to his mother.

"Is this Heaven?" She smiled and nodded. "But, there's no streets of gold...No pearly gates...None of that..." She just kept smiling like she did when she was alive. He went to the river's bank and put one foot over the water, ready to step in and wade across. A shock sent him falling back. "But..." His mother's toffee eyes stopped smiling. "Why can't I cross?"

"Because Mother Earth is not ready for us to." The monotonic voice replied to his inquiry. "I have been here for hundreds of moons." Her forlorn face gazed at his again. "I have seen many come and cross, yet I cannot, and neither can you."


They shook with fear as they ran for their lives. Around trees, down dirt roads, across rivers. They couldn't stop or they'd be found. And killed. "Valentia, we need rest! I'm tired!" Her words came out in rapid, short spouts of sound as she tried to catch her breath. Her muscles screamed for her to stop.

"We are nearly there! The place our mother told us about." He glanced at the silver machine on his wrist. "Just a half-mile more." She nodded and pushed herself to keep going. Finally, he saw the tree in the nearing distance. "Just ahead!" With a final spurt of energy, they sprinted to the tree and stopped beside it to catch their breath. The pink flowers of spring were in full bloom. "We're safe, Mariposa. We're safe." She collapsed against him as his arms snaked around her. "We're safe."

"Thank God!" She intertwined her fingers with his as he kissed the top of her head. Crickets chirped in the background. Stars layered the sky above them, twinkling with hues of red, blue, white, and purple. The moon gently caressed the two laying in the grass. A pink dogwood blossom floated from the branches, landing on Mariposa's chest. "Do we just stay here for the rest of our lives?" Her baby-blue eyes gazed up into his chocolate ones.

"I like the sound of that. The one place they can't get us. Protected by spirits of the past. The one untouched place in a world of machines, steel buildings, glass domes, and big-city tech. I love you, Mariposa"

"Love you too, Valtia." Her eyes drifted shut as her breathing evened out. Not long after she fell asleep, he drifted off with her in his arms.


"Time to call them home, Shoppa." James looked at the woman he'd fallen in love with over the previous six centuries. Smiling at him, she placed her brown hand into his tan one. "Ready?" She nodded. They placed their hands on the wood of the ancient, pink-blossomed tree. "I can feel it. They're the ones we need to cross."

"Mother Earth. Father Sky. We call these two spirits home unto us. Forever in your care, we place them." Power radiated from the tree as a pink glow enveloped the two, on both sides of life.

"Where are we?" They heard Mariposa's voice and turned. She was clutching her husband's hand in a death grip.

"Welcome to the afterlife." James and Shoppa went to greet them. "You're safe for the rest of eternity. Come." He offered them reassuring smiles and walked back to the tree and river. "I told you!" He turned to Shoppa. "Look!" She peered around him and shouted for joy. The river was clear with a trail of four-petaled, pink dogwood flowers across it.

"Come. It is time to cross." A whisper sounded in the rustle of the tree's leaves. "Welcome home." Shoppa ran into her father's arms as James ran into his mother's. Dumbfounded, Mariposa and Valentia crossed over, hand in hand.

"Are we dead then?" James and Shoppa laughed.

"Of course! But, your soul and spirit will live here for an eternity!"

"Eternity starts now, my children. You are the keepers of the afterlife now." Her leaves rustled softly as they turned to the tree in wonder. A pink glow emanated from the tree's body and into the four. They watched as the dogwood tree's blossoms slowly fell into the river. Her branches bowed over as she fell into the water.

April 19, 2021 14:07

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