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Fantasy Fiction Inspirational

The first thing I remember of the valley is the grey. Grey dust from the marching feet of men and horses. Grey soot from their long-dead fires. Grey ash from the trees left standing after those heedlessly abandoned fires, their tortured grey skeletons reaching towards heaven. Even the mighty Sun, bearing down with childbed vigor, only added heat to the grey haze. The dust devils that stirred at our passage did not bring coolness nor did they break the miasma.

The air about the River was slightly cooler, though the water was near black. Here, Mother paused.

“Look, my daughter.” She pointed to a few patches of struggling moss on the rocks. “There is life. We will stay.”

Our tent was small and our belongings few. She had dropped the heavy sacks she had carried so far and so long, not even bothering to open them. She had never told me what was in them.

“Mother are those your jewels?” I asked, remembering the beautiful ornaments she had always worn.

“My most precious jewels, aside from you,” she said, hugging me close. “Rest now.”

She pulled my head to her lap and stroked my hair, softly whisper-chanting the ancient sound of the growing Earth, as unbroken lines of women have done and shall do until all growth ends. I slept in our world of grey and black, as jewels of brown and green danced just out of reach of my grasping hands.

Mother was gone when I awoke. The smoke of our cookfire was lost in the stench of smoke through the entire grey land. The food tasted of smoke. The water tasted of smoke. If I licked my fingers, I was sure they would taste of smoke. Mother left me to mind the fire while she went into our tent. She emerged with a small shovel and a sack. She showed me how to bank the fire and took me out into our new domain.

She showed me where she would dig and how deeply. She sent me to fetch water from the river to give the thirsty soil a drink. She showed me how to wet my shirt and wrap it about my head for coolness and how to fold my skirt to make a pad for my knees. And finally, she showed me what was in the sacks: what I saw to be pebbles and fine sand.

“Why, Mother?” I asked, holding up a heavily ridged stone. “Why did you carry this so many days?”

She smiled as she took it from me and pushed it deep into the hole she had dug. “This stone, this seed, is my breast, giving nourishment and rest. I plant this seed, my daughter, so you may eat the fruit. So your daughters may trade the fruit and taste new fruits. I plant it so as an old woman, I may lie in its shade. Such little weight for so much.”

“And these?” I ran my hands through a sack of silkily smooth stones, each small as a dot.

“These jewels, these seeds, is my hair, giving softness and comfort. These I will spread over the ground, so that the ground will be cool and soft to your feet. I will spread these seeds so that the bees will come and we will taste their honey. I spread this seed so that your daughters may wonder at the rabbits playing in the twilight. I spread this seed so that I may rest in their sweetness.”

“And these?” This sack was mixed - smooth river rocks and round husks like the nuts we sometimes ate.

“My shoulders, my daughter. These will be frail for a long time, but will grow stronger and stronger, as I did. I plant these so that they may take the bite from the wind and the glare from the sun. I plant these so that one day, you and your daughters will live in a house of wood, rather than cloth. I plant these so that I may keep warm in my old age from the fire contained in their old branches.”

She showed me how to give life back into the Earth – from the stones we buried, she assured me the Earth would return to us. Each stone was not a stone, but a life asleep, as I had been asleep inside my mother. Each day, we gave the Earth a new life. We gave the Earth water when the Sun labored upon her. We watched the skies for the Raincloud, which would clean the Earth and the River. Mother showed me how to scrape the moss from some rocks and carry it to others, so that the water in the River would run sweeter.

For many days, we were grey where we were not brown – the ash and the mud became one upon both of us, as we wandered together, farther and farther, giving the Earth our offering of life.

I awoke one morning and screamed for joy. The Earth had taken our offerings and had given birth. The valley was coated in a mist of green. Even the Sun relaxed in her sky – the grey beginning to tinge blue.

“Come,” my mother said, after she too wept for joy at the birth. “These children are ours as well, and we must do what Earth cannot for them.”

She showed me how to gently sweep the ashes away from the new green faces and how to tell when a plant-child needed water. She showed me how to pull some so that others could grow stronger. She built a burial site for these plant-children, where they would break down and become soil.

“These plants, through their passing, will help all others grow. Some plants, through their living, will help everything else grow. For those whose time it is to die, they rest well knowing that they have helped others to live. One day, my daughter, I will lay down and become the soil. I will sleep in pride, knowing I have helped so many to live.”

So she said. So she toiled long and hard. So I joined her in her laboring. So our new lives covered the Earth.

The River came alive and ran sweet. The Sun no longer pained us. The trees grew strong as my mother’s shoulders, so the clover grew thick and sweet as my mother’s hair, so the fruit trees brought forth the abundance of my mother’s breast. The Earth no longer hid under her grey shroud, but showed her colors of green and brown and yellow and red. She brought forth flowers and the flowers brought the bees. The birds returned. The animals returned.

This valley of life, my daughters and the daughters of my daughters, came from our Mothers. Our Mother the Sun, our Mother the Earth, our Mother the River, and the hands of our Mother and our Mother’s Mother, who returned life for her daughters. Every act of creation, every new life you bring forth, every death that returns to her that she may exchange it for life: they belong to her and they belong to you. Love them as her, love them as yourselves, and love them as themselves.

Life is the jewel we carry, my daughters. It only shines when it is spread in love. 

April 01, 2022 01:05

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1 comment

John Hanna
02:12 Apr 08, 2022

Hi Jennifer, I got your story from the critique circle. I'm not good enough to be an editor but I get the basics. Basically, there was nothing wrong with it! Normally I can point out a few errors in grammar or punctuation, but your story was very well done. It is inspirational, I do root for the mothers and their quest, to eat! Not at all realistic as it isn't very often that starving women on a dead world can wait for their crops to fruit, but symbolically the story is wonderful! To conquer an utterly destroyed world with love and maternal ...


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