Contest #240 shortlist ⭐️

26 comments

Fantasy

      He occasionally envisioned that life in dreams, where two moons hung in the sky, one closer, vibrantly pink and purple, the other, a shimmering white, the opaque pearl magic unto itself. He saw them disappear from view as the ancient cave walls enveloped him in their darkness, his small feet padding along the rock of the stone floor worn smooth over centuries of use. The further he crept, the more exposed he felt, and shadows gathered around him. His bones began to quake deep into the pitch with the final whoosh of air that rippled across his flesh. His small hands felt his way along the wall until the pinpoint of light grew into a blinding beam, and he stepped out into the warmth on shaky legs. The moons were gone, replaced by a scorching sun. The forest was now a sandy beach. Waves lapped loudly, and the seabirds shrieked. The planet he had known his entire brief life was gone, replaced by the glittering sands of this world.

     He would rouse from this dream, his long limbs taut and sore, as if he had just completed the walk from that cave once more, though it had been years since that day. His conscious mind continued the story. A path up the crevice from the shore and his confusion. Where was his village? Why were all the lush green trees gone? Where was his mother? She had scolded him so often about wandering. She had warned him off from entering the caverns where demons danced in darkness. His eyes watered; the trail of tears running freely down his ruddy cheeks were accompanied by his wails rising on the gentle breezes whispered by the ocean. 

     It wasn’t his mother who found him, though. The men with spears and nets rounded the corner and froze, their surprised faces morphing into curious stares and murmurs in a foreign tongue. Where his hair was red and braided, theirs was golden and free. His cinnamon eyes, though puffy from tears, were almond-shaped and hedged with thick auburn lashes, while theirs were the color of the ocean, large and round. His skin was pasty, delicate, and mottled with a constant blush. Theirs was bronze and freckled. He stood before them in supple leather and stared at their linens bleached by the brilliance of the sun. 

     They knelt before him, spoke to him in gentle tones with words he didn’t understand, and inched closer to him as he wept. He stepped back, then stepped back again, and then stepped back once more until he tripped over a chunk of driftwood and landed on the hot sand. The boy’s eyes fixed themselves warily on the strange men who slowly approached him, until finally, the man who soon became his father lifted him into his arms. His tears continued to fall, but he felt a sense of security wash over him, and he huddled closer to the bare chest that smelled of ocean and sunshine until, finally, they arrived in the city by the sea. And once they brought him to their vibrant collection of blindingly white homes adorned with shells and flowers of every hue, the community welcomed him into their lives as the miracle child gifted to his new mother and father by the gods themselves. 

     Over time, he forgot his own language, the staccato sounds and short vowels that sometimes echoed in his dreams, replaced by the fluid speech of his new family. His tears gave way to bright smiles, and his wails crescendoed into a deeply appreciated skill in music, his lyrics as colorful as the shells he grew fascinated with as he sat dutifully by the feet of his new mother, no more desire to wander away and lose the arms that rocked him gently to sleep beside the open fire each night. He learned their language and customs, his past life discarded as swiftly as his leather pants and tightly contained hair.

     But the dreams would pull him back into memories, limited as they were. His mind would run through flashes of rain dripping through the canopy of the towering trees above, the mud caking his small leather shoes, the smoke gathering in a low house with a thatched roof, and a beaded necklace wrapped around his chubby little fingers until his mother’s delicately slender hand came into view and deftly removed his grasp without missing a beat in her conversation with vague shadows of women he couldn’t recall the faces of. 

     He remembered the call of birds each morning and a desire to escape his cramped home before his mother could stop him from exploring. He remembered how much he hated the roots baked over the coals of a fire that he was certain was never allowed to die, and he could almost taste the rich meat brought home by the men in the village. What he most vividly recalled was the two moons. He remembered them better than his own mother, perhaps, and certainly more than his father, who only appeared in his sleep-addled brain as a tall man who carved toys for him and spoke to him in a language he had long since forgotten. 

     He’d believe it was all a dream if not for the regular recounting of the blessing of his discovery by his parents, the sweetly doting mother and always smiling father, forever thanking the entire pantheon of the divinity for the unexpected arrival of a son. The two had become his world and replaced the long-lost moons. 

     Father took him out on the sea, tucked in between the nets to be cast and the lunches to be eaten once the sun sat high above and the gulls dipped towards shore loudly searching for clams upended by the tides. He often napped right after he filled his belly with sweet grapes and salty olives, fish fried that morning, soft cheese, and the yeasty bread rolls his mother glazed with honey.

     An hour would pass as the lilting cadence of his father’s warm voice blended with the undulation of waves and gentle rocking of the gleaming waters. He’d awaken when the first afternoon haul slapped against the smooth wood of the floor and the whoops of his father mingled with the joyous calls all throughout the cove as the village men would reap their harvest. 

     Then, as he ran into the bustling town, his arms carrying a basket crafted by his own hands under the careful instruction of Mama filled to the brim with rainbow-scaled fish, he felt as if he was coming home. His heart would gorge on more joy than one boy should ever know. He’d follow the polished pebbles of the winding path past the fountain of the sea god pouring out his favor and call out to the merchants inside their open storefronts. Their good-natured smiling and the silks covering their porticoes flashed like banners welcoming him. As the streets narrowed and headed in four opposing directions, he’d turn towards home and walk faster. 

     He’d take it all in, the smells of perfumed oils and wine, baking bread and fish and fruit pies, sweat and sea, and he’d forget all about the endless trees bathed in rains and colored beads and a mother full of admonitions and loving concern because this alone was home, and he wanted to be nowhere more than here. Then there she was, his mama, draped in soft linens of cream and pink like a ripened pomegranate…his favorite fruit. She’d gather his basket and pull him up into her tanned arms with their constellation of freckles and ask him all about his day. Papa, right behind him, would laugh and regale her with their stories that became more fantastical with each telling, and they would spend their evenings in absolute familial bliss. 

     He wanted only to spend his days with sand on his skin and brine in his pores in search of an adventure each morning. For years, he’d had his heart’s desire. He grew at their hearth. And once he was old enough to explore the sandy beaches and alcoves beyond their watchful eyes, he ran free with his friends and felt the power of unadulterated happiness coursing through his veins and erupting from his belly in the deep laughter that filled his existence. 

     He had grown so much, arriving on these shores as a small, frightened boy, now a lanky lad, no longer a child, but not quite a man. His memories were full of starry skies with only one moon and a family that worshiped him more than the gods they left offerings for in thanks for his existence. But sometimes, he still saw the double moons and heard the call of the dense woodland creatures and turned to look over his shoulder before shaking his fiery tresses with their sun-gifted highlights of gold and amber, returning seamlessly to the comforts of the only life he could truly recall. 

      Another dream came, and he woke as he always did on those mornings, but something unsettled itself inside him. He didn’t release the vague specters of memory this morning, rather; they settled deep within the well of his belly and niggled into the recesses of his brain, a persistent buzz that only he could hear as he fished with Papa and raced along the stone pathway. That afternoon, he made Mama laugh and sat at twilight watching the single moon rise from beyond the olive groves on the distant hill that wrapped the village in a protective embrace. 

     He never made the choice to go anywhere but found himself at the entrance of the mystical caves, nonetheless, shock barely registering though he had never intended to come back here after all these years. Superstition, perchance, or just a desire to never tempt the fates to reverse their decision to pluck him from another world and plop him gently into this one had ensured he’d never stepped foot in front of the dim opening since the moment he had emerged from the chasm. But here he was, and he felt the chill pulsating from within and reaching out towards him with invisible tendrils that beckoned him with resolute intent.

    He thought for sure he must be in a trance as his feet moved of their own volition, but he knew he could stop moving at any moment. Yet, his sandals sank into the sand over and over until they hit the smooth, flat entrance. He continued onward as the steady beat of uncertainty played through his bones. The crashing waves and gulls’ guttural exultations dimmed, only to be replaced by the pounding of his heart in his ears and a sudden overzealous gale of wind pushing him into the yawning hollow. 

     His hands ran the course of the walls as the light disappeared, and forward he marched until all warmth from the sun had faded, only to be replaced by the chill of shadows and stone. Panic gripped him tightly, and he froze in place. He turned then and ran blindly back, tripping more than once, which only filled him with more urgency to get back. And then he saw the light ahead, vague and muted, and took a quivering breath while chiding himself for being so childish. 

     He burst from the cavern opening and laughed at himself, his hands on his knees and his head bowed low to the ground until he regained his sense of power and took a deep, cleansing breath full of humidity and the taste of soil and decomposing leaves. Goosebumps prickled his skin as he tasted the air once more, and he brought his head slowly up and stretched to his full height.

He’d never been prone to passing out, but his vision swam into nothingness anyway. When he lifted his eyelids once more, his dark eyes met several just like his, almond-shaped and lush with lashes, their staccato language pouring from their mouths, and two moons illuminating them all at the base of the woods of his dreams, its earthen scent musky and rich. He abruptly jumped to his feet, as if someone had yanked him up by strings, and then sprinted towards the only way he knew could take him home. His feet never rediscovered the rocky path.

     The jarring voices were urgent and excited as they drew around him in the luminous moonlight. They lunged in and grabbed him roughly, this demon from the bowels of the underworld masked in human form. Proudly, they told the village of how they vanquished the trickster so easily. How powerful they must be to defeat the creature! How assured of their abilities the gods must be to send a test that they passed so quickly!

     He lay on his side, bruised and scared and alone on a simple floor in a simple room, and listened to the alien noises outside until a ray of the palest light fell over him through a crack in the beams above. His eyes focused on it for a moment before the darkness sucked him under. That night, he dreamt of ocean waves and a brilliant sun, and he felt safe again. Morning was an entire world away.


March 06, 2024 02:06

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26 comments

Ty Warmbrodt
19:43 Mar 15, 2024

Congrats on the shortlist, and on your first entry. Major accomplishment. Here's to many more!

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LeeAnn Hively
20:47 Mar 15, 2024

Thank you, Ty! I've only just found out! I'm still surprised and love how encouraging it feels when others can read what is written and somehow see the world I tried to describe.

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John Rutherford
18:12 Mar 15, 2024

Well done.

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LeeAnn Hively
20:48 Mar 15, 2024

Thank you, John! I truly appreciate that coming from an author I enjoy reading.

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Mary Bendickson
16:04 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations on shortlist. Will get back to read it later. Wonderful telling of two worlds magically connected. Welcome to Reedsy.

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LeeAnn Hively
20:49 Mar 15, 2024

Thank you, Mary! I hope you enjoy it when you read it. I enjoyed imagining it.

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Linda Kenah
13:30 Mar 13, 2024

LeeAnn-loved this story. Your descriptions of two worlds are captivating, with enough mystery to be engrossing. Great job.

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LeeAnn Hively
16:41 Mar 13, 2024

Thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it :)

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Kayden Solace
05:25 Mar 13, 2024

This is beautiful. Your voice flows so well through this story.

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LeeAnn Hively
16:42 Mar 13, 2024

Thank you so much! That's such a wonderful compliment :)

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Kristi Gott
03:56 Mar 13, 2024

Very unique, beautifully written, lovely imagery and sensory details. It drew me in and I was engaged and wondering. Well done!

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LeeAnn Hively
16:43 Mar 13, 2024

Thank you! I love it when I successfully bring someone into a new world with me :)

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Alexis Araneta
07:27 Mar 06, 2024

LeeAnn, you truly have a gift for imagery. The way you illustrated each scene with your words is amazing. Lovely job !

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LeeAnn Hively
17:53 Mar 06, 2024

Thank you so much! Compliments from you hold a lot of weight..

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Trudy Jas
04:39 Mar 06, 2024

What a wonderful story! Two cultures, one boy/ man caufgt between dreams and reality, with a healthy helping of magic.

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LeeAnn Hively
21:38 Mar 06, 2024

Thank you for reading! I'm glad that you enjoyed this little glimpse into his life.

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Ken Cartisano
14:13 May 06, 2024

This is an incredible story, breath-taking in grandeur and detail. I can't believe this was merely short-listed. The quality of the writing, AS WELL AS THE STORY, blows my mind. It's heartbreakingly beautiful--and sad, and yet, in its essence, fairly simple. In a way, it's daunting. I can't compete with work of this caliber. I hope everything you write isn't this good. Jesus. Wonderful story LeeAnn. I don't think I possess a superlative sufficient to do this story justice. (So, wonderful will just have to do.) Oh and congrats on being shor...

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LeeAnn Hively
16:14 May 06, 2024

I like narratives where it's all scenery, no dialogue, just watching a movie play out in scenes like an opening sequence to set the stage. That is what prompted the style of Two Moons. I'm really glad it resonated with you! Your writing is fun and well-crafted. You write like a story is being told on a front porch, and those are my favorite types of stories. Even more loved than when I go to see Poe read aloud IN COSTUME at Ren Faire or when I go on nighttime ghost tours in Gettysburg. And those are incredible stories, so you know I must re...

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Story Time
06:23 Mar 19, 2024

Wonderful story. I pulled it up thinking I would read a little bit and come back to it later, but I found I couldn't stop reading.

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LeeAnn Hively
22:00 Mar 19, 2024

Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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Roderick Sutton
20:56 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations on your shortlist recognition. I'd like to ask: what are some of your favorite books and writings that have influenced your style?

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LeeAnn Hively
22:01 Mar 15, 2024

Thank you! I was quite surprised and honored to see that notification! I'm from the feral generation, fortunately, so I was reading Anne Rice and Stephen King by age 10 without any parental interference. It didn't take long until I discovered Douglas Adams, Asimov, Jean M. Auel, Diane Gabaldon, and a whole slew of graphic novels. I'm also an avid Poe fan and attend haunting readings by actors in costume at the Renaissance Faire every October. If you add in my love of anything Wonderland, Stargate, and Star Trek, my imagination is influenced...

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Roderick Sutton
02:04 Mar 16, 2024

I'm glad that you referenced some writers that i had not heard of, although, after googling them I recognized their works. Thanks!

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Trudy Jas
16:21 Mar 15, 2024

Told you it was good. :-) Congrats on the shortlist.

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LeeAnn Hively
20:49 Mar 15, 2024

LOL! I'll never doubt you, Trudy. Thank you for your encouragement. This really is a special site, isn't it?

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Trudy Jas
20:50 Mar 15, 2024

It is! The best.

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