A Short Story By Stew Stunes
Chapter 2: Escape With Me
“Whoa! Careful there Elisa.” A man selling hand woven garments from local flowers warned as she accidentally bumped into him. She had been drifting along the road not paying attention to what was around her and had nearly run over a friend of her fathers. She apologized to the man, and continued on her way all the while still sulking. She could not figure out why,but she was transfixed on knowing more about the boy on top of the mountain. The worst part of it all was that no one would listen to her stories about the boy and the castle. They all told her that she was making things up. And no matter the amount of promising and “I’ll show it to you’s,” no one would listen.
She felt completely alone in her small village. The more she brought it up to her family, the more frustrated they became with her,and there were no other children in the settlement for her to play with, so what was she to do. All she could do was try and hold it in and forget about the boy on top of the mountain.
“I wonder what his name is?” She began wondering again, forgetting about the task at hand and nearly spilling all of the things she was carrying from the field to her father’s farm. Recovering, and even angrier at herself,she sped along to complete her work.
Feeling defeated and worse than ever after nearly causing a stampede with the cows, she slowly floated behind her father as they made their way back home for dinner. She could tell by her father’s silence that he was unhappy with her. Wanting to argue, she tried to speak, but was at a loss for words.
They washed their hands and sat down with Elisa’s mother to eat. The meal almost passed without an argument,but Elisa was once again not paying attention, and murmured out loud. “I wonder what food the boy eats if he lives on top of the mountain?”
This was apparently the final straw for her parents, as they both turned to her with very serious expressions. Her mother started first. “Honey, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but your father and I are worried that you may have developed an imaginary friend or something.”
“People are beginning to talk in town, and they say you are lying and making everything up to draw attention to yourself.” Her father concluded sharply.
Elisa was instantly furious. How could her parents doubt her, she had always been perfectly honest with them. Theanger bubbling over, she shouted. “They’re jealous!”
Her father held up a single finger, it was enough to quiet her, for now. “Now hear us out. We love you Elisa, but we also understand where these people are coming from. They are accustomed to watching you fly all around helping everyone. And, unfortunately, this week your help has been more of a danger.”
“We just want to talk with you and make sure everything is okay, Elisa.” Her mother added softly.
Although Elisa knew deep down that her parents meant well, she was too furious to listen.
“No!” She yelled, viciously stomping her foot on the ground to seal her statement, while simultaneously standing up from the table knocking over her chair. “I’m not going to sit here and let people say I’m making up lies and being untruthful. I will go back up the mountain and I will bring proof of what I saw.”
Without another look back she was out the door and off into the dimming light. Elisa braced herself as harsh rain pelted her in the face while she flew upwards towards the storm.
Before she had even passed into the first layer of cloud, she was over being angry at her parents. However, she was not over being furious with the people who thought she was lying about her adventures for attention. Her temper was not the reason she continued on through the nasty rain. For her own curiosity and wonder, she was determined to meet the boy and learn about him and his castle in the sky. Elisa had to make sure that it was all real.
Her stomach rumbled with nervous worry as she realized that she had flown up as high as she needed too. The castle should be right there, but the storm had moved in and had swallowed it with dark clouds. Trying her best to peer past the dark shadows, she moved cautiously towards the direction she thought the mountain should be.
Letting out a small yelp, her face came within an inch of colliding with a brick wall. After letting out a deep breath at her close call, she let out another cheer of excitement that the castle was still there and not a figment of her imagination. While Elisa was drifting between the dark storm clouds, she had begun to worry that she had made it all up. Her hand traced the outline of the castle, as she crept up to the tallest turret.
At last she had made it back to the strange castle. Elisa landed with the faintest of sound on the balcony where she had first found the boy. Her stomach was filled with butterflies as she reached out with her lanky arm and knocked on the door.
She waited all of two seconds before impatiently wrapping her knuckles against the door many more times.
A jiggle of the lock indicated someone had heard her ruckus. After letting out a huge gulp of air, the door swung open and instead of the boy she was expecting to see, a short and very elderly looking lady stepped out.
“What are you doing out in this terrible rain little girl? No child should be up here in this weather, and I believe you have classes at this time. I’ll have your teacher write you up for skipping.” The old lady grumbled and grabbed her by the wrist pulling her inside the castle.
Elisa wanted to yell and protest, but was quickly quieted as the lady led her at a remarkable speed down many flights of stairs. They crossed hallways, and entered more doorways and passageways than Elisa could count. They switched back, left, right, so many times that Elisa began to think they must be going in circles, but they were in fact walking deeper and deeper down into the mountain. Instead of being dark and scary, like Elisa had imagined the inside of the castle to be, it was filled with light from candles and fires in nearly every direction. Bright paint of many different colors made each room feel bigger and more open than their dimensions suggested.
Eventually, the lady stopped at an ornate stone carved door and wrenched it open. With a final tug, the old lady sent Elisa spilling into the room.
“I found this one outside on top of the north tower, while it was raining!” The old lady squawked at a tall and stern looking teacher.
Everyone in the room gasped at the news. The teacher set the book she was using down on a table, and marched over to Elisa picking her up off the ground. “You’re in very big trouble. Five detentions! You know the rules.”
Elisa could only nod solemnly, as she had no idea what the rules were, but felt that it would be a mistake to tell them that not only was she was not a student but she wasn’t from this mountain at all.
After another round of scolding by both the old maid and the teacher, Elisa was sent to the back of the classroom to sulk. She put her head down in shame. For some reason she felt like she had absolutely deserved the scolding she had gotten from them. This made her think of her parents and she instantly felt worse that she had not said goodbye or been nicer to them. They had only been trying to protect her from rumors and village gossip.
With the resolution to complete her mission, she raised her head to look around the room. All the other kids were looking towards the teacher as she droned on about stone formulations and math rock, but Elisa could tell that many eyes were daring to drift back and stare at her. The teacher may have been oblivious enough to notice that the girl she had just yelled at was not one of her students, but all the kids knew that there was someone here that did not belong. She watched as many of them squirmed in their seats trying to think of where they might have seen her before. Smiling to herself, she enjoyed watching them figure out that she was not from inside the mountain and start to panic a little bit as the realization hit them.
Her eyes swung around the room as a handful of sneaking eyes all averted her gaze. She noticed a familiar looking boy sitting right beside her. It was her turn to jump and have a moment of panic. Elisa had wanted to find the boy, but had failed to even notice that she was sitting next to him.
Using slight and cautious movement so to avoid the notice of the other children, she waved to him. But frowned when she noticed that his eyes were wildly darting around the room. Unlike everyone else in the room that was trying to get a better look at her; this boy was doing everything in his might to act like she was not there. His head swiveled around pretending to be interested in something on the far wall, but it kept snapping back for a quick glance before not-so-sneakily finding another spot to be interested in.
The rest of the class passed in much the same manner. She tried to get his attention. He tried to avoid it, and all the other kids tried to not be the first one to freak out.
Like in any other school a bell rang to signal the end of the class. There was a rustling of papers as all the kids leapt up to chatter. The boy tore a piece of paper in half before shoving it into Elisa’s hands and darting off into the crowd.
She uncrumbled the ball of paper and read, Meet me on the balcony at midnight. Elisa smiled and avoided the long stares from everyone as she made her way out of the classroom. She did her best to remember how she got down this far, but it had all happened so fast. Figuring that as long as she kept moving upwards, she must be going the right way, she walked and walked along many passageways, through doorways that led to entryways, across many hallways and up what felt like thousands of stairways.
Somehow and with much guessing and luck, she made it to a set stairs that spun in a spiral up inside a very tall tower. Elisa figured this must be the right one and started running through the air on her way to the door. Just as a new day began, she swung the door open and stopped short as rain and wind smacked her in the face.
The boy was not there.
“Oh no!” She whined and could feel a familiar feeling of disappointment seep into her heart. “I guess he really didn’t like me.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw something moving. Looking up, she saw the boy jumping and waving to her desperately from another balcony on the exact other side of the castle. She had gone up the wrong tower.
Laughing at her own mistake, she bounded across the distance and landed like a ballerina on the balcony next to the boy.
As soon as she saw him standing in the rain and the wind, she forgot all about the questions she had in her head to ask him. Once again they stood absolutely still, the rain and wind tugging at them, staring at each other as if trying to make sure that the other was real or imaginary.
He was the first to speak. “I know you’re not from here. I saw you flying around yesterday like an angel.”
Elisa laughed a little at the thought of being an angel. “I’m no angel silly. I was just exploring. Who are you?”
The boy hesitated but she could tell that he was just as curious about her as she was of him. “My name is Booker and we all live in this mountain and I kind of thought that no one lived outside.”
The way Booker had said the word outside indicated that he was terribly frightened about it. After a slight full-body shiver, he quickly recovered and continued on. “We’re not really allowed to be outside or want to go outside. But yesterday I just had to get away from…well this was the only place I could think of where no other kid would dare to go. So I ran up here, fully expecting to get caught somehow and to my surprise I see you flying all around with more happiness than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. I hate living in the dark.”
Elisa felt sorry for the boy; she could not image not getting to go outside let alone not fly. “That sounds so hard and boring being cooped up under the mountain your whole life. Why don’t you leave?”
Booker’s knees clapped together as he nervously peered away from her into the dark clouds and the spraying mist that flew into their now soaked faces. “They say it isn’t safe to venture outside or go below the clouds as floods can destroy everything that matters to a person. It happened to our people long ago, everything that we cared about was washed away. So our leaders decided the best way to save us from ever having this happen again was to build an entire city inside the mountain. Safe and dry, away from any kind of weather. Eventually we kept growing and soon enough our diggers broke out from under the earth and here we are standing on top of the world where nothing can hurt us. But sometimes I think that we need to leave the darkness, it feels suffocating to me.”
“Shh.” She put a finger on his lips to quiet his out of control worry. Placing her hand on his holding the balcony railing, she said to him. “Escape with me. Let me show you the moon and the stars, let me show you the land below the clouds and above the ground.”
Despite not entirely sure what he was agreeing to he shook his head yes. They both smiled wide as Elisa kicked off the ground, grabbing onto both of Booker’s hands and pulling him up into the sky with her.
She laughed as Booker’s feet flailed all around trying with desperate exasperation to remain on the ground. Internally, she marveled at his bravery for trusting her so soon after only meeting a few moments ago.
“Hey! What’s your name?” Booker yelled up to her trying to keep his mind away from the fact that the safe balcony was getting further and further away.
“My name is Elisa. What would you like to see first my friend?” She asked.
He looked up at her in awe of the confident girl casually flying them through a terrible rain storm, “Show me where you live. I’d love to see that. I’ve been thinking about it since I saw you flying above me.”
Elisa nodded and sped down the mountain towards her village. They broke through the clouds; all that could be seen from her small village was the sparkling fire-light. The village appeared like faint stars in the sea of space that manage to poke through and grant a lucky wish to anyone who might care enough to look upwards.
“That’s my house.” She said pointing in the direction of a small house and farm closest to the mountain on the edge of the village.
“It’s amazing!” The boy shouted in amazement. “I can’t believe it; people do live on the outside of the earth.”
They were now flying at the same height, all he had to do was keep holding her hand and he was free to look in any direction. “What is that?”
“Oh that?” She answered bemused. “That is a cow. My family raises them for food. What do you eat?” She asked as she envisioned all the people in the mountain stuffing their faces with worms and night crawlers. She grossed out a little at the terrible image in her head.
“Oh the important things, vitamins and minerals!” He answered matter-of-factly without explaining how you eat a mineral.
“What else can I show you, Booker?” Elisa asked as they flew over the rest of the village.
He pointed up. “On our way back, can you show me the moon and the stars? I’ve only seen the outside during the day.”
“You’re in for a treat; it’s nearly a full moon tonight!” Elisa hollered with joy before switching directions and blasting upwards, back through the unbroken wall of rain and clouds. Wisps of grey matter tugged at them, as they blew past every layer until they popped out above the clouds.
They were both amazed and awed at the sight before them. Clouds spread out in all directions as far as the eye could see, but looking up was the truly awe inspiring thing. The stars shone brighter than Elisa had ever seen them, the moon illuminated half of the night sky with its opulent brilliance.
Elisa and Booker lay on their backs to watch the sky as their bodies drifted with the natural current of the sky. For a long time, neither of them spoke as in that moment they were both the happiest they had ever been. Perfectly content to allow the night to last it’s maximum, they drifted until the sun began to peak over the edge of the cloud spilling warm light on them. The sun’s rays mixed with the grey clouds turning their twinkling night into a beauty of orange hues and soft pink overtones.
“This is what it must feel like to be at sea. Nothing around for miles and miles, just you and nature.” She whispered beside Booker.
“What’s a sea?” He asked, having never heard the word before.
“Something you probably aren’t ready to see yet. Someday you will be and someday I will take you there and show it to you. I’ve never even gotten to see it, but I see paintings and hear stories about it all the time. It must be the most beautiful thing in the world, but it’s very far away from here.” Elisa told him.
“I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than what I’ve seen tonight.” He confided as they sank below the clouds to return home.
They drifted back to the balcony in complete silence. The clouds re-soaking them from head to toe again. As Booker’s feet touched back down on the balcony, he looked very sad for a moment. “I can’t tell anyone about you or how amazing you are or how wonderful the world is on the outside.”
“And neither can I as they don’t believe that a boy could live in a castle on top of the mountain.”
Booker rubbed his eye, “But that doesn’t matter because we both know each other exist and is real. We’ll always have that.”
“You know this isn’t goodbye.” Elisa grinned.
“It’s not?” Booker questioned, still doubtful.
Placing her own two feet on the ground so that they were eye to eye, she responded. “It’s a short goodbye, not a forever goodbye. I promise to come back here every night at midnight, until I have shown you the whole world. How does that sound?”
Booker’s moment of self doubt was washed away with complete relief. “Thank you. You’re the only friend I’ve ever met and you’re already the best friend I could ever imagine.”
She watched as he slid into the building careful to not slam the door and alert anyone to the fact that he was outside.
The night had been perfect as Elisa recalled while floating in dreamy bliss back towards her village, this time she had a smile so big and genuine that she was certain her face would get stuck and that nothing could ever be done to remove it from her expression.
Thanks for reading! See You Next Sunday for Chapter 3: The Light Comes to You