A Short Story by Stew Stunes
Chapter 1: The Boy on the Top of the World
A distant rumble in the sky alerted the small village that the beginning of the rainy season had come. Early morning purple light highlighted the first faint drips of mist landing softly on the window pane young Elisa was watching from. For a long time, she lay there looking out of the window, content to watch the deep clouds roll down the wide valley towards her village. Her bright curious eyes traced the rim of the mountain range as it narrowed on both sides coming to a point on the tallest mountain behind her village.
Her head turned away from the window and her wandering thoughts, as she heard her mother call. “Come on Elisa, It’s time to get up. You have to get ready quick. You have a lot of people waiting for your help today.”
Despite not really wanting to move from her perfect contemplation, Elisa smiled at the thought of completing all of the day’s tasks in record time. Jumping to her feet, Elisa rushed all around the small house eager to start her day. She barely sat for a moment as she swallowed her breakfast in what seemed like one big bite. Following a quick peck on her mother’s cheek, Elisa slipped on her most prized possession, her red-polka dotted rainboots. She was ready for the day.
With a gust of great excitement, Elisa skipped out of the door and grabbed onto the post that held up their small porch. She swung into the street, only her feet never once touched the ground as she continued to skip through the air; bouncing from side to side as she flew towards her first task. Her face was marked with determination as she raced through the air towards her family’s farm where her father would already be busy tending to the many animals they kept. People in the streets waved to her with big smiles on their faces, there was something more than magical at seeing a young girl full of such energy and joy.
She landed with a wet smack in the pig pen right beside her father. He thrust another scoop of food towards the noisy oinking pigs, before turning to smile at his eager daughter. “Good to see you up so early. I almost never get to see my beautiful daughter before noon.”
Blushing at his casual joking, she nodded, her pony tail flipping wildly around, and asked. “What do you want me to help with today?”
Her father started listing off chores, but watched as his daughter’s attention quickly changed from him to the large mountain behind him. Her eyes looked up into the heavens trying with all their might to peer beyond the ever present ring of clouds that kept the top of the mountain hidden from all below.
“Pay attention, Elisa.” Her father reprimanded.
“I wonder if I could fly to the top?” Elisa said still day dreaming about the mountain.
Sighing heavily, her father responded. “You’ll never get to try if you don’t finish your chores. Now, chop chop.”
Elisa spent the rest of the day flying around, tending to the cows, the chickens, the pigs, the horses and the goats. She then helped an elderly lady by doing her food shopping for her. Just as midday was rolling around, she finished her last task, which was to help the village leader hang lanterns in the main streets of the village. She had completed everything so fast she could hardly believe it. Normally she was not done before the sun started to dip, but now she had the rest of the day to fly wherever she wanted.
Her eyes looked back up the tall mountain. It stretched so tall into the sky; it seemed unbelievable to actually make it to the top. With a swell of joy in her chest, she decided today was the day. She would fly to the top of the world.
Tearing out her ponytail, letting her dark hair spill out wildly, she raced back to her house for lunch. Before her mother could say a word, Elisa had half a sandwich down her throat and was running back out the door. “See ya mom! I’m going to the top of the mountain!”
A faint echo of, “Oh dear,” was all her mother could say before her daughter was but a speck in the sky speeding up in the air.
Elisa tore through the sky; she quickly entered the clouds that always kept the top of the mountain hidden. She had never gone this high or this far before, but the higher she climbed the better she felt. This was her nature; to be in the sky, among the clouds, nothing short of total freedom.
The clouds grew darker and thicker as she climbed. Looking back down, the village was but only tiny dots on the land far below and yet she knew that she had much farther to go. As the clouds became so thick and so dark that she started to wonder if they would turn into solid forms, she burst through into dazzling sunlight.
Soaking up the warm sun rays, she spun with delight, kicking at the white tufts of cloud as she skipped towards the top of the mountain. As she drew closer she noticed something that looked very strange. There was a building on top of the mountain. The closer she came to the building the more detail became clearer. It wasn’t just an ordinary building; it was actually a giant castle. Tall turrets rose above the main structure, reaching even further into the sky as if they could not get high enough.
Elisa flew around the castle a few times before going closer, mixing in and out of pearly clouds. She dove under a bridge that separated the main structure from one of the tall towers and followed the twisting stone up to the very tallest peak. A blue flag whipped in the harsh winds as it stood taller than anything else. Having too much fun, she held on to it with her hands and spun around on it like a twisting dancer.
With a great exhausted sigh, she landed on the shingled top of the tower, letting her feet dangle in the air. Her red polka-dotted rainboots carelessly smacking against each other as she looked all around, her wild eyes looking at the strange new place she had discovered.
“I wonder who lives here?” She asked herself out loud. As she contemplated why someone would build a castle on top of a mountain, she had the feeling that someone was watching her. Her head spun all around trying to find the peering eyes she knew were out there. She must have looked at every block of stone that could be found, twice, before a little cough gave away the person’s location. Someone was right below her dangling legs.
Like an acrobat, she did a flip over the front side and came face to face with a boy just about her age. They both seemed just as surprised to see one another, as they openly gaped at each other.
The boy shocked and nervous grew red in the face before suddenly bolting back inside the castle, slamming the door shut on the balcony and Elisa’s face.
“Hey! Come back, who are you?” Elisa yelled, confused and hurt by the boy’s rash actions. After waiting a minute and getting no reply, she floated off with a disappointed frown. Why had the boy run away from her? She wasn’t that scary looking was she? Her thoughts did not improve as; she suddenly lost the joy of being the first person from her village to see the top of this mountain.
With one last look back up at the castle, she wondered if the boy and her could be friends. Sinking into the cloud’s gray cocoon, a feeling of deep sadness overcame her.
The mist that had begun such a wonderful day for Elisa had now turned into a steady downpour.
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.
Chapter 3: The Light Comes to You
Elisa was true to her word, every night at midnight she knocked on the door of the balcony and out came Booker. She flew him north and south, side to side, and sunset to sunrise.
All the while they talked and talked, sharing every story they could think to tell each other about the way they lived their lives before meeting. It was like living in the best part of a dream with nothing that could break them apart or stop them from waking up. When they weren’t flying around together, they were constantly planning out their next adventure. Elisa had started completing her chores twice as fast as before, just so she could have extra time to plan something new to show Booker.
It had been one full week since they first flew off together and after returning from a night of exploring the far side of the valley Booker asked her a question. “Aren’t you worried about all this rain? Since I’ve met you it hasn’t once stopped raining.”
“I’m not scared,” she responded bravely. “It usually rains like this every spring for a month or so and then it dries up quickly.”
She started to float away from him, but his grip on her hand tightened. “Elisa, I want to show you something!”
Excited and intrigued, Elisa agreed as Booker led her inside the castle. For a third time, Elisa passed through the maze of hallways, doorways that opened to stairways and entryways that descended onto new landing bays. This time though, they went further and deeper than Elisa had ever thought was possible. Walking for what felt like miles and miles, down and down they went. All the while the lighted path grew slimmer and dimmer.
“Here’s the place,” Booker announced as he slid between a crevice in the rocks that Elisa would never have noticed if it had not been for Booker’s guidance. They snaked their way along a very rough path that seemed more of a natural formation than the work of skilled diggers. At the narrowest point, they were forced to suck in their stomachs and just as Elisa began to think that they surely couldn’t go further the narrow passage ended and they found themselves standing beside a rushing waterfall.
The shimmering waterfall was a lit by emerald rocks that glowed in the dark and gave the place a vibe of calm and enormity. Elisa peered over the edge and watched as the water spilled far into the depths of the cavern.
“This is where I usually come when I’m feeling sad or need to escape. Hardly anyone comes this far down anymore,” he explained to her.
Feeling inspired and daring, Elisa asked, “Would you like to see what’s down there? I bet it’s beautiful.”
Booker agreed with a smile as she caught his hand and leapt with reckless abandon into the abyss. They rushed down following the sparkling emerald waterfall towards the bottom.
“Look out!” Booker flinched and screamed as Elisa pulled up inches away from slamming into the still water.
“I gotcha, I gotcha,” she soothed as she sat the frightened boy down on a safe and dry rock. They both stood quiet for a moment looking up at the rushing water fall, craning their necks to see the top.
“I’m sorry, I know it won’t hurt me but all I’ve heard my entire life is how dangerous water can be when there is a lot of it.” Booker tried to apologize for his outburst.
“Take your time. I can’t imagine being as brave as you are being right now. I’ve been fortunate to grow up wearing these boots and being able to fly around. All in a week you’ve gone from a boy scared of a little rain to someone brave and mighty, who isn’t really afraid of anything.” She said before skipping off of her rock and skimming across the dark lake.
As she glided over the water, her boots dragged behind her making cute ripples and tiny waves. While she was having fun crossing the lake like an elegant ice dancer, Elisa looked back towards Booker and shouted. “Hey, what do you do for fun down here?”
“We have a game called rolling rock,” he answered happy to get his mind off the water for a second. “Basically the objective of the game is to roll a rock down a tunnel and knock down these pillars. There are 13 pillars that a person can knock down during his turn. If you only get seven down, then that’s how many points you get. If you get all 13 down that’s called an avalanche. The goal is to get the most pillars down in ten rounds.”
“I think I’d have to see it to understand, but it sounds fun.”
“Are you ready to explore with me?” She asked as she skipped across the lake towards him.
“I think so,” he answered,looking much steadier and as if he had a renewed sense of excitement to continue.
She gracefully held out her hand for him to take as she shrugged in the direction of the far side. “Come on there’s a bright light over there that I want to look at.”
Pulling him across the lake, Elisa marveled at the serene experience. As they moved further away from the rushing waterfall the water became still and calm so did Booker’s dashing pulse that she could feel in the tight grip he had on her hand. The glowing rock made it appear like they had discovered their own secret treasure room and the growing silence made it feel like they were the only two people alive in the entire world.
As they drew closer to the bright spot they had to avert their eyes as the light seemed far too bright after being in the dark interior for so long. They quickly learned that the source of the bright light was actually a hole just big enough for one of their heads to fit through in the side of the mountain.
Elisa let Booker look out of the hole first. “Wow!” He exclaimed. “You can see your village from here.”
“Oh let me see,” Elisa asked as Booker rescinded his spot to allow her space to look through. He was right; it was like the village was underneath them as they were still far up the side of the mountain.
She felt water tickle her legs as it rose slightly higher inside the cave. Pulling her head out of the hole, she was at once struck with the fear that Booker and his people had felt their entire lives. Holding her mouth shut she was too afraid to put the words out there. She looked into Booker’s strong eyes and saw the same worry and understanding.
It was at that moment that the mountain rumbled like a tree about to fall. The hole that had let in the smallest of light collapsed in front of them, cutting off all sources of light, leaving them in complete and total darkness.
“Don’t panic,” came Booker’s reassuring voice. It was Elisa’s turn to be afraid and she would have to trust Booker if they were going to get to make it out.
“What do we do?” She whispered in what she hoped was the direction Booker had been.
“It’s dark but it’s not total blackout. Allow yourself a moment and the light will come to you,” he explained calmly. “That’s what the elders teach all of us young kids to do in a situation like this.”
Elisa felt like it was taking an eternity to wait for the light. She wanted to run and fly, she wasn’t made to sit still and wait. This was entirely against her nature and yet she knew that if she ever wanted to run and fly again she would have to trust Booker’s advice.
“See here it comes,” Booker said as the faint white outlines of his eyes came into her view. It was still all she could see but at least it was something, a sliver of hope.
“Now, I don’t want you to panic,” Elisa instructed, despite her own internal panicking. “But I think the mountain is filled to the maximum with the water from this terrible storm. It’s filled to bursting and I’m afraid that if it does burst it would wash away my whole village.”
The twin flickers of brightness that Elisa recognized as Booker’s eyes came much closer and filled up her entire view. He reached out with a timid and meek movement and kissed her.
“Don’t worry,” he assured after pulling away. “As soon as we get out of here, we will go straight to my father. He is on the council of leaders. He will help us. I promise.”
Too shocked to respond, Elisa pulled him along as they made their slow journey back to a place that had some sort of light. All the while, Elisa held him a little bit closer and wanted so badly to break out in a smile but her fear of the mountain of water ready to wash away her village outweighed the joy she felt with her first kiss.
Chapter 4: Waterfalls
Once they were above the waterfall and they could see the light from the hallway, they wasted no time as he pointed in the direction they should go while she flew them at top speed. Nearly crashing into the same old woman who had scolded Elisa before, they had arrived at their location. Ignoring the old woman’s cursing they ran past her and charged through the closed door into a very formal looking meeting.
“Dad!” Booker shouted as if their noisy entrance and the screeching old woman wasn’t enough to alert everyone in the room of their arrival. “Dad, we need your help.”
“What is the meaning of this disturbance?” The man that looked like an aged Booker bellowed from the center of the court. “Do you not realize you are interrupting terribly important proceedings. If this is not an emergency that your mother has passed away due to some freak accident then I want you to march right back out of this room and we will pretend that this never occurred. But if you take one step further you tempt my own and the council’s anger.”
“Please dad,” Booker begged. “It’s not about mom, but it is equally important.”
“Then speak like a man of age and raise your voice to the entire council,” his father championed.
Elisa squeezed his hand for reassurance, she hoped his father was just being hard on him, but had a sinking feeling that they would be treated unfairly.
Booker cleared his throat before speaking to the entire room. “We were just down near the waterfalls and discovered something bad. The whole cavern is filled to the top and about to burst and it will completely destroy the village below that my friend calls home. I think we can stop it from happening but we have to act now there isn’t much time.”’
At once Booker’s father slammed his hand on the stone desk in frustration. “You know it is forbidden to go down there. I will hear none of this talk of outsiders and water. You’ve distracted us enough already. Leave this session; I will talk to you about your friend telling you lies after we are done here.”
“It’s not a lie!” Elisa shouted and stamped her boot.
The entire room fell silent at the sudden outburst from the fiery young girl.
“I would like your help and it is your choice to give and also your choice to not give aid. I pray that you do, but if you don’t then I guess I will have no choice but to try and save my village alone. I’m fine with that, but I will not stand for you saying that your son is a liar. Booker is a good and honest person. I’ve only known your son for a week now, but I feel like we’ve always been friends. I can stand being ignored, but I cannot stand being made out to be a liar. You must help my people. I beg you,” she cried before bowing to the council’s judgment.
Booker’s father remained silent for a moment as he considered her words, before responding in a much gentler manner. “I wish for a moment that the words you have just spouted at me were remotely true. You are a person of great spirit and fire, but the council can hear no cases rooted in fantastical villages on the surface of the earth. All life on the surface has been washed away ten times over. Leave now, before the council grows angry with your tirade.”
“I need to go now. I need to save my family,” Elisa excused herself with a heartbreaking crack in her voice.
“Elisa, I’m sor…” Booker never got to finish his sentence as Elisa was gone with a rush of wind replacing the warm space she had once occupied beside him. She blasted out of the castle, this time not slowing for any doorways, passageways, hallways or any other barrier ways that might get in her way. Going as fast as she could, wind and rain ripped at her small body careening down the mountain at top speed towards her village.
Just as day was breaking over the mountain tops, like a whirlwind she blasted through the door of her home into the very anxious and worried faces of her parents.
“Where have you been?” They both demanded at once, but dropped all questions as soon as they saw the near-to-tears look on her face.
Huffing and puffing, her message managed to spill out. “There’s no time to explain, but there’s a lot of water trapped inside that big mountain and I think it’s going to burst very soon!”
Her parent had no idea how to respond. It sounded too preposterous to be real. Her father was the first to reply. “When you weren’t in your bed this morning, we thought you ran away for good. You had us worried sick.”
Elisa’s mother nodded in agreement, but before Elisa could make an apology a deep rumble from inside the earth make Elisa’s heart skip a beat.
“Oh no, I’m too late. Run for the hills it’s happening now!” she shouted before rushing out the door with her parent’s right behind her. The earth shook and thundered all around them.
They all shouted in astonishment as they saw the mass chaos of boulders the size of the entire village being pushed by a wall of water. It was too crazy to comprehend as the tsunami sized wall of water rushed towards their peaceful village.
Elisa jumped in the air and picked up the first few people she could grab and rushed them towards the mountains on the other side of the valley. She dropped them on the ground in her rush to turn around to go back for more people.
The wall of water was moving faster than she knew she could go. Her boots weren’t made for speed, but that did not deter her from rushing head first and as hard as she could towards the village. All the while hoping to be faster, to have a chance of being able to save someone, anyone. Like watching a collision in slow motion, she couldn’t look away as the wall of water tumbled over her village erasing it in an instant of terrible finality.
Her flight trajectory sent her over the flood of water, searching for any sign of life that could be rescued. Nothing but rushing water was visible for miles around. Despite knowing that her worst fears were coming to a reality, she circled around the scene of destruction hoping for any sign of life.
The entire valley was now covered in deep water. A single tree remained standing above the torrents of ragging flow. Elisa settled on the tree, feeling more defeated than ever, numb and beyond tears.
For a long time she sat and watched the water rush by her. The long missing sun spilled over the valley, breaking up the storm clouds that had hung over the valley for so long. Her skinny legs swung in the tree and with a last look back to where her home and village should be she was finally overcome with the grief of losing everything.
Without any forethought of her actions she leaned back in the tree and tugged off her red polka-dotted boots. Elisa held them in her hands, looking at them as if she never really owned them.
“Why couldn’t you fly faster?” she asked the now muddy looking boots. Elisa held them over the rushing waves, ready to release them into the frothing waves below her. A tear ran down her face, about ready to let go of it all, she heard a familiar shout.
“Hey!” A shout echoed across the valley and into Elisa’s ears.
Refusing to believe that anything good could happen on such a bad day, she did not turn around.
“Hey!” The boy shouted louder. “I think you don’t want to lose those rainboots. They saved your life.”
Still half expecting it to be a dream, she turned around to see the boy and all the people from her village in some sort of large bubble. The bubble had risen out of the turbulent water and was floating on top of the rough water as if it were perfectly calm.
Elisa tilted her head to the side as she noticed that the boy was wearing his own pair of green striped rainboots. He waved to her. “Yours let you fly so you can escape; mine make a shield that nothing can break.”
Overcome with tears and emotion at having watched her family be washed away in a flood and now seeing that they were all perfectly okay was too much for Elisa as she accidentally let slip her rainboots. Without any hesitation, she dove into the water after her rainboots. Swimming hard with the current, she was able to grab onto her rain boots as a wave swept her under the water.
The village and the boy held their breath, hoping that the young girl would surface. Anxious faces looked on, unable to cross the fast moving river to help.
Elisa rolled in circles under the water. All the while struggling to pull her boots on; like a key finding the right lock, her feet slid into the familiar boots. As soon as she had her rainboots on her feet, she was above the water and already colliding with her family holding them in an embrace that would never break.
Only when Elisa was completely convinced that this was all real and not some part of a terrible afterlife dream, she released her hug on them and grabbed onto Booker.
She kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear. “Thank you for saving my family. I couldn’t have done it without you, Booker.”
The young boy smiled with pride at his accomplishment and blushed at the kiss he had received. “As soon as you ran out of the council, my dad realized he was wrong and gave me these special rain boots. He said that they had been a gift to our family long ago and I was only to be allowed to wear them when I grew into them. I guess after hearing the good words you said about me, he decided that my feet would fit them now.”
Elisa pulled him into another deep hug, thanking him with an expression beyond words. Clearing the tears out of her eyes, she said to him. “Come on, now I have a promise to fulfill. Let me show you the sea.”
Booker never had to reply as his bright smile was enough of an answer. They leapt into the air together and flew above the wide valley that was now filled with water from side to side. The sun reflected off the water perfectly, giving them their own personal sea.
“I have to admit,” said Booker. “I was expecting something even more amazing than this the way you were talking about the sea.”
Elisa nudged him playfully. “Well then I guess we’ll have to fly to the real sea and find out for ourselves.”
They laughed as they sped past the wide valley, past sunrise and sunset, beyond moonshine and turbulent skies, and onto further adventures.
11/09/14 – Official release date for The King’s Challenge, my second full length novel
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