My First short story: The frozen journey.

Photo by Mónika Fehér on Unsplash

This year I finally decided to go after a dream of mine. To learn how to professionally write. I started, well almost completed because I already have 90 credit hours, towards my Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction. For my final in Creative Writing class I had to write a short story. Since I am really busy with writing and researching for a project and taking classes, and this is my blog or random musings, I figured I would post my short stories. Hope you enjoy.

The Frozen Journey

The moon was high as Tomlin ran through the trees. He could feel the burning in his lungs. Legs numb and mind spinning. Eyelashes covered with the white powder of fresh snow atop his young cherry red cheeks. He didn’t know how long he had been running, or how far away they were. All Tomlin knew was that he had to run and couldn’t stop until he reached the caves. The huntsmen had come in the middle of the night. 

Tomlin awoke to the smell of smoke. Jolting out of bed, he frantically searched the small loft for his family. They were nowhere to be found. Tomlin reached beside the bed sack and grabbed a pair of pants, one foot and two, sliding the shirt over his trembling chest and stuffing it into his pants. He could feel his heart beating with terror.  Where is everyone? His father had already planned for what to do when their village was attacked. There was no if, only when. He knew what to do, he was prepared. One shoe then two. He almost fell off the ladder.  “Slow down” he whispered, forcing himself to regain his composure. He heard the deep, rage filled voices growing louder, just on the other side of the fence. Oh no, he thought, they’re here!

As a torch crashed through a window, Tomlin slid through a worn-down slat behind the couch into a back alley.  As he raced towards the forest, his green eyes could barely see through the haze of smoke and fire. Using the smoke as a shield, Tomlin ran through the small town by memorization alone. The only home he had ever known, was now aflame. Tears started to fall. Tomlin swallowed his sorrow and headed towards the forest.

As the orange hue of sunrise broke through the trees, he knew he could easily be spotted. Tomlin continued to run until he found somewhere to hide. Ah rocks! He knew he could not disturb the snow or else the huntsmen could discover him. As his nimble fourteen-year-old body slid between the large rock faces, Tomlin was invisible The pine trees were covered in snow and made the rocks almost impossible to see. He would be safe until night fall and continue towards the caves. As Tomlin laid between the rocks, his youthful body drifted off into dream time. 

            “Father” Tomlin asked, “why are they coming for us?”

            “They want to destroy our way of life,” Larem said as he stirred his meat stew. “They think that they are bringing good news to those around us, but they will inevitably destroy all of our traditions within two generations. The ancient wisdom that was handed down to us from our forefathers, is to be erased. They want to erase our history and force their customs and beliefs on us,” Larem replied. 

As the two sat at the small wooden table as mother was seated by the fire on her rocking chair. Her arms were strong but gentile while her fiery red curls were dancing along the white sleeve of her blouse. She was rocking her new baby girl and singing the old hymns of the elders.  Tomlin looked into his father’s green eyes across the table. He could see the terror inside of them while his strong pale skinned face attempted to look reassuring. Tomlin tried to hold in his fear as best he could and attempted to mirror his father’s expression of bravery.  

“I’m not sure what is to come,” Larem continued, “but we all need to know what to do. Your mother and I have spoken with the village elders, and they decided that we are to head to the caverns. If we get separated, we will all meet at the caverns and begin our new lives there. Whatever is to come, we must protect our way of life.” 

            Suddenly Tomlin was jolted awake by the sound of rustling branches not a hundred feet away. He placed his hand over his mouth and tried to conceal the vapors as they left his breath. Head cold and neck heavy, Tomlin opened his eyes and noticed that he was covered in snow. He blended in with the forest canvas. Taking a deep breath to calm his racing heart and breathing in the cold crisp winter air, Tomlin popped his head above the rocks to look for the huntsmen. 

            A wave of relief swept through his cold body as his eyes spotted a doe with her two fawns gracefully walking through the forest. Tomlin’s eyes searched the horizon for any sign of the huntsmen. They were nowhere to be seen. They must not have come this wayI better continue on, just in case. As he crawled his way out of the rocks, his foot snapped a small twig under the snow and the doe’s head shot up. Tomlin locked eyes with the doe. Why isn’t she moving? For a moment he felt as though he was speaking with the doe. A wave of protection came over Tomlin’s small frame and he knew in that moment, that he would find his family. Tomlin bowed his head towards the deer in gratitude and continued to run north.

            As the sun began to set Tomlin knew there was still another day until he reached the cave entrance. His body wanted to stop and rest, but his mind forbade him too. “I’ll see father, mother, and Cecile. I must see them. They can’t be dead.” He reassured himself. Tomlin’s head had been spinning with regret and confusion about the night of the fires. He was certain that everyone he knew and loved were gone. As he ran, the questions continued. Was it all just a dreamWhy would they leave me? He didn’t have time to think, only run.

             The waxing crescent moon made the run difficult. Tomlin tripped. Best to walk from here. He made his way through the trees as the moonlight shone off the fresh snow. He could hear the night song of the owls as he continued. Hours later the strange sound of a stream in the distance filled Tomlin’s ears. Running water? It’s snowing, how is there running water? He pondered as he increased his pace. Tomlin continued onward towards the stream and began to realize the stories mother told were true. The stories from the ancestors of the magical waters that brought life to the caverns during the last great catastrophe of fire, when the gods were angry. 

            “The waters are filled with magic and wonder,” his mother would say, as she waived her hands and fingers in the air mimicking magical fairy dust. Tomlin counted twenty more paces as the golden rays of the sun began to seep over the horizon. He could see a white wonderland all around him and was finally able to see the clearing. Tomlin began running as fast as he could. 

            “Mother, father, I’m almost there.” He shouted while panting in exhaustion. He had finally made his way through to the other side of the forest. The stream was light blue as it flowed through the icy path between the forest and the mountain. He looked to the right and all he could see were mountains. Where did the water come from? He wondered, then remembered that mother had told him that the water came from the heavens and flowed down the mountain to the caverns. He looked left and saw nothing but the forest. In front, he saw only a mountain of rock and ice. 

How could this be, he wondered the cave should be right here. As he stepped over the stream, he passed through an invisible barrier and could see the cave entrance. His heart skipped a beat and felt as though he had come home. As Tomlin set foot into the cave, the crisp winter air faded, and he could smell the moss growing on the cave floor. Within ten steps he realized that the sunlight had not penetrated the cave yet and was unable to see anything. As his fingertips brushed along the inside of the mountain he ventured deeper into the belly of the cave. Twenty more steps and Tomlin began to see a faint green glow up ahead, growing brighter with each step. Deep in the heart of the cave, Tomlin was surrounded by glowing emeralds of all sizes. As he reached the center of the cave, he looked up to find a small hole at the top. The sunlight penetrated through the opening as the beams of light reflected off the emeralds. 

“What a magical place.” He said out loud in complete amazement. As Tomlin began inspecting the emeralds, he watched the sunlight dance within the crystal structure of each unique stone as the weight of fear lifted from his body. The endless questions that had encased his mind only moments before were replaced by peace. 

“Hello.” A familiar feminine voice rang out from the darkness behind him.

“Mother?” Tomlin said in tears.

“My sweet boy you found us!” She replied. Ophelia stepped into the sunbeam opening. As she spoke as the sunlight illuminated her bright red curls, “this is the entrance to the caverns. This is where our ancestors were brought when disasters happened in the past, and this is where we will stay until it is time to return.”

“Mama, where did you go? Why did you leave me? Why did you not come back for me?” Tomlin begged for answers as he fell into his mother’s arms weeping.

“Don’t you remember?” Mother curiously questioned. “We were all in the elder’s home deep in prayer before we were to depart later that night. You became tired went to lay on the mat until we were ready to leave. When everyone went to prepare to leave, you were nowhere to be found. Your father rushed out the door with two elders and they ran through the village yelling out your name. Shortly after they returned. A look of fear and terror that I had never before seen, filled your father’s eyes. “He’s nowhere to be found” Larem cried as his heart broke. The huntsmen were less than half a day away from the village and we had to leave. Chieftain received a message from the ancestors and told us you went into the spirit realm and would return, and to trust that you would meet us at the cave.”

As she was speaking, Tomlin remembered everything. The ancestors showed him the wonders of the caverns, the origins of the ancient traditions, and the reason they needed to be saved. He was to be their savior when it was all over. He would be the one to lead his people in the days to come. Ophelia wrapped his cold chest into her arms and the two embraced in the bright green light of the emeralds. Tomlin would be strong enough when the time came. For now, he just wanted to be home in his mother’s arms. 

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