*I am pleased to share the first part of a short story series from my dear friend, Brittany N. Gathing. Check out her website, follow her on twitter and enjoy the story.
The Traveler’s Journey part one by Brittany N. Gathing
“Let the celebration commence,” the chief called out for everyone in a three-span radius to hear. The drumming started, and as he began to dance, he made his way to me. He was a large man, so his dance moves were as graceful as a baby elephant splashing in a puddle, but he managed to make it look like a dance made just for him. When he made it over to me, he scooped me up in his large arms and squeezed me until I couldn’t breathe. “My little girl has grown up so fast,” he said, stroking my hair and squeezing me tighter.
“Papa I can’t breathe,” I managed to squeeze out. He put me down and kissed my forehead.
“Sorry, I’m just so proud of you. This day for a traveler of this tribe is the most important day of all, especially for you. With your 18th year, your power will manifest, and you will grow into the seer you are meant to be.”
“I know, I heard it a million times from Ama. I am a seer, and on my 18th birthday I will have my first vision of the tribe’s future, but what if I go to sleep and see nothing?”
“Lenora, in a hundred years of seers in this tribe that has never happened. You will do wonderful things with your gift, and we will all be here to see you through them. Now, go find your mother; she has something special for you to wear.” He kissed my forehead again and stomped off back to his dance.
I made my way through the crowds of twirling colorful skirts and the ringing of tambourines to find my mother sitting outside her wagon with a beautiful dress. She held it up for me to see when she spotted me coming her way. It was a stunning purple, turquoise, and green layered skirt with golden coins dangling from each layer, our tribe’s symbol pressed into each one.
“It’s perfect Mama!” I complimented and ran into her arms. She laughed embracing me back as tight as she could.
“This dress will bring you luck. It was your Ama’s when she had her first vision and mine too. I dyed it your favorite colors so that it would feel like yours. It will help with the visions.” She looked at my face and saw the tears I had been trying to hide from her, and she wiped them away. “It’s okay to be scared. I was on my first vision day, so much in fact, I ran away for most of the day and my Papa, your Apa, had to find me. It turned out I had nothing to worry about and neither will you. You will be amazing, all you have to do is let the vision come, and the rest is in fate’s arms. Now, let’s go get you some food- it’s almost time.”
Mama and I sat while everyone passed the food around. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until all the delicious smells filled my nose. They were serving my favorite, Purple Flotuka; a beautiful bird with breath-taking feathers, and they also taste wonderful, especially with Ama’s corn pudding and Mama’s flatbread.
There were so many other treats, but I couldn’t bring myself to try them all, I felt I might explode. It was time to go anyway; it was dusk and time for my first vision. Everyone would watch and wait anxiously for me to return from my slumber, and I would deliver their future.
Ama approached me with an outstretched hand and a smile from ear to ear. “Oh, my sweet girl, I’m so proud of you,” she said as she pulled me into a hug. “This day marks the first day of your beautiful life as a seer, and you will do wondrous things. It may feel like a curse at first, but learning what to do with the visions you receive over the next years will be the best part of your journey. Now go find your Papa; he is waiting for you.” She sent me off with a kiss and an encouraging smile, and I marched off with confidence to accept my destiny.
“Tonight is a celebration! My daughter Lenora is turning 18, but not only that, but she also comes from an extensive line of seers, and we all know what that means.” The crowd roared louder than I had ever heard them before. “Tonight, she will be drinking the Midnight Saila essence to induce her visions. Her first will focus on the fate of our people but don’t worry; I feel nothing but good things coming our way. Now, Lenora, it’s time to have your drink.” Looking out at all the expecting eyes just watching and waiting to know their fate made my stomach turn. I could feel my dinner starting to come back up, but I fought like hell to keep it down. I took the drink from my Papa’s hand and downed it before I could give myself a chance to run.
Nothing happened. Everyone was staring at me with their eager faces, waiting for me to fall asleep, but I felt nothing. “Papa, is this normal?” I asked, but when I looked at his face, it was frozen in a smile as if he had suddenly been turned into a statue. It was the same for the others as well, not one person moved. The vision had started. Unsure of what to look for I just decided to walk. The eerie silence of the settlement was beginning to get to me. Suddenly, a humming noise barely louder than a whisper broke the silence. I walked into the direction of the humming and the closer I got the louder it became until it was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think. It was the large oak tree that stood in the middle of camp. I remember when I first saw it, it took my breath away with the sheer beauty of it. I played under it for hours as a child and never wanted to leave. Then the time for us to move on would come as it always did, but Papa always made sure to come back here. This place was as close as a traveler like me would ever get to a home and that tree was what made it so. I used to think that it could speak to me, and maybe it did, and that’s why I was here now. The humming continued, but I quickly realized that the humming wasn’t coming from the oak at all. The trunk of the tree was covered in bees, and with every passing moment, more bees were swallowing the large oak whole until not one leaf was visible. Then they began to migrate, leaving the tree behind and the stench of death along with it. The tree had rotted in seconds leaving nothing but the decayed body of my beloved oak to crumble. The swarm moved fast heading straight for the nearest wagon leaving it just as it had left the oak stripped to it bares frame, empty with nothing left, but rotted planks of wood someone used to call home. They continued until not one wagon was left untouched and everything that we owned was destroyed.
With tears streaming down my face I ran back to my Papa to try and wake up from this horrible nightmare, but when I saw them, horror stopped me in my tracks. Everyone that had been watching me, including Papa’s, faces were sunken, and there was darkness where their eyes had been. They were nothing but empty shells of who they were and only moments later they weren’t even that. Everybody that stood before me disintegrated into ash before my eyes. A piercing scream escaped my lips that I never knew I was capable of and it continued until I felt the warmth of Papa’s arms around me once again. I was back, back to reality and out of the nightmare that was my vision…