Tagged: short story
MemberMay 26, 2020 at 12:50 am
His finger was bony and shriveled with age, but it was precisely his finger and no other that led the way.
Sometimes the finger trembled. Sometimes it seemed like nothing more than a withered branch clothed in sagging skin. But the boy knew better. For he never met another finger that knew precisely which boulder to turn, which tree to fell, which river to swim.
As the old man always said, gems could be anywhere. All one needed was knowledge. And persistence.
Today, the finger pointed to a sprawling tree.
“This one,” the old man said.
The tree’s branches extended to the heavens, nearly kissing the clouds. Flourishing foliage whispered their prayers and weighed the tree’s limbs so they barely swayed in the mountain breeze.
A rush of cold morning air filled the boy’s lungs. He held his ax, fingers clenched around the tiny wooden handle, then lifted it above his head. The diminutive piece of metal glinted in the sunlight, a mere plaything near the mighty tree.
“I can’t do it,” he said.
“You’re young,” the old man’s clear gaze penetrated his soul. “Your muscles are strong. If you won’t do it, someone else will…”
The boy’s heart clenched. He wished for gems, oh did he wish for them. His dream, like every youth he knew, was to have a backpack as wide as the sea, full and heavy with millions of multi hued gems.
Just like the old man’s.
The boy lifted his ax. The acquisition of gems took great toil and fortitude. If he dreamed of a brimming backpack, the time to work was now.
But toil was difficult and painful. With every blow, his muscles throbbed, but the tree stood unyielding. For days, he battled that colossal wooden tower. He clawed at the branches with every bit of strength. All day long, the burning sun scorched blisters onto his back. His ax whistled in the wind, its wooden handle piercing splinters into his palm and fingers.
Never before had he been faced with a test of this magnitude. If not for the old man’s smile, deep and warm, the boy would have sank to the ground and remained there forever.
At last, on one windy afternoon, amid a great cacophony of splintering wood and fluttering leaves, the tree’s many limbs and branches lay in a heap around his feet.
The time had come.
With one final swing of his ax, the boy downed the last of the once mighty trunk. The dull thump that sounded as the wood hit the ground was the most glorious tune he ever heard.
The old man’s eyes twinkled, “take it my boy.”
For the first time in many days, a triumphant smile wreathed the boy’s features. With a joyous band beating in his chest, he reached deep into the tree’s stump.
When he removed his hand, the first thing he noticed was the gem’s multi hued glow. Its glowing features greeted the sunlight with dazzling exhilaration. The sun in turn, sent dozens of rays dancing around the gem’s finely chiseled edges. Tiny white sparkles reflected on the trees and shrubbery, as if his surroundings too were rejoicing in his victory.
“It’s beautiful,” the boy’s voice shook.
“It’s yours,” the old man stroked the boy’s arm. “Treasure it forever.”
“I will,” with trembling fingers, the boy dropped the gem into his backpack and once again reached into the tree stump. His fingers grappled in the cold wooden hollow but felt nothing. No more gems.
A lump settled in the boy’s throat, “it’s empty.” He said, his voice low and hoarse.
The old man shook his head, “this single gem is more beautiful than a thousand boulders. One day, when your backpack is full, this precious stone will still stand out in its beauty.”
A tear stung the boy’s cheek, “but I expected more. After all that effort…” For the first time in days, his weary bones collapsed into the dust. He lay like that for a while, gazing at the sky as its peaceful blueness was gradually conquered by a jumble of crimson streaks.
“What’s the use?” he whispered to the sun as it was cast from the horizon.
“I’ll never reach the goal,” he told the shimmering stars.
And as as the birds twittered again in the trees, he sighed, “it’s simply too hard.”
A bee buzzed past, flashes of yellow, black and fluttering wings. Its mournful drone seemed to indicate sympathy with the boy’s plight. But its merry flight told another story.
In a cheery dance, the bee flew past the trees and the shrubs, past the path and the boulders. The boy followed, entranced by its merriness.
The little bee, as if acquainting itself with a newfound friend, continued singing its buzzing song. It frolicked in the valley, pranced around the wildflowers.
Then, the boy saw it.
A vibrant field, spanning farther than the eye can see, a sea of multi hued wildflowers glinting in the sunlight.
How had he never noticed it before? How had he been ignorant of this beauty that lay inches beyond the path? The flowers’ intoxicating scent burst up nostrils, swirled behind his eyes and clouded his head.
He had to show the old man. Show him what they were missing all these years. A sudden burst of energy filled his chest. The boy raced back to the path.
“Flowers…” the words emerged as ragged as his breath. He pointed to the fields. “Look, they’re pretty, and colorful. Come.” He nudged the old man’s arm.
The edge of the man’s lip lifted in a slow sad movement, “flowers fade,” he said. A flame flickered in his eyes as they focused far into the distance. “They wither. They die.”
Every bit of the boy’s newfound energy seeped away with the old man’s words, “but- but they’re beautiful and simple to collect, unlike gems…” the boy stared at the old man’s overflowing bag, at his back hunched beneath its weight. “Flowers are light. They’re easy.”
“No, my boy, flowers fade…”
As the boy tore his gaze from the bright wildflowers, he felt a part of himself tear along with it. He continued following the old man. He continued slugging through the mud and the winding paths that never seemed to end.
But the courage and fortitude that used to blaze his way dimmed. Instead, with every difficulty, every test, images of cheery wildflowers danced before his eyes, beckoning, begging him to take his place in their exhilarating world.
With great weariness, he forged on. Until one exhausting day, when every bit of air was expelled from his lungs, he flung his ax into the trees.
“I’m going,” he said. “I’m going to the fields and nothing will stop me.” He swung his backpack over his shoulder and turned toward the valley.
A tear glinted on the old man’s cheek, “no my son. You’re mistaken.”
The boy continued on, ignoring the old man’s pleas. His eyes were focused on the wildflowers that grew nearer with each step, the great wave of sounds and scents that grew stronger as he walked. His heart surged with a joy he never experienced before.
Finally, he achieved serenity.
Finally, his effort would be light. There was no use filling his backpack with cumbersome gems if he could pick flowers instead.
The wildflowers swayed in the breeze, agreeing with his sentiments. Flashes of purple and red and yellow glistened beneath the shimmering sunshine, enveloping his mind in a haze of overwhelming beauty.
For years, he traipsed the fields, humming as the breeze ruffled through his hair. Even when the sun slanted into his eyes, even when the dust ground between his teeth, he sang. Like the bee of so long ago, the boy, now a man, pranced between the blooms, his weightless backpack swinging with his swaying arms.
So enchanted was he with his new world, he failed to notice the darkening sky. As black clouds filling the horizon end to end, a ragged song still hollered from his throat. Only when a drop of wetness licked his nose, did the tune freeze on his lips.
The clouds groaned. Flashes of light zigzagged above his head. For the first time in years, a dull beat of fear thrummed in his chest.
“Oh no,” he said.
But it was too late. The sky roared. It hurled oceans of rainwater into the valley, freeing itself from a mighty load. Wind slapped the man’s face. Chilly mud seeped into his boots, between his toes.
But in these expansive fields there was nowhere to hide, no mighty trees under which to find shelter, no boulders to crawl behind, not even a wizened old man whose finger always knew the way.
An icy wind shrieked through the valley. The once gay fields turned to rivers of mud. The man splashed through them, searching for a place of refuge. But he was alone. Amid the now drooping flowers, he was so very alone, exposed to the elements and the miles and miles of mocking fields.
Then, as he fumbled through the dimness and the cold, an icy notion gripped his heart.
Soon, his journey would come to an end.
Soon his time would be up. Soon he won’t have the ability to fill his backpack.
As the fog lifted, as the sun returned and the flowers unfurled, a different man roamed the fields. His youthful dream once again coursed through his veins. There was so much more to fill and so little time. His shoulders had since broadened and a mature voice emanated from his vocal chords, but those forgotten aspirations once again turned to a fiery flame.
Like an overzealous chicken, he raced through the fields stuffing flowers into his bag. Puffed roses. Shimmering sunflowers. Laughing dandelions. He didn’t care.
His fingers flew from the ground to his bag. If he didn’t take his fill now, if he didn’t gather these glistening blossoms today, he might miss his chance forever.
But the bag refused to be filled. The hundreds of gay blossoms he plucked did nothing to satisfy its instantiating hunger. With a racing heart, the man gathered every merry flower he could find, to no avail. Even those mounds and mounds of blossoms failed to do what the gems achieved with such ease.
Like he’d done so many years before, the man collapsed to the ground. Seated in the mud with only the earthworms for company, a memory stiffened his spine.
In his mind, he envisioned the old man, tears glistening on his wrinkled cheeks. His voice rasped as he said with conviction, “flowers fade, my son, remember…”
A tremor traveled up the man’s spine. With a thumping heart and quivering fingers, he undid the clasp that held his backpack closed. For the first time in many years he would examine its contents, take stock of his life.
As he opened the bag, a rotten stench assailed his nostrils. Instinctively, the man turned his face away and dropped the bag. He was overcome with an overpowering desire to flee the terrible stench. And he did.
But the old man’s tearful gaze continued resurfacing before his eyes, “flowers wither, they die…”
The flowers! Holding his breath, trying not to gag, the man approached the backpack again. With delicate fingers, he tugged at the drawstrings. A sodden lifeless mess greeted his eyes. His flowers, his beautiful vibrant flowers now lay soggy and smashed, like shreds of old brown cardboard.
Every bit of breath was knocked from the man’s lungs. What was the purpose of life? What was the point of his years of effort if its only accomplishment was a bag of musty petals?
With a desperate burst of energy, he lunged for the bag and shook its contents to the ground. A thousand bits of decomposed flower petals fell around his feet like confetti. It was the flowers’ last ditched attempt at gaiety, but no joy lay in the man’s heart.
His blood rushed from his face to his knees and with a last swirl of downward energy, it seeped into the mud. The man fell along with it, the cold sludge permeating the very depths of his bones.
A blustering wind swept through the valley, sweeping the dead petals along with it. They scampered about, oblivious to the numbness that gripped the man’s heart.
Now that his entire life’s pursuit was scattered, now that he realized the futility of his aspirations, it was only natural that the gates of tears unbolt, that he cry for these lost years. But his eyes remained dry. Not one drop of wetness trickled down his face. A silent waterfall had plunged through his veins and wiped his emotions clean.
It was then that the man noticed the sparkle in the mud. A dazzle of sunlight reflected off a gem’s chiseled edges. Something lurched in the man’s chest. He twisted the precious stone between his fingers, letting its pure glow penetrate his soul.
With laborious movements, he gathered the remaining stones and placed them back in his backpack. These were the gems of his youth, gathered with much toil and exhaustion. But they were gems. Gems! Bits of radiant light that would never fade.
The tears that so stubbornly held until now, gushed forth like blood from a painful wound. He cried for his wasted life. He cried for the childish foolishness that had swept him from the pursuit of gems to the pursuit of fleeting happiness, and he cried for his future that seemed hopelessly dismal.
The gems in his backpacked twinkled with the stars. This only caused his tears to flow stronger. Gems were beautiful, gems were the truth, but he had so few. His backpack was practically empty and his journey wouldn’t last forever. Even if his days could be extended, nothing would make up for the years he spent in idleness, roaming the valleys, intent on carving a leisurely life for himself.
Amid his watershed self loathing, another thought occurred to him. His journey was not yet over. It was still possible to collect gems. All he had to do was find the path and continue where he left off.
His head still throbbing from crying, the man trudged through the mud trying in vain to locate the path of his youth. Every quaint trail led to nowhere. Every foliage lined lane turned out to be a dead end.
In a huff of frustration, the man acknowledged what he knew all along. The only way to truth was through overcoming challenges. The path of gems, though the most worthwhile, was also fraught with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, difficulties that takes ones breath away but also fills them with an inner pleasure that can’t be experienced any other way.
“I’ll take the hard route,” he squared his shoulders. “I want to collect gems.”
Even before the words left his lips, a towering cliff rose before his eyes. It stretched for miles, stroking the heavens. Thorns and jutting stones menaced from its sides, and a thin stream of liquid slid down its vertical walls.
A sign stood at the foot of the cliff. It read:
THE PATH TO REPENTANCE
A rock hardened in the man’s throat. He backed away, dazed by the scene. He tried swallowing, but the lump grew larger by the second. The cliff stood tall and overwhelming. To a man with any judgment, it seemed like an impossible climb. A wave of despair rose up his esophagus.
But his gaze continued upward until it reached the heavens. There, he tried with all his might to discern the secrets flowing amongst the blueness and the clouds. A tear escaped his eye, then another. He rested his forehead on the cool stone wall and lifted his arms above his head.
“Help me,” his lips quivered. “Please…”
A dull thud landed at his feet.
Along with a gem, a tiny practically indiscernible gem, but large enough to plant a warm fire in the man’s heart.
He closed his eyes, lifted his arms, then his legs. He grasped at the slippery crevices in the wall with every ounce of courage. The way was long, riddled with setbacks and difficulties, but the man forged on. He clambered among the rocks and the weeds, the scorching sun, and the sweat that stuck to his back.
Sometimes, a cloud passed, plunging him in gray fog. At times, he slid and didn’t know how he’d get back up again. But the gems he collected glistened and shone far brighter than any flowers in the world. They proved it was all worth it.
The years passed in soul wrenching exertion, one tiny step at a time, until one day, he was there! He reached the peak. Weak with exhilaration, he heaved his weary body over the cliff’s peak.
He stood at the summit, peering into the valley, and his heart stopped at the sight of the miles and miles of sheer cliff he’d ascended. He did it. He scaled the impossible.
A tear slipped down his cheek. With salty emotion, it rolled down his chin, and dropped into his palm. It was then that the man noticed that his fingers were now bony and shriveled with age. Though he couldn’t see his reflection, he knew that the lines on his face had deepened, and his eyes turned deep and wise. The years of climbing had turned him into an experienced navigator.
With his back stooped beneath his weighty backpack, the man, now old and wizened, started for the tree lined path. Then, he paused in his tracks.
A boy, fresh eyed and youthful, stood at the edge of the path, staring into the distance.
“Come, child,” the old man hobbled nearer to the boy. “I will show you the way. I will teach you how to find gems.”
The boy didn’t respond. His eyes were glazed, peering into the valley with open astonishment.
“Flowers,” his breathless voice trembled. “Look, they’re so vibrant and joyful…”
The old man shook his head, a slow sad movement, “no, my son,” he said. “Come experience the joy of truth.” He reached to grasp the boy’s elbow, but the boy jerked away, off to foreign fields that promised flamboyant color and gaiety.
The old man watched the boy’s retreating back. A bitter sigh escaped his throat. He leaned on a tree, the weight of his gem laden backpack suddenly too heavy to bear.
“Flowers fade…” he said into the empty breeze.
“They wither, they die…” his words, practically inaudible, reverberated into the valley.
He reached for his knapsack and held it close against his chest. Though laden with precious stones, its insufficient weight burned in his arms.
“Flowers fade…” the old man took a shaky breath and held his backpack tighter. “But gems, oh, these precious gems… they last forever.”
MemberMay 26, 2020 at 5:02 am
happiwriter, the message is so powerful, delivered so delicately. the words dance a tune of their own… and the heavy lesson is gleaned so softly and subtly, without being to cumbersome on the reader!!!!!!!
in other words, LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MemberMay 26, 2020 at 1:58 pm
I love the allegory. And I could see it happening. I also love the way he passed on the message that he learned the hard way.
MemberMay 26, 2020 at 5:26 pm
Posting this was so scary. As I clicked submit, I was like OMG I hope people like it.
I actually wrote something similar four years ago. Now, inspired by masterpiece, I redid it with much richer results. It’s interesting to see what a few years can do…
MemberJune 7, 2020 at 9:31 pm
Love it! I literally choked up at the end! Amazing, how you took a message and wrapped it in all those beautiful words and imagery. Wow.
MemberSeptember 22, 2020 at 6:35 pm
WOW! WOW! WOW! I’m speechless! Happiwriter you couldn’t have made me happier! such a Magnificent Masterpiece!
Thank you for sharing this gem! Keep on collecting em!
MemberSeptember 24, 2020 at 7:17 pm
Chaya’la, so happi to make you happy!! It’s in my name after all 😉
I actually forgot about this. It’s a good reminder for this time of year!! 🙂
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 5:43 pm
HappiWriter I’m speechless! That is so beautiful! The imagery and the word flow it brought me on the boy’s journey! Thank you for submitting this because it’s truly a masterpiece!
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 6:37 pm
Hey HappiWriter,I absolutely love this peice!What I love so much about it is that the voice you use seems really authentic to the piece. Like it’s not too contemporary so that it feels like that could never happen in real life and not historical like it happened a million years ago. Not sure if that makes sense, but it just seems like its happening in a magical place the still exists, and will always exist. It really comes alive. I can see it working as a short animated film. Not that I can creae something like that, but it just has that magical feel. Keep it coming!Oopsies, new to the forum – how do I reply to the entire thread?
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 10:22 pm
<p>Welcome, Novice! So excited to have you here! </p><p>To post as a general reply, use the REPLY button on the top right of the screen (not the one on another member’s post) – if you scroll up to the original post, you’ll see it.</p>
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 11:36 pm
Oh, I see that now. Thank you, and thanks for the warm welcome!
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 3:13 am
<p>Welcome, Novice!! love your analysis…</p><p>An animated film?! what an awesome idea :)</p><p>Do you know me? Learning how to do 4d animations is high priority on my bucket list, too bad the software is sooo expensive.</p>
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Hi Happi,Glad you like the analysis 😉 Was just explaining why I liked it so much…..I don’t believe I know you, but I do have a secret obsession with 4D animation 🙂 Animation is a lot like writing so I guess it makes sense that if you like one you’d like the other too. There was a time when I did some research into 4D – I found Blender – it’s a free software that is pretty powerful. Have you tried it?I found that it was difficult to learn and had a hard time finding resources for learning it.
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 6:22 pm
<p>I saw blender, but people were saying it’s hard to learn, and it works very differently than other programs. So if you want to upgrade, you’ll have to relearn another program. Not worth it.</p><p>Really, Cinema 4d sounds best for me. Maybe, one day, when I’m not busy writing… I’ll learn it.</p><p>Do you ever wish you had a lot more hours a day? I have so many things I want to learn, do, but there’s not enough time…</p>
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 6:50 pm
Please publish this. It’s a masterpiece. I am such a fan of your writing!
MemberOctober 13, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Wow wow!!! Beyond amazing!!!!! A true masterpiece, HappiWriter!!
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 3:12 am
<p>Thanks everyone!!! You warm my heart! 😘</p><p>Maybe I should submit it… Which publication is the type?</p>
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 6:48 pm
Maybe the Ami magazine? They have a column called Our Days that I could see this fitting into.
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 6:50 pm
<p>Our Days is fiction too?</p>
MemberOctober 15, 2020 at 7:04 pm
Yeah, I think it’s both fiction and non-fiction.
MemberOctober 18, 2020 at 5:40 am
nice work! feeling a little intimidated!
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