Written in Stone

Seven hills surround our valley. If you climb to the top of the highest one, you come out on a rock overlooking everything. Even the eagles fly below you. I don’t make it up that high very often; it takes ages to get there and it’s rare that I manage to slip away for that long. But when I do, it’s worth any trouble that might be waiting for me upon my return.

Some say the land beyond our valley is desert. Others believe there are more green valleys like ours over the ridges. But I don’t think anyone knows for sure; you can’t even see that far from the hilltop.

Our people were once nomadic but after the great disaster they settled in this valley and stayed here. The elders have warned each successive generation not to venture beyond our hills. When Lana did, several generations ago, she didn’t return. They have used that as a cautionary tale ever since. No one has ever told us what the great disaster was and I’ve never heard anyone explain which dangers await us out there. Perhaps they don’t know the answer to those questions, either. Still, no one since Lana has dared to find out.

Most of our people, even those my age, seem content to live the life they have been born into. But every now and then, a restless one comes along. They are the dreamers and the seers; valuable but also troublemakers. Lana was a restless one. And I think I am, too. The worst I’ve done, though, is to climb above the eagles.

Those eagles! Their wings are like burnished copper as they glide between the blue of the sky and the green of our valley. I often imagine how it would feel to fly with them, to lie flat on an eagle’s back, arms outstretched across its wings, eyes streaming in the wind. I wonder how far they fly, whether they have seen the other valleys, or the deserts.

Today, I was lost in my daydream when I realized the sun was slipping behind the hills. It was too late to make it back before dark but I ran like the wind anyway, jumping from rock to rock, the trees rushing past me.

I must have taken a wrong turn because I almost slammed into a wall of stone. My hand traced its contours as I moved along it, hoping to come upon the path again. Instead, I found the entrance to a cave. I knew I would only become more lost at night, so I decided to shelter inside until morning.

I built a fire to keep warm. As the flames grew and my eyes adjusted, I noticed markings on the cave walls. Intrigued, I got up to inspect them. Someone had painted pictures all around the cave. They seemed to sparkle in the light of the fire.

I recognized our valley, as seen from the top of the rock-crested hill. People were tilling the land between the streams, like my people do. I saw the same huts we have now. As I moved around the cave, I saw other valleys spreading out from ours. The final picture was of a tall hill, two valleys away. Fire, lightning and stars shot into the sky from its summit. Thick mud rolled down its hillsides, smothering the surrounding land, turning valleys into deserts.

I didn’t know hills could do that.

Finally, I understood why the elders were so afraid. It was all there, spelled out before me; our history written in stone.


24 thoughts on “Written in Stone

  1. I wonder if he/she made a break for it in the end. Nice scene setting using stone/desert/eagle imagery. It felt like the beginning of something bigger and I was sorry it ended when it did

    • Thank you, that’s a nice compliment. I’m not sure if he/she would venture out in the world, unable to contain his/her curiosity about a hill that can spew stars and smother the land, or if it would just seem so fearsome that he/she would accept life as it was in the valley. I’ll have to think about that 🙂

  2. This is really wonderful – it hits all the notes that I personally find truly enjoyable in story telling. You’ve got the great mystery, the dreamers, the restless ones who defy the Elders, the past crashing into the present, into dreams of possibilities. I agree, I was sorry when this one ended. Did I mention that on top of that, it was beautifully, smoothly well written.

  3. You truly know how to tell a story. I was so caught up in it, I was disappointed when it came to an end. I don’t there has been a better use of the prompt that I’ve read so far.

  4. This really felt like an introduction to a whole book about your narrator. I love how she uncovers the past of her people (both the device of the petroglyph and her putting the story together for herself). Your imagery with the eagles was wonderful — I felt myself spreading my arms out on their wings. Really delightfully crafted story.

    • Thank you so much for reading with such engagement, and for leaving such a nice comment. I once climbed to the top of a hill near Montreal and was amazed to see the birds circling below me (I think they were hawks in that instance). That was the first image that came to me as I started writing.

  5. Ooooo, Silverleaf. What Shannon said, above. And more because I think you and I could be sisters. I started a story about stone and valleys and people settling in, then it turned into a poem, and then it disappeared in my vicodin haze. (Really, I developed a nasty tooth infection.) Anyway, I thought of the caves of Lascaux, which is often on my mind. The way you ended this story –which I think is always the hardest part, the ending — is poetic: “I didn’t know hills could do that.” There is so much reverence in that one sentence, if I can read between the lines. Yes, no wonder they were afraid. Lovely, my dear friend.

    • Meg. I’m so glad that you took this trip with me, alongside the narrator. I did struggle with the ending; I rolled it over and over in my head until that line popped out. And reverence is exactly the right sentiment. Thank you for your generous comment.
      I hope your tooth is better and your vicodin haze is receding! xo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s