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.