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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Creeping Ivy

Ivy crept slowly through the forest, moving carefully and skillfully through the undergrowth.  Her footsteps left no trace in the thick mossy carpet.  Not even the keenest animal ears could have heard her stealthy movements.  She knew well how to be silent and invisible.  A hunter had to learn such skills...or go hungry.

A sudden noise and a flash of color startled Ivy, and she froze mid-stride and waited.  The sound of her own heartbeat pounded in her ears.  Her eyes searched wildly for the source of the cry.

"Stupid bird," she grumbled under her ragged breath as the colorful creature scurried through the tree branches above her.

"Stupid me too," she growled as she began to creep forward once again.  The forest began to close in around her.  How far away from the village was she?

"I bet those stupid boys are all having a good laugh right now," she thought to herself as she carefully made her way around a large thorn bush.  Some of the sharp points were stained bright red.  She paused a moment to observe the blood more carefully.

"Probably just an oinker or something," she mumbled.  She pushed other thoughts from her mind, determined not to think about worse alternatives.

After another hour under the thick canopy, the twisted mass of branches finally opened and revealed the summer sun above.  A charred circle of trees was quickly being overcome by small creepers and flowers.  Ivy made her way to the middle of the opening and held her head up toward the sky.  The bright yellow orb was almost directly above her.  She'd been walking almost six hours.

"Good time for a stop," she said outloud.  The sound of her voice seemed strangely out of place in the quiet gloom and radiant sun.  How long had it been since this spot had heard human words?

Ivy settled down on a thick patch of moss and rummaged around in her sack.  She pulled out her meager supplies and frowned.

"Can't complain now," she whispered to herself as she pulled a chunk off of the thick bread.  She stuffed it in her mouth and let her mind wander as she munched on it.

.....

"I swear, I seen it," her older brother Storm had said.  "I seen one of the..." his voice had trailed, afraid of saying the horrible name.

"Oh you did not," Ivy had said, rolling her eyes at him.  The other boys with Storm started chattering and asking questions like they believed his fairy tale.

"You actually found one?"  Dark Cloud asked him, his eyes wide in amazement.

"I did.  When I was out huntin' I found it.  I was huntin', and I went too far..."

"You didn't go too far," Ivy scoffed, "you got lost again you big dummy.  Dad only lets you go hunting so you don't feel bad."

"Shut up, Ivy," he said and punched her on the arm.  He didn't punch her hard, just enough to remind her who was older.

"Anyways, like I was sayin' before someone so rudely interrupted," he shot a menacing glance Ivy's way, "I was huntin', and I didn't recognize where I was.  So I thought I'd do some explorin' before I came back to the village.  Thought I might find some big game or somethin'.  So I was out lookin' around, and suddenly...there it was."  Storm paused for effect.

"There was what?"  Quiet Rain asked in a hushed, but awed, voice.

"It was big.  Bigger than the Great Hall, and taller than the greatest pine tree.  It was made of stone, with some kind of stuff holding the stones together.  The door was layin' in the grass, but it was the biggest door I ever saw.  And everywhere there were pieces of this colored stuff.  But you could see right through the colored stuff.  I swear, I ain't ever seen nothin' like it."

The boys gasped as Storm produced a tiny piece of something.  Ivy could see that it was red and jagged.  She was slightly interested in it, but she didn't want the boys to know.

"What do ya think it was?"  Dark Cloud asked.

"I dunno," Storm replied, "I never seen nothin' like it before."

"I have," Ivy answered as she kicked Dark Cloud out of her way.  She grabbed the shard out of Storm's hand.

"Ouch!" she squealed.  Dark red blood poured out of the cut on her finger.  "Stupid stuff is sharp!"

The boys giggled at her girlish outburst.  Ivy was angry, but tried to hide it.

"Boys are so stupid," she said as she kicked dirt up at Quiet Rain.  "What you saw was a building of some sort.  We have buildings here, ya know."

"Not like that," Storm started.

"No, but it's still a building.  I've seen pictures of them."

"Where?"

"At Mother Rainbow's of course."

A couple of the boys giggled at the name, while a few of the others pretended to lose interest in the conversation.

"That crazy ol' bat has books with pictures?"

"Of course she does," Ivy answered, "and she ain't crazy.  She knows more than any of you do.  Her grandmother survived the Great Dying and taught her stuff."

The mood of the little group shifted at the mention of the Great Dying.  No one in the village liked to speak of it, but Ivy was fascinated by it.  Mother Rainbow, the village shaman, had told her many stories of the Dying Times.

"Some buildings were huge.  They soared right up in to the sky," Ivy began explaining.  Some of the boys were suddenly interested again and stared up at her from their spots on the ground.

"Some were made out of stone.  Some were wood.  Some were harder, made out of metal."

"Metal!" exclaimed Storm, "That's crazy!  There ain't enough metal to make a whole building!"

"Not now dummy," Ivy said, rolling her eyes again, "but in the Dying Times there was metal everywhere."

"Alright then Miss I-Know-Everything, what's that stuff?" Storm asked as he jerked the shard away from Ivy.

"Glass I suppose," Ivy answered.  "Mother Rainbow told me about it.  I thought it was always clear, but I guess it could be colored somehow."

"Ha!"  Storm laughed as he jumped up.  He began to dance around Ivy and some of the other boys joined in.  "You don't know nothing.  And neither does batty ol' Rainbow lady!"

Ivy was furious, and tripped Storm as he skipped around her.  He landed with a hard thud.

"Fine then, I'll prove it.  Where is the Dead Place?  I'll go there myself."

The boys had erupted in laughter around her.

"You'll go?  All alone?"

"Yes, I will.  And I will find clear glass.  And metal.  And books with pictures!"

The boys laughed again.

"Okay, I'll tell you how to find it.  But if you get lost and eaten, don't blame me!"

.....

A noise from beyond the burnt spot caught Ivy's attention.  She stopped chewing at her bread and listened.

Must be hearing things, she tried to convince herself.  It wasn't the first time she'd heard the noise since she left the village.  She refused to think about what might be following her.  Or hunting her.

After a couple of long swigs from her canteen, Ivy shoved everything back in the sack and stood up.  She stretched her long legs and arms, her skin aglow in the midday sun.  It would be at least four more hours before she came to the Dead Place.  She had to be there before the sun set or risk staying all night in the open forest.

As the afternoon wore on, Ivy's legs began to tire.  Several times she stopped and rubbed her achy muscles.  She'd never been so far from the village.  She didn't mind being alone, but the unknown place that lay in front of her made her nervous.  The scuffling noises had been growing closer and more frequent, but she still hadn't seen anything other than a few deer and squirrels.  But as the light waned beneath the trees, an unnamed fear began to creep into Ivy's mind.  Still, she marched forward.

The sun was about to sink into slumber when something beneath the thick grass crunched beneath Ivy's feet.  She bent down to inspect and found tiny shards that looked like the one Storm had brought back from the Dead Place.  She looked around in the growing gloom.

More shards twinkled in the fading light.  Ivy crept along beside the trail, careful not to step on the sharp pieces.  She wove herself through a small opening in a thick hedge and gasped at what she saw.

In front of her stood the tall stone building Storm had described.  It stretched into the gloomy evening sky.  At the top point stood a strange symbol.  Ivy was certain she'd seen it in one of Mother Rainbow's books, but she couldn't remember what it was called.  All around the base of the building colored shards of glass glittered faintly.  Some of the glass still stood defiantly in the building's windows, battling with the creepers that were covering most of the south side.

Carefully, Ivy stepped onto the crumbling stone steps.  The stone was cool and smooth beneath her tired bare feet.  Parts of the steps had broke off and crumbled into dust, but there was enough left for her to continue.  At the top she stood silently in awe at the great wooden door that lay haphazardly in a pile of rotten leaves and twisted vines.

"What hands could carve such a thing?" she whispered in the still air.  She stepped carefully over the decaying thing, afraid that it would disintegrate if she touched it.

There was more glass inside the building and long benches made of wood.  She ran her hand along the bench closest to her and marveled at the smoothness of the wood.  She stepped forward, weaving her way through the overturned benches and vines that had invaded the space.  Scattered over the floor were books, most of which had already been destroyed by decades of wind and rain.  On one book she again saw the symbol that stood at the top of the building.  She ran her finger gently across the image.

"Creeping Ivy," a voice rang out in the darkness.  Ivy jumped.  She hadn't heard anyone approach her.

"Who...who is it?  Who's there?"  She tried to sound brave, but her voice wavered in her fear.

"Fear not child," the voice answered, gentler than before.  A figure separated from the shadows and moved slowly toward the stunned Ivy.

"It is only me child, Mother Rainbow."

"Mother Rainbow?"  Ivy said in amazement.  She watched as the old lady crossed the room, stepping through the tangled mess like a skilled dancer.

"Ay, my child.  I've been following you all day."

"How did you know?  I left before the sun came up.  No one saw me, I was certain of it."

"You are right and wrong.  No one saw you leave, but one knew that you were going."

"Storm?" she asked, certain she already knew the answer.

"Yes, Raging Storm came to me just after the sun kissed the sky.  He told me that you were missing, and that he feared you'd come here.  I told him not to tell anyone, and that I would bring you home."

"But how did you catch up to me?"

"I am not as fragile as I appear my girl.  For many years, I was a huntress.  I ran through these woods and many others.  I know this land for it is a part of me."  She paused and gave Ivy a quick wink, "I also know many shortcuts that you have not yet discovered."

Ivy smiled and looked hard at the old woman for the first time.  Her wrinkled face could not tame the bright blue eyes that shone in the gathering gloom.  Her thick red hair was pulled back in to a braid that swung at her waist as she moved.  Her long skirt almost hid her thick bare feet.  She smiled at Ivy.

"Come child, let us build a fire.  It's too late to return to the village tonight, and I know that you have many questions."

Ivy nodded and followed Mother Rainbow out of the building, the little black book still clutched in her hands.  Away from the building, in a clear spot, Ivy built a great fire.  She was overjoyed when Mother Rainbow produced a thick slice of salted pork from her canvas sack.  As the meat cooked, Ivy settled down beside Mother Rainbow just as she'd done many times in the comfort of their tiny village.

"I can see that there is much that you wish to know my child," Mother Rainbow said quietly beside Ivy.

"Yes there is."  Ivy looked up at the old woman.  "Mother, I thought that there were no Dead Places near our village.  How can this place be so close?"

"My dear girl, there are Dead Places all around you.  Every time your feet touch the earth, you are touching a Dead Place."

"But how?  There is nothing like this," Ivy motioned to the building, "in our village.  How can it be a Dead Place?"

"My child, the entire world is a Dead Place.  There was not a speck of dust or a drop of rain that was not damaged by the Blind Ones.  They stretched out across the land, crossing rivers and Great Waters like a plague.  They could not hear our Sacred Mother crying.  They did not see that she was sick."

"How could they not see it Mother?  You have said that the signs were all around them.  How did they not see?"

"Oh yes, dear.  There were many signs.  The Sacred Mother screamed in her agony.  Great mountains exploded in a fiery cloud, the ground swelled and shook, and the waters rose up and swept away the Blind Ones.  But still, they did not see.  They did not hear.  They had forgotten."

"Forgotten?"

"Yes child.  They had forgotten the language of the Great Mother.  They no longer understood her cries.  They no longer listened.  They were blind to their own ignorance.  They fancied themselves a great people, greater than the highest and mightiest gods.  They believed that they controlled the Great Mother.   They were wrong."

Ivy sat in silence for a while, the cracking fire and the sizzling pork the only sounds she heard.  Her mind reeled with a million questions.

"But wasn't there anything good about the Blind Ones?  Didn't they do good things at all?"

"Oh yes, there were many good things about the Blind Ones.  Many of them had good spirits and tried to help the Great Mother.  But their pleas were too late to help.  The Dying Times had already begun and could not be stopped.  There was much good in the Blind Ones, but they did not know it.  They could not see beyond their differences and into the goodness of their existence.  Instead they fought bloody wars for ideals they did not even understand.  They killed their brothers and sisters out of greed and ignorance.  Blood ran freely in the time of the Blind Ones.  So much blood that it drowned all the good they had created until it is nothing but faded memories and hushed tales told around bright fires."

"But some survived, or we wouldn't be here."

"A few, yes.  The Great Mother spared some of her children.  The ones that could still see and hear were left behind after the Great Dying.  It was not an easy thing."

"Your grandmother, she was left behind?"

"Yes, she was.  She was a young girl, not much older than you are now Ivy.  Her mother, father, and sisters all died from the great Darkness that spread through the Great Dead Places.  It was a painful death, and my grandmother would cry for the agony her loved ones had suffered.  But she was spared, as was her oldest brother.  She did not understand why she had been left.  Everywhere, there was Death.  Babies cried till their tears were dried on their cold cheeks.  Wives fell at the feet of their husbands.  Death was the only lord
of those times.  My grandmother did not understand, and for many moons she lamented and could not be consoled.  Then, in the darkest moments of the night, she had a great vision.  The Great Mother came and stood in front of her.  She came as a young woman dressed in gold and told my grandmother that she must rise.  She had been spared from the Dying Times to live, not to cry over what could not be undone.  She told my grandmother that at the end of each era of men, a new age must begin.  From the darkness, the sun is
born.  She then gave my grandmother a new name, Bright Sun, and told her to seek out the others that were left behind in this land.  She told her to abandon the ways and trappings of the Blind Ones and to create a new time, not of dying, but of living."

"Your grandmother helped build our village."

"Yes, she did.  She chose a spot that was sacred to a great people.  Many of those great people had been spared, and with them she and many others began to rebuild together.  The Living Times were born from their hands.  And the remains of the Blind Ones were soon consumed by the Great Mother once again."

"But some survives..."

"Yes, there are places where a building stands or a great statue stands proudly among the forest.  In the south, there are great temples of stone that were ancient even in the Dying Times.  And yet, they still stand.  They are a reminder of where we have been as a people, a testimony to the lessons we have learned, and a memorial for those that died in vain."

"Was this building important?"  Ivy motioned to the stone structure that seemed to be listening intently.  Perhaps it had missed the warmth of fire and the sound of whispers in the dark.

"It was.  This was a church, a house of God.  In this small town, it was very important."

"What is a church Mother Rainbow?"

"One of the greatest, and deadliest, legacies of the Blind Ones.  There were many of these churches.  Some were small and humble.  Others stood as tall and magnificent as the castles you've seen in my books.  Great wisdom and folly was contained within them.  Under those pointed roofs, men and women worshiped God.  Not all of them called him by the same name, and it caused much hardship.  They fought each other in God's name.  They twisted and warped the sacred teachings until they were sick with hate and ignorance."

"They fought each other for God?  How can that be?  God is love, just like the Great Mother.  They create life and give blessings.  How can anyone fight under the name of God?  God is God, no matter what name he is called by!"

Mother Rainbow sighed and stared deeply into the glowing flames.

"I do not know child.  I do not understand what happened to the Blind Ones.  I do not know why they could not see that they were all woven together in the great web of life.  They were a people of many islands, but nothing more.  Each one lived only for himself, believed his thoughts and morals to be the only one of any worth, and disconnected himself from his brothers.  The greatest tragedy of the Dying Times was that each person died alone."

"Don't we all die alone Mother?"

Mother Rainbow gently stroked Ivy's long blonde hair.

"No child.  All of life is connected.  Among all living things, there is but one pulse.  And each time a body dies, the entire world trembles.  But from death, life springs.  Rain falls on the heads of the mourning.  That same rain quenches the thirsty earth, and life begins again.  And in our hearts, in our spirits, we feel it.  No child, no one ever dies alone anymore."

Ivy watched as Mother Rainbow pulled the salted pork out of the fire.  The delicious smell wafted around Ivy and her stomach grumbled.

"Here my girl," Mother Rainbow said as she held out a piece of the meat to Ivy, "eat.  Tonight we will sleep in the garden of memories.  And tomorrow, we will leave this place to its slumber."

"I'm really glad you're here Mother." Ivy said as she smiled at the old woman.

"When you were born, I named you Creeping Ivy.  Some laughed, but it is a powerful name my girl.  Ivy grows always, unhindered by stone or wood.  Remember that, and be like the ivy you were named for.  Grow always, question everything, and when all else fails...listen and see."

Ivy nodded at Mother Rainbow as a feeling of warmth spread throughout her body.

Keep growing, she thought to herself with a smile.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something glistening in the leaves beneath her feet.  She carefully picked the piece of clear glass up and held it to the light of the fire.  She laughed quietly to herself and placed the shard back in the leaves.

4 comments:

  1. Really amazing I love it :3
    Also kinda seems like a foreshadowing of 2010 =|

    ReplyDelete
  2. It was awesome Laurie:)! Prophetic, definitely...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very good. I like the message. :)

    ReplyDelete

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