I stumble over a tree root as the crowd of angry men and women chase after me. I right myself and continue tearing through the forest before the ends of their spears and pitchforks can touch me, but I when I glance back, I see that they are gaining on me.
I gasp for breath, my chest barely filling with air before it is forced out again. As I dodge branches, my eyes begin to fill with tears. My eyes, the things that started all this trouble.
No time to wonder about the past or the future now, the present is taking up all my energy.
Leap over that log. Dash around that tree. Duck under that branch.
I need to stop and get my bearings. I am in a part of the woods that I have never seen before, a part that seems darker and more dense than the forest surrounding my village. I crouch, trying desperately to quiet my breathing. I can hear their shouts through the trees. Farther away now; maybe I am safe.
But no, here is someone almost right beside me! I open my mouth wide to get in as much air as possible with the least amount of noise. He isn’t nearly as quiet.
“He went this way! Maybe he fell into the swamp!” he shouts.
Swamp? That might be a good place to hide; I can swim.
From farther away, a voice answers, “well, let’s hope the swamp crocs get him! Then we’ll be rid of him once and for all.”
My eyes blur as I recognize my step-brother’s voice. Does he really hate me that much? Blinking back the tears, I force myself to consider the problem at hand. I might be close to swamp crocs!
In my village we believe there are two different kinds of lizards in this land. At the top of the mountain lives a fierce, fire-breathing lizard in a temple made of ancient stones. According to stories handed down through the Patriarchs, anyone in dire need can call upon him and he will save them. The last time this supposedly happened was centuries ago, but I don’t hold a lot of stock in the old stories.
Many of my people even worship the mysteriously absent creature, with my own stepfather, our leader’s current Patriarch, leading them in weekly sacrifices and storytelling. However, a fire-breathing lizard does not seem like any kind of benevolent beast that I would trust. The more pressing lizard-issue would be the swamp crocs, wily and deceitful beasts that supposedly trap travellers in the swamp then slowly use them as food. I do not want to meet any of them.
I have always believed both lizards are a myth designed to keep the villagers in line. The villagers themselves are real. More importantly, their spears are real, and the fact that they are currently hunting me is real.
As the nearby villager, who I think might be my neighbour, jogs away from me, I stretch out my legs and head out in a direction that, with any luck, will lead me to the swamp. I can disguise my scent by wading or swimming, then hopefully come out on the other side without encountering any of the fabled swamp crocs.
Did that seem short? By my usual fiction standards, yes. 😉 There’s way more where this came from, and it isn’t even done coming out of my head yet! But here’s the catch – I’m not going to post the rest of it on my blog. If you’d like to continue reading it, I’m going to send it out a chapter at a time on Saturday mornings. If you have older children or teens, it would be great to read with them (you will find a lot of veiled references to Biblical truths that should spark conversation), but you’re free to enjoy it on your own as well! Also, as per the title, I don’t know what to call this story. Send me your ideas and maybe you’ll get to title a book!
Also, the Defined by Grace series on grief is not over! Posts will be coming out on Mondays, hopefully for the next couple months. I have several more guest-posts lined up. 🙂
Photo credit:ghitulescu radu