I had been warned for many years to stay where I could be seen. I hated it. I wanted to be free, free to fly like the birds that flew above us or free to run as the wild deer running in the forests. Freedom, it seemed, was hard to come by. I had heard tales of other clans and other communities with brave warriors and wise women with legends going back generations and I yearned to go meet them, to discover more than the tiny gathering I had grown up with.
“We are a peaceful settlement, we draw no attention to ourselves and in return, we are never attacked.” My mother once told me when I sulked about my lack of adventures and the desire to see the other settlements.
A few days later, something had happened. I was never privy to interesting information so I my mother felt no need to inform me what it was. However, I knew it was something serious. All the older community members were to meet at nightfall in the main tent. Being considered as not yet an adult. I was uninvited. Yet, I was no longer a child and it burned my soul that I was being treated as such. The result was silent sulking. Sure that my mother would soon inform me what was going on. Unknown to me at the time, my mother had taken my sulking as compliance and as nightfall fell, she kissed my head and left me making her way to the meeting.
I sulked more once she was gone. The anger fizzing at the back of my throat, desperate to escape as an angry bellow, yet I could not, someone would here and my mother would suffer the consequences. Instead, I paced. I paced and I paced. Until the feeling of containment washed over me and I went out into the night.
It was at that moment it dawned on me. I was free to leave the settlement. There were none of the older community members to concern themselves with me. If I was careful, I could sneak out and back in before they even knew it. Gathering my wits and my courage, I snuck past the sleeping animals and out into the night taking the trail into the forest.
I was free.
I walked and I walked. Sometimes I ran like the deer. Sometimes I skipped and jumped feeling as if I would take that long desired flight any moment. My lungs felt fit to burst, the same air I had breathed all my life somehow felt fresher, smoother, and I gulped in great lungsful as I gambled merrily to nowhere in particular.
It was then I caught a small dancing light in the distance. At first, I was wary, but my curiosity got the better of me and I continued, mesmerised, towards it. As I began to get closer, I became aware the sounds of the forest had been replaced; there was something else, a low thrumming sound with occasional louder noises erupting. The more I heard the greater my curiosity peaked. Eventually, I made the top of the open hillside and from it, I had a clear view of another encampment. I could clearly see everything. People dancing, laughing, chanting. I don’t know how long I stood there for, mouth agape, doing nothing but watching.
Something broke my gaze. Some of the group had separated, a member of the group was pointing towards me. The others in the group stopped and did the same. They began to grab what object near them and soon I noticed a determined stride as the small mob left the encampment to the base of the hill.
I had been caught spying. Every instinct I had screamed danger so I turned and ran home as fast as I could.
Several days passed and no word had been passed to my mother about my adventure. Somehow, I had gotten away with it. Strangely, this made the fear and danger I had felt only a few days before dissipate. I was stealthy. I could escape with no consequences, so when only a few more days later the opportunity came to escape again presented itself, I, of course, did. Still, the memory of the potential danger niggled at the back of my neck, so, even though it was daylight this time, I headed off in the opposite direction.
It was not too long before I came across the river that my settlement made daily trips to and from. This time I walked through the shallow waters to the other side and then followed the water. The trail wound higher and higher but still, I continued wandering the sight of the water swirling on by relaxing and calming. It felt like all of a sudden I had reached an opening and before me was a sparkling waterfall. Unable to resist I stripped and jumped in feeling the fresh water flowing over me. I swam back and forth for what felt like hours and then lay naked on the rocks drying off under the baking sun.
As I walked home, my giddy excitement waned. I could not tell anyone where I had been or what secrets I had discovered. Yet the closer and closer I walked the more I began to panic. The sky above our settlement was a strange colour. The closer I got the brighter the light seemed, not only that it danced to the heavens in a shimmering rhythm. It was flames.
It was many years later I found out by chance that the settlement I had uncovered had been celebrating successful raids. On my discovery, they had followed my trail and found my own settlement and their next place of attack. My desire for freedom had caused both the downfall of my town and had saved me from their attack. The guilt of both haunts me to this day.
Written in response to Sue Vincent’s prompt – #writephoto. You can join in this weeks image or have a gander through the many interesting posts inspired by this wonderful photo by clicking here. KL ❤