Today’s post comes in the form of a short story for the Daily Post, created using the image above as inspiration, along with the first line: I had been here before, a long time ago.
I had been here before, a long time ago. The way the stream trickled over my feet, the way it snaked through the trees on either side of it. Even the rocks it flowed over, even they were familiar.
I walked, splashing through the water, the flimsy cloth of my dress trailing behind me, soaking up the stream. My bare feet sank into the soft riverbed, the grainy pieces getting between my toes.
Everything about this moment was so familiar.
And yet, yet I remembered nothing. I was certain of nothing. Except that I had existed in this moment before.
The sun drifted out from behind clouds, shining a shaft of light down on the water before me. The surface glittered, mesmerising me.
I crouched down and took in my wavering reflection. Strange how I didn’t recognise a single feature on my face, not my straight dark hair, not my dark eyes, nothing.
I carried on down the stream, still plagued by that nagging knowledge that I knew this place. That I had been here. I knew it wasn’t a recent echo of memory. It almost felt like a dream.
Voices stopped me. A group of men and women stood on the edge of the stream, silenced as they noticed me. They were dressed simply, and one woman waded out. Closer, I saw her expression was one of wonder. “Tia?” she said. “Is that really you?” Tears sawn in her eyes.
“I don’t know,” I answered, and felt uncomfortable at the sound of my own voice, it was so unfamiliar.
Her brows furrowed. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t know anything,” I tried to explain. “But this place. Have I been here before?”
She smiled. “Of course you have. You were born here Tia.” She opened her arms and embraced me in a hug.
A screech cut through the moment. She pulled away and stared up into the sky, fear on her faice. “We must go,” she said. “Before they get here.”
“Before who get here?” I asked.
But the woman just took me by the hand and led me quickly through the water to the shore. The moment my feet touched the grainy land a shadow passed over the sun. I looked up to the sky. A dark silhouette beat its wings, slicing through the delicate warm air. A strange mix of fear and warm familiarity coursed through me. Just like I knew this place, I knew that beast.
It turned in the air and swooped down, heading for the river.
The woman pulled me forward, up the slight incline and away from the river, retreating under the cover of the surrounding trees. I was dragged along, turning my head back and forth, trying to watch where I was going, yet hoping for another glimpse of the creature in the sky.
We emerged into a village. More people surrounded me, evoking that sense of familiarity more and more. But I couldn’t stop looking up, waiting for the shadow to pass over the sky visible in the clearing the houses made.
“Don’t worry Tia, the creature won’t find you here,” the woman said, defensiveness in her voice. Like a mother protecting her child.
“Who am I?” I asked. “Where am I?”
“Come,” a man said, “eat with us. We will reawaken your memories.”
They tried, they told me things I couldn’t take in, couldn’t wrap my head around. They were familiar, but that was all. No clear memories came into my mind.
Night came, and I was taken into a house with the woman who’d led me from the river. I tried to sleep on the strange bed, but couldn’t. The shadow in the sky wouldn’t leave my mind.
So I got up and wandered outside, guided by the light of the moon. It was full tonight. Someone called my name, giving me start. I looked around, but saw no one – the village was silent and still.
Again I heard my whispered name, and something told me to look up. My heart stilled. There, silhouetted against the moon, was the creature’s shape. Could it be the one speaking to me?
It swooped around, heading back toward the river. I followed through the trees, and finally stopped back on the grainy shore. The creature lowered itself, silent despite its bulk. The moonlight glimmered off the scales that formed its skin. It was beautiful.
It landed in the river, the water making way for it, coursing around its body. It was the size of a tree, maybe larger.
“Tia,” it spoke into my mind, its lips never moving. “I have found you.” Emotion flowed through its words, and the strength of it touched my heart.
Familiarity tugged at me like a rope, hard and insistent. “You know me too?”
It narrowed its eyes, the moonlight glinting off the shining black orbs. “Of course I do. What has happened to you?”
I explained everything in my memory, and sorrow came over the creature. “The poison did more damage than I thought.” It sighed. “We can fix this Tia. Come with me now.” It extended one of its front legs, water dripping from the claws as they raised out of the stream.
I hesitated, but felt more comfortable about going with this creature than I had the people earlier. I didn’t want to go back to that village where I felt awkward, an outsider, so I took a chance. I climbed up the leg and onto the creature’s back.
The moment I sat astride the base of its strong neck, a memory flashed into my mind. “Atara. Your name is Atara.”
Joy flooded into me from her mind – I now knew she was a her. “Yes, Tia. it is.” She beat her wings, turning the water into a momentary whirlpool, and we lifted into the air. “There truly is hope.”
I watched as we flew from the place I had started my memory that day. The village clearing in the trees became a dot. I wondered about those people, this place I knew from long ago, but my heart told me I was going home, that Atara would take me to the place I truly belonged. I trusted her.
But one day, I had to know – what was my true connection to that place?
P.S: I hope I’ve got the image accreditation right. I’m really not good with all this technological stuff. If I haven’t, and anyone wants to let me know how I do, feel free. 🙂