Short Story Saturday: The Journey

Short Story Saturday: The Journey - Photo by Free Nature Stock from Pexels
Photo by Free Nature Stock from Pexels

Hello everyone! Back on schedule this week. Hat tip to my father for giving me the prompt for this story. As part of Short Story Saturday, I have posted another short story, this one entitled The Journey. Please enjoy.

A faint bit of moonlight poked through the dark clouds and thicket of tree branches dangling overhead and served to illuminate my path. As I tenuously trekked, I wrapped my arms around my coat. It was not a response to the cold, though the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped significantly as the night approached the witching hour. No, it was due to the fear induced by my hostile surroundings.

Wolves inhabited those coppices. Their howls were barely audible at first but had grown noticeably louder and angrier. They were savage. Merciless. Cruel. They would not hesitate to eat me alive. Those beasts had indeed claimed many a traveler. Only the most brave or foolhardy ever dared to walk that trail. There was no alternative, though. It was the only time when I could meet her. I needed to see her again.

Only a few steps onto the trail, I heard the howls echo once more. They were even louder than they were only minutes before. My pace quickened in response. As I did, the wind suddenly grew ever more violent. So I pulled down the brim of my bonnet to ensure it firmly stayed in place in response.

The wolves then made their move. Though I had expected their arrival for some time, their pursuit still frightened me to no end. Especially when I realized they were rapidly approaching. My light run turned into an anguished dash. I sprinted as hard as I could while I maintained a firm grip on the brim of the hat with one hand and attempted to ward off my beastly pursuers with the other. In the process, my coat flew off my shoulders and fluttered in the wind behind me like a butterfly. It freed my arms and allowed me to pump them faster as my legs desperately churned.

My efforts were in vain. Of course, they were. Even the fastest human cannot outrun their wolves and I am nowhere near the fastest. So before too long, they had caught up to me. First, they nipped at my heels. One then managed a solid bite. I let out an exasperated scream as the pair of teeth clinched down on one of my legs.

A struggle then ensued. My frantic blows to the beast’s skull quickly freed me from his fangs. However, blood now poured like a series of tiny rivers from my deeply lacerated ankle. Moreover, putting any sort of weight on it caused agony so great that for a moment I considered it impossible for me to crawl, nevertheless run.

That said, fear makes an excellent anesthetic. Though the pack had paused when their companion was violently separated from my leg, both out of concern and because they were startled by his whimpers, they quickly came to their senses and resumed the chase. I did not hesitate and continued running while doing my best to ignore the excruciating pain.

As I limped ever onward, the wolves’ howls grew ever more frenzied. It didn’t take long before their voracious drool dripped upon my legs and their hot breath warmed my backside. I felt as though they were taunting me. They had already caught up and could have ended me any time they liked. Then again, perhaps they were merely weary because their companion had failed viciously and were simply waiting for the right moment. Regardless, it seemed only a matter of time before those woods became my final resting place.

Never did I feel that more than when one of my feet stepped on the other and I found myself suddenly laying face first on the ground. I didn’t even bother lifting my head. As a strange sort of peace enveloped me, I closed my eyes and braced for what was to come. Their claws would rip me to shreds. My flesh was to be torn from my bones. Soon I would be little more than food for those ferocious fiends. At least, so I initially thought.

I cannot say how much time passed. It felt like weeks but was likely only seconds. No matter how much time had gone by, I can still remember how my mind suddenly grew cognizant of the fact that I was not experiencing any pain. In fact, I felt no sensation at all other than the gentle breeze and the cold damp ground. Perplexed, more out of curiosity than courage, I hesitantly opened my eyes, raised my head, and looked over my shoulder. To my bewilderment, the wolves were gone.

Something else was missing but I couldn’t put a finger on it. For the moment, though, that thought was only a subconscious one. Instead, I was contemplating how odd it was for the wolves to leave especially since I had heard they became more insatiable with the sight of blood. Then it suddenly hit me. I was no longer in pain. My head snapped accordingly. The lacerations on my ankle had vanished. Even my pants were no longer torn looking as good as new.

I rose to my feet in a daze conjured from confusion and relief. When my senses eventually turned to normal, I exhaled a deep sigh and decided not to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth. Instead, I continue my journey. There was little else I could do at the moment, anyway.

Not two steps in did I find myself back on the ground sitting upon my rear end. A figure had appeared before me as if by magic. Any annoyance or pain I felt immediately dissipated once I saw her face. Looking down on me was a flaxen-haired angel that shimmered in the moonlight. She was wearing her familiar and thin Sunday dress, the one that exposed her arms and everything below her knees, oblivious to the cold. Her trademark red bow accentuated her ponytail. A warmth unlike any other radiated from her soft blue eyes and warm smile. It was a face I had known for years.

Her cheeks flushed seemingly embarrassed for startling me. She then held out one lithe hand and offered to help me back onto my feet. Pride prevented me from accepting it. I insisted that I was not scared and practically leaped back onto my feet. She covered her mouth and giggled in response. I couldn’t help but grin.

I then took off my hat and handed it to her. “I found it while cleaning my house. I should have returned it to you years ago.”

“My favorite blue bonnet,” she said, placing it on her head and tying the ribbon around her chin. “Thank you very much!” Her face deepened into a frown. “You shouldn’t have gone all this trouble to give it to me, though.”

“I didn’t come all this way just to return your bonnet. I needed to see you.” I paused for a moment. “Besides, I can’t picture you without it.”

“Well, again, thank you very much for bringing it!” Another heartfelt grin spread across her lips. She then bade me to follow her. I eagerly complied.

We strolled up a winding, uphill path. The dangers that only minutes earlier surrounded had evaporated into the ether. I felt a kind of peace I had not felt for years. The two of us conversed on a multitude of topics focusing mostly on what I had been doing the last couple of years and how much I missed her. Otherwise, our discussion didn’t have a purpose or underlying goal. It didn’t need to have one.

There was so much I wanted to tell her, so much to discuss, but there wasn’t enough time. Inevitably and lamentably, we arrived where she currently resided. Our conversation needed to come to a close. Like all good things, our meeting had come to an end.

“This is where we are going to have to part,” the woman said with a fleeting smile. “It was good seeing you again.”

“Must we?” I asked.

She let out a deep and reflective sigh. “Of course. You don’t belong here.”

“Why not?” I barked. “It would be easier for me if I just stayed here with you.”

She shook her finger at me as her brow furrowed. Anger I had never seen burned in her eyes. “Don’t say that!” she shrieked. “Don’t even think that!”

Tears welled in my eyes. “I just think it would be easier if I joined you.”

“Easier than what?” she snapped.

I gesticulate wildly. “Easier than… easier than facing life! You left me and now I’m all alone! I can’t handle the stress, the worry, the danger, the hunger, the pain, the suffering, all by myself! I can’t do it.” I started to sob. “I just can’t do it.” I fell to my hands and knees.

A soft hand lifted my head. “Of course you can,” the woman said as she helped me back to my feet. “I won’t lie to you. Life can be cruel, vicious, and merciless, especially to someone as young as you. I wish I could say it will be easy but it won’t be. It may even be more difficult and arduous than it is now. More than you can even imagine.” She lifted her index finger and forced a smile. “But you will need to be strong, brave, and wise just to survive. But.” She paused for a moment and moved in for an embrace. “But I also know you can do it.”

I wrapped my arms around her and buried my head into her chest. “How can you be so sure?” I sniffed.

She placed a hand on my cheek. “Because I raised you.” Shortly thereafter, she was gone.

I reached down and picked up the bonnet that was resting on the plot. Taking the ribbons used to tie the headgear under the chin, I wrapped the bonnet as well as I could around my mother’s tombstone.

“It’s been four years. I’m a man now, not the boy I was. When will the pain go away?” Though I heard no response I knew the answer.

How long I stood there I could not say. Time again had no meaning to me. Once more, it could have been minutes, days, months, or years, it all meant the same to me. I almost could not bear to leave her grave. Yet, a resounding thought echoed in my head. It provided the resolve I needed to depart. With a final adieu, I promised my mother I would always remember her. After reciting a short prayer, I turned around and made my way home.

Regardless of how much time had passed, it was now the early morning. Rays of light penetrated through the clouds and shined through the trees which had parted possibly due to the earlier wind though at the moment, the wind had stopped. The wolves had returned but their cries were now muted and distant and more akin to whimpers than howls. They still posed a threat but I was ready for them now.

I knew I could defeat them. I knew I could be strong. I knew I could face life head-on regardless of its challenges. After all, I am my mother’s son.

If you enjoyed this story, then perhaps you’d be interested in reading more by pressing the “short story” tag below or clicking this(short story) link or this(genre and tags) link or this(story list) link. I would also urge you to share this story with others and comment below. Please check out my books page as well by pressing here. Thank you for reading my story.


2 thoughts on “Short Story Saturday: The Journey

  • That was a much, much better story than the one I was thinking of. You did a great job! I almost cried (a manly tear).

    • Thank you very much. I definitely could not have done it without your inspiration and without your help. I am also curious what kind of story you would have written. Thanks again!

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