At nature's bidding, a young girl sets out to find her own path through life.
There once existed a tiny village in a not so far away land. It lied nestled in a tranquil valley, peacefully sleeping in the shadow of two mountains, by which the people knew as Loom. In this township, there lived a small girl with an old soul. She had only wanted one thing her entire life. Only dreamed of one thing. But the elders always told to her things as, "You're much too young dear girl," and, "when you're old, you'll wait."
But to any of this she paid no heed. It was set in her mind, and it took hold of her like an obsession, and even in the very whispering of the winds she thought she could hear the foretelling of her dreams. The leaves that danced before her sometimes had faces, smiling and beckoning her, tempting her in her desire. Many a time she nearly gave in, wishing for nothing more than to follow the beautiful radiance of nature's bliss. She thought of this literally, as throwing caution to the winds.
But alas, she spent many of her days dreaming, kicking rocks upon the cobble street as if they were terrible things. And she pondered in her whimsical fashion of how it would feel to run away. Her parents would not like it, but neither did they like the idea of what she desired most. She did not understand, for in her mind all she could see were bright flowers, daffodils and lilies, and rich green vines grabbing hold of ornately carved arbors. And she could hear voices and cheers and comments of congratulations, before which age-old oaths would be taken and honored, cast by permanent stones each person would bear.
It was settled, but only after once again hearing the callings of wild flowers from the meadow beyond her village. She would run away, and seek that which was forbade in this place.
The girl took nothing of provision with her, save her determined demeanor. She would not need food or water, for the skies would satiate her thirst, and the forestry and plant life would feed her. She was not, after all, without knowledge of herbal remedies after growing up in the harbor of nature loving people. But this she pushed far from her mind, and she kicked up the gravel beneath the souls of her feet, welcoming the rich earth between her widely spread toes. Before she knew her destined path, the coax of the winds had brought her to the outskirts of her world, and from there she would go and begin anew. As she did this, she couldn't help but notice that her fingers were quite bare, lacking any luster or shine.
In a heartbeat, she crossed the richly worn wooden bridge, breathing in the crisp mountain air from which the Green River below her flowed. Before her, the meadow came alive, stretching for distances unfathomable, glittering like gold and sparkling as crusted jewels. And the flowers rose up from their roots and were airborne, smiling and waving at her with friendly petals, spraying her with intoxicating aromas that guided her with every beckoning whim. She could see her vision coming true, the sheer beauty, the hues of blues and yellows and purples, and the rich greens of the earth, rooting all in its place. Butterflies spread glittering dust overhead, and the flowers took it in, pointing her toward the woods at her left.
As if dream like, a path formed through the meadow leading to Watcher's Wood, and the girl took several flowers with her, sniffing their perfumes as she made way to the foliage beyond. Excited anticipation rose in her throat, and she had trouble breathing while her heart fluttered like anxious insects. The wind called to her once more, this time clearer, rippling the leaves of the trees over head, which gave flirtatious whistles to the flowers now lining her hair.
She pushed into the ever growing forest. The girl could hear the flowers giggling in her hair, as if they were telling jokes on her behalf. But she merely smiled along and played as though she took no notice. All at once though, the flower's cheery air seemed to dim, and the leaves overhead no longer smiled but grew stern, and the forest turned to a deafening silence.
Rough feet stopped at a fork in the road. They danced back and forth, deciding which way they should venture, and the girl to whom they were attached awaited calmly to discover which route they would take. From behind a bush though, out jumped a startling creature. His nails were grimy and his face grubby. He said to the girl, "Good day dear," and he twitched his ear. Turning to the rear he chuckled, "Will you go there, or will you go here?" and he pointed to both directions simultaneously, cocking his head sideways and blinking synonymously.
The girl thought for a moment, and her brow soon became lined with sweat. At last, she chose to answer with a question. "Should I go here or there? If I should go there, what would it bear, and perhaps here, there might be a bear. What would you recommend, dear?"
And the shaky old creature jumped back a notch, but then leaned in again. "Why, what a fair voice I have never such heard. For you my child, I will show no wiles. Should you go here, you should find a path bearing ease, and is surely the one that all others take, but only if my blessing is given for the payment of those flowers about your hair. But should you go there, you will find no such bear, but the road will turn bumpy and lumpy, and you will find things more grumpy. What say you?"
The girl's nosed squished inward, and she was heartbroken at the thought of losing her flower friends. "I will go there," she stubbornly stated. "Then I will give you the road, dear child, and though my blessing will not come immediately, you will find it there along your bumpy, lumpy, grumpy path." The creature bowed low and waved his arm, allowing her passage. Without another word, he then jumped backwards awkwardly, and landed, invisibly, behind his bush. The girl, before she moved, felt her hair loosen, and her flower friends smiled farewell and clung to a breeze, and the leaves of the trees were once again merry beings. And she was confused, because the creature did not seize the flowers, but of their own free will did they choose to leave. Perhaps, thought the girl, they were better off as acquaintances than friends.
As the path wound in great meandering loops, the young girl ventured further into Watcher's Wood, but, in reality, it was the woods who watched her. All eyes seemed to be on her, from above in the leaves, to the trunks of great trees whose faces had grown gnarled and withered. But as she persisted, and as her desire for the thing she wanted most still burned like starlight in her heart, the watchers of the wood took on blank stares. They did not frown or did not smile, and they did not pout nor weep, laugh or boast, they simply watched as casual onlookers, curious as to what the girl may decide to do next. And there were no more whisperings or beckoning coming from the wind, or no guidance to lure her to the next step, nor any scent, taste, or touch that might woe her sparkling essence.
At long last, with many nicks and cuts on her body as a result of an undiscovered path, from beneath a shadowed opening made tunnel like by the huddling trees, the girl finally emerged to find a great cemetery, which spanned the distance of her gaze. But it was not a grey place as cemeteries often were, rather, it was a place of light and peace, and from beneath the marble tombs she once again heard susurrations of glee, and they spoke of the one who would be at the end of her path. While distracted by the voices, the wind muttered to the girl with its own, tickling her ear so that she would smile once again. From the wind's gentle fingers, gliding on the zephyrs, came the lilies and daffodils from her vision, as well as her flower acquaintances who were giggling boisterously as if the whole thing was a practical joke. She decided she would know them as friends after all, and after following their sweet, grassy aromas, she came to an ornately carved arbor wrapped in green vines.
From out of some place that did not exist, the grungy old creature from the road hopped out of a bush once again. He congratulated her and smiled, giving her his blessing for the price of nothing, save that she defied the norm and created her own path. Taking her little hand in his, he led her toward the arbor, behind which rested a giant tree. Her little heart hammered excitedly, each fresh beat a melody to the last. They rose in crescendo with the gale of the winds, and laughter of the flowers, and mutterings of those from under the tombs. When they finally stood beneath the arbor together, hand in hand, the creature smiled and said to the girl, "May I ask you a question, dear?"
In a flash of light, the little girl opened her eyes, only now, their existed no such things as arbors and creatures, or trees or daffodils with faces, nor of bodiless voices coming from beneath tombs and invisible winds. As she looked up, a boy stood before her, and she had completely forgot about him as she kicked the terrible rocks on the cobbled streets of her village.
"Can I ask you a question?" said the boy, only this time he was not a creature, but a boy of nobility and of old soul. Only, upon careful speculation, the girl realized that he was not a boy at all, but a man. And she looked at her fingers that had grown substantially in size. She too was not little anymore, but had grown into a fine woman who had traversed the path that not many others could. Even though she was no longer in her land of bright flowers and earthly grasses, it reminded her of her ambition for the thing she wanted most. Looking at her fingers another time, they were still bare and lacked any form of luster.
"Pardon me," reclaimed the noble man as he looked down with red cheeks. "I realize you may think we do not know each other enough, but I have come here today to fulfill my vision. You see, I had this dream, and in it, I ran away from my village, and when I ran away, I was a child again born of innocence. It brought me to this meadow that was an eye uncatchable, spreading as far as two points can spread. Flowers took me through to these woods where this gangly creature bade me choose which direction would be best, and, well... long story short, it brought me here, to you. I know this sounds absurd, but I feel as if I've known you my entire life. I feel like we've been together, laughed together, shared pain and anger toward each other, but also felt an undying love that couldn't be extinguished by even the mightiest of rivers. On top of it all, and this is really the beautiful thing, is that I think we still have so much to teach each other, that even after a lifetime we wouldn't truly know what the other of us was going to do."
''...and so, I stand before you now to ask you something I have asked no other woman, nor will I ever ask another woman." He pulled out a richly decorated box of the highest caliber, and as he lifted on the handle to reveal the contents, a ring of brilliant craftsmanship caught in the light, spraying the cobbled ground with rainbow prisms. Looking down at her own fingers, it became apparent to the woman what it was she was missing, and what her vision truly entailed. A single tear slid down her cheek, and she thought she heard, with the faintest of murmurs, the wind congratulating her on her decision.
So the man stood before her and grabbed her hand. He did not bow or shrink or bend to one knee, but acknowledged her as an equal, as a life partner, as two beings that could physically be separate, but kindred in soul and spirit. The girl knew, rather the woman knew, that even though she had spent many years alive, that she really had barely lived at all. In her heart she could sense that all previous events in her life had merely been stepping stones to this moment, upon which, would begin another set of stones to step. The happiness she had felt in the field of flowers had returned...
The man looked into her soft eyes and asked, with absolute sincerity, "May I ask for your hand in marriage?" And the girl feared what might come from her mouth, for she was faced with another choice, just as she was back in the woods. And she remembered the two paths that had confronted her there, deciding what would happen to her for the rest of her days. Though, now, as she stood before this man with glistening eyes, she realized that the two paths she could have chosen were in fact the very same, just as they were now. However, the reasons for taking a certain path were the motions determining what and where each path would ultimately lead. She was frightened, but contrarily, she was also excited to begin this new life with this man. And all of the things he had spoken to her about, the vision, and their kindred souls, made sense. She felt too, even though they had barely met, that they had known each other for ages, for who was in charge of regulating time and space and durations? With the answer to her question ready, the girl bowed her head and wiped the tears from her face. After a moment's hesitation, she looked up and answered...