Flash Fiction Friday: Story #2

Flash Fiction Friday # 2 prompt (1,000 word limit):

Flash Fiction #2 Prompt - Totem Pole Picture

“The Nature of Faith” (edited)

The crisp mountain air caused Rain to pause, drawing a quick breath. Her visit to the mountains had been a spur of the moment decision. Just the night before, she had been working at the hospital, staring at one anguished-filled face after another. She could not bear to make one more speech for the dying. Every time reminded her of her first day as an intern. The chief resident had pulled her aside after they had lost the little girl and had told her this would be the worst it would get. That it would get easier. But, it hadn’t, not after years of residency and now a fellowship. The dead still spoke to her. It was the living that no longer said anything.

She continued her climb to the outlook. With every step, she hoped the feeling of sadness would dissipate, but now that she was here, among her mountains, her grandmother’s mountains, the heavy feeling remained.

She looked out at the endless range of mountain tops. “How did Bryce do it?” she thought. How could he face the relatives, who begged with their eyes for miracles to save their loved ones, and give them hope when there was none? She no longer had the strength or the faith to do it, perhaps she never did.

Rain sat, dangling her feet over the edge of the cliff. Heights had never bothered her. Since childhood, her dreams had been filled with soaring, like an eagle above the clouds. She closed her eyes and raised her arms. She leaned forward as far as she dared.

“What if I just let go?” What if I lean just a bit more? Suddenly, she heard music. Soft and lilting like a flute. Her eyes fluttered open and she pushed herself away from the danger of her thoughts.

Okay, what the heck is that!” She cocked her head and listened, but there was nothing. The mysterious music was gone as unexpectedly as it appeared.

“Oh great, now I’m hearing things out of thin air,” she chuckled. The chuckle turned into a laugh. Of course, she was hearing things out of thin air. What were the spirits of the dead? She had seen and spoken with them since she was a little girl, but as she had grown up, she had turned her back on her gifts. That, even more than leaving the mountains to go to medical school, had broken her grandmother’s heart.

Rain’s laugh became a stifled sob at the thought of her grandmother, White Cloud. How could she have forgotten everything she had known? Yet, the dead still spoke to her, still clamored for her attention no matter what she did — all but one. The one she had hoped for above all else.

Why hadn’t she come?

Once again, she heard the music. She turned around trying to find its source. She stopped and found herself facing the woods along the cliff’s edge. She walked toward the trees and brushed the leaves and branches aside. She expected it to be more difficult, but the branches moved easily, revealing a hidden path. The music continued playing, growing louder.

“The trees must have been muffling the sound,” she said as she took the first step. It made her think of the wardrobe and Narnia.

“This must have been what Lucy felt,” she thought.

Rain followed the path upwards. Every now and then she could see the light on her right peak through the trees. She knew the sheer drop of the cliff was on that side. She concentrated on her feet, one foot in front of the other. She couldn’t afford a wrong step. No one knew she was up here, but Bryce. She had never told him of the walks with her grandmother up the mountains to find the spirits.

Memories of her grandmother caused her heart to ache. Memories filled with the smells and sounds of nature, and the song her grandmother had sung to her on the nights when she would wake from the frightening dream of the wolf with the razor sharp teeth. Rain remembered how she had held her, cradling her head in her lap and stroking her hair. She would hum the wordless tune in her ear, and Rain felt the fear wash away.

Once, she had asked her grandmother why the song did not have words. She had smiled and said that the words were not meant to be spoken. “But then how do you know what the song means,” she had insisted. Her grandmother had cupped her face in her sandpapered hands. “The song is different for everyone. It is not the same for you or for me. It means what it means.” Rain recalled how she had turned her face in anger. She had wanted a simple answer, like the science in her schoolbooks. Her grandmother had given her the old-ways answer. What good was that?

Rain made a final push through the last of the branches. She found herself on another outlook area. She blinked to readjust her eyes. In front of her stood an ancient totem pole with an eagle on top and a wolf on the bottom. She walked toward it, passed the small alter of rocks at its base. Her fingers ran across the old wood, tracing the grain and paint that represented the old symbols of the earth and sky. She saw the image of the beaver in the belly of the wolf. She knew these symbols of her youth.

The music was stronger now, more distinct. She recognized it; it was the song her grandmother had sung to her when she was a child. Rain knew why she had not seen her grandmother’s spirit after she had died in her hospital room. White Cloud had been so afraid to be there, but she had looked past her fears to spend her last days with Rain. Her grandmother had returned home.

And now, so had she.

(posted September 07, 2006 @ 17:26)