A Glint of Gold
Inspired by Wild Ones by Vanessa Fogg
There was a time I lived a life burdened with gravity, ever aching for the air. As a child, I danced with the wind, joy spilling out my chest as I threw myself into movement. The trees were my friends, whistling tunes to me through their leaves, their highest branches my playground—until my mother’s voice rang through the air with cries for dinner calling my heart back to the earth. Sorrow filled my chest whenever my motion was stilled. Home was my anchor; my mother’s mac and cheese kept my belly full and my soul tethered to the ground.
I still remember her eyes, pools of azure sky often crinkling with laughter. There was always something deep within them that I could not quite catch. Life has taught me it was fear. Ever afraid for her little wild child so often lost to the woods.
She had a right to fear—I could not be hers forever.
There have always been tales, whispered words that come from the woods, of children so full of light and sky that they lose their grip on the ground. Legends that told of ladders of light that stretched down from the sun and led them to paradise, or golden paths that led past beasts with stars for eyes and voids for mouths, with hungry bellies and reaching hands. Stories told second-hand in quiet hallways or on bustling streets. Stories of lost children and searching parents.
No one truly knew what happened to those missing children, only that they were safe in bed one night and gone before the next. All that was left were stories to tell children to keep them from misbehaving. My mother never used the stories against me; she avoided them, taking great lengths to keep me from them, so we lived a solitary life on the edge of the woods.
Sometimes, even now, I wonder if knowing the myths would have changed anything. Could I have learned to be happily tethered to the earth, never knowing the taste of free air? Perhaps in time, I could have learned to love mediocrity if I had known the alternative was to slowly forget the sound of my mother’s voice. To leave her behind, alone.
My destiny came for me just before lunch, a week after my twelfth birthday. I woke with the sun; familiar energy coursed through my veins as the light touched my skin. Meeting my mother at our little table, I ate breakfast too fast and waved off her calls of caution as I ran towards my home in the woods.
The hours I spent between the trunks are muddled now, but I could never forget the odd quiet of that morning. And there was a twinkling light that appeared on the edge of my vision. Glimmering gold just out of sight led me in and out of the underbrush, playing a game with me I could not name. It whispered without words, promises of something beautiful beyond comprehension.
Led by my twinkling companion, I noticed the trees opened into a clearing that I had never seen in my years of adventuring. Just as I stepped foot into the center of the open glade, my focus was disrupted by the raucous sound of snapping branches deep in the woods behind me. Some part of me knew what it was. Inexplicably, my mother had realized that this trip in the forest was meant to be my last, and she would not let me go quietly.
My eyes searched the treeline until I saw a figure break from it. Chest heaving with exertion, my mother called out to me. A light wind brushed my toes, and I kicked out, realizing I was no longer touching grass. An unseen force had fought against gravity and pulled me into the air. Now beneath me, my mother stretched her hand to me. My home was right there, with windswept hair and tears streaking down her face. Our eyes met, and I felt mine burn with tears.
Reaching down, my fingertips almost brushed hers. For a moment, I stopped rising altogether, and we cried out to one another. In my mind’s eye appeared a scale, and this was the tipping point. My mother’s lips moved silently, forming a silent plea. I searched her eyes frantically, seeking my path forward. In them, I saw a reflection of the sky.
Fingers curling in, I pulled my arm to my chest. A tear fell past my mother’s devastated face like a single raindrop as I held in a sob and turned my back on the world. Embracing a power beyond my understanding, I fell upwards into the golden sky.