By Kala Séraphin
My name is Hera. I’m just a normal person, like you or anybody else reading this. There’s nothing special about me. Every day I wake up, get my children ready for school and send them on their way. Then, I take care of our home, cleaning the mess my husband and kids made, restock the fridge and mend whatever needs my attention. I have a small business. I make raw organic cookies and sell them locally. I enjoy gardening, cocktail hour with my girlfriends and riding my pink bicycle by the river. Like I said, I’m a normal person
This story is about my grandfather. His name was Heraclitus but everyone called him Hera. It’s a story he told my mother many times and shared with me as well. It is the best kind of story. You know the one, with adventures, lessons and that starts something like: Once upon a time, not too long ago. In a far away land much like yours and mine.
You see, my grandfather loved mountains. He would spend hours staring at pictures or watching documentaries about famous mountains around the world. In his bedroom, he had a sculpture of each mountain he climbed.
At the age of seventeen, he was invited to hike the Bleeding Mountain. This was quite an opportunity for my grandfather. He would be the youngest yet most experienced of the group.
It wasn’t such a hard mountain to climb. The way up was a fairly steady slope upwards. What made it such a big deal was the history behind it. Long before my grandfather’s time, there was a famous garden at the top of the mountain. It was a nameless garden believed to have magical properties. My grandfather was told that the magic started after a young woman gave birth to a special baby right before her execution. People would have wounds heal quickly, diseases vanish or wishes granted after walking through the garden. However, no one from my grandfather’s generation was able to reach the top of the mountain. Accidents would occur, people got lost in the mountain or they would just give up.
When he was approached with the opportunity to reach the peak of the Bleeding Mountain, my grandfather could not let such a chance pass him by. He was quick to pack his bags and go off on a unique adventure to usher him into the world of real manhood.
He arrived before dawn at the designated meeting point. It was a small village with barely two hundred people living there all year round. There was one convenience store that also had a post office and pharmacy attached to it. Anything else the people needed, they had to drive three hours to another slightly bigger town.
“Are you Heraclitus?” The man that asked the question was old and frail looking. He leaned on a crutch and had the support of a young girl. His bald head and half his face was covered with red scabs that looked like the ravages of a disease. It was as if all of his vitality had gathered in his eyes, as they twinkled with mystery and lust.
“Yes, that’s me. You can call me Hera, it’s easier.” My grandfather replied. The old man assessed him and looked pleased.
“You will do very nicely.” He mumbled.
“Who are you?” My grandfather asked. He was not one to get shy when in the company of elders.
“I’m Sir. Robert Fallon. I’m the one paying you to take me to the top of the Bleeding Mountain. This is my granddaughter. Her name is Blossom.” The old man shook hands with my grandfather, once again assessing him.
“The morning will be here soon. Should we get started, Sir. Fallon?” My grandfather asked in the most respectful manner he could remember.
Sir. Robert Fallon gave a curt nod and began limping towards the mountain, accompanied by his granddaughter, Blossom. Hera, my grandfather, leading them slowly. The first hour was spent quietly. The strange looking trio walked on the clear path, taking in the scenery as the sun slowly crept through the trees. However, Hera was not one to keep quiet for long.
“So, why did you hire me to guide you through the mountain?” He asked.
Sir. Robert wasn’t at ease with walking and talking. He stopped and shifted more of his weight on his granddaughter.
“I was told you’re pretty smart when it comes to mountains. Do you know the history behind this one?”
My grandfather looked in the direction of the peak, nodding.
“Of course,” he said. “I’ve heard stories about healing properties and curses.”
“Look at me young man. I look like I have one foot in the grave. You’re going to help me reach the top so I can heal this useless body.” Declared Sir. Fallon. With that said, they continued on their way in silence.
My grandfather always enjoyed music and so it wasn’t long before he started to whistle a tune. The sound of a bird responding stopped him dead in his track. He looked around; attracted by a hidden path that broke off from the main road they were following. He followed his instincts immediately and changed their course.
“What are you doing? It’s easier on the path.” Sir. Robert inquired. Hera looked back at his charge, looking a bit surprised that they weren’t following.
“This is the way up,” he simply said. There was no other way to explain it. In the past, he had always followed the energy pulls of a mountain. That was the difference between reaching the top easily as opposed to struggling along the way.
“I trust him, grandfather. He knows what he’s doing.” Blossom finally spoke up. She was looking at the ground, holding on to her grandfather.
Sir. Robert decided to follow with his granddaughter’s advice. Their pace slowed down considerably since the path required more of their attention. The sun barely reached them through the dense trees. The only sound heard now was Sir. Fallon struggling to catch his breath. The group frequently took breaks for the old man to regain some control over his breathing.
Once, Blossom wanted to sit on a log to rest her legs. My grandfather stopped her in time to avoid the poisonous spider that hid behind a bush close by.
“How did you know?” Sir. Fallon asked, holding his shaken granddaughter.
“Sometimes, you just know.” Hera replied, continuing on his way. Though he enjoyed talking with people, my grandfather was never able to put into words the gift he had of perceiving certain events before they occurred.
It was midday and Blossom took the initiative to stop their progress long enough to eat lunch. She spread out small dishes on a blanket that she was carrying in her backpack.
“If we stop for long, we’ll lose what little light we have.” Hera declared, feeling antsy. There was something about Blossom that left him feeling uneasy.
“We need to eat. My grandfather needs to regain his strength.” She countered, handing Hera some bread.
He ate quickly, feeling grateful for her foresight. My grandfather often forgot practical details like bringing food and water on a hike.
“What will you do once you reach the top?” She asked my grandfather in a soft voice only he could hear.
“Nothing. I’ll take you two to the top, admire the view and then take you down.” He replied.
“I’m going to wish for happiness,” Blossom whispered. It felt like she was talking to some ghosts that were following her.
“What do you mean? You don’t need magic for that. I climb mountains and that makes me happy. Just find your passion.” My grandfather said, looking at Blossom as if she were speaking a different language.
She looked over to Sir. Fallon and sighed deeply. My grandfather could feel her longing for freedom. He observed how she moved as she cleaned up the remains of the meal. Her movements were tight and sharp, as if she were held back by an invisible bubble. He longed to show her the simplicity of being herself, whatever it may be. Blossom was so focused on her grandfather that she couldn’t see her choices.
“What wouldn’t I give to have a body like yours.” Sir. Robert claimed as they continued the hike up. By now, the path was all rocks and roots. Hera and Blossom were helping the old man maneuver his way around the obstacles.
“Well, Sir. Fallon, I’m sure you had your time,” was all my grandfather said. He was feeling more aware of the strain between Blossom and his employer.
“I’m afraid not, young man. As a baby, I was stricken with the Exlibero disease. I barely made it out alive.” The old man explained.
Hera now understood the red scabs covering Sir. Robert’s head. His whole right side must be covered in them. Exlibero was a very rare disease that starts in the right side of the brain and spreads through the body but only on the right side. People of the medical world were in awe of this disease. No one understood how a person got infected or how to heal it. Exlibero would choose its victims sparingly. Some lived through it and some died. Even in my generation there is still great mystery behind the disease.
With the help of my grandfather’s expertise, the small group found the peak of the mountain before the day was finished. They stood before a wild forest in awe and confusion.
“How can it be this easy?” Blossom asked, looking around as if she expected monsters to come out and grab them.
“Maybe it’s on the way down that people get lost.” Hera suggested.
Sir. Fallon did not take the time to ponder the question or to admire the forest. He went straight into its heart.
“Grandfather! No! Be careful!” Blossom screamed as she followed after him.
Hera looked around in wonder. He walked up to a slender tree with long wispy branches. The leaves were a deep red, much like his blood. He slowly walked around in wonder of the fauna. It was unlike anything he’d seen before. A small bird landed gracefully on the ground in front of him. It was a small bird about the size and shape of an apple with feathers the same colour as the tree he was previously admiring. It looked at my grandfather for a very brief moment before flying off.
Hera heard Blossom calling out for her grandfather. He followed the sound of her voice, worried for both of them.
He found Blossom, running aimlessly. She stopped when she saw Hera. There were tears in her eyes, her hair was disheveled and dirt was all over her pants.
“I can’t find him.” She wailed.
My grandfather took her hand and she immediately calmed down.
“We’ll look for him together.” He declared.
Walking around proved to be a little challenging. Every so often they would stumble on roots, rocks and what looked like old monuments.
“Do you think people use to live here?” Blossom asked, tripping over what looked like the head of a statue. Hera shrugged. He had no words to say because he was too busy following the wind that was whispering in his ear, guiding him where to go.
What they found was a building covered with vines, falling apart. It had no roof to keep out the elements. The walls were made of a strange bronze material. The entrance looked very inviting with gilded pillars framing the opening.
“Sir. Fallon is inside.” Hera said, feeling very certain yet not knowing why or how.
Stepping inside, my grandfather felt his whole body tingling. There was something very powerful about this place.
Sir. Robert Fallon was leaning on the doorway across from Blossom and Hera. He was looking into the next room. His breathing was out of control. My grandfather sensed something strange about him.
“Sir. Fallon! We should stay together. It’s safer that way!” He cried.
The old man looked over his shoulder and chose to ignore the warning. He walked into the next room. Blossom ran to follow him.
“These two are going to be the end of me!” Hera mumbled, chasing after them.
All he wanted was to explore this peak. He wanted to take in these amazing sights. My grandfather noticed holes, from top to bottom, in the walls. He wanted to slowly look through them, to see if there were any telltale signs of who use to live here.
The next room resembled the first, except it was made of silver. There were holes all over the walls as well. Heraclitus saw another gateway and stepped through it. The third and final room looked like the first two. The walls were made of gold and it had such a powerful energy that it made my grandfather fall back. His head started pounding, as if there was something that wanted to come out of his head.
He found Sir. Fallon and Blossom in this very big room. He also saw another person. It looked like a young boy, maybe ten years old with long brown hair and bright blue eyes. My grandfather was surprised to be able to notice the color of his eyes at such a distance. He started to walk closer, cautiously.
No one said a word. Only the sound of my grandfather walking echoed loudly. The little boy stood erect, wearing a dirty robe, with a smile on his face. Sir. Fallon was on his knees out of exhaustion and Blossom stood by him, as always, ready to support him.
“I’m happy you came. I’ve been waiting a long time.” The little boy had a soft voice. It was layered with other voices both male and female.
“Who are you?” Sir. Fallon asked, catching his breath after moving around on his own for so long.
The boy smiled and looked off in the distance, his eyes glowing and out of focus.
“My name is Erick. For now. I am not here yet.” He said with his layered voice.
Hera walked closer. He could now feel a force pulling him towards this strange looking boy.
“What are you doing here alone? Where are your parents?” He asked. Blossom took his hand in hers and her tremors ceased.
“My parents aren’t born yet. I’m waiting for you.” Erick said. He walked up to my grandfather and took his free hand.
“I’ve waited a long time.” Now Erick’s voice took on a more feminine touch.
Erick guided Hera to a stone slab and they sat down, the little boy looking up at my grandfather with a lot of love. Blossom and Sir. Fallon looked on, speechless and amazed.
Erick stroked Hera’s cheek as a mother would for her child. He started to cry.
“My lovely baby. I never had a chance to hold you,” Erick whispered.
“You must have me confused with someone else…” Hera started.
“No, you’re simply not yet aware. This is where I died, long ago.” There was now only one voice and it was that of a woman.
“They killed me after I gave birth to you. I came to ask you something important.” Erick explained.
Though what the little boy said was strange, my grandfather felt very at ease with the information. Looking in the blue eyes felt like looking into eternity.
“Please, keep the Faith alive. Hope can only live in hearts that have its spark.” He said with the woman’s voice.
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