The Only Road Home, by Francesca Quarto

Published on by Francesca Quarto

She believed she was invincible.  The goddess had given her that impression after all.  

"Here, take this stone and you will prevail" she had told her.  

But goddesses have been known to manipulate the truth to suit their own ends.  Was this to prove one of those times?  Her life depended upon the answer.

Clutching the smooth gray rock, she stepped out of the shadows where she'd hidden, waiting for the moon to be lost beneath the storm-heavy clouds.

She let the darkness engulf her like a wave, not moving so much as a flutter of eyelids.  Dressed in the black robes of the Acolyte, hood concealing the glossy mass of coppery red hair, she melted into the night.

A low rumble like snow gathering into an avalanche of death, began to ride the constant wind.  It grew louder until she wanted to reach up to cover her ears.

Behind the churning sound came the thud and tramp of heavy footsteps.  The weight they carried surely crushed the very earth beneath, marking it forever with its passage.  

The moon hung desolate and alone under its mask of inky thunder heads, waiting and watching just as she did.

The goddess had only relinquished the stone after she had proven herself the Acolyte of Merit; the one to send on this delicate mission.  Though she understood this was a mission from which she could never return, she found it defined her very existence.

She, and the others of her kind, named the "Original Sinners", had been locked away on this bleak and dying world for crimes committed by faceless, nameless ancestors. Their outrage was deemed so great by the gods, that any of their progeny would also suffer their fate.  

Of these, only a handful remained.  Late, in the blast of the red summer, she had become the last female.  There were now only six of the Original Sinners left to roam the barren wastes of their prison world.  The others, all madmen without conscience or pride, stalked her like the sexual prey they viewed her to be. 

The goddess only intervened because she was bored watching the same game of hide and seek day after night.  Her instructions to the girl were easy enough; "Follow the path that shall be reveled by the stone's light."

She stood now, gripping that stone and wondering how its dull surface could ever show the way.

The only road home, back to a home of light and life, was through this narrow gap of time.  

The sound of a low growl, like a stomach crying out to be filled, another heavy thump upon the dry dead ground...here he comes.

She tossed the stone ahead of her so she could follow it to freedom.  It made a shallow sound as it skipped like a rock over a pond.  But there were no tranquil ponds here, only brackish waters to quench a thirst.  

It stopped several feet in front of her.  She stood mute and rooted to the spot waiting for the light.  Suddenly, a shimmer of yellow began to pool around the tossed stone.  The glow began to seep into the dessicated ground and shot out like a bolt of lightning ahead of itself.

This was the road home at last.  She ran forward, breaking her statue like stillness and began to sprint like a fabled deer to wherever this road would lead her.  

I am going home she kept thinking as she pumped her legs and panted out her breath into the eternal night.  

The goddess watched from her marble throne as the creature ran into the oblivion of imagination.  It still shone with the intensity of belief, beckoned with a voracity for freedom, but was sadly, only the mirage of a path out of her life.  It was only a stone after all, not a gem.  She had taken it even knowing at face value, it was nothing but a stone, smooth to the touch, sounding of promise when it was tossed about, but it was still only rock.

"Ah, how silly these humans can be.  They chase after illusion every time."  She said to the scudding clouds over her marble head.  Her hands lay upon her knees, each palm up.  One held a precious gem, the other, empty.  Not unlike the promise of the stone the girl had chosen.  

The goddess continued to chuckle as she watched the girl follow the promises as they both faded into the distance.  She knew in the end, there would be no road back home, but then this peculiar being seemed ever hopeful and optimistic.  

"Such a waste of your limited time" she mumbled to the girl who never heard.  She was too busy trying to get back to a past that didn't exist, to live a future that was only a dream.

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