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Challa L. Fletcher

Arkansas | United States

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    The Ancients

    I had been dreading the visit since I was a child. Most children grow up thinking weird stories are urban legends or parables. Moth men are just unidentifiable birds seen in drunken and smoky hazes. Bigfoot is a bear misjudged by distance, and goat, footed things with the face of men are scary stories to keep people out of the woods. I didn’t have that luxury.


    For me and my people, all of the stories were true. We knew of beings who were two, or three things at once. They weren’t just stories to teach children morals; they were legends of past, present, and future. We didn’t tell their stories around campground campfires. We sought them out when we came of age. A different ancient for each stage in life.


    When I was five I was happy to meet the thing the rest of North America would describe as the tooth fairy. It wasn’t pretty and pink and smiling with glitter but he was nice with a face that was both old and young. He fed me candy and sweets and thought us sweet words and the power of our kindness.


    At thirteen I met the thing mythology called a centaur. He was tall and flicked his hind leg as he talked; it was as distracting as he swishing tail. He was strict, though not mean, cold though not unyielding. I learned battle skills and learned the power of my body. I still see him from time-to-time. He is a lesson that does not end.


    Five years later was when I journeyed high into the mountains. Oxygen deprived and body facing hyperthermia I sat before Garuda. The being to teach me how to soar; how to find me. She was surprisingly meaner than all the ones before her. She didn’t take shit or the verbiage that indicated low self-esteem. You flew or you crashed; mentally of course. Her ability to enter my mind and root out all of the things that could keep my “wings” from spreading was invasive and unpleasant. I should have been prepared for her.


    My siblings had made the voyage at their appropriate times. One sister soared beyond even what she expected. A brother found his wings but hardly reached his limits. As Garuda looked at me approaching her Holy Nest Cavern her words were mean and knowing.


    "You have no choice but to be better than both of them," her eyes said.


    I soar but my highest high is still waiting for me.


    There were others in the years since then. Ancients who were ponds of water who reflected natures and intention and inner beings. There were the twins, Light and Dark, who were everything and nothing. They were everywhere and required much. There was the man with no mouth and ears in his hands. There was the Sower who weaved past and present. All building up to this moment. The one I never liked. Even as a child her stories frightened me. I never understood why. They were not scary; her tales were neither happy nor sad.


    She was Maturity Wisdom and Truth. I would see her after I turned 30, I was told. Could be 32, could be 39, but when the day came I would find a feather made of the hair of a woman. It will appear in my presence where no feather should ever be.


    When I saw it I was at Gray’s house, in the city. It was on his nightstand. It was not there when we stumbled into the dark, tripping over pants and heels. I was sure of it.


    * * * * *


    I approached the dwelling of Maturity Wisdom and Truth. Bare trees punched through the roof and sides as if they were climbing out of the house. The limbs “hooted” and had round eyes that lit the branches. The soft wisp of feathers sounded above my head; my eyes unable to look away. Never had I seen so many owls.


    “Enter child, there is not much time!” A voice called in the high pitch sound that bounced with a subtle trimble.

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