Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
 
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Stones

by Jason McIntosh




The sun set slowly on the edge of the valley. Davar and his family had farmed this land for generations and grew the rare gwala fruit for the neighboring lands. The family worked year round harvesting the delicate fruit to survive harsh times that had left his once-prosperous family deeply poor and in debt. While watching the setting sun go behind the bottom of the hill, he slipped into a deep, coma-like trance and the vision began, again.

The visions began at the age of fourteen. They were of a beautiful woman in white with long, flowing blonde hair. She presented him with a golden platter. Upon the platter was a heart-shaped stone that seemed to cry out in loneliness and pain. Each time the vision would end, he would be left with a feeling of emptiness inside and a feeling that someone somewhere was waiting for him. He never knew when they would occur or for how long, but they came more and more frequently the older he got. How long he sat there he didn't know, but he was finally awakened by a hand on his shoulder.

"You dreaming, again?" Came the angry voice from his brother Shankle behind him. Shankle was much older and had little patience for Davar or his dreams.

"Oh, sorry," Davar claimed, startled.

"Hurry up. We need to get back before the storm hits," his brother exclaimed in disgust.

When the two arrived back at the house, their father was waiting. Shankle explained how he had found Davar dreaming in the field, again, and made sure his father understood how tired he was of Davar's dreaming and the time he wasted everyday. This harvest had to be carried to the neighboring village the next day and Shankle made his opinion known about his doubts about Davar's ability to accomplish this, especially with the frequent storms. His father assured him his worries were unnecessary and that Davar would complete the task in proper time.

"It's the vision again, isn't it son?" His father asked, placing his hand on Davar's shoulder.

"Yes."

"What do you think it means?" His father responded.

"I don't know, but right now all I need to worry about is getting the harvest delivered tomorrow."

Davar arose early the next day. He barely made it to the next village and sold the harvest before the full brunt of the next storm set in. He stood under a ledge of a roof waiting for the storm to pass when the vision occurred, again. This time it was stronger than ever and he didn't know how much time had been lost when he came to. When he awoke, he was startled to see an old woman standing a few feet away from him. Her clothes were worn and tattered and he couldn't even begin to guess her age which seemed to be an infinite number of years old.

"Can I help you?" He asked, a bit startled and feeling uncomfortable at her stare.

"No," she said, "but I believe I can help you."

"What are you talking about, old woman?"

"I can feel it," she said in amazement. "You have Loelie."

"Loelie?"

"I could feel your vision. It's you. It's really you," she said, her excitement growing. "I've waited for you for over a century and now you've finally come."

"You could feel my vision?" he asked. A small amount of fear began to grow inside of him.

"Yes. Come in out of the rain and I will tell you ."


* * *

She led him to an old, seemingly-abandoned shack on the outside of the village. Even for someone as poor as Davar it seemed unbelievably run down and miserable. She lit a lamp and used it to light her pipe then motioned for him to sit at a table that seemed like it would collapse with the slightest touch. The smoke from her pipe began to almost choke him as she stared at him in amazement for what seemed like a lifetime.

"It's really you," she said in unbelief after finally breaking her silence.

"Yes, it's really me," he responded rather impatiently. "Now what's this all about? Please, tell me why I'm here."

"I've waited for you for a long time, Davar. Longer than you will ever know."

"How do you know my name?" He asked, rather taken aback.

"The visions you have they are of Loelie, the fairy queen," she responded. "The visions you have are of her calling out to you. It is your destiny to find her. You are the one, Davar. You are the one."

"The fairy queen." He laughed. "My father used to tell me stories about my grandfather running around the forest looking for her."

"Yes, I knew your grandfather," she responded, almost making him fall backwards out of his already-brittle chair. "He had the hand, but he didn't have Loelie."

"The hand?" He asked.

"Yes, the hand. The hand reaching down through his bloodline searching for you, Davar. Only the purest of hearts can find Loelie. Your visions tell me that it is you, Davar. You have the purest of hearts and it is your destiny to find Loelie. "

"Destiny?" He shouted, jumping up from the table. "The only destiny I have is to get home before the next storm hits."

"No, Davar," she shouted while grabbing him by both arms. "You must go into the forest of Zearth and find Goegoth."

"Goegoth?"

"Yes, Goegoth," she continued. "That is the castle of the fairy queen Loelie, but heed my words. Goegoth is not only a physical place, but a spiritual one as well. You must search in both places to find it. You are the purest of hearts, Davar. The chosen one. It is your destiny."

"Foolish old woman!" He shouted while pulling away and walking away out into the storm once, again.

"You cannot fight your destiny, Davar!" she shouted out into the storm as he walked away. "You cannot fight it!"


* * *

When he arrived back at the farm, his father and brother where waiting.

"You're late!" Shankle shouted as he walked through the door.

He didn't respond. Instead he placed the money from the harvest on the well-worn table and walked away to his ramshackle bedroom. From this point forward he swore he would never think of the visions. Again he vowed to put them completely out of his mind, and that's just what he did.

Another harvest came and he didn't have a vision during this time. Then, as the harvest was about to end, another vision occurred. It was entirely different. The golden platter had been dropped on the floor and the stone heart had been shattered into a million pieces. The woman was also different. She now had her back to him and what appeared to be an ocean of tears surrounded her along with an unbelievable feeling of rejection that came over him every time the vision occurred. Finally, on the last day of the harvest, the vision occurred again, stronger than it ever had before.

He was standing in the field when it occurred and was awakened by a piece of gwala fruit hitting the side of his head. Shankle, showing his impatience with his brother, again, had thrown the fruit at him when Davar had stopped working because of the vision. After waking from being hit, Davar dropped his tools and walked out of the field with obscenities from his brother following him every step of the way.

When his brother and father arrived back at home later that night they found Davar in his room packing his bags. After a few minutes of verbal abuse from his brother for leaving the field, his father walked into Davar's room and shut the door. After his father asked him what was wrong, Davar began to explain everything to him, including his visit with the mystical old lady.

"I knew this day would eventually come," his father explained. "Yes, your grandfather did go in search of the fairy queen without luck. After you were born, he told me that he knew that you were the one."

"The one?"

"Yes, the chosen one," his father continued. "Whatever your destiny is, my son, you should follow it."

"So, you think I should go?" Davar asked.

"That, my son, is a choice only you can make," his father concluded. He left the room and returned with a brown leather bag. He opened the bag and removed a large, silver sword.

"What's that?" Davar asked.

"This was your grandfather's. He told me when you began your life's journey, whatever that may be, to give this to you. He said you would know when to use it."


* * *

In the early morning light, Davar set out on his journey to the forest of Zearth. The path would take him through the village where he had encountered the mystical woman the year before. Following the street to the place where her shack was he noticed that it wasn't there. Instead, a nicely-built, tall building was in its place. Thinking that the building had been torn down, he asked a few people he met on the street who claimed that the building had always been there and that no one knew of the old woman in which he spoke. He was afraid he had been tricked and he almost turned back, but something pulled him forward. After several days journey, he reached the outskirts of Zearth. It had long been known as a forest of mythical powers and a place where strange unexplained occurrences often happened. People were reported to have gone in and never returned, but still he pushed on, something drawing him deeper and deeper into the forest.

Finally, after seventeen days of wandering in the forest he collapsed under a huge tree, exhausted. The heavy sword that he carried had made traveling almost impossible, but he forced himself to push on until he fell asleep against a tree. When he awoke, it was late at night and a thick fog had descended into the forest. The wind began blowing and another big storm was coming into the area. He knew he had to find some shelter from the storm, but the fog made it almost impossible to see. Then the lightning came. Every few seconds, huge bolts would litter the sky and light the area up like it was in the middle of the afternoon. A lightning bolt struck near him and about a hundred yards away he could see a castle. It was enormous in size and he couldn't believe his eyes as he looked upon it. He knew it wasn't there before when he had sat down to rest earlier, but it was right in front of him now. Goegoth? Could it be? He tried to run closer toward it, but discovered a deep moat surrounding it. It was impossible to cross on any side of the castle, but he knew he had to cross it and get into the castle. As the lightning began to further intensify, he noticed the sword lying on the ground. He picked it up and a stone lying on the ground and began to climb the huge tree he had rested under only moments before. Climbing half way up, he jabbed the sword into the tree and hammered it with the stone into the massive trunk. Just then he heard a voice, "Climb, Davar. Climb." He recognized the voice of the mystical old lady, urging him onward. When he reached the top of the tree, a lightning bolt struck the sword. The lightning cut the tree in half and sent him crashing down on top of the castle wall.

When he awoke from his fall, he began circling the top of the castle until he came to a door. It was a tall door that looked inviting, yet appeared to have never been opened, or even attempted to be for that matter. As he reached for the huge handle, the door opened by itself and he was pulled in by some unexplained force. On the inside of the castle, there was a long hall of seemingly over one thousand doors on either side, and from each door he could feel and hear the sounds of love and happiness filling the air around him. As he walked down the hall, he felt a warmth of love and happiness that he had never felt before come over him. Somehow he knew whoever or whatever were in these rooms had to be the most loving and happiest creatures in the world, but when he reached the end of the hall there was one door in the middle that he felt no happiness from. This door made him feel only utter and complete sadness, a depression so deep that it could easily kill all of the happiness ever produced in this wonderful place. As he reached for the handle to enter the room the door opened by itself and the total feeling of despair overcame him for a minute.

"Enter, Davar," the female voice called from inside.

Davar entered the room and noticed one small ray of light coming from a window in the corner where the voice came from. Even the light itself seemed to be filled with distraught and despair. Suddenly, the chair in the corner turned around, seemingly by itself, and the beautiful blonde woman from his visions suddenly appeared. As she rose and came toward him the whole place seemed to stand still and all of the happy voices from the other rooms suddenly stopped.

In an instant she was upon him, forcing him to take a startled step backwards. "Many have come before you, Davar, but none have succeeded," she said in a lovingly low whisper.

"How do you know me?" he asked with his voice trembling in fear.

"I've waited for you for an eternity, Davar," she answered. "Many have searched for me for power, wealth, and all other kinds of selfish material things, but none only for the sake of love and happiness like you, Davar. I could have given all of them their deepest desires, but none would carry my burden. None would take my pain as their own. None would take my suffering and make it their own."

As soon as she finished speaking, the love and happiness in all of the other rooms suddenly began, again. She noticed his reaction to this and said, "The love you feel from the other rooms is the love that escapes this room, Davar. The burdens that escape those rooms are all pulled here. Are you the purest of hearts, Davar?"

"Loelie?" he asked, trembling.

"Yes, Davar."

"I don't understand what you want of me," he responded, almost afraid to ask the question.

Suddenly, they both appeared in the desert. It was a lifeless place with death and misery rolling through every crook and crevice in this heartless place. Then, as if riding on the wind, Loelie appeared in front of Davar in all of her beauty and life.

"Do you see this place, Davar?" She asked while extending her outstretched hand seemingly to infinity through the land of endless doom and death.

"Yes."

"Now look over there," she said while pointing her hand at a small and very fragile plant sprouting up out of the desert wasteland. The plant appeared to be completely out of place and clinging to life with its last ounce of energy. "That is my heart, Davar," she continued, "destroyed and trampled throughout time with no care whatsoever. The last hope in this once great land of life, love, and happiness is about to be crushed under the weight of my burden. Will you carry my burden, Davar?"

"I will, my queen," he answered.

"We shall see, Davar," she said while taking his face in her hands and gently kissing his lips. "We shall see."


* * *

He awoke once again in the forest. The sky was black and he assumed that it had all been a dream. Thinking he had to continue his journey, he tried to rise, but couldn't. Something was holding him down. When he finally made it to his feet he discovered that there was a huge stone strapped to his back. How did it get there? Where was it from? It finally occurred to him that this was the burden that he must carry. Loelie's burden had manifested itself into this heavy stone on his back and that was what he had to carry with him until the burden was done. Only able to move ever so slowly, it took him months to return to his farm and home. Rumors of his mammoth stone made their way through every village he traveled through on his way home until the stories arrived home before he did. Kind passersby would offer to remove the stone or help him on his journey, but he refused. When he finally made it home it was late at night and he collapsed in front of the house and laid there until morning when his family awoke. The first one out was his father who helped him up without saying a word. There was an unspoken understanding between them and a sense of unbelievable pride from his father towards his son. When Shankle saw the stone he claimed it was some sort of trick to get out of work and demanded that Davar remove the stone. Shankle grabbed a knife and tried to remove the stone, but his father forced the knife from his hand, sending him off in a rage into the fields.

Davar continued his work the best he could, but was limited. Passersby would make fun of him and he would be harshly ridiculed and made fun of by people in his own and other villages. After a few years, people that hadn't seen him in awhile began to swear the stone was getting smaller, although he didn't notice. It was around this time that his father died and as the eldest brother, Shankle became the head of the house and farm. After that, he gave Davar one more chance to remove the stone. Hearing his refusal, Shankle banished Davar from the family home and told him to never return as long as he wore the stone.


* * *

After his banishment, Davar went into the wilderness and stayed there until the end of his life. Rumors would come back to the village over the years about how small the stone had gotten by people who had crossed his path at some time in the past. Finally, thirty-three years after Davar had been banished to the wilderness, word came back to Shankle that Davar's health had taken a turn for the worse and he was in his last days. Furthermore, the people delivering the news swore that the huge stone he once carried on his back was now just a small pebble that he wore on a chain around his neck. Fearing the worst, Shankle set off into the wilderness to the place his brother had supposedly made his home. After days of traveling, he came upon a well-worn path with a small, makeshift house off in the distance. It was around dawn and he could swear that he could see someone approaching in the distance. As the light cleared the trees in the early morning, he could make out the figure of a woman in the distance. It was a beautiful, young woman with blonde hair and dressed in white. She approached the small house and went inside. After shutting the door, he could see a bright light coming out of the house which lit up the whole area like the noon-time sun.

After the light died away, he started to run toward the house as fast as his elderly legs would carry him. When he reached the house, he opened the door and was in shock at the sight. The woman was gone and his brother lay dead on the floor. Shankle gasped in fear as he looked at Davar. He lay on the floor with a smile on his face and looked exactly as he did over thirty-three years ago when he first went into the wilderness to find the fairy queen. Furthermore, the stone that he once carried on his back and later wore around his neck was completely gone.

When word of this made it back to the village, everyone knew that the purest of hearts had been found and no one ever searched for the fairy queen, again.



THE END


2013 Jason McIntosh

Bio: Mr. McIntosh has been writing and editing his whole life.  He has a degree in English from Arkansas State University.  He began writing in grade school and his first professional writing experience was in junior high school when he was paid by several regional bands to write songs for them and some of them were actually recorded.  He has helped compile and edit several reference guides and has been listed in some of the world’s most respected record price guides as a contributor with all of them currently being sold in some of the world’s biggest book chain stores.

E-mail: Jason McIntosh

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