The mountains rose like ghosts of a world past in pinnacles of granite entwined with shards of history. Shay stood opposite, perspiration biting beneath her armpits like sand ants.
Months, maybe years, of hope culminated in this moment as she stood knee-deep in crystal waters. Murmurs whispered on the breeze as her people shuffled behind her, gathering on the foretold beach.
She allowed a small sigh to escape her lips.
“Is it now? Are we here?” Menon spoke in a low whine and his voice irritated her. Shay tightened her fists, her fingernails too short and stubby to do any damage.
She nodded. “It’s here, and now.”
“But…” Shay’s jaw clenched as Menon’s voice complained.
“But nothing,” she stared ahead, ignoring the muttered protest that Menon didn’t dare complete.
Another voice rose from the crowd behind her, small in its volume but large in awe. “Is that home?”
“Home…” began Shay, “is the other side of those giants.”
Menon spoke again, “The mountains we can traverse like goats, it’s the water…”
“I know!” Shay betrayed her emotions.
“Give her a moment,” cried a voice from the back. “Don’t push her,” called another. Menon dropped to the sand and Shay hoped sand ants would find him.
“We don’t swim,” he muttered.
Shay moved forward, her legs pushing through the water. She’d read the prophecy a thousand times and not once did it ever mention crossing the water. She’d always put the sea to the back of her mind. Now it stood in front of her, vast, deep, and the colour of her hair.
The sun was going down, and their pursuers were less than hours behind. If they were to find safety the water had to be crossed. But if they found a way to cross, so would the companies behind them. Shay’s sigh was louder this time and accompanied by a minuscule shake of her head.
“C’mon then.” Menon was impatient.
Shay’s hands shook as she stared at the land, their promised land, their sanctuary after all these wilderness years. This time it would take more than words to save them.
She refused to look behind her; she already felt dozens of pairs of eyes boring into her spine and the pressure sat upon her shoulders like concrete. Like the concrete prisons that had enslaved so many of her kind. Now they stood on the brink of returning to their own lands, far enough away from the destruction and toxicity of the compounds, and she could taste freedom like salt on the air.
Closing her eyes, Shay offered silent thanks to the ghosts of the past, the Elders that dwelt on in the mountains buried beneath granite tombs, and to the eagles that still soared on the horizon in a welcome that spoke directly to her soul.
Nothing now entered her mind except the cry of the eagles, and the wind that weaved through the mountains and across the turquoise sea.
She’d heard of miracles, she’d met them face-to-face, and she needed one now.
Clenched fists opened as calm washed over her and Shay lifted her arms in a biblical motion. She barely heard the murmur behind her as she concentrated on her ancestors’ whispers.
The ocean bubbled at her feet, sloshing about her legs and soaking her leather trousers above her boots. Maybe it would part like legends of old had once told, but the water remained, cool and fluid.
Creaking iron, steel, metal shattered the silence, and Shay’s eyes fluttered open as gasps flew about her like errant butterflies. Water undulated and waves broke as rails rose from the water bed, sand and water washing over the previously buried struts as they pushed clear of the sea.
They weren’t rails, but a ladder, like a rollercoaster which rose and rested just below sea level, unseen to those behind but a saviour to those who climbed and walked across.
Shay led her people to safety, to the foothills of their home, and as they entered the mountains with feet as nimble as antelope, the ladder crumbled. Metal shattered and gurgled and disappeared, lost in all but memory.
Eagles and ghosts sighed and Shay took her people home.
Needed the flash fiction boost, so Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge and photo was perfect inspiration this week.
Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.