This week cavalcadeofstars debuts Travis Smith with a little fantasy for your entertainment.
By Travis Smith
“Stop the bus!”
Rian had been sleeping lightly only to awaken feeling like something was squeezing her chest and had yelled out. She felt a twinge of embarrassment seeing the other passengers staring at her. It was like bad weather back home in the valley, only more intense. Her grandfather had taught her to read those feelings and she had learned to trust them the same way he did. She had only been gone for a day, but the memory of her grandfather and his lessons made her miss the valley, the mountain above it and her family and friends all over again.
The bus came to a stop and the driver looked back to watch her grab her bag and stumble forward.
“Sorry,” Rian said, “I need to get off.”
The driver opened the door, “I can’t wait for you.”
She nodded as she walked past and down the steps, where she watched the bus pull away leaving her with just her bag and a lot of trees. Rian walked towards the trees that lined the road to sit and gather her thoughts. A loud crunching sound made her jump and she turned to see the bus, now nothing more than an unrecognizable mass of twisted metal, falling onto the highway with no indication of what had happened. Her initial shock gave way to thoughts of the other passengers. She dropped her bag and ran towards the wreckage.
“Can’t help,” a voice called out.
She stopped to see a strange creature, maybe three feet tall, standing on a log.
“Too late,” the creature continued. “All dead.”
“Who are you?” was all she could manage to say through the shock of the last few moments.
A strange sense of curiosity took over in her mind, “What are you doing here?”
“Kilu here to meet you.”
“Meet me? Why would you meet me? And why here?”
“Woman tell Kilu meet girl. Girl get off bus here. Kilu meet girl here.”
She tried to wrap her mind around the creature’s words, but a rumble from the direction of the wrecked bus reminded her of the tragedy that had just occurred. Kilu reacted first, jumping down from the log.
“Must go. Creature coming,” he yelled over his shoulder as he ran into the forest. She hesitated for a moment then ran after Kilu, pausing only long enough to grab her bag. He moved quickly through the dense brush, but despite the feeling in her chest she was able to keep up as they ran deeper into the forest. It was not long before she could hear their pursuer crashing through the trees behind them. The sounds of whole trees snapping like twigs was enough to tell her that she did not want to find out exactly what was behind them, but she could also tell it was gaining on them.
After a few minutes of desperate scrambling through the forest Kilu came to a stop in a small clearing.
“Why are you stopping? It’s right behind us!”
“Don’t worry,” a soft voice said from behind Rian. “You are safe now.”
Rian turned. A woman stood at the edge of the clearing. Kilu walked towards her, nodded and disappeared into the forest. The woman stretched out her arms and yellow light radiated from her hands, covering the entire clearing in a soft glow. The crashing of the creature came nearer, close enough for Rian to see trees shaking from its passage beyond the clearing, before it moved farther away.
Rian’s mind raced almost as fast as her heart, “What was that thing?”
“Didn’t your grandfather warn you about avatars before you left the valley?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“They are not common. They hunt in this world, hoping to catch one of us outside of a refuge, like the one your grandfather keeps.”
“Wait a minute. You know my grandfather?”
“Of course I do,” the woman said, a warm smile lighting up her face, “he is my father.”
It took Rian a moment to process that answer, “So are you telling me that you are my aunt?”
The woman laughed and for a moment the yellow glow that covered the glade brightened, “No Rian, I am not your aunt. I am your mother.”
“Dead? That was the easy explanation. Easier than the truth in this world. Easier than saying that I went to the other world, which would sound like saying I died anyway.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me the truth?”
“Truth is not a simple thing for us. The mountain and valley your grandparents call home is on the border of two worlds; this one and the other world, where I live. So we have to live with two different truths sometimes.” She walked closer to Rian and smiled, “I would ask why you left the Valley, but I can see it in your heart. You are just like that wandering father of mine. Does he still call himself King of the Mountain?”
Rian smiled, comforted by her mother’s presence, the strangeness of her reappearance almost feeling natural to her. “Yes, he does. He told me he could see it in my eyes, the wandering spirit, Grandmother too. They said you had it, but never left the valley.”
“I thought about leaving, but chose to stay, like my mother. In time, other duties called that I couldn’t refuse.”
“What duties? You left me there thinking you were dead!”
Rian’s mother looked into her daughter’s eyes, a touch of sadness tarnishing the soft, warm smile “I will tell you everything, but I think we should be going now.”
“Home. Our home.”
Bio: Travis Smith lives in North Carolina with his wife and three children where his day job as an ecologist supports his addiction to writing. Travis writes Fantasy and Science Fiction stories for children and adults, sometime with humor, sometimes horror, always for fun. More of Travis’ work can be found on Thinking Ten, Mud Spots and Six Sentences.