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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Teens
- Theme: Stories about Friendship & Family
- Subject: Peace / Making Peace
- Published: 08/05/2018
That bridge... Wasn't there before. I've seen this place. I've been here. This was actually the place my dad fell off and he... well... I don't like to think of it. But that bridge. It's magnificent, with beautifully carved stones and vines with flowers wrapping around it gloriously. How have I not noticed this before?
I walk up close to the bridge. I touch the soft moss and feel the carvings. I don't yet step on. I sit back and admire it's beautifulness. The bridge spans across the wide expanse, and I can see how it molds itself into the other side. Then, cautiously, I lift up a foot and rest it on the bridge. The bridge doesn't move. I bring the other foot onto the bridge. My curiosity has gotten the better of me, I think, as I begin to walk across. I look down to the openness below me, and shiver of the thought of me meeting the same fate as my dad. I speed up, and soon I'm on the other side. The spot I was standing just moments ago looks far away.
I start to wander, but soon realize that I may not be able to find my way back. I find a bush of bright purple flowers, ones I've never seen before, and pick a few, intending to leave them on my path so I can find my way back. As soon as the bridge is just out of sight, I drop a flower into the grass. Exploring, I peek through bushes. A vine hangs right in front of me, and I hang on it to test it's strength. When I verify that it's strong enough, I swing on the vine, laughing. I haven't laughed like this for many years, I think. Ever since my dad... you know... my teenage self hasn't been able to recover my feelings. But now, swinging on a vine in the middle of the woods where it seems no one's been, I giggle like a little kid. I stop and drop one of my flowers on the ground, just under the vine. I smile at the sight and continue on.
I drop my last flower, and look up, scanning the brush to see if I can find some more. But I don't see any. Disappointed, I turn around, picking through the grass to find my path. A bush shivers behind me. I spin around on my toes. No man should be out here, I think. I hadn't ever seen that bridge before, and I know of no other place to cross. The bush moves again, and I'm startled to see an eye, light green, peeking out at me.
"Hey, dude, what are you doing out here?" I ask. "Why are you hiding, man? I ain't gonna hurt you." But even as I speak, I realize that this isn't a man. I see a hand curled around a branch of the bush, and it's definitely not the hand of a man. It's dainty, with longer, nice nails, a few scratches on them. Is this... a woman? I've never seen one up close. Well, I've never seen one at all. I soften my voice, unsure how to speak to a woman.
"Um... hi. It's okay, I... I don't have any weapons." I say. Another bush behind me shakes. I spin around, and just in time to see a few leaves scatter around.
"Oh... there's two of you now. Don't worry." I say. I'm unsure who to take a step closer to. I look at the one who just moved. I see a tuft of curly, black hair, and two eyes, this time, both a dark, chocolatey brown. Like mine.
"I'm like you guys. I have arms, and... legs. And I have hands, see? With no weapons." I hold out my hands, and both of the bushes flinch.
"Come with me." Says a voice from behind. I jump at the sound, the strange accent. Sure enough, a white female stands behind me, tall, with long brown hair that falls to her hips. Large leaves cover her areas. She has the same green eyes I saw in the bush, but when I look back, I see the eyes still. A teenager stands up from the bush. I can tell she is the daughter of this strange woman. She also has the same brown hair, but it stops just above her jaw. The woman speaks again, and I look back to her.
"I said. Come with me." She says. I can hear her trying to mimic my accent. She holds out a hand. I stare at her, her delicate features. I don't take her hand. If I go with her, I'm going to get lost, and never find the bridge, and my home, again. Another female pushes past her. This one is thick with muscle, and she thrusts out her olive hand. She takes hold of mine with a firm grip.
"She said. Did you hear? Come. With. Me. Will you? Or go back to your silly little place with your silly little men?" She says. I watch her hair, black and silky, flow in the wind as she talks. It picks up, and her hair flutters slightly. It makes me less scared to watch the most delicate part of her body, but soon, I'm forced to look her in the eye.
"Which will it be for you?" She says. The older looking female with the long brown hair touches her shoulder lightly. The olive skinned one looks back at her, before reluctantly letting go of my hand. I shake it out, realizing how tight she was actually holding. The brown haired one doesn't flinch, but out of the corner of my eye I see her daughter shiver with a quiet flinch.
"Do you understand?" She says. She holds out her hand, and this time I take it. And just like that, I'm being pulled through the forest.
These women are fast, I think. My legs can barely keep hold of the ground for long enough to keep up. On top of that, I see that the women aren't wearing shoes. They break sticks with their feet and keep on running. They step on sharp rocks and they continue on.
"Feet on the ground. That helps me." Says the woman pulling my hand. She doesn't sound out of breath at all.
"When are we getting there?" I ask in my softest voice possible, trying to make it sound like I'm not complaining.
"Almost." She says, and we keep running. This time I try to help, every so often getting my feet to the forest floor. Then the lady lets go of my hand, and I see her run off, through a curtain of vines that seems to be the only entrance, as there is a big wall with beautifully carved stones, just as entrancing as the bridge. Out of breath, even though I didn't do much, I walk through the curtain.
I stand on an edge, a walkway carved into the side of a steep opening. We tower above… my breath leaves me as I look over the edge. The most beautiful city I have ever seen greets me. Houses made of these precious stones rise up, and I see women walking from place to place. A group pushes past me, back from the forest, and I see they carry fruit and dead animals for food. There are no men here. All of them are women, different shapes and sizes and colors. And I hadn't even seen one before I crossed the bridge. The woman who brought me here stands next to me, and the olive skinned next to her. She holds the hand of her daughter, who stares at me with fear and curiosity. I see her hand twitch, as if she's imagining touching me. Next to the olive skinned is a white one with blonde hair that shines like something I've never seen. She has side swoopy bangs that I admire before I'm startled by the shout of the apparent leader.
"Ulapha!" She shouts. The girl holding her hand raises an eyebrow.
"Yena?" She asks.
"Yebo, indodakazi lungile." I'm at a loss for their language.
"Uyini na?" The daughter asks. The mother answers in english.
"He is like us, but he is not us. He is for us instead," she explains. "Even I have not seen one for long time."
I clear my throat. "Can I ask what that means?" I ask. The leader gives me a side glance.
"I've alerted the rest you arrived. Indodakazi ask what is man, and I told her in English." She answers.
"What is Indodakazi?" I ask her. She points to her daughter.
"Daughter." She answers simply, as if it was obvious. The woman realizes she has everybody's attention. People have paused in the streets, and stare up at her. They put down the items they were holding and give their attention to the lady. The... indodakazi... daughter... looks to her mother, then to me.
"My name Aponi. Yours?" She asks. The woman begins shouting more words in her language.
"I'm Eli." I say.
"Eli..." she repeats under her breath. She turns her head forward again.
"Namuhla, kufanele samukele umuntu indoda kithi!" she says. "Uyakubizwa ngokuthi ngu-Eli!"
"Eli!" The women chant. I'm surprised the woman heard me and her daughter is talking.
"Did she just tell everyone my name?" I ask her daughter. Before she can answer, the leader answers for her.
"Yes I did, Eli."
"What did you say to them?"
"I said that we should all accept the first man to us. That he will be called Eli."
"What's your name?" I ask, curious. I need to stop calling her woman or lady.
"Aiyana. Eternal Blossom." She says. Now that I look at her features, I can see how people would call her 'Eternal Blossom'. He face is lined and beautiful, with a graceful chin and sparkling eyes. Not to mention her beautiful brown hair, perfectly contained but still fluttering in the wind.
"Pretty," I murmur to myself. Aiyana smiles.
“You mean kuhle.” she says.
“Kuhle,” I say to myself. “Pretty.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see Aponi blush.
“Lalela!” Aiyana shouts. “Listen,” she tells me it means.
All of the women sit down. Aiyana opens her mouth to speak, but as she does so, the large sound of a gunshot comes from the forest beyond the wall. All of the women duck or flinch. I can hear Aiyana’s heavy breathing, and see the fear in her eyes. Aponi hugs her mother.
“What was that?” Aiyana asks me.
“That was something that you don’t want to mess with.” I say. Suddenly, out of impulse, I rest a hand on Aponi and Aiyana’s shoulders, and lightly push them away from the entrance.
“Come on, we have to go.” I say. They understand and start walking down ramps that lead down into the beautiful city. I’m entranced by the trees, which stretch all the way up to the walkway. I grab a leaf and look at its beauty, but am startled back into reality with another gunshot. I hurry the girls down faster. As the other ladies get to the bottom of the ramps into the city, I grab Aiyana’s shoulder to turn her around. She looks down at me.
“What is it?” She asks. “I need to get my people safe. I need them alerted.”
“Look, those sounds… they’re gunshots. A gun is a very dangerous weapon. It can go through your body.” I say, and point to my stomach. I drag my finger to my back, and pretend it’s the bullet going through me. Aiyana’s eyes widen. Another gunshot fires, and she flinches. We hear shouting from the entrance. Aiyana pushes past me, running back up the ramp.
“Aiyana!” I shout. She ignores me, so I run after her.
When I get to the top, I gasp. A black woman with the tuft of hair I saw earlier is covered in blood. She lays limp on the ground. Aiyana is kneeling next to her, putting pressure on her wounds.
“Ella! Thola amanzi akhethekile amanxeba akhe!” Aiyana yells at one of the women, with short, bright red hair, and wide hips with small shoulders and small feet. She runs down a ramp. I run up to Aiyana.
“Need help? What can I do?” I ask.
“Nothing. Special water will do it all.” Aiyana says calmly. She talks to the lady in english.
“Shush, Naomi. You be alright. You know the special water?” She asks. Naomi nods.
“Yes.” She says weakly. “Healing water.” Aiyana smiles and nods.
“We get it for you. Ella is getting it now. She’s come up ramp with a rag and the water.” Aiyana tells her. I see Ella, with the bright red hair, running back up the ramp. She hands Aiyana the bucket of water and the rag. Aiyana calmly takes her now bloody hands off of Naomi’s stomach. Naomi coughs. I look away. I hear Aiyana humming as she puts the water on Naomi with the rag. Out of curiosity, I peek at them. I’m amazed at the sight. Naomi sits up and lifts up her arms, and Aiyana finishes cleaning up her wound. I’m surprised that when she wipes the blood away, there is no wound.
“Kwenziwe.” She says. “Done.” Naomi hugs her, and they both stand up and move slowly past me and down the ramp. I look at the spot where they were, dumbstruck.
“Wow,” I whisper. I watch Ella clean up the bucket and rag. She looks at me.
“So you’re the man?” She says. Her accent is closest to mine I’ve heard yet. “The actual man? From where you men live?”
“Yes… have you ever seen a man?” I ask.
“No,” she admits, “but I have heard many stories about you guys. I know you don’t speak Zulu. That’s our language.” Another gunshot fires. Closer, too. Me and Ella duck, and she gathers up everything quickly now.
“We must get out of way.” She says nervously. She starts heading down the ramp. I follow behind her. I decide to ask a daring question.
“Do… do you know about more civilizations like this? Of women? There are no women where I live.” Ella silently thinks for a moment.
“No. I’ve only known we’ve been surrounded by men. And I know that you guys think we are a myth, and have not seen us for long times.” She says. “I think… I think we’re the only ones left.” Another gunshot, closer still. I see Ella flinch. And then I hear shouting. The shouts of men and women.
I leave Ella to continue, now running down the ramp, and I head up. I have to help them, I think. These men don’t know the kindness of the women. I run up, and when I get to the top, I see the men, just as they burst through the curtain of vines. I see some splatters of blood on some of the men. I run up to them and put my hands up.
“Woah! Dudes! Careful!” I shout at them. They all turn their heads to look at me. I recognize some of them, I realize. They’re the hunting team. They must have found the bridge.
“What are you doing here? Careful of them! They may hurt you!” One guy shouts. He points his gun at someone behind me. I turn my head slightly to see Ella, frozen in fear. I take a small step to the side to cover her more. I can’t let these kind people get hurt.
“Please, put down your guns.” I say.
“What’s with the accent?” One dude asks, and I realize how much I had been mimicking the ladies.
“It’s the way they speak.” I gesture around me at the few women who are also frozen in place, guns pointed at their heads. “Now put your guns down.”
They don’t still, but I see a moment of hesitation.
“They are people just like us. If you hurt them, they will hurt you. So leave them alone. They’re just women.” At the mention of women, they put down their guns, but still hold them tight.
“Women are a myth.” One man says.
“But they’re in front of you, aren’t they?” I say. I notice Aponi on a ramp. She looks scared. Trying to look calm, I make my way over to her. I see hands tense on their guns, but no movements are made to point one at me. I reach her, and she hugs me. She's just shorter than me, almost eye to eye. She’s going to be very tall, just like her mom. Still with her arms around me, I lead us closer to the men. I take her hand in mine and bring them both close enough to touch.
“Touch her.” I say. I stare the leader straight in the eyes. He puts his gun on the ground but he hesitates before he reaches his hand out.
“Do it.” I say. He touches her hand. I feel Aponi tense, but I hug her tighter, and she releases her tension.
“Akukubi kakhulu.” She says. “Not so bad.” She lets go of my hand and begins to touch the leader’s hand, feeling his strong fingers. She looks back at me.
“Wow.” She says. I turn around when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I stare up at Aiyana.
“My daughter is feel a man hand. You worked some wonders, young man.” She says. “Eli.” I blush, though I’m not entirely sure why I do. Aiyana pulls me into a hug. I hug her back, and then, another thing of impulse hits me, and I hug the leader of the men. Surprised, he hugs me back.
“That was a woman.” He whispers in my ear.
“Heck yeah.” I say. Then, before my very eyes, the men and women start to hug each other. First the leader, hugging Aponi. Then Aiyana walks past me and hugs another man, and Ella hugs someone else. Women all around hug the men, and I see many of them blush. All the guns are dropped to the ground. We leave them there and walk down into the beautiful city.
That night, we have a feast. So much food is prepared in the biggest house of them all: Aiyana and Aponi’s house. Many women donated their food from their shops or from their houses. Not all of the women and men fit in their one home, so we split into many homes. I sit to one side of Aiyana at the biggest table, and Aponi on the other. Aiyana calls for a toast with some cups filled with healing water. “For special occasions,” Aponi had told me.
“To the Umenzi Wemangaliso!” She calls out, looking at me. “The Miracle Maker.”
We clink glasses and drink.
Later, with the beautiful stars above us, we look out over the bridge that first brought me here and us together. The men have already said their goodbyes, hugging everyone before heading back to their city. Finally it’s my turn to go. I look at the intricate carvings on the stones. I spin around and hug Aponi and Aiyana. The both hug me back. I find Ella in the crowd, and hug her too. She hugs me tightly back.
I go back to the bridge. I give one last look of longing at the girls, and then continue to make my way across. I hear from behind me the last thing I’ll hear from a woman.
“Yes. Miracle Maker indeed.”