As I sat down to write this post on Thursday night, my motto was, “when gears don’t shift, stay in park.”
In my early-week confidence, I’d been certain I could write a story to post on Friday. Then, work happened. This week has made me wish I were close to retirement age. (Despite what my older son says, sadly, that is not the case.) Hours spent assessing the complications of contractual liability, updating payment plans in underwriting manuals, and testing new reports left me less creative than I like.
I parked myself on the couch to write a post about how I planned to embrace nothingness. I looked through some old photos hoping to find a peaceful one to accompany the short post, and then a funny thing happened- a short story emerged.
Gabriella rolled over and stretched her arms above her head. Each morning as she shook off the grogginess of sleep, she almost forgot she didn’t have a permanent home anymore. The early morning sun peeked through the flap of the cowhide tent, reminding her of reality. They had been nomads since soldiers took over their land three years ago. Her father said they must always stay one step ahead of the sword. She heard her father’s voice outside.
“What do you suppose it means?”
The response came in a crescendo of murmurs.
Curious, she slipped her wool shift over her nightshirt and pushed through the door flap. Her kinsmen clustered on either side of a clearing that looked like someone had shaved a twelve-foot-wide stripe across the landscape, all the way into the horizon. She scanned the faces for her best friend, Daisy.
“It must be a sign,” Gabriella’s father, chief of the Mogollon tribe said as he rubbed his bearded chin.
“Daisy!” Gabriella called as she rushed toward her friend. When her feet hit the edge of the newly-formed clearing, a hand grabbed her shoulder, pulling her backward.
“You mustn’t cross the line.”
“But Father, I want to talk to Daisy!”
He shook his head. “They are another people now.” He turned to address the growing crowd flanking the edges of the dividing stripe. “The spirits have spoken. We must disperse as they have directed.” Everyone residing on this side of the line,” he gestured to his left,” will form one tribe. We will pack and leave by sundown.” He pointed to his right, “everyone on this side will become a second tribe. Today, you must elect your chief. He will determine when you embark on the journey to a new destination.”
“Father, we should stay together.”
The chief turned to his daughter. “This is not a point to be challenged, child. Ignoring the spirit ruler of the land shall have dire consequences.”
“But Daisy- she’s my best friend. We’ve been together since birth. This isn’t fair!”
“The spirit has spoken.” He clapped his hands twice and the people hesitated only a moment before dispersing into their respective camps.
Gabriella stared, incredulous that no one challenged her father. The idea that the stripe dividing the landscape was a divine revelation seemed preposterous. She knelt down and studied the shaved grass, still unsure enough to actually touch it.
“I don’t see it.”
Gabriella looked up and broke into a grin when she saw Daisy on her knees on the other side of the line. “See what?”
“Well, there has to be another explanation. Dividing us would be like peeling a braid off a rope- we become more vulnerable than if we were one.”
“So what do we do?”
Daisy stood. “I think, perhaps, the message is to meet in the middle.”
Gabriella furrowed her brow and rose to her feet. “You mean, cross the line?”
“Exactly.” Daisy smiled. “On three?”
“One…. Two…. Three….” They counted in unison before taking equally timed steps toward the center of the line. When they were arm’s width apart, they reached out and clasped hands.
She didn’t turn toward her father’s voice. Instead, Gabriella basked in the warmth that flooded her body. She felt relaxed- a peace she’d never experienced before.
“Oh!” Daisy, exclaimed. “Do you feel it?”
You are enlightened; the chosen ones. You will become leaders, gifted with the insight of future. You will unite the people and lead them to me.
The earth trembled.
“But women are to bow to the men’s guidance,” Gabriella said.
Daisy added, “They’ll never listen to us.”
Have faith, as the world is changing. Those who oppose you, oppose me and will be sentenced to an eternity of enslaved servitude.
The girls unclasped their hands.
“Can you believe it? Do you think they’ll really listen to two twelve-year-old girls?” Gabriella asked.
“We’re about to find out,” Daisy whispered. “Here comes your father.”
“You defied my instructions and challenged the spirit!”
“Father, the spirit is not angry. We’ve been gifted with the insight of future.”
“And we’re supposed to unite the people,” Daisy added.
The chief laughed. “That’s the most ridiculous notion I’ve ever heard.” He charged into the clearing, stirring dust with each angry step. After three steps, he halted and dropped to his knees.
The girls saw an expression of pain and fear.
Gabriella reached out to him, but before she could touch him, the earth opened and his body slid into the crevice. The girls watched, open-mouthed as the earth mended itself.
They looked to the crowd. “We are to unite as one,” Daisy said.
The people on both sides of the line dropped to their knees. “It shall be, great leaders,” they murmured as one.
They linked arms and walked toward Gabriella’s tent. The earth rumbled behind them. They turned in time to see the clearing reforest itself. In seconds, the clearing filled in with 70-foot tall Ponderosas.
The land appeared the same as it had been the day before, but the girls knew their world had changed forever.