Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | June 10, 2008

Misha

New Haven, CT. October 20, 2003.

This is based on the plot of a dream I had the other night.

Misha was a little boy when he first came to our mountain.  We were proud people, building our houses to touch the clouds and running along ledges where ground folk didn’t dare walk.  My name, Zylar, meant hawk, for the way I watched the world below.

But our pride had turned to fear in the year before Misha’s arrival.  We were dying.  Old and young and strong and weak alike fell to a withering, weakening disease.  It was the day I felt the first headache that I came across Misha at the edge of the most dizzying drop of them all.  He looked no more than four, eyes wide, cheeks flushed, tiny hands grasping the dusty earth.

He couldn’t say where he came from.  He didn’t say anything except his name.  Mostly he smiled, and reached out his hands to touch us.  Those he touched, recovered.  In just one week, the whole mountain rang with joy and calls of his name.

But it was hard to hear with my own headaches ringing in my ears every day, the fever creeping across my skin, and the tell tale pale rash enveloping the whole left side of my body.  The little boy had run his hands across the beginnings of my beard time and time again, but I was not better.  I was getting worse, and I didn’t dare tell anyone.  My mother and father had both perished, and Riya, the girl I loved, barely knew my name.

Misha found me on a twisting mountain path.  I was lying across the stones, waiting for the fever to penetrate beneath the skin and stop my heart.  Misha said nothing, simply laid his tiny body beside mine and held my hand.  I felt myself die, saw my long, lean body beside his tiny one, and I felt no regrets.  That is all I remember of death before I was yanked back with a pain unimaginable, and also a flooding of fear and confusion that gave way to grateful tears.

Those who found us lying there on the stone told me they thought we both had died.  They cried and ran for help, and when they returned, Misha was sitting up beside me, smiling, holding up his hands to show them all was well.

It was months before any of us realized Misha had given us more than life.  He had given us strange powers.  Some found they could run fast as a mountain deer, carry their own weight in stones, or sing sweetly as the nightingales.  I was the last to recover, and the last to discover what Misha had given me.  I was trying to reach a log of wood that had spilled from the bundle in my arms, when it shook of its own accord, and leapt up into my hand.  I was so surprised, I dropped it again.  After staring at it there in the dirt for a minute, I concentrated again.  And it jumped into my hand.

“Misha!”  I called, and the boy came running.  He was always close.

“Watch,” I instructed, and dropped the wood.

The boy only smiled and nodded, then reached up to touch my hand, then his own head.

“Yes, I know you gave this to me.  Why?  How?”

But Misha only lifted his shoulders, I don’t know. His silence could be infuriating, but I loved him anyway.

My new power awed the people of the mountain, and they made me leader of a new society, built across the mountain from the graves of those who had died.  Riya, who had never even fallen sick, began to watch me with as much intensity as I had always watched her, and we were married.  I took Misha in as my own son, and soon had three small daughters as well.

When the third daughter was about the size Misha had been when he first arrived, the headaches returned.  I was walking down the same path where I almost died, when the tremor in my head froze my steps.  Maybe I was dreaming.  Maybe this was just a cold or a flu.  But I knew better.  This pain was different, distinct.

I hadn’t used my power much since the girls were born.  Usually, it was just as much work to lean down and pick up the stick as it was to think about it.  Now, I spotted a rock across the way, and tried to bring it towards me.  The pain in my head brought me to my knees.

The next year I spent in my room, windows shuttered and a fire crackling even in the summer.  Rumors spread, and Riya did all she could to stop them.  I was able, I was strong, I just needed some time, then all would be well.  She was a better leader than I ever had been.  She would continue when I was gone, I knew.

It was my daughters who saved me.  My daughters, and once again Misha.  The little boy had grown tall, but he had not learned to speak.  He had a language of his own in his gestures and faces, and he made himself useful in the gardens and with the animals, who all seemed to understand him better than we did.

I’ll never know exactly how my daughters decided to take their leap, but somehow my silent son was involved.  All I remember are the shouts that echoed throughout the houses, eventually reverberating through my warm, dark cave.  The shouts of fallen, saved for those rare times one of our people lost their footing on the edge of a cliff.  I listened closely, and felt a pang of fear at the mention of my oldest girl’s name.

No!

My head splitting with pain, I ran from the room into the brightness of a sun I had almost forgotten.  Where were they?  I followed the shouts, to the path where all of this began.  There was Misha, looking over the edge, smiling.

“You pushed her!”  People accused.  I didn’t believe it, not for a second.  Instead, I reached out with my mind like I’d reached out for that stick so many years ago.  I’d lift her up even if it killed me.

She lifted herself.  She rose from the air like a hawk on wing, and landed beside me, wrapped her arms around me.

“Oh, daddy, I can fly!”  She laughed.

With her touch, I was healed.

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