Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | July 11, 2009

Statues along the Path

Issyk Ata, Kyrgyzstan.

Issky Ata Statues

Part 6: The Water Voice

Part 7: Akula

Part 8

I talked to the Tinderdeer only when no one else was looking. With the box in my pocket, and the water-voices in my ears, I was collecting secrets like a river tumbling sharp stones into a deep, dark cove.

All of the deer could talk to me, but only one really wanted to most of the time. She had a small dark spot on her nose and her horn curved back so far it almost touched between her long ears. She told me her name was Akula.

She also told me the deer understood everything people said, and always had. We had some good laughs behind Wes’ back when Akula stopped one day and wouldn’t budge until he said “please.” Somehow, that made me feel better.

We’d been walking for weeks when we passed the first statue. It cast a long shadow across the path, and I was the first to stop and stare. The others soon gathered around, all but Y’nessa who stayed bundled in her cart. She’d been complaining of cold constantly lately, even though the summer sun felt hot to the rest of us.

“What is it?” Enid asked, her hand on Kilton’s arm. The statue was carved out of a hollow tree trunk, taller even than Kilton who towered over the rest of us. It was like someone chopped all the branches off a tree, then dug out most of the middle, and made this. Around the wood of the trunk, five figures stared out.

“Who cares what it is? Who made it?” Wes wondered. He had a good point. We’d always been told that nobody lived past the Long River, and we’d crossed it a week ago.

“Look, there’s a child,” Enid pointed to a small boy’s head, nearly hidden by a pale green weed growing up beside the carved wood. Enid brushed the plant away and we could see the mother’s hand curved around his face.

“Come away from there!” Y’nessa’s crumbling voice arose from the cart.

“Why?” my brother Rolph asked.

“Yes, what is the harm, here, Mother of Stones?” Trill was the first back at the cart – she lay her hand against Y’nessa’s wrinkled face just like the mother on the statue.

Before Y’nessa could answer, I felt something in my head. That same spider-creeping darkness I’d felt weeks ago before we even left home. Where was it coming from?

My eyes skipped from one carved statue face to the next. They stared out, smiling, peaceful. But inside the trunk, in the dark center where the sap of a living tree had once flowed, something rotten was spreading.

“It’s behind the trunk!” Akula’s voice splashed into my ears.

Everyone else was backing off now — everyone but me and Enid. Even if they didn’t feel the spider thing, there was Y’nessa’s strange warning and there wasn’t anything left to see, anyway.

“Come away, Enid,” Kilton urged. “You heard the Mother of Stones.”

But she just stood there, frozen. Staring at the little boy’s face. I ignored the salty fear building in my throat and forced my feet to obey and walk me around the back of the old tree trunk.

Black, oozing, reaching–legs everywhere like spiders. It was there in front of my eyes, but also in my mind, creeping out from the corners and tugging at my thoughts, mixing them up. What was I doing here? My hand lifted up like it wanted to touch the rotten darkness. No! I screamed, but no sound came out.

“Enid!” I heard Kilton scream, but I couldn’t turn my head to see. My gaze was captured, paralyzed, sucked in by the spidery tendrils.

The next thing I knew, Akula charged straight at me, knocking me away from the statue and scattering her load of food and lightstones across the path.

Part 8: Cracked Dreams

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  1. […] Part 8: Statues Along the Path […]


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