I keep many secrets in the pit of my stomach. My trees and shrubs witnessed many fortunate and unfortunate events that occurred in the depth of my body. And I helped many wretched souls that got lost among my thick tree trunks. On the other hand, I couldn’t help some of them. They were in a hopeless pursuit or running from their own wrongdoings. And their own deserved destiny caught them. One lost soul especially got stuck in my memory. Her name was Hope.
Hope was a little blonde girl, not taller than my blueberry shrubs. She came to me breathing heavily, and almost losing breath. She was running like a wild animal pursued by the hunters. And she was pursued. She was pursued by strange people.
Those people were all dressed in black, and they carried the torches that lit their way. My body is dark and unwelcoming to those who have bad intentions. And seeing those people’s eyes, I knew they meant evil to that little girl.
They yelled and laughed awfully, their voices harsh and scary. And their intention was to scare Hope, make her stumble over some rock or tree trunk, fall down and get caught by them. For what reason they wanted to catch her, I didn’t know, but I knew that they were not good people.
The terrified girl ran and kept losing balance, tired due to who knows how long running. Her pale face was wet, tears and sweat were mixing on it, and her blonde curls slicked down her back, wet and dirty. I opened my arms and took her. I hugged her and brought her to the deepest parts of myself. Those people couldn’t find her there.
Hope entered the very dark area of the forest, and found a cave. It was pitch dark in the cave and in any other situation she would not dare to enter it, but this time, this cave was her savior.
I knew that she would be safe there and I led her to the cave’s entrance. She entered cautiously, sat on the dry ground, and tried to stabilize her heavy breathing.
Hope had some strange scars on her wrists, as if she had been shackled. Her legs and arms were all in bruises. I wondered who had been so cruel to this little girl. And how could have someone been so terrible to this innocent creature. Her doe-eyed face breathed with purity and her tiny body could not do harm to anyone or anything. Her frightened figure moved with her fast breathes and she cried silently trying to reduce any noise coming from her. I couldn’t understand. But in the end, I never was able to understand humans. They tortured and killed for fun, they drank poison excessively, they ate when they were not hungry. What rule of nature did impose such a behavior? None. They were not the creatures of nature.
Hope was frightened. Her body trembled and she prayed to die peacefully without being tortured like her mother and her father. She couldn’t understand why her family was doomed to die in a terrible way, stoned, tortured and condemned. Why were they accused of witchcraft? And what the witchcraft was, anyway?
My heart was full seeing that Hope was getting better with every day that went by. I opened my secret places full of strawberries for her, and I led her to the stream to drink fresh water. Those people couldn’t find her here.
But since autumn would come soon and cold winter would follow after, I started being worried how this little creature would survive the cold and lack of food. She didn’t have fur to keep her warm, and she couldn’t hibernate. She was too small to hunt wild animals and sooner or later she would become their prey. My heart ached when I thought that this poor creature would die alone. And I decided what to do.
It was getting colder with every new autumn day. And Hope’s clothes were getting ripped off. And she didn’t have any other clothing. She was worried. What would she do? When the last days of autumn came and the cold northern wind started blowing carrying snow on its back, I opened my ground, still warm and cozy, and showed little Hope the underground labyrinth that the cold winter storms couldn’t reach. Its catacombs were protected and only swallows and night gales lived there during winter. The green moss spread all around and formed a beautiful bed, comfortable and welcoming.
Hope entered the labyrinth and smiled. Her face bloomed with happiness and fear disappeared. She loved it there. There were always raspberries, and strawberries, and blueberries, no matter of the season. And the birdsong entertained her. The birds taught her how to sing and by the end of winter, she sang better than most of them. Her old clothes were ragged since she had worn it for so long, though. And she walked half-naked.
I was sad to see Hope in those rags. Therefore, I gave her beautiful blue feathers and wings, and a yellow beak.
Once spring arrived, I opened the door of my labyrinth and let her out. First, Hope spread her wings insecurely, uncertain what to do and how to use them. But soon enough, after few trials, she spread soared in the air. I was happy.
Hope looked at her blue feathery clothing and wings and realized that she could fly. And wasn’t it the most beautiful thing: to be free and to be able to fly?
Not long after, Hope found her friends, other blue finches, the rarest birds in my forests. And she joined them. They were all orphans, once upon a time, lost and miserable, who had looked for a shelter in the depths of my body. And I helped them. I gave them the shelter and brought them to one better world, the world of nature.
And if you come sometimes to my depths and look around carefully and noiselessly, you will spot a couple of them, jumping from one branch to another, soaring gracefully and singing the most beautiful songs you can imagine.
Ana Vidosavljevic from Serbia currently living in Indonesia. She has her work published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt (Scar Publications), Literary Yard, RYL (Refresh Your Life), The Caterpillar, The Curlew, Eskimo Pie, Coldnoon, Perspectives, Indiana Voice Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Setu Bilingual Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Madcap Review, The Bookends Review, Gimmick Press, (mac)ro(mic), Scarlet Leaf Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine, A New Ulster. She worked on a GIEE 2011 project: Gender and Interdisciplinary Education for Engineers 2011 as a member of the Institute Mihailo Pupin team. She also attended the International Conference “Bullying and Abuse of Power” in November, 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, where she presented her paper: “Cultural intolerance”. Find her on her site (anascorner.co) or on Instagram: (anascorner.co)