Written by Erin Ankney
There is a path that every Stensinite must take to become an adult. The elders call it The Road of Infinity Sky. The path is magic which means something different happens for every person. The shaman says that the path will test you, and play with your mind. It will show you your fears, your dreams, and desires. They are told that the destination is a mystery, but they will know when they get there. And the reason they are there will become clear as well. Every child on their fifteenth year must walk the path or they cannot own a home, get married, or have children. If they fail they can try again the next year.
The day of the ceremony came and the whole village brought food and gifts for the future adults.There were nine children walking the path that day, among them was a girl named Asira.
For weeks her parents prepared her for this day, her mother made her a new dress, her father taught her how to shoot a bow and arrow, her brother showed what to pack for the trip. He told her that she wouldn’t even be gone a day but it was important to bring the necessities.
The children were lined up by the day of their birth. This made Asira third to go, she was the oldest girl and she was somewhat proud of that. So when it came to her turn to enter the path she stood ready. The entrance of the path was beautiful. Two branches coming from the biggest of trees, formed an arch. Previous children tied jewelry, mementos, or ripped pieces of their clothes to have as a landmark or encouragement for those to come.
Asira stepped onto the dirt path, the air was colder, more frigid. She felt the wind whip its tail on her cheeks, though there was no movement in the branches or leaves. The world was still here. Realizing she had drifted in her mind Asira turned around to see nothing but bushes. The entrance had completely vanished. All she could focus on was the path.
Making her way she watched what was in front of her, nothing but a path that went on for forever. The trees covered everything, the sky was there but Asira could not see it. Reaching a part of the path she could hear water running off to the right of the path, a river gently made its way passed. The sign next it had a circle and waves below it, this meant it was safe to drink. She almost stepped off the path, but then she remembered she must stick to her goal. She pulled the canteen of water from her pack and took a few sips. When she did this the trees began to move. It felt like the wind was rewarding her for doing the right thing. The reward was a beautiful walk with the greenest of trees, brightest of flowers, and warmest of wind.
Asira kept thinking of her goal. She knew she needed to get somewhere, where it really was she didn’t know, but she couldn’t let her family down. She needed to get to the end. That thought was interrupted by the trees turning their colors. Her eyes widened when fall quickly made it’s way. The leaves fell and blew away the night sky showed through the branches. Looking up in amazement she noticed it was getting colder. She could see her breath and snow began to fall. She walked slowly watching the snow gather and melt making green grow from the puddles. Soon her cheeks were warm and the ground was dry. She shook her head and kept walking.
While humming she started to hear something rustling in the leaves, she quickened her pace. She felt her arm grow cold, looking over she saw a person. They spoke nothing to her but smiled and kept walking with her. Asira looked to her other side, more people were walking with her. This did not bother her, she felt thankful for the company. The whole time they were there they only looked forward but as soon as Asira reached a fork in the path they vanished.
Forgetting her former company she looked at the paths that lay in front of her. Some looked absolutely terrifying with broken branches and rodents scurrying in the way, while others looked beautiful with wonderful smells and torches to light the walk. Asira chose the easiest looking path. The path started to beautiful, the fauna were vibrant and seemed to be dancing with the wind that carried the scent of lavender. Asira felt nothing but calm until the ground under her feet slowly became dirty and dark. In a matter of steps the beautiful path reeked of sadness and the smell of rotting, one whiff made her feel like she was going to be sick. She kept walking, keeping her eyes on the never ending horizon.
Still on her chosen path Asira’s surroundings only grew darker and darker. A few heartbeats later she begins to hear groaning and screams of pain. Looking all around her were the kind faces she saw earlier, only this time they were not walking with her but groveling at her feet. Some were running around on fire, others had ripped off limbs, had a hole in their heads. The ones that caused the most sympathy for her were the ones tugging at the ends of her dress grasping at their last breaths of air, begging for help. The worst part was that she knew she could not stop. More and more desperate faces reached for her hands, all she wanted to do was stop and help the poor people but then she would fail. She closed her eyes and kept going forward.
It seemed like an eternity but finally Asira started to hear birds chirping and smell the scent of roses. She loved roses. Her legs were tired but she made one final push and ran when she saw a sold arch of light, she was almost there. Her heart was pumping, her body was aching from exhaustion, but she did not care, her eyes were set upon the growing light. She could hear rustling from within the trees. She thought the trees were cheering her on more towards her goal, this made her move faster. Her hair moved wildly behind her and left her ears uncovered for the wind to whisper to her its words of encouragement.
Going through the arch her eyes were flooded with light she could not see for a moment. Rubbing her eyes she saw three small pillars, upon one laid a single red rose. The other held a hunting knife with a case and the third had a necklace on it. Where ever she was, was made out of white stone, beautiful and not a single sign of age. Steps led to the pillars, that stood on the center of a platform. Asira slowly walked her way up to the center column with the necklace, looking at it she quickly learned what it was meant for.
“I hope you like it, I carved it myself.” A voice came from behind her that made her jump. Turning around, the red face of Lufti came into view, his cheeks to his ears were covered in red. Asira knew him as the future of the tribe, the chief’s son, and an old friend. He was one of the oldest in her group to walk the path that day. She wondered how long he had been waiting here. She looked at the necklace and gave a small laugh. She traced the engravings with her thumb, hardly believing this was happening to her. She remembered something that her grandmother told her once.
“The rules of the path change for when it comes to the leaders of our tribe!” she scoffs. “If a son wants to marry a girl of the same year, the shaman will take his betrothal necklace to the end.” Her parents of course shrugged it off. This led her to another memory, one of her and Lufti. The two of them no older than 8, sat at the entrance of the path. Each year they would go back after the new adults had returned from their journey. Finally one of the last times they really spent time together, he sat closer than normal to her and said, “When I come of age I am going to give the one girl I love a necklace of the moon and rose.”
Her thoughts came back to her when she traced the outline of the rose. It looked more like a tulip but it was still beautiful. The crescent moon behind the rose was perfect. The medal it was made out of was cold from being out in the air so long but she untied the ends and smiled at Lufti. It was an honor to marry someone she actually cared about.