This is a fiction short story I wrote on another site for a contest. We were given a prompt, and we had to tell a tale with it. The prompt for this particular story was Aydia-Weddo. It is 2262 words. I hope you enjoy.
A gaunt figure with dirty, ill-fitting clothes sat on the bench under the tavern's shingled awning. I nodded a polite greeting, but paid little attention. Before I could open the door, his crooked, tar colored fingers grabbed the sleeve of my parka.
"Any spare change?"
The man's gray hair and beard were matted, his eyebrows as thick and wild as his mustache, and his eyes penetrating pools of a moonless night. I felt like he knew I had lied to him when I told him no, but I didn't care.
"You seen 'er, didn't ya?"
My breath hitched. Surely, he wasn't talking about what consumed my mind and sent me to the pub to numb my senses. How could he know? How could anyone know? I was delusional. This had to be just another part of that which was throwing my world into a tailspin. I was going mad, and I didn't know how to stop it. I yanked my arm from his grip and entered the tavern.
It took a moment for my vision to adjust to the dark room smelling of ale. The only light came from the bar and windows of each booth. Two locals sat next to one of the windows. They looked up when I entered but being used to tourists went back to their conversation. I headed toward the bar.
"Give me a shot of whiskey, would you?"
The tender nodded and sat down his glass and towel. I pulled a fifty from my pocket, slapped it down, and dropped onto the stool. I planned on getting tanked. The small glass of amber liquid barely hit the bar in front of me before I snatched it. It burnt going down, and I grimaced. I raised my glass to the barkeep. He fetched the bottle.
"Rough day, rough week, rough life."
"First one's on me," he said.
I think he could tell I wasn't in the talkative mood.
"If you need another just holler."
It wasn't that I didn't want conversation; I just didn't trust myself to speak. I'd seen something that defied reality, and I was convinced my mind was fracturing.
I'd come to the mountains to get away. My wife had been seeing another man. The way I'd found out was by catching them together in my bed. My bed. The man escaped as I trashed the room. I wanted to hurt him but didn't want to go to jail. As I flipped the mattress, my half naked wife screamed and called me insane. I felt justified with my actions. I still do, but I think she was right about the crazy part. We argued, and a neighbor called the police.
"This is why I don't love you anymore," she said.
She packed her bags and left in her Mercedes. I assured the cops there would be no more disturbance if she stayed away from me. When they left, all I could do was sit on the couch with a hollow pit in my stomach and think. She didn't love me. I never knew. I loved her. I bought her everything, the diamonds she wore, the fancy clothes she had to have, the house, that car she drove off in to be with him. I played the image of me walking into the bedroom thinking she was crying. My blood boiled again, and everything on the coffee table crashed to the floor. I couldn't just sit there. I had to do something, so I took a shower.
The beating water hid my tears, and I could pretend I hadn't cried. I felt like my mind would break if I stayed there, so I decided I would call my boss, tell him what had happened, and ask for a week away. It turned out I didn't have to ask. He told me to leave for a week or two.
I'd resolved to go to my cabin in the mountains. It had been years since I'd been there. My wife never wanted to go. She didn't like trees and dirt, she needed buildings, stores, pools, and parties, so being where she'd never been was perfect for clearing my mind.
I woke to roaring thunder and dripping leaves. It didn't matter, for it suited my mood. After a cup of coffee and an instant packet of oatmeal, I laced my hiking boots, filled my water bottle, and headed down the trail.
The ground was mushy, and the wind whipped the treetops above me. Wet, brown leaves stuck to the mud on my boots. My jeans were wet, but the bottoms were saturated and filthy. I should have tucked them into my hikers, but it had been awhile since I'd done this. Well, I would be doing this a lot more often. I'd even entertained the thought of leaving my life behind and living here. In places, the footpath was so drenched, my boots make sucking sounds. I decided to head up hill off of the well-made path. I slipped and stumbled, but I knew once I was at the summit, traveling would be a lot more pleasant.
At the top, pines dominated. Before me was a grove of them. Very little foliage grew, for the needles lay thick on the forest floor. It was hushed like stepping into a magical land. The only sound was my breathing. I trampled through taking in the wonder of it. Soon, the number of trees grew thin, and sky could be seen. I was disappointed. I wanted this to go on forever. I started to turn back when a movement of blue caught my eye. It was probably another hiker or someone that lived near. Interaction at that point was not something I desired, but I was compelled to have a closer look.
The trees stopped at the edge of a clearing. A thin, dark mocha skinned woman with long ebony locks stood in the center. The blue I'd seen was her sash. She wore it like a top draped over her shoulder and around her breasts. Her white skirt hung from her hips and pooled at her feet. The thin, sodden material clung, and I could make out the shape of her womanly curves. My manhood stirred. She was beautiful. I inched behind brambles to help hide my presence, so I could watch her. Her shoulders, arms, and mid-section were bare. The rain pelted her. I wondered if she were chilled, but she didn't move. She just stood there with closed eyes facing the ground, and arms out from her sides with palms turned up like she was meditating or worshiping. It was then I noticed something odd about her skin. At first, I mistook it for glistening wetness, but it wasn't that at all. Her skin had an iridescent sheen. I'd not seen anyone like her before. I was captivated.
The rain turned to drizzle and still she stood. I was about to call to her when the clouds began to thin. The shower continued, but the clearing grew brighter. She raised her head until she faced the sky. I ducked further, now only one eye exposed. She started to shimmer. The glow that was part of her skin expanded so that a rainbow aura swirled around her. All of the sudden, the sun glared. She threw her hands toward the heavens, and her rainbow aura shot into the air and arched over the trees. I gasped, stepped back, and fell on my rump. She stood vibrating and extending her rainbow essence for what seemed to me an hour but was probably only about ten minutes before she started to wane. Little by little, the pulsation weakened, and the rainbow became faint. When she'd spent all she could, serpents fell from her body. I realized it was she that was falling apart into hundreds of withering snakes. They dripped to the ground until there was nothing left of the woman I'd seen. The serpents slithered in all directions. One came toward me. I scooted backwards and scampered to my feet.
I ran through the forest sliding in the pine straw. I propelled myself down the hill tripping on vines, fallen limbs, and slamming into trunks. I fell and rolled but came out of it on my feet. I ran until I got to my cabin.
I stood in the doorway looking back the way I'd come while catching my breath. The rain had stopped. What sunlight could penetrate the canopy dappled the still wet foliage. Birds flew from one tree to another, and a groundhog ventured out of the weeds scouring the ground. All looked normal, calm, and inviting. I was the only one that seemed disturbed.
What I'd seen was unreal. It couldn't have existed. It couldn't have. I'd spent lots of time at this very spot and walked all of these trails. Nothing had changed much except the pine copse. I'd not seen it before. Perhaps, I hadn't seen anything at all. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks. It had to be.
I think I've cracked.
I stared ahead wondering what to do. I had escaped my life as I wished and didn't know how to get it back. I began hyper ventilating and trembling. The cabin no longer brought comfort.
I need a drink.
I don't recall my trek into town; I only remember looking up to see the sunken man sitting on the bench outside of the tavern. I sat bedraggled, wet, and torn downing whisky trying to convince myself I'd seen nothing. It was only my mind's inability to cope with my wife's betrayal.
"Could I get another Stout, Rick?"
One of the men from the booth stood beside me with an empty mug. He thudded it onto the bar and looked at me.
"If ya don't mind me sayin' so, ya look like shit. It looks like ya got yerself inta a fight with a tree, and it got the best of ya."
"I was hiking and fell down a hill."
"So, yer here ta do some hikin' huh?"
"I had come to get away from it all before I went insane, but I don't think it's working."
"Heh, you ain't crazy. No one is more nutty than that loon sittin' outside on the bench there. He come in here talkin' bout a lady made a snakes and rainbows shootin' outta her head."
I was stunned. I searched the man's face for sincerity. Was he taunting me?
"Yeah, go ask 'im. He'll tell ya aaaall about it."
He lifted the Stout Rick had brought him and slapped me on the back.
"Well, I hope ya enjoy are lil' burg, and stay outta dem trees' way. They can be vicious."
The local chuckled at his own cleverness and left me trying to figure out if he was making fun of me. How could he know? I hadn't said anything, had I?
"You seen 'er didn't ya?"
I waved to the barkeep and the two locals as I walked out the door.
The old man was dozing. I shook his shoulder.
"You hungry? Come on back to my cabin."
Leon stayed with me in the cabin. The locals thought I had taken pity on the old man, but he and I kept good company. Leon was a wise man, a knowledgeable man. He became a dear friend to me. I'd listen to hours of stories about his ancestors.
"My grandparents were forced from dair homeland and shackled into da belly of a rickety ol' boat. It wadn't jus dem. No. It was a lota my people."
"I know the history."
"Yeah, you know da histry. What you don't know is dey brought dair customs and beliefs wit dem. Don't nod you head like you know. You don't know. Listen ta me, young man, I'm tryin' da teach you somptin."
He waited until I gave him the respect he deserved before he continued.
"I'm sorry. Please, go on."
"What's dat mean when I say dey brought dair beliefs wit dem?"
"Well, it means they worshiped here like they did there."
Leon plunked a grape in his mouth.
"Dair gods followed dem here. Dat's what you saw o' top a dat hill. You saw Ayida-Weddo. She gives her worshippers da strengd ta carry on. She gave my people da strengd ta endure what day were goin' frough. Now, you don't have ta pray ta 'er. She will jus' come when you need 'er. You musta needed 'er.
I didn't know what to say. Leon left me alone with my thoughts. He quietly finished the meager meal I'd provided then milled around the cabin.
To this day, I'm confused about what I'd seen. Did I really see her? The logical part of my mind says no, but it has a hard time explaining it away. I resolved to leave it be until I did know. Maybe I never would, but I had to get on with my life.
I gave up my job in the city and stayed. I bought several acres of woodland, built rental cabins, and sold sports gear. Leon helped me manage it all. I even met the love of my life. She didn't care about material possessions. It was important to her that I was happy, that I was kissed every morning, and told I was loved.
Ayida-Weddo. Fact or fiction, I don't know. But I do know, she is a good and caring goddess, even if she is only a thought.