Red Skies (short story)

You remember standing at the bay window, cup of coffee in hand, birds chirping and a lovely breeze coming through. The security alerts issuing an all clear for the moment. Reassured by the combination of the security alert, cerulean blue skies and sound of the animals you sit down to enjoy the rare moment of serenity.

While enjoying the sound of birds singing, chipmunks chirping and dogs barking an instantaneous silence makes you sit bolt upright. Turning to look out the window the sky has turned red and what you can only describe as a golden thunderstorm filling the air with ball lightning now replaces the serene skies. The world looks transported with the red and gold skies so thick the view outside is obscured. Silence is replaced with the sounds of winds so loud that it seems as though the world is roaring, whether in pain or triumph you could not say.

Dashing to the security radio you press the alert button knowing that your location will be reported to the command centers and the alerts issued. Families and loved ones will hold onto each other while they await their fate. People no longer run that has been proven useless as these storms track you. You have prepared for this day and grab your emergency backpack, provisions and weapons bag. Now, you wait to see if the storm has chosen you.

The storm outside starts to pick up speed and for the first time a golden circle begins to form mere inches from you. As you feel a pull from the portal drawing you in, you know this is it and pray to the Gods for safety and strength to face the unknown. No one knows what happens to those that disappear through the portals. These anomalies are far from understood. You only know that they appear briefly leaving destruction in their wake. The tracked individuals disappear never to be seen again.

The golden light seems to envelop you, drawing you in like a gentle caress. This is totally unexpected giving the raging storm around the portal. The force of the portal is hypnotic and inviting. You find yourself walking forward deeper into the blue light. Shaking and scared you try and calm yourself with steady breathing. Suddenly, the storms are behind you and the skies before you are a breathtaking purple with a golden glow that reminds you of a sunset. 

Looking around you find yourself standing inside a small pavilion in the middle of a large meadow of flowers. The pillars holding up the roof remind you of the architecture found in Ancient Greece. As you slowly turn to take in your surroundings a gentle breeze caresses your skin and a sweet floral scent mixed with rainwater envelopes you. From beside you hear “Welcome Traveler, please come this way”. As you turn, there is a young boy dressed in simple blue tunic with light brown curly hair and golden eyes. He does not appear armed or dangerous, in fact he is smiling and seems welcoming.

“Where am I?” you ask him. He replies, “You are in Elpida. If you come with me my mistress will be able to give you the answers that you seek.” With that he simply turns and strides away as if he expects you to follow him. As you do not see any better options or sense immediate danger you follow him.

Scanning the horizon for potential destinations you notice a tree in the distance. This tree is unlike any you have ever seen. Saying it is enormous does not do it justice, but you do not know any other word for it. As you travel towards this tree you realize that it has beautiful golden apples. 

Moving among the tree are female figures that seem to be made of the tree, yet they are themselves. “What are they?” you whisper to your companion. He replies, “Maliades, protectors of this tree. Their lives are entwined in each others care. Some people call them tree dryads, but that is far too simple a term for these particular ones.” 

Enthralled with what you can only describe as the care of a mother with her child, you watch the Maliades glide and twine around every branch, leaf, bud, bloom, and fruit with harmony and grace. Before you can ask any more questions you find yourself at the base of this tree. How did that happen? Are you losing time or did you stare longer than you realized?

As if reading your thoughts you hear the whisper of a female voice “Time is different in the sacred places of the world. Shifts in thought, perception and reality happen as you strip away the protections of everyday life and walk in the truth of who you are. The longer you stay, the easier this will be.” Looking around for the source of the voice, you hear laughter and see a small brown, green and gold childlike tree dashing to the trunk. “Who are you?” You ask, but your companion answers “she is a child of the sacred tree.”

As she touches the trunk of the tree a golden archway surrounded with vines appears. Turning, she simply says “follow me” and dashes through. Your companion follows. The fact that you seem to have a choice in this is almost more frightening than the scenarios of violence and unrecognizable aliens that have haunted your sleep since these portals appeared twelve years ago. Curiosity begins to creep into your consciousness and you decide to step forward into the archway.

Stepping out of a smaller apple tree you find yourself in an orchard of these golden apple trees. Subtle movements, laughter on the wind, female voices overlapping tell you that each tree is tended by Maliades. Your guide continues forward and you realize that you must follow or be lost to the orchard.

Winding your way through the orchard you observe blue and purple skies, hear songbirds and laughter seems to flow on the winds. Attempting to gather information you try to engage your guide in conversation. He simply tells you that his mistress will answer your questions. After walking for some time you come out of the orchard into a simple meadow. 

A fountain is a short distance away with a picnic blanket and food laid on it. At you approach the guide goes to a small basin on the side of the fountain and washes his hands and face. He then indicates that you should do the same. Following his instruction you then see him sit by the food. An array of fruit and bread is on the blanket. He hands you a plate with an assortment and helps himself. The drink seems to be a lavender honey wine. Starving you partake and as your body begins to feel refreshed you also find a calm coming over you.

Thanking your host for his generosity, he smiles and rises from his seat stating it is time to meet the mistress. You gather your belongings and go with him. Not far from the fountain is a temple. The architecture reminds you of the Ancient Greek temples studied in art history.

Entering the temple you find yourself in a room that is alabaster in color with golden accent running along the wall. Was that called Greek Key? Candles and lamps adorn the entire pavilion giving it a warm, soft glow. In the very center of the room is a large circular fireplace. The flame inside is hypnotic, as is the woman sitting next to the flames. She is the perfect picture of serenity and contentment.

“Welcome to Mount Olympus,” she says smiling warmly in your direction. Suddenly, you feel the warmth of love and the smell of baked bread and roasted meat surrounds you. Behind the woman you notice huge hearths. Are these the source of the divine smells?

“Mount Olympus? You mean the home of the Olympians?” You say in a shocked voice. Bell-like laughter carries on the wind. “Oh, dear child, we are so much more than stores. Come this way and let us speak of where you are from and why you are here. I am Hestia.” 

“Hestia!?” you repeat. Shock and awe course through your veins. “Hearth keeper of Mt. Olympus? First and last to be honored among the Gods?” you manage to ask. 

Her laughter fills the air. “Yes, that Hestia,” she replies. “Now, come with me and together we will find why the sacred portal chose you as the latest traveler of Olympus. When the sacred storms choose it is usually to find an Oracle, Wise Woman, Healer or Hero. Trials of the heart and hearth will tell us which you are. Then we can help you fulfill your divine purpose. Too bewildered to speak you continue with Hestia further into the Temple.” 

Waking from a deep sleep, you turn on the light beside your bed and open your laptop to a new page. This dream is the perfect beginning to a story. As you happily type on the keyboard a sudden alert comes across a radio you do not ever recall owning. Glancing out the window you see red skies with golden lightning. Before your mind can fully register this; a golden portal opens before you. Is this the dream or was your dream the dream? What is your reality? 

Suddenly, you are on a pavilion in a meadow. A voice from beside says “Welcome back. I trust your travels were good?” Looking at the source of the voice you see the boy from your dream.

Irisa MacKenzie (copyright 2020)

Inspired by Reedsy weekly writing contest

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