Continuing on… Now for Day 6 of the Author Up Challenge!
Today’s prompt was:
Day 6: Write From the Perspective of an Elderly Person
More specifically, it mentioned looking back on their life and their memories while intermingling it into a short story/scene.
It took me a while to get started on this, because I spent most of my brainstorming time stuck on thinking about regrets at the end of life. This was far too depressing for me to put words to paper, so finally I decided I had to change gears.
A while back, when I was taking an online course about Worldbuilding from Writer’s Digest, I wrote a piece about an elderly elven woman who is nearing the end of her life. I decided to revisit this piece, update it, and expand upon it by adding memories. I agree this piece is much easier to follow without all of the footnotes and funky Gaelic words, though, those were interesting to research (and probably butcher). 🙂
The Ritual of Life (Revised and Expanded)
The elderly elven woman came to a stop and leaned against the thick trunk of one of the many aspen trees. The cool, smooth bark helped refresh her and she pressed her wrinkled brow to it. Her breath came labored, something that never gave her problems in her younger years, but those years were far behind her. Now, even the leisurely pace she had set for herself to get to the grove had exhausted her.
1036 years would do that to a body, even an elven one.
The forest keepers prepared for the ritual of life, but she had some time.
“Today is the day–the day I rejoin the earth from which I came. I have no regrets. I have lived a long and full life. I have seen more than I ever expected in my time.
“I have seen the destruction of our forests, our Ancestors. I have seen the shattering of our world. I have seen the rise of the humans–these irreverent foreigners–and their conquering of this land which withers at their touch. I have seen many atrocities against the elven people. But we have endured and we shall endure.”
She held her hand against the trunk of the aspen tree before her. “Ancestors, lend me your strength. I need it right now more than ever before.” She closed her eyes and opened her mind.
“Mother,” the elderly elven woman whispered. Her breath had returned to normal but she still felt tired. She wanted to sit down, but she knew that soon it would no longer matter. Soon, she would join her Ancestors. “Mother, I go to join you today.”
And we will welcome you with open arms, my daughter. We are very proud. Your strength, your leadership, has helped lead the elves through many trials. Because of this, today you become one of us. To live on and to spread your wisdom.
The voice that came into her head soothed her and suffused her with a warmth that revitalized her. It continued then, not in words, but in images and feelings.
The old woman saw herself much younger, just a child, and following her mother around. Her younger self tagged along behind, gripping the tail of her mother’s shirt, and listened to every word, watched every interaction, drinking it all in.
Then, she appeared in her early adulthood, a time period immediately recognizable. Just remembering it so vividly caused the old elven woman to swoon with emotion. The sky roiled black and foreboding above, except for the frequent white flashes of lightning. The rain had not yet begun, the rain that came to wash away what was shattered, but the ground shook with great violence. She saw herself helping an old grandmother out of the crumbling city of Bethel. The streets heaved and broke apart around them. But some force protected her as she got out elf after elf–young and old, male and female–and led her people to the quaking woods beyond the city.
Next, she was older again, though not as grey as she was now. She had become a teacher. She taught young elves their history and evoked in them the pride of their heritage. The old woman’s heart soared with this memory, wishing she could forever share her knowledge with her people, forever remind them of all they were and all they could be, despite the decaying world around them.
Yes, my daughter, you will continue that work.
A touch came to her shoulder, drawing her from the memories and the voices of the Ancestors. One of the forest keepers, a young girl with ginger-colored hair, though not as brilliant as the old woman’s now-greying tresses had once been, smiled at her. “Grandmother Etain, it is time,” she said, addressing the old elven woman respectfully and by name.
Etain nodded. She leaned on the arm of the forest keeper and let herself be led to the circle of those who would begin the ritual of life and lead her to her second life.
Soon she would be free of this aging body. Soon she would be one with the Ancestors. Soon her mind would be one with that of the forest. Soon she would lend her wisdom to future generations of elves.
Etain could not help wondering if the transformation would be painful. She knew the Ancestors would be with her throughout all of it, but her mind began to wander to such things. Things like how differently it would feel to be an aspen instead of an elf. How would it feel to have no arms or legs or eyes or mouth?
“Grandmother Etain,” the lead forest keeper said, his voice carrying above all other sounds in the clearing, “let us begin.”
The old elven woman walked slowly to the center of a circle of elves all wearing the airy, light brown robes of the forest keepers. They tightened the circle around her and took hands. She stood in a shaft of bright sunlight–the spot for the ritual of life chosen for that exact reason. Its warmth lit her face and she closed her eyes.
Chanting arose around her. It started slowly and seemed to waver around her as it grew in sound and pitch. Everything except the chanting and the sun on her face fell away.
All at once her fingers and toes began to tingle. They felt as though they were elongating–her fingers reaching for the sky until she thought she could almost touch it and her toes penetrating the earth beneath her and seeing how deep it ran.
Then, Etain felt the sun’s warmth change. It suffused her in a way she never expected. Her arms reached for it. Her fingers drank in its energy. She felt it all through her, revitalizing her. It was an energy she had not felt in many years, a youth and strength she had almost forgotten.
She felt a need to look around her and a brief moment of panic rippled through her.
Fear not, daughter. Open your mind and you will realize the vast world your senses can now witness.
She saw, not with eyes, but with another sense entirely. The outline of every tree of the forest came to her, and she saw the lifeforce pulsing within each one, flowing slowly like great, individual rivers. Then, she realized she could also see the elves, the keepers of the forest, still gathered in a circle around her. They did not flow like rivers, rather they each pulsed with a self-contained lifeforce, and because they were so focused they shone like bright green flames.
The epiphany that came to her at that moment changed her view of the world. Even her long life as an elf was merely a flash of light compared to the slow and plodding of the existence of the Ancestors.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.