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Gold, Red Berries, Rosemary, and a Lilac-Colored Vine

What happens when the only thing that can save you will keep saving you again and again? Should someone want to be saved forever?

By Stephen Kramer AvitabilePublished 3 months ago 9 min read
Top Story - November 2023
Gold, Red Berries, Rosemary, and a Lilac-Colored Vine
Photo by Vasilina Sirotina on Unsplash

White-capped mountain peaks were the highest things, scraping along the underside of the still blue sky. They surrounded my village. I’d stare up at them and wonder how high they really went. Though I could see the tops of them from here, I knew I didn’t truly understand their height.

There wasn’t a good access point from my village. I journeyed to the village next to ours. I had never been there and the path was treacherous. I traversed some hills that paled in comparison to the mountains in the distance, but they were still tall. And one misstep on a rocky path sent me tumbling down the hill, dirt and rocks swirling around me.

I landed in a crumpled heap. My body was hot from the baking sun above, my leg was hot in a different way. I attempted to stand and my leg gave out, heat radiating through it with intensity. I had injured myself badly, I was unable to walk, and there was no one around.

I lay there for many hours. The sun wore me down with its oppressive rays. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and I unwillingly entered a sleep. I was awoken as I was jostled, hours later, several people were carrying me into the village I sought out.

The pain hit me again and I fainted once more. I awoke to find the village people standing over my leg. My leg gleamed gold and I couldn’t feel it. I jumped up in shock and to my surprise, my leg held me with vast strength. I was confused and asked what had happened. The people of the village told me they had heard of an old recipe from the shaman who used to live there that would save someone from death. My leg was in a bad way and it was the only way they thought might save me. They had never tried it before. Gold, red berries, rosemary, and a lilac-colored vine that grew deep in the woods was the concoction that was inserted into my wounds. I was left to sit out in the sun… and magically… I was healed.

The people warned me, I was healed. And as the legend went, I would always be healed. Unless I came into contact with gold. I took the warning to mean to stay away from gold. But strangely, their warning sounded most foreboding when they told me I would always be healed. Why shouldn’t that be the best part?

I stayed with them for a day. They fed me and gave me a place to sleep. In the morning, I set out for the mountains again. I began hiking up the steep terrain. It had its difficulty, but I persisted and was able to continue to climb. My leg, and the rest of my body, felt stronger than ever.

I reached the tops of the mountains and I couldn’t see the land below. I could see the clouds surrounding me and I could feel the power of being on top of the world. It was a sensational feeling.

I returned to my village and was excited to tell all my friends and family of my travels. I was only able to get partway through my story when screaming echoed in our ears from all directions. We smelled smoke and then we saw the flames surrounding us. Someone had set fire to the houses in our village! We raced from our position to the outskirts of the village. A wall of flames that we couldn’t penetrate. We raced for another section, more walls of flames. We searched over and over for a weak link in the wall of fire and we couldn’t find one. Someone had completely surrounded our village with fire and there was no escape!

We waited in the center of village, me and several others. We held each other close and we wept in each other’s arms as the anguished screams of our neighbors circled us… and as the flames drew nearer and nearer.

They eventually touched us, burned us. The anguished screams were now in our own voices. The heat and the burning was unbearable. Our screams diminished as breath was stolen from our lungs, more and more, until it was only me and another screaming. And then only me. And then silence as my eyes closed unwillingly again.

I opened my eyes, dry and crusty and achy. I pulled my weak body up to a sitting position and looked around me. It was dark now and hard to see. Eventually, my eyes focused. I was surrounded by the charred bodies of my fellow neighbors. Motionless. Dark piles of limbs. Yet, among them, I was somehow moving… and alive. I pulled myself up and walked to the river. I drank water and I found my strength again. The same strength I felt before I climbed the mountain. I didn’t know why.

Heartbroken and without a home, I moved to another village but didn’t tell anyone my story. I only told people that I had been displaced. I lived there for many years. Then, one day, a neighboring village attacked. Men on horses with sharp weapons. I saw many of my new friends drop to the grass like sacks of rice. A silver arrow was shot from afar and pierced my sternum. Sharp pain gutted my life force out of me, my lungs contracted, and I collapsed.

I awoke hours later, surrounded by the carnage. Bleeding bodies stained the grass all around. The polka dotted green and red design was an attack on my eyes. And that would be the reason I would never like Christmas, the holiday that would later be invented and become a mainstay in my existence.

For I continued on. I moved to new villages. Villages became towns. Towns became cities. Snow-capped mountain peaks were no longer the tallest things I witnessed. Now, squared, gray skyscrapers were the things scraping along the underside of the still blue sky. Though the sky wasn’t still anymore. Silver, steely behemoths soared across the skies carrying people from place the place. An invention of man called a plane. An invention of man that sometimes killed men, yet they never stopped with them.

I found easy work as best I could. I now needed to earn money in order to live how I had always lived. People would break into my new homes and steal my money. It happened four times, the fourth time, a man stuck a knife into my stomach. As my eyes unwillingly closed, I assumed I would awake again.

And I was right. For I would always be healed if it was not gold that touched me. Each time I had an experience that should have killed me, I left the place I lived. I would move to a new city. Or if I existed in a city for a dozen or so years, I left and found a new city. Otherwise people would wonder why I didn’t age or die. I stayed away from gold. No worries, I rarely had enough money to afford it.

Only several more times I died. A wild man in the street with a gray weapon the size of his hand. Another fire, this time in one of those skyscrapers. And several other break-ins.

I left the cities and lived in the jungles and the forests. It was better for me. I enjoyed nature. I enjoyed seeing the green trees and grass. I loved the color green, so long as it wasn’t accompanied by red. And I was able to avoid people for the most part. I didn’t have to relocate as often.

I met a woman one day in the jungle. She called herself an explorer. My first reaction was to stay away from her, to remain alone. But her kindness drew me in. Her honeyed tone kept me relaxed and forced me to smile. She wanted to learn everything she could soak in about the world. I told her all I knew. She was impressed by my knowledge. She spent much of her time with me. And for once I didn’t want to leave the side of another human. I wanted her closer to me. Always.

Her lips were thankfully not too red, a soft pink. It was a nice contrast to the green trees around us. And her green eyes were so beautiful. And her skin was so soft and tender. She brought to me joy I never knew before.

And then she died. Nothing sinister. No fire or knife or arrow. Her heart simply stopped beating. And I was alone again.

Years went on as I was alone. The jungles and the forests shrank due to man. I hoped one day my love would return to me. I knew she never would. Selfishly, I hoped one day I could have that same love with another. Meet another like her. I held out hope. But no such thing ever happened. The forest I lived in shrank and shrank. I heard stories from passersby of the terrible state the world was in. Everything depleting. Grass, trees, gold.

Gold levels were alarmingly low, as were the levels of other valuable things. Humans were at each others’ throats. I decided I needed to get my hands on some gold before it was all gone. End my existence. I didn’t want to live in this existence anymore. And if there was another existence after this one, I would embrace it. Especially if she was there.

I embarked on my journey to search for gold. I walked and searched. For days, months, years, decades. The jungles and forests disappeared completely. There was no more green to see. There was plenty of red. The stained blood of all the fallen humans. We... they had made themselves extinct. Their own doing. I searched and searched, now in a desert, unable to escape. I wondered how I arrived in the desert. And then I realized, it arrived around me. I circled the globe as best I could, only to find that this was all that was left. There wasn’t anything else. The buildings no longer touched the blue sky. They had all crumbled. The mountains no longer touched the blue sky. They had all crumbled. The sky was no longer blue. It had grayed. There was nothing left but exactly what I stood in. Variety of landscape was extinct. People were extinct. Gold, of course, no longer present. Even sound vanished.

It was only me. Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

FantasyShort Story

About the Creator

Stephen Kramer Avitabile

I'm a creative writer in the way that I write. I hold the pen in this unique and creative way you've never seen. The content which I write... well, it's still to be determined if that's any good.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (16)

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  • Real Poetic2 months ago

    Just back to reread this! Happy Holidays! 🎄🩵

  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    Oh shit. And now he's stuck forever, right? Forever alone on a desert planet. Hell!

  • Mary Haynes3 months ago

    Powerful fiction. The use of color throughout connects the reader to the story.

  • Hungry, thirsty & all alone. The whole of my kingdom for just a touch of gold.

  • Carol Townend3 months ago

    Beautiful, warming, and emotional. This is amazing work, Stephen.

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Creative & captivating!!! Love it!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Dana Crandell3 months ago

    Incredibly well-imagined and written, Stephen! A great challenge entry!

  • Hayden Trull3 months ago

    Great work!

  • J. S. Wade3 months ago

    Great story Stephen! Great entry. Reminds me of the haunting verse in Ezekiel after the destruction of all the people… “And I alone was left” By the way, ummmm, where could I find this lilac colored vine? I know you know. Lol

  • Gerald Holmes3 months ago

    Excellent work! A very clever take on the challenge. Congrats on a well deserved Top Story

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Amazing job! Keep up the outstanding work—congrats!

  • Oooo, such a creative take on the challenge! Such an awesome story! I have one question. He would always be healed unless he touches gold. Meaning only gold would end his life. Does that mean if he didn't eat and drink, he wouldn't die from starvation?

  • Mark Gagnon3 months ago

    I enjoyed the way you took us through your character's eons of existence. Nicely done! It reminds me of a story I posted a year or so ago called The Gift of Time. Immortality isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

  • Real Poetic3 months ago

    This is one of my worst nightmares as an outdoor lover. “The jungles and the forests shrank due to man.” Your entry is so well written and really draws me in from beginning to end. I love it! Thanks for sharing and good luck in the challenge! 🩵

  • Donna Renee3 months ago

    “Her heart simply stopped beating. And I was alone again”… 😢😢. This was a great one, Stephen!! Dang. I feel for the MC.

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