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Cool Mountain Water
Cool mountain water rushed over my feet as I stood on a stone before the waterfall. This was my first time visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains. I came with my mother for my seventeenth birthday. It was her idea, and it’s not that I don’t like mountains or anything, but I’d rather be at a mall picking out a present. What I do enjoy, is taking pictures with my new digital camera. My mom gave it to me before our trip, and the view from the top of the waterfall was amazing. Of course, my mother didn’t know I was by the edge of a waterfall. She would freak if she did.
I inched closer to the edge, carefully keeping my balance on a mossy rock. The water was ice cold, and my toes were already numb. I held my camera up high--looking at the mountains through the screen.
Suddenly, I heard crunching footsteps to the left of me. At first, I thought it was my mom, and I quickly crouched down, putting my hands on the rock to keep balance. Then, the footsteps slowed. It almost seemed as if someone was trying to be sneaky. Maybe it’s just an animal, I thought.
I stood back up and looked through the trees. No one was there. Just when I was about to resume taking a picture, there was a loud thud. I turned my head and widened my eyes in surprise.
I was quite sure he was an Indian. A boy about my age, dressed in moccasins and animal-hide pants, was standing before me on the edge of the bank.
I blinked a few times to make sure I was seeing clearly. I was nearly positive that Indian’s didn’t dress like that anymore.
“W-who are you?” I managed to choke out.
He didn’t respond. Instead he stared at me in the most peculiar way. His eyes were grass-green and kind looking. He looked from me to the waterfall and held out his hand. It seemed that he thought I needed help.
“No, I’m okay,” I said and held up my hands. “I’m just taking pictures.”
He looked confused and still held out his hand. I sighed and took it. He gripped me tightly and pulled me away from the stream. Just as I was stepping off the rock, my foot slipped, and that’s when it happened. A bow string sang and a scream erupted, echoing off the mountains. It took me a second to realize that I was the one screaming. An arrow was embedded in my shoulder. I stepped away from the boy, my heart pounding, and fell into the stream.
Water rushed over my head– so cold– I thought I would freeze. I opened my mouth, but only water rushed in. I could feel the current taking me. I was going to go over the waterfall. My arms flailed in panic.
Then, a hand gripped my arm and pulled me up. It was the boy, and he looked angry. I clung to him for fear of falling back in the water. More men dressed like Indians were now standing on the shore. One of them had a bow and arrow. The boy who pulled me out was shouting angrily at the man with the bow. I couldn’t understand him. Maybe he was speaking another language, or maybe I was just too dizzy to understand.
Why was I dizzy?
I felt the ground hit my back. Every one rushed around me, and then everything went black.
The scent of pine and berries was the first thing I remembered. I blinked a few times and opened my eyes. I tried to sit up, but a hand pushed me down. For a second, I thought I was back in my cabin, but then I remembered the Indians and the arrow. Quickly, I put my hand to my shoulder, my heart pounding with fear. The arrow was gone, and replaced with a bandage.
I tried to sit up to see where I was. Again, I was pushed back down, but this time, I saw who it was. It was the Indian boy with the kind, grass-green eyes.
“Where am I?” I asked, my voice shaken.
He looked hesitant to talk to me. “The arrow was poisoned I--”
“I’m going to die!” I shouted and bolted up, my eyes wide with fear
He pushed me back down gently. “No,” he said. “We healed you. My brother thought you were going to attack me. I’m sorry,” he muttered and looked down.
I rubbed my shoulder, which was only a little sore, and stared at the boy. His skin was tanned and his hair was a shiny black, pulled into a ponytail.
“So, you’re a doctor?” I asked. He looked confused, so I rephrased, “A... uh... medicine man?”
He frowned. “No, I’m a warrior!” he shouted.
I nearly laughed. Indian warriors definitely didn’t exist anymore. At least, I didn’t think Indians existed like that anymore.
“Are you one of the English?” he asked.
“I’m American. I’m just here on vacation. Actually, I should go back to my cabin,” I said. “And you and your brother should stop playing with arrows,” I added and was about to get off the table I had been laying on.
He stopped me. “You need to rest,” he insisted. “And if you’re not English, then why do you speak their language?”
“So do you,” I said back.
He frowned. “My father sent me to live with the English when I was fifteen. I stayed with them for two years and learned their language. But I’m not one of them,” he said in a firm voice.
This guy was really confusing me. He was acting as if he was from the seventeen hundreds. Was I with an insane person? Or maybe, there really are old Indian tribes still living in the mountains like they did hundreds of years ago.
I leaned back down on the table, mainly because I was feeling dizzy again. I watched him as he fumbled with a bucket of water, and I drifted out of consciousness again.
The next time I remembered waking, an old dark skinned woman was redressing my wound. She smiled at me when she saw my eyes opened.
“You are better now,” she said in a kind withered voice.
I rubbed my eyes. “How long have I been out? Where am I?” I croaked.
She gave me water and answered my questions. “You’ve only been asleep for a day, and you’re with our tribe. Don’t worry. You’re safe,” she said.
“A whole day!” I shouted and sat up quickly. “My mom’s gonna kill me! I really need to go!” I jumped off the table, which was a mistake because I immediately felt dizzy.
I sat back down until the dizziness went away and looked around the room. The Indian boy from earlier was in the corner teaching a child how to tie a knot. He glanced at me for a second and smiled, then went back to teaching the child.
“That’s Koda. He hasn’t left here since you came in,” the old woman whispered with a grin. “He’s been worried about you.” The woman was staring at him proudly. I just blushed.
“Well, uh, thanks for taking care of me, but I really should go,” I said.
“You need to be thanking him, not me,” the woman said, and left.
The room I was in looked like it had mud walls and a thatched roof. I stared at everything curiously until Koda walked up me.
“So you’re not the only one that can speak English,” I said to him.
He smiled and then helped me up. He was a few inches taller than me. I wavered for a little and held tightly onto his arm.
“Thank you,” I muttered and looked up.
There was a wooden animal carving tied around his neck with a red string. Curiously, I touched the carving. He flinched as my fingers brushed against his skin, but then he relaxed.
“That’s my animal spirit, tsutla, the fox,” he said. “My mother carved it.”
“You have an animal spirit?” I said in awe.
“Everyone does. You too,” he said.
I ran my thumb over the fox carving. “What animal spirit am I?” I asked with curiosity.
He looked at me for a second and bit his lip. “You are beautiful and brave, like the lioness,” he said. “But, you would need a ceremony to know for sure.”
“You think I’m beautiful?” I asked, smiling.
He looked down and blushed. “You need food to eat,” he said, changing the subject.
“I actually should go home,” I insisted.
“First, get food, then you can go,” he urged, and pushed me out the door, which consisted of animal skin.
Outside, there were more mud huts and the little village was teeming with people. All were dressed like Indians in animal hide and beaded clothes, minding their own business. Some were weaving baskets with reeds, and others were making weapons by sharpening rocks and bone. I stared at all of them. Could this place be real? I wondered.
He led me to a hut were a woman was cooking over a clay pot. The place smelled of seasoned meat. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until the scent wavered under my nose.
“This is my mother,” he said, pointing to the woman by the pot.
She was a young woman with a beaded, animal-skin dress. Her hair was long and black and swept over her shoulders. She smiled at us when we walked up and took some meat from the pot, putting it on a clay plate.
“Agi’a, agi’a,” she said and held the plate up me.
“She’s telling you to eat,” Koda explained.
I took the plate and put the meat into my mouth. It was surprisingly good.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Deer,” he said.
I stopped eating and made a sad face. “You eat deer!” I exclaimed.
He chuckled. “Yes.”
“What’s so funny?” I asked and frowned.
He grinned. “You’re expression,” he said. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m hungry,” I said and finished the rest of the meat. I’ll never be able to watch Bambi the same again.
He looked at me, thoughtful and then said, “Before you go, I want to show you something.” He spoke to his mother quickly, and she gave him something wrapped in cloth.
He took my hand and led me away from the village, into the forest. It didn’t take long until we came upon a small clearing. In the middle of the clearing was a small baby tree.
“You seemed interested in spirits, so I thought you might like this,” he said, walking up to the small tree.
“But it’s just a tree,” I stated, confused.
“Not just a tree,” he said. “My family believes that when a person dies, their spirit goes into the forest, so when we come of age, we plant a tree.”
I walked over to it and placed my hand on the trunk. “This is your tree,” I muttered. “Could I plant one?”
He nodded as if he expected me to say that and gave me a seed from the piece of cloth.
“Thanks,” I said with a smile.
I clutched the seed in my hand and then knelt down a few feet away from his tree. The ground was warm and the dirt moved easily. Koda knelt down next to me and helped me dig a hole for the seed. We patted dirt over it and then sat on the ground next to each other.
“You never told me your name,” he said and leaned back on his hands.
“I’m Maria,” I told him, staring at the ground.
He looked over at me. “That’s a pretty name,” he said.
We were so close that our arms were practically touching. I looked at him, blushing and my heart pounding, and then leaned in close. He backed away.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I blushed even more. “I–uh–want to give you something,” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“A... a kiss,” I whispered.
He cocked his head. “What’s that?” he asked.
I was surprised he didn’t know the word. “Um, just close your eyes,” I said.
He closed his eyes and I leaned in close. His skin smelled like pine and cedar. I moved a few loose strands of hair away from his eyes and then pressed my lips against his, which were surprisingly soft. He froze for a seconds but didn’t move away.
When I pulled back, his eyes were wide open.
“Sorry, i-if you didn’t like it,” I mumbled, embarrassed.
He opened his mouth and then closed it. “That’s a kiss?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
He raised his hand and brushed it against my cheek. Then he leaned in close, stopping inches away from my lips. His eyes wandered over my face. I held my breath and stared back into his grass-green eyes. Then he pressed his lips against mine, kissing me back.
When we broke apart, he was smiling.
“I’ll take it that you do like it,” I said.
“I really should go though." I sighed. "My mom is probably worried sick about me.”
His face saddened. “You have to go...”
I nodded. I didn't want to go, but I knew I had to.
“Then, goodbye, Maria.”
I traced my fingers over his lips. “Goodbye, Koda,” I said and got up to leave.
He stood up too, staring into my eyes. I took a few steps and then turned to him again.
“Which way do I go?” I asked.
He chuckled. “The waterfall is that way,” he said, pointing to the right.
“Thank you,” I muttered. We looked at each other for a few more seconds before I turned to go.
I was surprised how sad I was to leave. After some steps, I turned back around, but he was gone. Tears stung my eyes and I ran through the forest. It wasn’t long until I came before the stream that connected to the waterfall.
I hopped over the stones agilely, and made my way onto the other side of the bank. It was easy to run through the tall oaks, but my vision was blurred by tears. My cabin was in a small clearing. A blue minivan was parked outside. I was glad to see that my mother was still there.
I burst through the front door and ran into the kitchen. My mom was sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee. She looked up, startled, when I entered the kitchen.
“Sorry, if you’ve been worried. You didn’t call the police?” I asked in a rushed voice.
My mother stood up. “Are you okay, honey?” she asked. “What are talking about?”
“I-I’ve been gone for days,” I said.
My mother put her hand on my shoulder. “You’ve only been outside for an hour, Maria,” she said.
“What!” I shouted. I know I wasn’t dreaming what had happened to me. “No, I wasn’t. There were Indians in mud huts!”
I looked over at my shoulder where the arrow wound was, but there was nothing there. I opened my mouth in surprise.
“There aren’t any Indians living in huts anymore,” my mother said and laughed. “And where’s your camera?”
I frowned and shook my head. Koda was real. I knew that. I wasn’t imagining things. Had I gone into the past?
“I-I’ll be right back,” I said and bolted from the cabin.
I ran back through the forest, frantically, careful not the trip on any rocks or roots. I heard the sound from the waterfall, and when I came up to the stream I jumped over it without a second thought. I was almost up to the clearing where his tree was. I knew where the tribe was. I just had to see it.
I had to know it was real.
As soon as I came up to the clearing, I froze. Right where Koda’s baby tree was, stood a large, full-grown tree. I walked up to it with my eyes wide and placed my hand on the trunk. It was his tree. I could feel it.
He had been real. Everything was real. But how... how did I go to the past? Was that past real?
I closed my eyes, and for a moment, I thought I could smell the pine and cedar of his skin and his lips against mine.
I opened my eyes. He wasn’t there.
I sighed and let a tear go down my cheek. Then I turned to where I had planted a seed with him. There, where my tree should be, was a small sapling.
So it was true. I had gone into the past.
Something glinted from the base of my tree. I slowly walked over and knelt down.
There propped up against the trunk was my digital camera and small wooden fox carving attached to a red string.