As a refresher, I started reading through the Scrivener folders which contain the latest versions of my novel. Forgot how much was in there! It also reminded me of the background to a short story I wrote more recently. My sister sent me the postcard posted below last month and challenged me to write a short story based loosely off the pictured scene, letting it take me wherever my creative, fantastical musings took me.
That short story currently begins as follows:
On the first day of our final coming-of-age passage, we performed the pre-dawn rites as a group of seven members. We joined hands in turn round the circle made of white sands to denote the bonds we forged with each other and with those who had come before us. We chanted promises to meet success and respect whatever form of success was granted us. We bared our flesh for the blessings of tattoos and body paints, these designs and colors carefully selected by a counsel of artists, doctors, and psychics. We took part in the simple feast and then exchanged sacred kisses with the elders, treasuring what few words they secretively whispered into each of our ears before we parted.
In the entrance hall, we effected the proper dress: tough shoes, long, loose skirts, and all of us bare-chested, blessings exposed. We slipped on full hoods and veils which covered all but our eyes and trailed off about our necks. We assisted each other with the sashes round our backs to securely fasten each of our individual banners and headdresses rising above us, decorated with beads and feathers meant to draw out the spirits and bring us to our trials.
Dawn having passed and our preparations for our march completed, we clutched our short spears and moved out. We left the ceremonial outpost behind, only a few of the others (not me - I was staring at the horizon, pondering what awaited us) taking a final glance back at that last mark of civilization. And then we clambered out of sight, along the narrow trails down the cliffsides which lead to the bone wastes.
The first day passed with nothing to worry over. Omnipresent clouds of pale ash and cream were a boon, blocking out the harsh beating the sunrays would have given us. We reached the bottom of the cliffs at midday and, after a brief breather, we set a solid pace out across the cracked earth. We gazed curiously upon the strange ground that spread onward past the cliffs. There was a tangy honey-salt scent wafting off the long clumps of black and white sands (the elders must gather what seemingly outlandish ceremonial substances they require from here). The air was rife with assorted grit, drifting back to the sands or spilling about the meandering ranges of boulders and smaller rocks, many of which were encrusted with little dull gems. A chattering picked up with each erratic gust of wind pushing through the dry, nearly colorless, thick-leaved brush and the pockets of tanned grass. A click-clacking of hollow fossils; a swish-swashing of agitated husks dancing and sliding together. Besides the grass, I didn’t see much reminiscent of the browns, greens, and yellows that were familiar back home.
Into the dark, we continued on for several hours. Before midnight, we set up our first encampment and slept, the seven of us. Soon after streaks of gray cloud illuminated the sky, we woke. And that morning of the second day, we performed the ceremonial rites as six. One down. The boy named Yuvad was missing, presumably taken by the spirit as was expected to happen to each of us on our march.