A Vocal Exercise: The Lady of the Mountains

No, I’m not gonna sing.
But I am experimenting.  What else is new?
This is a story I just wrote. It’s a little over 2000 words. I decided to do something different with it and record it in my own voice (*cringe*).  The recording is 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

I feel I should apologise in advance. I rarely read out loud, except for my daughter and then in a different language. My accent is a bit strange, I’m sure, and the recording was made in one sitting and this is the only recording I made – so it may be a bit stale (I’m really selling it, huh?). Still it was a fun thing to do and if I ever find out how to manipulate voice recordings so that I can fix mistakes I might do more of this, who knows?

I’d be happy to hear what you think, though be kind. 😉

The Lady of the Mountains read by me, the author.

And in case you don’t understand a word I’m saying, here are the words:

THE LADY OF THE MOUNTAIN

I am a woman of the mountains. I may be raw, wild and the old laws no longer concern me. I am a woman of the mountains, maybe the last of my kind, lonely and devastated and I wander the plains in search for the one thing I miss. People, like-minded people who need companionship, friendship, love.

Living in the mountains was easy. Leaving the safety of home was hard.

I used to hear a voice calling, far away in the distant mountains. A harsh, low voice calling out my name, except it didn’t seem to be my ears that heard the sound, but my soul that felt it, whispers carried with the wind, an echo from soul to soul.

A figment of my vivid imagination, I told myself. What else can a beast of the land, like I, tell herself? A lonely wanderer, a cast-out once in the company of others, but now left to her own demise.

The horror that struck my people was harsh, uncalled for and unjust. I  roamed around with only thoughts of vengeance in my heart and mind. When I found vengeance, I also found mercy in my heart by simply looking at one of the assailants. He looked at me with awe and wonder in his eyes and something in me felt for him.

It broke my soul to feel pity for the enemy. In the white of his eye I saw the reason for the violent act. I saw the sickness in his eyes, the redness had settled and soon he wouldn’t be able to help himself.

“It’s something in the water,” my father used to say.
“It’s a sickness of the soul,” my mother used to say.

They rarely saw eye to eye on anything, except for the fact that they loved each other. A nice sentiment but it was sometimes hard to find the love in the arguments. Though as a kid I heard it late at night when they thought my siblings and I were sleeping. I guess I always wished I’d find something of what they had.

The blood in the man’s eyes made me afraid. I ran, before I could release the last of my anger upon him I ran, leaving him to rot in his disease. It would be punishment enough, though had I taken a moment to think about it I would have ended his agony right there, for his sake, but also for the sake of those who would be in his path later.

I ran. I ran from the mountain and from everything I knew. The disease of the dead scared me and I seemed to be the only one left in a world full of the hungry dead.

Then I remembered the call, the call from the past and I started towards it, not knowing if it was just an imaginary solace through hard time or something real that I didn’t quite understand. There is a lot in this world we do not understand, honing in on the delicate nature of things takes a lifetime.

The plains aren’t my natural environment. I was taught to stay in the mountains, to shoot birds with arrows and keep goats where the lynx couldn’t get to them.

Once I knew a man by that name. He was strong and fast and his laughter would echo through the mountains. There was life in him, like in no other and we mountain girls used to sneak a peek as he bathed in the waterfall. He was beautiful and we giggled at his beauty.

And he did survive the attack, but he was bitten and his eyes turned red, then his skin turned pale and his teeth fell out and we giggled no more. In fact there was no one left to giggle with.

So I run through fields I am uncomfortable with. I hunt in lands I know nothing about and I search in far away mountains, unable to find anything but the white skulls of broken civilisations.

I saw the old city. I saw the houses, once described as the height of civilisation. They still stood tall, dead but tall. I walked into the city, terrified but in awe of what I saw, because though I had heard the tales I had never believed them to be true. I used to think that such things couldn’t have existed. What could possibly have happened to bring a civilisation with such power and skill to its knees?

And then I remembered human nature and I remembered the violence, and the red shot eyes. I remembered the knife in my father’s chest and my sister’s torn body and ripped skirts. And I remembered my brother’s broken eyes and my mother’s whisper as she pulled the knife out of my father and pushed it into herself.

And though the city was dead of the life that it once held, it was filled with new life, green plants decorating the buildings, tire belted trees and squirrels living in old purses. It had gained some form of grace, this old city and I left it to be consumed by the nature it had tried to conquer.

Walking through the plains I found a tall building, standing alone in a field of wild flowers, square stones stood here and there, some had fallen down, some where still standing – the letters on them long since unreadable. There was a cross, a giant cross on a tower and though fear ruled my every move, I couldn’t help but walk into that building.

There were chairs and statues and an alter, if ever I saw one, in the far end of the church, underneath a beautiful mosaic window. On the alter sat an old woman, chewing tobacco and spitting it in silver chalice. I thought of running, thinking she must have the red-eye disease, but she called out to me and so I turned towards her and walked up to her.

I hadn’t seen a living, normal human being in a long time and though she wasn’t exactly what I considered normal she didn’t look ill, and she didn’t look hostile. I lowered my head, as custom told me to, and greeted her with all the respect I had.

“Girl,” she said, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m not sure,” I told her, “I don’t know if I’m fleeing or seeking something.”

“What makes you think these things are mutually exclusive?” she asked and her cackling laughter made me uneasy. She offered me tobacco to chew, but I declined.

“I don’t know, mother,” I told her.

“Don’t call me that,” the woman hissed at me, “I am not your mother.”

I apologised, explaining that it was custom where I came from to address senior women in this polite manner. She made a foul grimace and showed her dark, rotting teeth.

“You don’t need to be polite to me, girl,” she said, “And you might want to become less polite and more vicious in your manners.”

I didn’t explain to her my cautious nature, or that I had thought of putting an arrow through her head when I first saw her.

“What are you searching for child?” she asked and I thought I could almost see a sense of politeness and manner through he exterior ruggedness.

“I am not sure, other people, people like me,” I told her. “I thought I heard them calling.”

“They do call,” she said. “But be careful, you might find the wrong herd.”

I said nothing, thought of turning around and leaving. She patted my hand and asked me to go into the tower for her.

“My bones are too weary to climb the stairs, but there is a bottle, the priest used to keep it there and if I am in luck it’s full. It’s up in the tower, will you do me this favour?”

I just nodded and went to the stairs leading to the tower. There was a thick door that creaked on its hinges and I pushed it open. She was sitting on the alter still, chewing as I started the stairs.

I ran up and at the top I found another door, this one broken, ruined by forces unknown to me. I went into the tower room and gaped at the view. I saw mountains in the distance, mountains that looked welcoming and calm. I sat there yearning to be there, to be safe somewhere with other people, but what I had was a grumpy old woman at the edge of her wit. I found a flask, badly hidden underneath a chair where a quiet skeletal gentleman sat, still admiring the view with his flesh rotting around him. I took the flask from underneath the chair, careful not to disturb the soft, delicate peace and I took it down to the old woman.

“Will you come with me?” I asked her.

“I will not,” she said, “I am red-eyed and when I’ve consumed this bottle, you so dearly brought me, I will climb the stairs if I can, and jump from the tower.”

I knew she would never be able to climb the stairs. Especially not after consuming an entire flask of whatever this liquid was. I knew it was some kind of brew, it had been consumed in my parent’s cave on occasion.

I didn’t hand her the flask.

“Are you red-eyed?” I asked. I couldn’t see it, but she seemed certain.

“I am,” she said. “And you will do good to stay clear, hand me the flask and be on your way. Go to the mountains in the north, there may be people there and they may need someone like you in their midst. New blood might be welcomed, if it’s untainted by the devilish red-eye.”

Still I didn’t hand her the flask.

“Give me it and go,” she said.

And I saw it, a faint pink colour in her eyes so I took my bow and an arrow then I took two steps back and before she could plead for her life I put an arrow into her left eye, realising that my first instinct had been correct after all.

She fell down on the altar, tobacco hanging from her mouth along with her tongue. I turned on my heels and started walking towards the mountains in the north, a large stone fell to the ground behind me as I exited the buildings premises.

It went down with a loud thud.

And that’s when I heard the call again. For the first time in a long time I heard it within me. A gentle, quiet cry of someone who missed me, not just people in general, but me in particular. I could feel the whispers of that soul gently touching mine from a far, and I started running the plains, bow in hand. Flask in the bag, it might come in handy.

I am a woman of the mountains, and I run the fields searching for something, or someone. When I listen closely to the stirring emotions within me I know they are there waiting, and that this particular soul is too, waiting for me to arrive so we can build whatever future there is left to build. Things may have fallen apart, the red-eye decease taints the land and kills our kind but I will find what I am looking for.

And when I come close to the mountains I will hear the echoes growing stronger. I will hear the war cries of my people, their actual voices instead of just feeling their pleads in my heart.

Or maybe I am delusional and I will find the mountains full of lynx’s and large elks, but no people. Or maybe they’ll all be red-eye and I will be forced to shoot an arrow through the very person I long for. The very person I’ve been hoping to meet since before all this began.

My father used to tell me stories of soulmates and lost love.

Maybe I am delusional, but what else is there? When you put an arrow through an old woman’s head because you know she won’t be able to climb stairs to end things herself? When everyone you know is either a blind wanderer, or rotting in a shallow grave? What is there but hope? What else can you do than listen to the inner sanctum of your crying heart?

What is there but hope?

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