Ya

“Ya” excerpt
By Breanna Ruen

Years later as she lay amongst the hollowing prisoners of Haven Hall, Irma recollects her life in the Valley for the last time. She has not a soul to tell her story to – the stale musty air has at last blown them all away, though her memories live on for one more jaded foggy day. Looking out her window, she imagines the world as it was when it still held it’s innocence, when only Ya’s creations were beloved and nothing more was yet known – before sin and temptation were introduced, and before there came a Mrs.’; when a mesmerizing wonderland named “Yahuwah” existed…

Bumble bees beautifully buzzed through the bushes of lilac and lavender, swimming through the air in dance, past the sunny waving fields of bright browns and gallant golds to the deep woods of luscious greens and past the rainbow splattered mountains in between. The baritone buzz steadily waved by Irma’s ear beneath the giant pirouetted Pine tree, one of a pair that she much loved. She closed her eyes and breathed a breath of life – the wind carried with it a smell on it’s back of fresh spring water winding through the forest’s needles and leaves. Waves of wild strawberry rhubarb and honey apple pie scents just then rippled from the various Valley’s windowsills, and smells of cherry kindling sneaking out the kitchen skylights as the sun shined directly over the Valley.

Irma sat with fresh dirt in her mouth leaning back against the base of the Pine, chewing the small wad slowly she opened her eyes and spread her arms out to the midday sun. To be at peace, one with Ya, “Ahh” her thoughts exhaled. A simple melody from a harp reverberated throughout the Valley, from whose barley grass rooftop all would surely know. It echoed not in shear force but it blissfully spread across the valley, all the way to the outskirts of Irma’s warped skinny stone cottage.

When Irma looked out of the robust cutouts of her attic abode, it was as if she lived in the sky – up in the tops of the tallest tree with the most beautifully curious birds. She could almost reach out to a nest if only her arms stretched out quite a few more feet. The turquoise eggs were so close yet unreachable, so tantalizing that she daydreamed once of climbing out on a limb to move the nest inside. When they hatched, she imagined, they wouldn’t be caged – with open windows they would be free to flutter about her room and visit other birds. They’d perhaps go on woodland adventures in the daytime, but they would always return back at night. However, Irma knew like any Yahuwahn that any free spirit must come to you. There were some hornless cows, spotted rabbits, and red foxes that chose to live near amongst and in-between, but no one would dare to keep those creatures that chose another life.

Though the tantalizing views and adventurous air of Irma and Esme’s attic room was a small wonder, it was but a sliver of the Skinny House cottage. Irma raced down the spiraling stairway that seemed to sway and swirl back and forth and around as Esme tried to catch up to her. Irma twirled around in excited hesitation once she reached the grounded kitchen, for Esme would pounce like a little lion onto the dirt floor with a “rah!” as her eyes smiled and her mouth laughed. Irma braced herself before sprinting out the side door, past Esme and the Pimpernel. She peeled down the hill and through the wild gardens, past the Pines and into the fields. Irma sprinted as fast as her bean-pole legs could fly just for the spirit of things, and dove into the tall grasses.

After some outside play, Irma became a lion and chased Esme out of the tall grass all the way to the breakfast table. They had sensed breakfast smells of hog hash and homemade bread coming from nearby cottages, or perhaps Chevon chuck with thick corn gravy, and even Lily cakes with liver bacon. Mother called for Esme and Irma through the cottage’s kitchen window just above the ground – they could just make out her silhouette above the grass and through the chives.

Mother had boiled a few eggs for breakfast, but she was already focused on making storage preparations for the white season. Irma and Esme would be sent out to pick currants and hunt rabbits for the rest of the day. Though few buds had yet turned into bounty, mother would soon be behind as food grew feverishly in the warm wet weather and the new season had come early.

Mother requested Skinny House to be built next to a wild garden hillside, where large flat earthen stairs appeared to melt into one another. Grasses and herbs grew wild, but air and earth foods were planted by mother. Her hands were strong like fathers but soft like the dirt – she had the gift to grow, the “Mother of Yahuwah” she was known. Only she could tell you why these grew on the hillside: Asters and Anise, Currants and Crab grass, Henbane and Honeysuckle, Poppies and Purslane, and what uses they held. Ribbon grass and Red Clover, wild chives and willows, lilacs and lilies and lavender had purpose, like milkweed or mallow, dandelions and daisies, ferns and Fleabane, thistles and cockleburs and so on. Mother didn’t plant weeds of course, but they were wanted for obvious reasons.

Irma and Esme found yet another great use for weeds, as entertainment – cockleburs, toe-knockers, and sticky lace were a few favorites. In Winter, when the lands were white and thick with snow, she recalled, the cockleburs and other tough candidates could still be found. Irma and Esme would put on their thickest wool sweaters atop layers of clothing, taking what seemed like hours to put on and prepare for a long day of crisp fun. Some days were good for wearing winter hats, father’s wools, and lots of color, but in sticky times of war the girls wanted neutral wool and little of it. You see, the one with the fewest burrs attached to her at the end of an unspecified amount of time would be dubbed the winner. Though the burrs were hard and brown and the hardiest halfway under piles of white, they stuck to one stubbornly still. It was as if life or death was upon the young ladies and the only way to survive was to become rubber. Everyone in the winter world had a winner of the war in mind – the Evergreen hid Esme but the raspberry bushes prodded her profusely; the grape vines tripped up Irma and the trees hid her away. The birds didn’t care and the burrs themselves liked to give the game a twist by grabbing hold of a shoe lace or throwing themselves at one’s boot from underneath the snow. Hills and ditches helped them both and snow could turn the tides, but it was mostly up to the huntresses as to who would rise.

Before Mother sent Irma and Esme out for rabbits, she reminded them to eye the Scarlet Pimpernel just outside the door before heading to the west woodland. As they walked through the prairie purposefully planting their feet, they carried with them only a handful of hemp twine and necklaced hunting knives around each sister’s neck. Irma and Esme passed the prairie land and made their way up the steep hill that exited them out of Yahuwah. Crossing the valley’s edge they suddenly faced a large stone ahead of them. They stopped curious and afraid for it had never been there before and they had not heard of any stone creation from any Yahuwahn. As they stepped closer to the almost black stone statue, it became apparent that the carved figure was a curious-looking kind of large black bird. The eyes were glossier than that of the stone from face to feather, more like black marbles. Irma examined the dark bird’s features as if searching for the secret to it’s existence, following it’s wing lines with her finger and staring into each eye with her two blue. The claws of it seemed to melt into the grassy brush amongst thick vines creeping across the ground like veins upon the earth, yet stoney-looking still.

Irma and Esme went to work gnawing at the invasive spread with their knives to see what may lay at the feet. They first cleared brush atop with their bare hands so they could see which ones may need sawing most. The stoney roots from the feet of the bird seemed to go in no particular direction but in many ways. Irma uncovered what looked to be a section of shapely symbols and so they continued clearing the area more feverishly this time. Irma headed left and Esme worked her way right. After much exertion and enough extraction, they pulled up the weak roots amongst the dry wet grasses and flung them like they would barley in the fields but in no particular fashion. It appeared that something was written beneath the black bird, but in some sort of unworldly written word.

The girls were taken aback by it, feeling their surroundings were a bit eerie now but not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. “Chicken scratches,”came from Irma as she tried to shrug her shoulders and walk on. However, Esme was appalled by Irma’s nonchalance and she aired concern towards her, “I don’t know if we should go in there.”

“The woods don’t belong to anyone and if were weren’t supposed to go in here anymore they’d write something you could understand.” Irma trekked past the black statue and marched on towards the forest as she spoke parallel to the fair trodden path. Esme’s face wavered from fear towards acknowledgment, but her soul still remained a bit concerned. Esme followed Irma into the woods, looking back at the gnarled inscription below the black bird once more, and let the image of the fog creeping in on the valley below linger in her brain.

Irma spoke with her back to Esme, only turning her head on occasion for her to hear her words, “Why haven’t we seen it before – the weeds were all grown over the lettered part?”

“You know those crab grasses grow like fire, and besides, when’s the last time we’ve been up here?”

“True.”

“I mean, we couldn’t see it until we climbed the hill and we haven’t climbed the hill since…when was it?
Deep Winter? …Look!” A chunky squirrel hopped around the branch of an Elm. “That one is either with babies or a fat winter laddy.”

It was a bad time of year to hunt with most animals getting ready to birth. Those that had needed to stay alive long enough to keep the next generation going for future food supplies. However, there were always plenty of rabbits and Irma knew of a particular breed who tended to birth in Winter rather than in Spring.

The mood lightened and the cranial clench lessened. The conversation wove into squirrels and rabbits now as they trekked through the plush Spring woods. Irma dug up memories of the rabbits territory, pausing at times and yessing mentally as she recognized sections of the forest – a young tree and an old stump here and viney black-eyed flowers over the hills there. They walked across the fallen trees and investigated mushrooms and rotting wood on the way, finding small patches of morels by surprise. Somehow the rabbits were early and the mushrooms were late.

Deeper into the woods, Irma’s ears opened to the flickering of wood finches fluttering in the brush and tiny snaps of small woodland creatures. She finally felt she was in the hares’ neighborhood she had been searching for. As her and Esme stepped carefully and swiftly forward their much opened ears heard a slight rustling sound of a perhaps a rabbit. They began unwinding their loops of light brown hemp string that were cupped in hand. Irma unleashed her necklaced knife and slashed through the dry brown strand she’d measured out by eye. A length from armpit to fingertips usually did the trick for the initial loop as she’d need to loop one end and tie the other to whatever branch or thicket plant was nearby. Esme sliced smaller sections because webbed loops were necessary sometimes to force a rabbit forward into the loop.

Irma’s pleasant memories are fast-forwarded to a fortnight later, when she was lying in the tall prairie grass just beyond Skinny House, watching “Fleet” hunt grasshoppers. As she breathed in the wild perfumes and smiled at the blue sky above her, there were suddenly ripping and grinding and digging noises coming from the neighbors afar. The woman was tearing out weeds from her garden beds and throwing them into a pile as her thoughts mumbled unpleasantly. Irma was shaken by such waves of energy as any Yahuwahn ought to be. It was as a new and strange feeling that came over her, at first concern and worry. She stood up and walked quickly toward her neighbor with eyes and mouth slightly soured, but her hands still skimming the tops of the grasses as she walked.

It looked as if father and mother had already been there, with the same looks on their faces but more torn. They walked away from the neighbor’s as Irma approached and they all walked clear past one another – Irma towards the garden bed and mother and father towards the house. Irma asked her neighbor if she was okay and she said she was fine with a look of distaste on her mouth. The force was sharper now and so Irma became more worried. “It’s just these weeds,” the neighbor said as if her jaw had bolts in it.

“What can I do? Would you like help pulling them out?”

“No, I just hoped these beds your father built would do the trick, but the weeds still come.”

“We would be glad to take the weeds from you, we can use them.”

“Then why don’t you and your family pick them?” She threw a chunk down into the pile and walked off towards her house.

Irma yelled sincerely after her, “We would be glad to pick them!” Irma felt better as the woman walked away and the ill vibrations had faded a bit. She began plucking each weed carefully from the earth, using her hand pressed tightly against the dirt and stem’s platform to release the entire being from the ground never to return again. Irma thanked each weed for their healing properties a bit empathetically and happily marched them inside, to the kitchen cellar to dry. As she tied each one with a thick piece of woolen string to the roots hanging from the dirt ceiling, she smiled and then stopped as the thought of the upset neighbor crossed her mind. Her mother walked down to the cellar as her thought was in process and peered in and around at the weeds while Irma continued to hang them. She piled the crab grass onto a brown wicker basket as her mother suggested they throw the weeds out this time. “They might hold the same energy as our neighbor held and we don’t need to be eating anguish, Irma.”

“But I took half of them out myself and thanked each one, it’ll be okay.”

“Luckily she didn’t send the anguish to your father, but he has been beaten with it. We’re not going to keep those weeds.”

Irma looked up and down at them. “Waste them instead?”

“The roaming cattle will probably eat them, so they will not go to waste.” Mother began to take them down and so Irma followed. She was confused and began to feel the angst herself. “There’s no reason not to keep them. If she doesn’t want them then we can pluck them out for her and use them, “ Irma spat out. “We’ll let her do what she wants with that which grows in her beds,” mother concluded. She helped mother take down the strung weeds and lay them back into a pile – it resembled a soft ceremony.

Father had taken it personal, that his creation did not make the neighbor happy. The beds could only slow the weeds, he thought – he could not stop the birds from dropping their seed or racoons from brushing them on with their coats nor winds from blowing them in. However, he could not shake her waves for some time and just let it be. He went back and forth trying to figure it out, not sure if he should try to make something better for his neighbor or if he should feel angst towards her. After all, he tried to help her and there’s nothing wrong with weeds, he thought. He spent time in his den and did not speak to anyone for the night. Irma hoped to convince her father to just let it go, but she felt the angst reverberating from the basement and did not wish to be radiated with that awful feeling herself.

As day faded into night, nobody noticed that the air had changed. There was an ever so slight dusted feeling atop the moss roof of Skinny House as if a witchy gray rug had been shaken upon Yahuwah leaving a layer of distaste along the roof of one’s mouth. The people of Yahuwah began to call it “hard times” though nothing had changed but their minds.

The distressed neighbors no longer brought goat cheese or beef. Mother even brought over a plum pie, but they insisted that they didn’t need it. When mother returned a few days later to trade they didn’t come to their door. Mother thought they were perhaps away, so she return again the following day and the day after, but again they did not come to their door. She thought she saw the neighbor man amongst the cattle one day so she set down the floral pie and bunched herbs she was carrying at their door and began walking up the hill towards him. She turned back to embrace a scenic look at Yahuwah as she scaled the hill and as she soaked it in, her eye caught someone passing by the neighbor’s window inside. She cautiously walked down the lumpy hill and assured herself that someone was there. The neighbor man stepped out his back door and appeared to be pouring out some white liquid from a tin bucket as she continued down the hill.

“Hello! I thought you might be up in the pasture,” she smiled at him coming down the hill.

He looked at her as if she were a half-squashed bug, a bit afraid annoyed and apathetic. “Hi there,” he said as if confused.

“I set a few things in front of you’re house to trade for some meat,” she smiled hopefully.

“The wife doesn’t want us eating pies anymore and she doesn’t care much for herbal remedies since that Mrs. came to town. Now I can give you a shank of beef or pork, but from now on you’ll have to trade with someone else.”

“The Mrs.? Who’s the Mrs.?”

“Well, she…she’s like a god.”

[It is not yet, that Irma like the wind winds through the wilderness on adventures all her own – meeting whimsical tree folk, wise earthen tribes, or creatures that belonged to the Sire. It is not yet that she learns of the red cliffs, and the purple mountains from pastel lavender to blackened hues, nor wise-up on the power of plants, or learn of those that exist past the Pine woods of the Valley. It is not yet that she learns of the Mrs’ and the Haven’s intentions, when she watches her kin forget, and Yahuwah is ruined. It’s not yet, but soon…the adventure begins.]

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