Get ready to some story telling…
A long time ago, a ranger, who had been lost for some time during the winter, came to a small farm in the middle of the woods.
He was tired, and his horse was almost about to die of exhaustion and cold. That part of the forest had proven to be infertile with no living animal. It is hard to imagine that a thick forest can be so sterile, but it was. It seemed like this part of the forest was shut down and showed no mercy for this tiresome traveller, who had lost his way back to his town while persecuting a gruesome killer.
Alas! A farm with a friendly cottage. It was like the house was waiting for him. It was a little bit odd that even though the cold was deadly, there was no smoke coming out of the chimney, but some light could be seen on the windows. The cold makes you do stupid things. Usually, the ranger will not enter without checking the premises he only rushed towards what it looked at the main entrance. The harsh weather and the loud wind made him focus on the lights inside the cottage.
He rushed to step down the horse and didn’t even leashed it as it looked like the horse will not scape in the harsh weather. He promptly knocked on the door. He did it three times, as he had always done. For a moment, which felt like forever, we rested his head on the door, losing hope that someone was there, but it should be someone. The lights! He stopped for a minute, and the lights were gone, even though he was sure he had seen them. They were on; there was no doubt about it. A quick thought came to his head; maybe the people inside think I’m a thread. He yelled with his remaining forces: I come in peace. I’m lost. “Please let me warm inside for a brief moment, and then I’ll go. I’m a ranger”.
He could hear small steps inside. Hesitant steps. Women steps with heels.
“Show your guns,” a female voice said on the other side of the door. The ranger did so. Abruptly he listened to a gun click behind him. “Too much safety, don’t you think?” the ranger said. “We couldn’t have been more careful,” said an old woman behind him. “You can turn now. Lower your weapon” said the old Indian lady. She was old, very old, you could tell by her voice, but still, her hair was black, only some grey hair here and there could tell. There were still remnants of her beautiful youth on her face. She also looked feisty, and her eyes were all judgy. You can enter now.
Inside there was a lady who looked similar to the Indian. She was younger, her eyes were more prominent and lighter, and her skin was brighter. She was using pants and a thick jacket, and her hair was not tied up.
He looked at her sideways. “This will not go away so easy…” she muttered. She was staring at her bosom like trying to look at the gravity of the matter, while grabbing her waist with her left hand as to stop the pain, almost like…
“You shouldn’t stare at people, you know, especially not to a young woman.” The Indian said. She always talked to him on the back.
“And you shouldn’t talk to men on their backs. It isn’t polite. And I didn’t mean to, but she looks she is pain. I know, is not my business, but never meant it bad. Sorry!”
The old Indian just looked him, judging again, trying to ponder his answer.
“Fine,” she replied. “Soup?” while going to the cauldron. “You need something to warm your belly. People used to say our food was the best. I must admit I miss that. Above all, to look at children’s face after filling their bellies and their genuine smile. That type of smile that can’t lie, a real smile”. A look of nostalgia appeared in the Indian’s face.
The wind blowing outside was deafening.
“So why are you here, so far from any town? Don’t you feel lonely sometimes?” asked Jack.
The Indian looked at him perplexed: “it used to be on the way of pilgrimage of my people. It used to be a well-known road. But lone gunmen made it difficult to come, making it more and more dangerous. And your people and my people are not getting along so well these days. So they don’t venture to do it many times as before. Now they only do it once … once in a while.”
“Is he your daughter?” trying to change the conversation to something more pleasant and less risky.
“Oh, no! She is my daughter in law like your people say. After my son died, I came to live with her and her son.” The lady stopped abruptly, as she got up from the chair and got away from the fire. She went to look at the window. “He is a good boy. In the end.”
It was morning. Something was off. The brother, it seemed he was never dismounting his horse. The brother didn’t look like her. His accent was quite different too. They were saying something intelligible, which seemed severe, but their mouths were not moving. By leaving the last step, their faces simultaneously turned to him. “Good morning Jack,” both said at the same time. They were holding hands while the man was sitting on his horse and while she was standing.
So he said it. He was very well known to be honest and call when situations seemed odd.
Why are you holding hands? Wouldn’t it be better to dismount and hold like normal people? It just looks so odd.
Yes, it may seem so. It looks odd, but you see, Jack. My … brother will go on a long track. This is our lucky sign. No matter what happens, he will stay put because our horse knows the way back. So no matter what happens, one way or another, he will always come back.
Isn’t it pushing luck? One way or another?
It is not about luck; it’s about faith.”
After this, they looked at each other as saying goodbye. And the brother left in a sudden gallop.
The sister M. turned to Jack. “You look better today. Yesterday you looked like almost dying.” She left, not waiting for his reply. Jack thought to him that living so far away from a town made people more than odd, but so far, he was thankful that they have shared with him some hospitality.
“Jack, you need to go soon. Indians will be nearer at noon. You will be able to catch them, and then you can return to your hometown. We all need to go.”
Jack thought to himself he was lucky, and it was a bit of friendly advice. He will not ride alone at least for one day.
“You see the weather change too abruptly. I never thought a ranger like me would get lost that easy.” Jack replied. M. didn’t say anything; she looked through the window where there was no track of her brother anymore.
The ranch looked deserted, more deserted at midday as yesterday’s night were in comparison looked alive and like a stop moment in time where maybe the farm had better days. There was no trace of any cattle, no horses nor food nor wood in the barn. It looked like people there was long gone.
He prepared to leave; he had not many things. His horse looked better and rested.
He left the barn with his horse and saw the two women: one dressed as their Indian clan and the other unrecognizable as a cosmopolitan lady in an exquisite blue dress and her hair neatly arranged in a headdress. Both had no luggage and no coat.
“Where are your things?”
“They took it a long time ago, Jack” replied M. “We need to go now. Take care and don’t go into stranger cottages without knocking. You could have found a very unpleasant scene.”
This lady talked more mysterious, odder than ever. He mounted his horse; it was a relief to continue his track.
“There” M. showed with her finger (where she had a beautiful gold ring with an amethyst) “you will find them there, down the road. Just follow along. They will not believe you. Only tell them you got lost and you wanted to make it home. You showed respect.”
It had been just second when Jack tried to focus his sight to the road M. had shown him. Next, both women where soon miles away walking and joining what looked to be a massive track of people with what looked a picturesque scene of a rich mix of soldiers, Indians and towners.
“Hurry, you’ll miss them!” the sound of the women came from the road he had to take. He returned his sight to the path he had seen a moment ago the two ladies. There was nothing more there, not a track, no dust from steps, nothing.
His horse galloped fast, like if something had made the horse move and run as fast as it could. This took him out of balance but managed to grip tight to his fellow horse. It was a good horse, a loyal one. Soon they were on track, but no sign of the Indians as M. had said. Suddenly the temperature was nicely warm and sunny. He came to the realization, little by little, he never asked for the ladies’ name, which is something rude, coming from him and something that he naturally does.
Additionally, he never mentioned her name. Maybe she saw her on his coat. But his name was no longer in his jacket. He thought he had taken another one mistakenly. In this jacket, there was a letter on the pocket. He wanted to go back to fetch his coat, but as he looked around, he saw the coat in the pouch.
The letter was addressed to the kind stranger. He wanted to read it; however, he heard some heavy steps suddenly from people.
Looking up, he found them a few feet from him. He better hurry.
There was the annual pilgrimage. Some of them looked shocked and ran back from him. A guy and his horse quickly approached him. “Who are you? What are you doing here? How did you get here?”
“I got lost. I saw a cabin and… never mind. I got lost. I need to get to the next town.” Sighted Jack.
“You ran lucky. A storm is coming soon. The next town is one day ahead. The way here is treacherous. You can follow along, but we have no alcohol and no money. One last warning we will shoot, in case you get too frisky with the kids or the women.” “Agreed”.
It was a pleasant journey, not much talking. The Indians were on their one. Jack never imagined being possible to continue without having a nice restful sleep. That night he rested like no other with a good soup. It was a good soup indeed, those that warm not only your belly but also your soul. No people will understand it until they had been longing the cold and almost starving. He remembered it right, or maybe a hungry man can eat anything. The Indians didn’t offer him anything. It was okay. Enough was to be shown the right way after a long time of being lost. They offered him a small salty jerky, which was okay. He was a simple man wanting to go home.
The next day he managed to arrive at a town finally. It looked like the ages had passed. Almost like he had skipped winter, and now he was in spring.
He never had the chance to read the letter. Just when he was about that, after sending a message home saying he was okay. A chubby man asked him about his business.
“Say, young man, where are you from? It looks you are a little bit lost.”
“I was lost indeed. I’m a ranger from a town no longer from here. I was with my fellow rangers while trying to capture a man who had slaughtered a family. It was then when I got lost.”
“Oh! Do you mean Billy McQuaire? Thank God your people got a hold on him. But that was some months ago before winter. They even hang the man. It looks like you were deeply lost in the forest.”
“What do you mean Billy McQuaire got hanged? They managed to catch him?”
“Well, yes! They managed to catch him after he got lost in the woods. He said two ladies ambushed him. They only managed to injure him by a bit. That’s how the other rangers got him because he was shot.”
“What? Which ladies?”
“I think the name of the lady was… I hardly remember it began with an M. and the mother in law had a name called Back whisperer or something like that. The sheriff sent a rescue squad because he said after confession, he managed to injure the young lady who lived with her mother in law…which she used to be an Indian healer, you know? A weird family indeed, if you ask the people around here. They never wanted to leave the woods. Someone said she was waiting for her son, but he was shot dead in the war. A tragic story indeed. So, we will never know if they managed to stay alive. Those are weird forest. A lot of superstition in there because of the so-called “sacred” mountain.”
After disbelief, he rushed to read the letter. The letter read:
“To the kind stranger,
Thanks for knocking. Finally, we will be together. As I said, we were waiting for my son. In case you find this letter, we used to wait for him or his horse. Both were inseparable. After the war started, he enlisted. We never knew what happened to him. He had no whereabouts. Until one final letter reached us writing he will come soon to this, his house. We waited for him; we didn’t dare to leave, in case he returned to an abandoned house. This place was somehow secure until the last avalanche, which stopped people passing by and made pilgrimages to the sacred mountain hard. We just wanted to see him one more time. Let him know he is missed, and we will wait for him and his horse so we can leave together to a better place because faith is strong.