Going through my Word Document archives I found this very short story. Make of it what you will – it’s even odder than most of the stuff I write.
Harriet had lost track. Had she always been on this quest and what she questing after anyway? Her memory had blurred when she crossed The Sea of Despond and had never fully returned.
But that was ages ago. She couldn’t quite recall when but just yesterday when she’d forded river a jumble of discordant memories came flooding back. Perhaps it was that Tribulation River she’d heard others speak of but her sense of direction was muddled along with everything else. Besides what did the river’s name matter when she was struggling against the surging currents of muddied, bloodied waters where fragments of history, both person and global, hurtled along and threatened to carry her away with them?
She had stopped for a breather on a narrow midstream island. There she had phoned her family and even called a friend. She didn’t do that often for the disjunction between her quest and her old life was hard to breach. This time though the familiar voice of her friend Jessica was reassuring even if Jess didn’t get what she was on about.
‘What do you mean you just got hit by a wave of anguish about the past,’ Jess said. Her voice sounded a long way away. Like maybe coming from a distant galaxy or perhaps another dimension. ‘I’m up to my elbows in baby poop here and the toddler is climbing up the pantry shelves.’
‘I won’t keep you then,’ Harriet replied. ‘I just wanted to hear your voice.’
‘Love you,’ said Jess. ‘I’ll call you when things are calmer. Take care now.’
And so it had gone on. Everyone she called had been busy with their own life yet all had cared about her in a distracted, pre-occupied way. The sound of their voices was reassuring all the same. After all she was doing this quest for them as much as for herself even if she couldn’t remember just what the quest was supposed to achieve. Some kind of salvation, she guessed but as to what form that would take she had no clue. Still the voices of her loved ones had given her the courage to enter the river again and push on to the other side.
By nightfall she was far from those turbulent waters and resting in a Way Station beside the road.
The woman running the place was kind and had given her a change of clothes. Hidden in the folds of the fabric Harriet had found talismans and amulets. ‘You’ve earned them,’ the woman said. ‘They will help you in the next part of your quest for that involves a passage that must be undertaken alone.’
Harriet sighed. She’d been pretty much alone for much of the journey but somehow she’d always known that was the way it had it be.
‘On one level you are never really alone,’ the woman added. ‘There are many who walk this path now and the number of questers is legion. Searching for the Holy Grail some call but that is old terminology and doesn’t always apply. A journey into the light is perhaps the best description.’
‘Of course,’ Harriet muttered. The words had re-awoken her zeal. ‘How could I have forgotten that?’
‘Forgetting the reason for the journey is a stage along the way. Many give up at this point and attempt to return to the familiar old ways but that can be tricky,’ the woman explained.
‘Yes,’ Harriet agreed. ‘I have considered trying to go back but I’ve been through so much now. All those travails across the Wastelands of Apathy and the treacherous journey across the Seas of Despond in that leaky boat.’ She thought some more of where she’d been these past few years. ‘And battling those dragons back in the Ruins of Dreams! All that stuff is hard to dismiss. I don’t think I could fit back into the narrow confines of my old life now. It seems like there is nowhere to go but on.’
‘Just set your compass to your True North and you’ll get back on track,’ the woman counselled.