I was six years old when it happened and my whole world changed. One afternoon as I wandered through our village with my brother, we discovered delicious smells of fresh-baked bread being pulled from the hearth of one of the old villager women. My brother had asked if I had any trinkets to trade for the bread since we were very hungry as we had not eaten since early that morning. We emptied our pockets and came up with what we figured was a good trade for us and her. My brother told me to wait at our meeting place near the fork of the path outside our village while he went to make the trade.
The afternoon sun beat on my face and I felt myself becoming drowsy. Since I was told to wait for him, I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. When I awoke sometime later, the sun was just about to set but my brother was nowhere to be found. Maybe I heard him wrong, I thought. Perhaps I was supposed to meet him behind the tanner’s tent, another of our favored meeting spots. I gathered my skirts about me and ran down the path to the tanner.
My brother was not there. Nor was he anywhere in sight. I began to call for him. Brother! Big Brother! Again and again I called out his name. Again and again there was no answer. I hurried from tent to tent, searching and calling out his name but there was no response from him.
Finally, I sat down on a log near the fork in the path where we were supposed to meet. I started to cry. I cried and cried because I had lost my brother and I didn’t know what to do! Behind me I heard the rustle of leaves and thump, thump from something heavy stepping out of the forest.
Surprised, I stood up and turned around. There before stood a baby buffalo!
He was not very big and he was not very old. He didn’t even really have much in the way horns yet. His fur looked soft and I felt the urge to stroke his nose. As I looked down his body I noticed impossibly tiny feathery wings laid across his back. Astonished, I met his eyes and saw a softness there. And then, he smiled!
Don’t cry, he said in a gentle voice, and he took a step closer. For I have many wonderful things to show you! He stretched out his neck and snuff-snuffed at my face and hair. I threw my arms around his great neck and buried my face in his fur. I can’t help crying, I sobbed, my voice muffled in his fur, I lost my brother and I don’t know where he could be and now I am all alone!
Hush, hush, little girl, the baby buffalo said. Here use this log and climb onto my back! Let’s you and I go to the land that I come from! It is a wonderful land full of magic and mystery and peace and no one gets lost or lonely there!
So, I stood on the log and pulled myself on to his back. And with one mighty, impossible bound, the baby buffalo leapt into the air and his wings beat furiously. I grabbed his fur to keep from toppling right over his back!
Higher and higher we climbed in to the sky and as I looked below me I saw my village grow smaller and smaller until the villagers looked like tiny ants moving here and there and then finally disappearing themselves from view. I laughed and whooped and held on tightly until I realized that I really wasn’t going to fall after all. I let go of the baby buffalo’s fur and threw my hands over my head and felt the wind on my face.
The sun had set and the stars began to show their twinkling faces and yet I could still see all around me. We flew on and on and higher and higher until we were just below some clouds and then we went right on up through them. I thought from down below on the earth that clouds had always looked soft and I had always wanted to put my arms around one. But when I was actually there, all I felt were little drops of moisture on my hair and face and hands. The air was fresh and sweet. I breathed in deeply. And then suddenly we were above the clouds and what I saw amazed me!
There was what looked like a path right on top of the clouds, winding its way over the puffs and dips and valleys. The baby buffalo began to follow the path, flying just above it. I noticed that I couldn’t see the stars anymore and it was getting lighter out although I could not see the sun. We flew over the path for some time and the clouds began to look more like grass than clouds. Yes, even in the distance there were what looked to be hills and beyond that, mountains covered in trees!
Then I saw the cloud-hills had colorful flowers growing and even grass. There! A stream with berry-covered bushes along its banks! Slowly, the baby buffalo glided closer and closer to the path and then he landed with a gentle bump and he trotted to a stop. I slid from his back and landed softly on the cloud-land.
It was soft and slightly springy underfoot, like walking on moss. The air was sweet and had the slight tang of honey in it. There were birds chirruping from above and butterflies flitting from flower to flower. We had landed near the stream and I ran over to its banks. The berries were mouth-watering and I was reminded of how hungry I really was. I picked a handful and poured them into my mouth. They were delicious! I had never tasted berries so sweet and juicy! I scooped a handful of water from the stream and it was cold and refreshing.
I looked over at the baby buffalo and his eyes sparkled with amusement. Even the flowers are full of flavor here, he called out. Surprised, I leaned over and picked a pretty pink and yellow one. I bit all the petals off in one bite. He was right! It was absolutely delicious! I soon set about picking a tasty salad, carefully placing the flowers and leaves in my skirt. Then I walked back near the baby buffalo and sat down to my feast. He smiled kindly at me and began to graze nearby.
To be continued…
I’m only posting this very different story because my friend B recommended I change it up for once. And since he’s always right and much smarter than I am… this is for you, B! Let me know what you guys think, if you’d like. Or not. I don’t mind either way. Thanks for reading.