Julia walked through the forest following the creek. The trees were pines, and firs, and redwoods. Their branches were so high that the sky was barely visible. The air was still but filled with birdsong.
As she walked the sound of water grew and grew until she broke through the trees overlooking a huge waterfall below. Her heart sank. Granite Falls. This wasn’t another waterfall on her list, she’d already been here and found nothing.
She paused a moment. Looking around. the air felt warm, the colors were off. Something was wrong. She knew she’d already gone home.
“What has you so down?” Bre asked as they piled their luggage back into the car.
Julia shrugged. “I just had hoped…” she looked down at her hands. She had such high hopes for Granite falls. She’d even gone back this morning to the hermitage to talk to the Bentleys again. She met Anna’s husband Gregory. But he’d know nothing more than his wife.
“I know we didn’t get to see all the waterfalls on your list, but surely that’s enough for Mrs. Pancakes? We visited over a dozen. Lots of material for you to write about.”
“True,” Julia tried to cheer up. Bre was only trying to help and she had a feeling they could visited all the waterfalls and she still wouldn’t find this Oracle. This was proving to be more difficult than the Grim Reaper had implied.
Julia pushed her doubts away as they drove back home, but once she was back in her room, they all came crashing back down. James was going to be so disappointed. She’d gotten his hopes up and now she would have to crush them.
She almost wished she’d dare stay at Bre’s tonight, but that only put off the inevitable. She’d have to face him sooner or later. She put away her bags and tossed the clothes into the laundry and then sat down to wait.
James was there almost the moment the sun slid behind the horizon. He had been waiting. She bit her lip.
“Did you talk to them?” James asked, eyes shining.
She shook her head. “The Oracle wasn’t there.”
“I heard you were looking for me,” an ethereal voice said behind her. Julia turned and was suddenly in a small clearing facing a rainbow waterfall, chimes filled the air.
She remembered the creature that had watched from the waterfall there.Had it been the oracle all along? She looked around but saw no one. This was a dream?
“Yes. I am the Oracle of the Falls. Tied to no one location.”
Again the voice came from behind and again Julia turned to find herself in another location. This place, however, she didn’t recognize. Water fell from a high cliff into the pool below. Flowers crowded the pond’s edge and a figure stood in front of her.
“Where is this place?” Julia asked.
The Oracle shrugged. “A place that no longer exists except in memories.” They floated closer examining Julia. She felt their hands cool as mist press against her skin, life up her arm, trace the tiny scar.
James had never been able to do that. They’d tried, but she’d never felt him touch her.
“The boy is young.”
“He died over two-hundred years ago.”
“He is young.” The Oracle backed away again and crossed her arms. “You seek Ambrosia for him?”
Julia nodded. “The Grim Reaper said you held the secret to the death flowers.”
The Oracle spun around laughing. “They are gorgeous, aren’t they?” That was when Julia realized that the flowers here were deep dark purple blossoms with bone-white centers.
Death Flowers. She bent to pick one.
“And how will you carry that home?” The Oracle asked still laughing. “No, there are no death flowers here for you.”
“But,” Julia glared at the Oracle. “The Grim Reaper said you could help.”
“He must say that since he’s not allowed to say more. Whether I help you is up to me.”
“I didn’t say that.” The Oracle floated closer. “Why do you want to bring him back?”
“Becuase it’s unfair,” Julia said.
“I – I know that.” She said anger building up. Of course she knew kids died, but – “But they don’t usually end up stuck as ghosts forever, do they? The Grim Reaper takes them…wherever?” Julia actually wasn’t sure. Maybe all child ghosts were doomed to be ghosts forever.
“True. Most are taken.”
Julia nodded, relieved “I just want to let him pass on. But the Grim Reaper said the only way to do that is to bring him back to life. Otherwise, he’s stuck as a ghost forever!”
The Oracle was silent at that. Julia remembered then that the Oracle had said James was young at two-hundred years. How long had they been a ghost? Was she stuck too?
“You have a large heart – too large for what you are doing,” the Oracle said at last.
“You won’t help.” Julia sat down on the bench with a sigh. The Oracle sat down next to her.
“I will, although I do not think it wise, but you should be allowed the attempt. Most who seek me out do so only for themselves. There is a path you swill walk. It is long and painful. Most who try fail and those who succeed end up twisted for their efforts.”
What kind of thing was this ambrosia?
“Life itself.” The ghost again answered Julia’s unspoken question. “The flower is but the first step.”
Use that which stays death’s hand
A blossom no longer in this land
To feed the fish that swims in waters past
With fins and scales of sky blue cast
Inside you’ll find the eldrich berry
And grow the beast that secrets carry
From the essence that one will take
New life is found if you bake the cake
Julia stared at the Oracle. “Bake the cake?” That didn’t seem to match the rest of the poem.
“But if these death flowers aren’t available how do I grow one?” Julia sighed and looked around at all the blossoms still taunting her.
“The old fashioned way. Nothing is truly gone from this world. Merely hidden. The flower can be grown again. That’s the hardest part. The rest should be simple enough.”
Somehow Julia didn’t think so. And she was pretty sure the Oracle wasn’t telling her all she could. But their conversation was clearly over, the falls were already fading away melting into darkness. Quickly Julia bent down and plucked one of the flowers.
The stem burned her palm with icy chillness. The dream faded and Julia was standing in the darkness. Nothing stretched for as far as she could see.
She looked down, but she seemed solid enough, not a ghost. Waking up now would be a good idea, she realized. This was James’ darkness.
* The Oracle is Evelyn Magee from CitizenErased14’s Dust to Dust (The Original Ambrosia Challenge)
* The Oracle’s Glade is based on the room: Waterfall by myriamdepaepe and my Sixam Oasis lot also on the gallery and previously featured in Two Blue Peas
* As per normal these days: Pose Player, Special Effects Players and the Teleport mod were essential
* Challenge details: CitizenErased14’s Ambrosia Challenge