Meanwhile, back at The Event, after Tuni had rescued the three women she went into the house again, to face the swirlin’ wind and blindin’ light, to see what was happenin’ to her friend. The old woman who was still fully aglow was chantin’ some type of prayer or song, in a tongue that Tuni couldn’t place. The woman seemed to faintly recognize her little friend and tried to stand up, what sent rays of light and strong barbs of wind out into all directions, but for some reason, she was unable to get her legs to work properly.
Tuni shielded her eyes and eased towards the old woman through the swirlin’ wind, until she was close enough to grab her by the waist, so she could help her to stand. The moment she touched the old woman, the wind stopped cold and a warm glow ran up her hands and arms, what soon passed into her whole body. It was a good feelin’, what sent her mind into a soothin’ trance for a moment, before she was reminded of the dire situation they was in when she heard a terrible scream from outside.
Tuni helped her friend to stand, who she found was highly unsteady on her feet, then together they walked slowly towards the doorway where they was met by the cool night air and the faint sound of a horse’s hooves movin’ fast across the ground. Not a word passed between the two, though somehow Tuni knowd exactly what she needed to do with the old woman.
No sooner had they left the house, than up came the master’s favorite horse at full gallop, saddled and ready to go, what stopped hard in front of them. The horse seemed to have been guided to that very spot and arrived not a moment too soon, as the old woman’s light was beginnin’ to fade and she was startin’ to feel cooler to the touch. Tuni knowd that she only had a short time to get her friend to the Ancient Ones before it was too late.
She stood holdin’ the old woman in her arms, wonderin’ how in the world she was goin’ to get up on that horse’s back, when the great beast did somethin’ so strange that it gave her pause to wonder if she was dreamin’. The horse knelt down on its front legs, low enough to the ground that it allowed Tuni to wrestle the old woman onto its back. Tuni then climbed up behind the old woman on the saddle, wrapped her arms around her friend, who was layin’ forward, with her head on the back of the horse’s neck. She held on tight, ‘cause she knowd that one slip and the two of them could fall off the horse as soon as they began to ride.
No sooner had Tuni tightened her grip on her friend, than did the horse tear out of there at a speed that could only be called reckless in the pitch blackness. The horse must’ve been followin’ some invisible path for all Tuni could tell, but if her directions were still good, she realized that they was ridin’ to the south, what would lead them into the dense forest. The horse rode on for a good spell, only pausin’ a couple of times to allow Tuni to adjust the old woman’s position on the saddle, when she slipped dangerously to one side.
The old woman weren’t even aware by then that she was on the back of a horse, ‘cause she tried a couple of times to stand up, as she extended both of her hands to the heavens, almost like she was tryin’ to pull the stars down from the sky above. The old woman began to chant louder and louder as they rode, until mercifully the horse came to a stop in an open clearin’ in the middle of the dense forest, in a place that Tuni had never been to.
Soon there were many Ancient Ones appearin’ from all around them, two of which gently helped the old woman from the back of the horse and took her in the direction of what looked like a raised mound of earth near the center of the clearin’. The night still shone no moon, but there was plenty of light to see, what Tuni found purely strange, ‘specially since it seemed like the grass and rocks was glowin’, almost like they was alive.
The more she looked around the more confused she became, though at no point did she find the light fearful, instead, she’d found it to be truly beautiful, like standin’ in God’s magic. Later she’d find out the why’s to her questions and many others from the Ancient Ones, but on that night, time was short and the old woman needed their help transferrin’ over from this world to the other.
She was headin’ to the very same destination the Ancient Ones go to when they’re finished with their lives’ missions in this world, a place where the eternal souls reside, called the Shimmerin’ World. Tuni didn’t really understand until much later, what the Ancient Ones meant by transferrin’ over, what they called naden nar, though she had a feelin’ that it was the movement of a person’s spirit from this world to the world of eternal souls.
The Ancient Ones spoke only their native tongue, so it was hard sometimes for Tuni to knowd what they was tryin’ to explain, though over the years she came to understand them more completely. Mostly in the beginnin’, the way she learned was to watch what they done and then follow their directions, though on more than a few occasions, she got to see the results but didn’t find out the how’s, until years later.
That night they signaled her to take the horse and move to the back part of the clearin’ where she could still see, but wouldn’t interfere with their goin’s on. Tuni watched as her friend was led to the raised mound, what she could see had a large smooth rock on top of it, which seemed out of place in the grass-covered clearin’, almost like it’d only just been set there by a pair of great and powerful hands.
There was a good crowd of Ancient Ones in the clearin’, all watchin’ silently as the ceremony unfolded, what Tuni found highly interestin’, as well as excitin’ enough to have her heart beatin’ fast, though she weren’t sure why. On top of the smooth stone sat the old woman, who seemed to have lost all of her light makin’ her look like a dark, nearly shapeless figure, almost like she’d already died.
Tuni would’ve been highly concerned for her friend’s condition, if it weren’t for the two Ancient Ones that stood on either side of her and were lit by a golden-yellow light, what cast rays down upon the old woman. The Ancient Ones on the rock began to chant a prayer or song, which was unfamiliar to Tuni, though she found it to be somewhat eerie and melodious, though kind to her ears.
As she listened, she closed her eyes and soon an image came into her mind of a strange and wondrous place that was filled with shimmerin’ light and was beautiful beyond what she had words to describe. Tuni could hear water runnin’, like the sound of a river and she could feel the spirits of all that lived there, both animals and people alike, what she understood completely in that brief moment. It was almost like she was given a peek into the afterlife by God his self, ‘cause she could also feel his total and complete goodness, which was a part of everythin’.
In Tuni’s story to Ernie, about the shimmerin’ world of light, what she’d told to him many times, she always ended the tale by sayin’ that that was where she was goin’ when she left this fine Earth. She made a point of tellin’ Ernie that this was where we all went, what she described as goin’ home.
I never quite understood what she meant by goin’ home, ‘cept that maybe that’s where she’d find her front porch, the place where she could sit a spell with her Maker and find out a thing or two about how things work.
Course in the story Tuni told Ernie, she never mentioned a front porch, what got me to thinkin’ that maybe we all go to the place where we believe we’ll end up, like a shimmerin’ world or the like. I don’t knowd exactly, but I do believe that if this was true, our Maker must be a powerful so-an-so to be able to make as many places as there are people. Guess I just thought that everyone would be like me and want to sit on a big ole front porch and have a nice talk with God, but it weren’t the case for Tuni, since she was clear about goin’ to the world of shimmerin’ light.
Durin’ the chantin’ process, Tuni noticed that the old woman’s dark shape seemed to have picked up a faint glow that extended outward from her body a little and appeared to send energy into her, givin’ her the strength to sit up straight and tall. Her arms began to reach up to the heavens, just like she done before when they was on the back of the horse, what Tuni now found to make perfect sense.
The two Ancient Ones that was standin’ on each side of the old woman, reached over at the same time and touched a finger to her forehead. From that touch, there came a bright light that washed over everyone and sent the dark night into hidin’ for a twinklin’, what made Tuni cover her eyes, even though it turned out to be soothin’, like the golden rays of the settin’ sun.
Whatever the Ancient Ones had done to her friend seemed to be good for her constitution, ‘cause she was able to find her way to her feet quickly, what left her standin’ upon the smooth rock like a dark statue. The two Ancient Ones who’d touched her forehead moved away and as they did, they lost all of their light and soon disappeared into the night, seemingly without a trace.
As her dear friend stood motionless upon the smooth rock, like some dark shape that was formed from the mud of the earth itself, she again raised her arms to plead to the heavens, what Tuni somehow understood was for deliverance from the bondage of her old and frail body.
Tuni was spellbound by what she was witnessin’, like some wondrous dream, though she knowd in her heart that it was somethin’ far grander than she could possibly imagine. As she watched with unblinkin’ eyes, what were frozen to the spectacle takin’ place in front of her, the whole of everythin’ she thought she knowd took a swift and mighty change. She was left with a deep understandin’ of the majesty of our Maker, what would be her guide until her final day upon this fine Earth.
As Tuni watched the old woman from afar, a strong wind came sweepin’ up to encircle her friend, seemingly from the ground itself, what blew her clothin’ and hair around, almost like she was standin’ in a great storm. Strangely enough, everywhere else was completely calm, ‘cept for the occasional rustlin’ of the tall trees from the small breaths of air that traveled up from the river many miles away.
The old woman seemed completely unaffected by the powerful gusts, no different than how Tuni had found her at the shack by the river, only this time it felt much more powerful, what was sendin’ chills up her spine. From the old woman’s dark shape came streaks of light, what the swirlin’ wind seemed to be pullin’ right out of her body, like gold-colored lightnin’ that shot wildly into the night sky.
In the moments to follow, as Tuni watched in complete awe, the old woman slowly lowered her arms to her sides, what strangely seemed to subdue the lightnin’ and wind, until they came to a stop altogether and brought on a deafenin’ calm that rested heavily upon the darkness. It was so profound that Tuni found her self coverin’ her ears, though she had no explanation for why she felt the need to block out the silence.
For a spell it was hard to see the old woman’s form as she blended into the dark night, but that soon changed as a tiny point of bright light appeared at the top of her head, like a beacon of gold. Slowly the light moved downward, almost like her flesh and clothin’ was bein’ peeled away, until all that was left of the old woman’s shape was a dark mass sittin’ on the stone. What Tuni had seen, she would later describe to Ernie as some kind of birth, where the old is cast aside and the new begins its life again.
From where Tuni was standin’ in the clearin’, she could plainly see the glowin’ form of her friend floatin’ above the stone, though it was clearly not the old woman’s frail body. It was that of a beautiful woman, the same one she’d traveled the forest with at night, in all her youthful splendor. She was lean with an agile body that seemed to be charged with energy, which was both powerful and beautiful all at the same time.
What happened next, Ernie had a difficult time explainin’ to me ‘cause his momma was hard pressed to put words to it, save that what she saw that fateful night brought about a joy inside her that left a sweet mark on her soul for the rest of her days.
It seems that her friend’s young glowin’ form began to expand outward, like a shimmerin’ cloud, until it slowly exploded into what looked like an endless stream of fireflies that covered the night sky. The tiny points of light floated outward in all directions, one of which even found its way to Tuni, until they came to rest in all that there was and is. The old woman had returned home again to be a part of the forest, the animals, the people, the sky and the earth.
The last thing what Ernie said to me, still floats around in my mind like the wings of angels for its pure goodness. He looked into my eyes and said that we was all connected to each other with a little piece of the endless light, what comes from our Maker. We is all equal in that way, ‘cause no one has their own light, it’s all part of the vast light of God, what runs through everythin’. Ernie sure had a special way of makin’ me feel good about the ways of our Maker and the story he told me weren’t no different, no how.
For some reason, it made me think of the fireworks, what I’ve seen on special occasions, whose light disappears slowly outward like small stars that twinkle and fade in the evenin’ sky. I couldn’t help thinkin’ about the kindness of the old woman, who wanted Tuni to see for her self the majesty of our Maker, what wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Ancient Ones.
When I first heard the story about the old woman, I was just a youngin, but its impact on me was profound, ‘cause it left a vivid and lastin’ picture in my mind for the beauty and grace that lies inside each one of us. Some folks who I tell this story to say that it all sounds like a bunch of hogwash or the like, what I’ve come to find a little sad for how they’ve closed up their minds and hearts to the wonders of this world. I suppose that’s alright for them, but for me, ‘specially from what I’ve seen of the Ancient Ones, I have no doubt that my friend’s story is true, ‘specially since I ain’t never heard Ernie tell a lie in his whole life.
Tuni couldn’t recollect just how she’d gotten back to the Plantation, though she remembered puttin’ the Frenchman’s mare back into his barn. The only thing she knowd for sure was that when she awoke, she was in her house lyin’ next to her momma and papa, which felt awfully good, ‘specially after all the goin’s on of that fateful night. After she got some of the sleep to leave her mind, she sat up and looked at her sleepin’ parents who was peacefully restin’, what brought the whole of all she’d just seen and experienced back to her.
She thought about the kindness of the old woman and her friends the Ancient Ones, what was overwhelmin’ to her for their goodness, which left her weepin’, one of the only times she ever cried in her whole life. Her momma heard her quiet sobs and asked her why she was cryin’, to which Tuni said that she was happy, powerful happy. Tuni had seen the endin’ to the story of her life, what she’d found beautiful beyond words, which she knowd was a sacred gift from the Ancient Ones, somethin’ that would guide her journey on this fine Earth from that day forward.
Tuni’s momma took her little girl in her arms and rocked her, as she sang a sweet song, until the sun decided to wake up on what would be a highly restless mornin’. The wind must not have had a good night’s sleep, ‘cause in the mornin’, when that pesky light got into its eyes it awoke in a bitter mood.
The dawn had started to stir like a child wakin’ from a bad dream, as the whole farm was bein’ tossed this way and that from the cold gusty wind, which for some reason had no effect on little Tuni. She just walked around singin’ and talkin’ to her self most of the day, just like it was a warm spring afternoon.
As for the Frenchman and the rest of the clay people on the Plantation, it’d prove to be a most unpleasant day, as the rumors about the old woman began to spread, paintin’ a scary and tragic picture of her end. The Frenchman, who just after dawn had been thrown into a fence post was restin’ in his home, while the three remainin’ women what lived in the shack by the river had finally made their way out of the woods and up to the Plantation.
There was some cryin’ and screamin’ as the tormented women began to tell their nightmarish story of the old woman, whose fiery end came while she rode upon the back of the Frenchman’s horse. Since she was never found, many folks thought she was burnt to ashes in the woods, while others thought that maybe it was the fire of hell that had come for her, though strangely, no one could explain how the horse had escaped without so much as a single singed hair upon its body.
Through it all Tuni was unmoved, ‘cause she was already standin’ with one foot in the Shimmerin’ World, a place that gave her great peace, as she felt without a shadow of doubt that it would be her final destination. Course no one knowd the full truth, save for Tuni, who’d keep her secret hidden in her heart until many years later, when her son was old enough to be told about her wondrous adventures.
Her life had been forever changed by somethin’ that happened in a clearin’ far from her home on a dark moonless night, where the wonder of God had touched her heart with its lovin’ goodness. The joy and love she felt from that glorious night, was the very thing that Tuni tried to give to everyone she came across from that day forward, what attracted many folks to her, like a moth to a light.