Write a short story which includes the words ‘I should have listened’.
English Essay by Siún Ní Cheallaigh
Hooves collided with frozen snow to create rhythmic thudding sounds as a troop of armoured men rode north through snow-capped mountains. The resonant pounding of the horses’ hooves reverberated through the mountain range as the sound bounced from one icy tower to the next. In the end it was difficult to tell what direction it came from if the group was out of your sight.
Brilliant reds and royal blues billowed behind the mounted men as their cloaks rippled and flapped in the wind. Their faces were relatively expressionless and their eyes narrowed, in the hopes of keeping the cold air from affecting their vision or causing their eyes to water. If they had had much of a say in the matter, they wouldn’t have ventured out this far into the frigid unknown of this mountainous wasteland. But as explorers or adventurers of the realm, they had been ordered to journey further south and report any findings. People were still wary of the unknown, but growing a lot more curious. They wanted to know whether the legends of monstrous mountain beasts, told by the elderly, were true or not.
“Madley! You’re lagging behind!” boomed one of the leading riders, Commander Emure. His voice was loud, and even though he needed to be loud to be heard over the pounding of horses, his voice was probably bordering too loud. Too loud for a mountainous area anyway, especially with the avalanche risks.
“You shouldn’t be so loud sir— the legends say that giant beasts sleep inside these mountains,” warned the commander’s squire as his horse caught up again to side with his master’s.
“Never mind your bedtime stories. There isn’t anything dangerous here other than this weather. Now, do you see any passage through the spires up ahead?”
Raising a copper-coloured telescope and peering through, the boy tightly clutched his horse’s reins with his free hand. “No sir, it’s all blocked up ahead. We’ll need to turn back and find a different route,” he responded while dropping the telescope again to grab his reins with both hands, not yet that confident on his horse.
With a curt nod, the commander yelled another order, perhaps slightly louder than the previous time, if possible, and the group curved a sharp u-turn as they turned back the way they came. Eventually the accumulation of thunderous sounds, both of the horses and yelling men, was enough.
The frozen ground began to shudder and with a rumble the earth cracked, crevices splitting through the ice like veins. Alarmed neighs filled the air as numerous horses skidded to a halt, some stopping in time while others weren’t so lucky. Riders were thrown off as their mounts either tripped or bucked them out of their saddles out of fear. Commander Emure managed to veer away from the largest of the crevices, and only had a second to presume he was out of harm’s way, before the ground then started to rise as if a new mountain was being born.
Snow and ice rained down on riders, and those unlucky enough to not have time to get out of the way were pummelled to the ground. When the commander next had the chance to look up, presuming to see some sort of rock formation, he paled at the sight of a giant Wyrm; a winged serpent-like creature believed only to exist in tales. And that had only been its head that broke up from the ice-covered ground. The rest of its massive body was breaking free from the surrounding masses of snow, along with a tail that instantly knocked more riders cold with one swish.
Now it was only the dragon and the commander that remained, reptilian eyes focusing upon him while his horse kicked and reared. ‘Oh gods— I should have listened,’ was his only thought as he was faced with impending death, one hand lowering to pull a longsword from its sheathe. He might as well go down fighting, even if there wasn’t as much as a sliver of a chance for him.
I just got back from a short trip to Mexico.
I’m staying in San Diego at the moment, just 30 minutes to the Mexican border so it was about time to head South and pay Mexico a visit!
One of the things I really love about traveling and meeting so many people from all walks of life is how it expands your worldview.
On this trip I was with my friend Katie who I met while I was briefly living in Rome last year. We got along and ended up traveling to Morocco together and now to Mexico. What I like about her is how open she is: she will talk to literally anyone! And during this trip her most interesting victim was Travis: a Mexican with a very American name and perfect English… Travis came up to us as we parked our car in the small coastal town of Rosarito. He was selling lollypops to make money to feed his family. Instead of giving him money Katie gave him food and as always, started a conversation…
Travis, as it turned out, had lost his wife to cancer recently and was now trying to raise his 7 and 10 year old sons alone. He needs surgery on his knee but can’t afford it. Now, unable to work in construction like before, Travis is selling candy rather than just begging for money.
Travis grew up in California. At the age of thirteen, or so his story goes, his own father was the one who gave him his first heroin, and a gun. He soon became a drug addict, ended up in a gang and eventually got deported from the US.
He is now living with his in-laws and trying to raise enough money every day to buy food for the family. He says he has been clean for years and is proud that he is not, as many of his friends, involved in drug dealing. Clearly not able to walk well and with barely any teeth left in his mouth his story touched me…
How can your own father get you to do drugs?!
When I asked him exactly that his answer was “If only I had listened to my mother. Then I wouldn’t be in this situation today”.
We ended up talking to Travis for quite some time and as we said our goodbyes he had tears in his eyes. He thanked us for listening to him. “I never tell my story, I don’t like to share my problems. But I guess I needed to talk. It feels good to talk about my life, thank you.”
I was touched. I never talk to strangers. You are not supposed to talk to strangers… But wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we cared just a little bit more about what is happening to the people around us? And if then, in return, you get such a genuine ‘thank you’ from a guy who is used to being ignored and pushed away all day, every day… that makes it worth it!
To me, that is one of the amazing things about traveling: in only three days in Mexico we met dozens of people and have heard stories ranging from living on the beach in Hawaii to selling jewelry throughout Mexico… people are fascinating and getting to meet so many different people, if only briefly, broadens your horizon.
“Poverty is not a lack of character. It is a lack of money. A lack of opportunity. A lack of investment. It is when society turns its back and makes you invisible.”
Also read:Tijuana, Mexico – Where to go & What to do
Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing (Atozmarketing.eu).
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this blog to share some of my international experiences and travel tips.