As with all things the beginning is confused, blurry and without form. The girl only knew this: that she had awoken in the middle of a corn field and anything before that moment was lost. Next to her, an owl watched her in silence from the branches of a twisted olive tree with scorched branches.
Getting to her feet, the girl looked out across the swaying heads of corn. In the distance she could see a great wall of fire. Turning around she saw that the fire encircled her horizon and burned without smoke for above it the sky was crystal clear like water. Growing afraid she tried to move forward, but her legs refused to move as if she was rooted to the ground like the ancient olive tree.
She stayed like that for so long, that she forgot that anything had ever been different. And she grew tired of her life, with only the tree and the owl for company. And each day the circle of fire moved inwards towards her, and the sense of impending doom rose and her hands trembled as the noose tightened.
One day the girl imagined she could see a woman within the fire. The woman was on her knees with her hands outstretched and her mouth open wide in anguish. And she felt great pity and love for the woman and longed that the woman might escape and join her so that she would not have to be alone in this land anymore.
And it was so.
The woman walked out of the fire with flames flickering around her ankles. In her hands she carried a great spear and a shield. And her armour shone brightly like the morning sun.
For two days the girl watched the woman draw ever closer. And for two days the girl did not drink or eat such was the joy of anticipation of meeting the approaching stranger. On the third day the owl lifted up out of the tree and flew towards the woman: its great wings casting a shadow over the land.
Later that day, in the cool of the evening, the woman finally arrived at the olive tree. But the girl was so thirsty and weak that she had collapsed and lay asleep on the soil. Kneeling down, the woman breathed life back into her through her nostrils and gave her some water in a bowl to sip. Afterwards the girl slept and dreamt of running through the field with her mother with flowers dancing in the air above them.
In the morning she awoke to find lilies threaded into her hair. And inside the girl her heart burned with questions. As she gave voice to them the woman smiled and handed her some figs and unleavened bread for breakfast.
“Where did you get these?” said the girl as she tore off a chunk of bread.
“I made them when you were sleeping,” said the woman.
“And,” said the girl as she stuffed the fresh bread into her mouth and pointed to the horizon, “What the hell is that?!”
“The wall of fire,” said the woman, “marks the end of this story. As you move towards it the number of your days decreases.”
“Why does it then,” asked the girl, “appear to be moving towards me? I have not moved from this spot since I first arrived.”
“You are in time now,” said the woman, “the clock runs, and the world moves forwards even if you do not.”
“And when it reaches me?” said the girl.
“You will die,” said the woman.
The girl looked down at the ground. Reaching out the woman gently placed her hand under the girl’s chin and lifted her head so their eyes met.
“You do not need be afraid,” said the woman. “For I am with you.”
“Why?” said the girl. “Why is this happening?”
“Because I am making you to live forever and ever,” replied the woman.
“I don’t understand,” said the girl.
“No,” said the woman, “I do not ask you to understand - only to know that I am with you.”
The girl shook her head and began opening and closing her fists. The owl appeared with a field mouse in its talons and settled down next to them.
“If it helps,” said the woman, “I have faced death myself.”
“That is why you were in the fire?” asked the girl.
“Yes and my path, once I had passed through, was towards you,” said the woman.
“Did it hurt in the flames?” asked the girl.
“Yes, little one,” said the woman. “It hurt. It hurt a lot.”
“I have so many more questions,” said the girl.
“The things that are important,” said the woman, “are hidden inside here.” And she placed her hand over the child’s heart. “Many try to explain everything and take comfort in thinking they know all things about me. But to do that is to extinguish the light from the windows into my heart within the stories. They brick up the mysteries and seek to explain them as if my life is an offense to them without knowing the purpose. But those that live without simple answers, that believe with childlike faith, will come to have great joy.”
“How can I know what is within my heart?” said the girl.
“I walked into the flames so I can show you,” said the woman.
“You went into the fire, for me?”
“Yes,” said the woman smiling. “We are special together because of our friendship. Although you would have forgotten that. All will know me, but none know me like you and so we are special.”
“I like that,” said the girl and hugged the woman.
“I like that to,” said the woman squeezing her tight.
“Will you be my mother?” said the girl. “I have lost my mother.”
“Yes child,” said the woman.
“I will live forever and ever with you?” said the girl.
“Yes, immortality is found in kinship with wisdom,” said the woman.
“And you are wisdom?”
“Yes,” replied the woman placing a garland of flowers around the girl’s shoulders. “I walk the earth as fire, I am in the air as lightning, and in the sky as the sun.”
“You are here and you are also the wall of fire out there?” asked the girl.
“Yes? What does that mean!?” asked the girl. “You consumed yourself?”
The woman paused for a moment and looked out at the wall of flames. “Yes and in that I should have been trapped forever. Nothing can escape my fire, not even me.”
“Then,” said the girl. “How is it that you stand before me now?”
“It was your love, little one” replied the woman, “that allowed me to escape.”
“Mine? I’m just a child.”
“Indeed,” said the woman. “And so you have found the most important thing in your heart. There is great joy in finding it isn’t there.”
“You risked everything for me?!” said the girl. “If I didn’t love you would have spent eternity trapped within the flames. You took that risk?”
“Yes,” said the woman. Then laughing she said, “It was worth it though, don’t you think!”
“Can I walk now?” said the girl taking the woman’s hand.
“Child,” laughed the woman, “you can run like the wind!”
And they ran together through the corn.
Above them the owl flew, and there was no shadow on the land.
And on the girl’s eightieth year, after a lifetime of adventures, they stood facing the wall of flames.
“So this is it,” said the girl as the fire flickered around her from all sides.
“This is it,” said the woman.
“I have loved this life with you,” said the girl and began crying.
“Thank you,” said the woman.
“For what?” said the girl.
“For being an amazing daughter,” said the woman and smiled one last time at her.
And then together they stepped through.
Behind them the wheat burned and the olive tree that had stood for hundreds of years became a burning beacon to guide others. And on its branches the owl tucked its head into its feathers and waited to rise again.