The Valley of Death, my mom always said, was nothing to be scared of. She only said this so I would continue going to school. But it wasn't very comforting, coming from her. She, herself, was scared to put one foot into the pile of bones.
A pile of bones, that's what the valley was, a mass uncovered grave. It was hidden between two mountains, a secret kept from the world. Dead yellow shrubbery dotted the land, but it went as an unnoticed decoration among the scattered human bones.
I was terrified of the valley, but (other than a seven mile hike) it was the only way to school. So, everyday I stood at the edge, clutching an old potato sack full of books, staring numbly into the valley. Daily I had to conquer my fear.
Then, I would take the first step. But the first step was simply to test the waters; the second step was much harder. The second meant that I had, once again, chosen to cross the valley. I had decided that I was going the whole way.
The other kids teased me. They were unfazed by the dried out bones. They thought that the bones were hundreds of years old, and that the battle that happened there didn't pertain to them. They even used to play a game of toss with an arm bone, laughing lightheartedly as they did.
There was a major problem with their game; because their parents had lied to them. The war hadn't happened hundreds of years ago, it was only twelve years back, while I was still a newborn. The bones looked old – but that was only because the buzzards and coyotes had licked them clean. And, that made the lies easy to believe.
While the kids picked on me, I had to remind myself why I kept my mouth shut.
I'm a bright kid, everyone tells me that I notice things that no one else does. Because of this, I had unintentionally started to identify the skeletons as I carefully wove my way through.
For instance, one day as I walked past, I saw Amasai pick up a bone, and absent minded throw it across the field. But, I had thought, tightening my grip on the old school sack, what would he think if I told him the truth? What would he say if I told him he was throwing a piece of his older brother into the air? He would laugh – but if he believed it in the slightest, he would also feel sickened; which was the way I felt as I walked past.
I could tell it was Amasai's brother, because I remember the first time I saw the skeleton. It was dressed in an outfit that I later connected with a tintype I saw in Amasai's room.
“That's my brother, he died of pneumonia.” Amasai had said, when he noticed me staring at the picture.
But, by that time, the clothes had rotted away. Me, and my immaculate memory, were the only ones who knew the truth.
And, it was only me and my memory that had a map of the bones memorized. I was the only one who could place names on half of the bones. And, I'm still the only one in my generation who was ever told the true story by the elders.
But none of this is what upsets me the most. What really angers me is the fact that my generation was deemed too delicate to handle the truth. And, because they were “weak” they were left to figure things out on their own. One day, Amasai will learn the truth, and on that same day he will learn to hate his parents for lying to him.
Or worse, he, and the rest of my generation may never learn the truth. They will ignorantly wander through the battle field of a past world that never existed. The history books will be written by them (for their parents are too afraid to do it). No one, my generation and beyond, will ever know what happened. Those bones will forever lie staring blankly at the sky. And because they are unrecognized heroes, we, the lied to generation, will never be able to respect them. They will just be bones, until someone, somewhere, finally admits the truth.
And that someone will probably be me. But I bide my time. Because, when I tell them that the world is not perfect, they will despise me for it. They'll continue cling to their lies, trying to hide what I've said in a vault somewhere. After all, why should they believe me? Why would they choose to believe a story of horror, over the pretty little white lies they've been told their whole life?
So, daily I stand at the edge. Not willing to take the first step, not even willing to dredge up a little emotion. One day, I'll overcome my fear. One day, I will be able to tell them about the terrible war that was waged for their salvation. And one day, they will hear that freedom is never truly free; that the truth is harder to swallow than lies. On that day, they'll learn that sometimes the key to life is death.
But that day isn't today. Today, I screw the cap over my bottled emotions, and once again, I cross the valley of dried bones.
There is a continuation to this story, but I decided to make it private, until I have the time to finish everything up. Thank you!