The Great Elemental Race – One

By Vasilios Pantazis

I awoke to the sound of of my Grandmother calling me to breakfast. Mmm… Pancakes! All night I had been dreaming of my Grandma’s delicious home made strawberry jam melting upon her freshly made pancakes. I got out of bed quickly and drew the curtains open. I began to gaze in wonder, as the brilliant sunlight gently lifted the shadows from the forests, rivers and valleys below. It was marvelous to spend the school holidays with my grandparents. They have the most enchanting little home situated at the highest point of the mountain, which provided the most magnificent views.

As I stood mesmerized by the sparkling forest, I noticed Grandpa walking purposefully up the cobble-stoned pathway to the house. Grandpa always wore a long green robe. He had long grey hair but his most striking feature was his eerie bright red eyes.  My eyes are a bright blue just like Grandma’s eyes. I look so much like Grandma that Grandpa would call us twin sisters, though Grandma does have a few extra wrinkles. Her wrinkles are so cute, I can’t wait to get some just like hers.

I quickly ran downstairs. I managed to get the door open just as he reached the porch.

“Morning Grandpa!”

Grandpa lifted me into his strong arms and asked, “Are you an early riser or a late sleeper?”

“I am a late sleeper Grandpa.”

“That’s too bad, I have such a wonderful day planned and your going to sleep straight through it.”

“I won’t Grandpa. I promise, I just woke up. I am not really a late sleeper, I am an early riser like you and Grandma.”

At breakfast, Grandma told me that Grandpa needed some help with a special secret project. Grandma said she was going to be busy all day and wondered if I would mind giving Grandpa a hand with his special task. I told Grandma it would be my pleasure to be Grandpa’s assistant for the day. She handed me a backpack which I assumed was full of goodies for the trip.

After breakfast, we set off on our journey. Grandpa didn’t say where we were going but it did not matter. It made the whole thing ever more interesting. He was carrying his own backpack which was three times the size of mine. There was a fishing rod and all sorts of other stuff hanging on the side of the pack. Grandpa brought his trusty rifle and one of his dogs as per usual. Gruff was his name as he was the roughest and grumpiest of all Grandpa’s dogs. I asked Grandpa where he had been so early this morning. Grandpa told me that he rarely slept inside the house for he preferred to sleep under the stars and when it was too cold or too wet he had a secret cave that would keep him safe and warm throughout the night.

As we entered the forest, Grandpa began to sing in a tongue I could not comprehend. Suddenly, the forest was alive with energy and began to fill with creatures beyond imagining. A kalah-wa made itself comfortable on my shoulder. The kalah-wa is a tiny creature that looks like a tiny bear encased in a turtle like shell. Kalah-wa also have a large nose similar to an elephant’s trunk only much smaller in size. A Kalah-wa’s wings would change colour depending on its mood. Grandpa called them rainbow wings. Grandpa said Kalah-wa were mischievous and could not be trusted. Upon hearing Grandfathers harsh words the offended Kalah-wa started jumping up and down upon my shoulder.

“I’ve never heard such a complete and utter fabrication of the truth. We Kalah-wa are kind, gentle, loving, generous and thoughtful creatures. We unselfishly sacrifice our own desires to cater for our friend’s needs. Only we understand the truths of the forest. If it wasn’t for us, the animals would have no idea which plants were safe to eat and which were not. For centuries we have been the guardians of the forest, ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of resources amongst all living things that dwell within our sphere of influence….”

Finally Grandpa interrupted….

“Ignore him little one. Just let him talk. He won’t do us any harm, except maybe hurt our ears a little.”

As we travelled deeper into the forest it became clear to me that Grandpa’s world was much different to the one I had experienced living in the city, I am pretty certain there was never a Kalah-wa mentioned in any of my textbooks. Even the forest plants began to look unfamiliar as never before had I seen a tree with bright blue leaves, but we just passed one. Perhaps it was just the bright light from the sun that made them appear to be blue. When I took a closer look it became clear that the tree was really blue, even the trunk was blue. I was going to ask Grandpa about the blue tree but he seemed determined to get somewhere fast.

We finally made it to the bottom of the mountain and through the forest. We arrived at a park with a large lake and a stable for horses. There were numerous people standing in a field looking at the horses. As we got closer and passed through the crowd, I realised that there was more than just horses in the field. The first animal I noticed was a zebra, but there was also a donkey, several camels and even a giraffe. The majority of animals were horses and it seemed people were selecting them to go for a ride.

“Come, little one,” said Grandfather. ” We must also choose an animal to ride for the journey ahead.”

“Yes, yes, little one must choose. Very important, must not choose wrong. Would be bad to make wrong choice, would be wrong to make bad choice. Little one must choose, yes, yes, yes, choose she must,” the Kalah-wa kept saying till grandpa gave him a rather mean stare. The Kalah-wa quickly hid underneath my jacket. He continued mumbling to himself about choices and mean grumpy old grandpa spoiling his fun.

“I don’t know what to choose Grandpa,” I said. “I really like the giraffe but he is too big for me to ride.”

“Too big, much too big, huge he is, but very cute. I would choose giraffe too if I could,” said the Kalah-wa . He then began to giggle as he stood on my shoulder again.

“I could throw you up in the air and hope you land on the giraffe, if you wish Zestraya,” Grandpa said.

“Maybe if we ask politely he will kneel down low enough for you to hop on, yes, yes ,yes… hop on she could,” added the Kalah-wa, actually trying to be sensible and helpful for once.

“No it’s ok. I think I found the animal that is right for me,” I said and pointed to the creature standing directly under the Giraffe.

As I hopped onto the miniature horse that had been standing underneath the giraffe, Grandpa took my back pack and tied it onto the little horse. The kalah-wa sat up on the horse’s head and made himself quite comfortable.

“His name his Soquili. little one.” said the Kalah-wa

“How do you know?”

“He told me, that’s what he did. Spoke to me, says his name. Soquili his name. Yes it is.”

I looked around to see what Grandpa was doing. I knew he had a fondness for Zebras, mostly because Grandma liked the stripes. I was expecting him to choose the Zebra as his companion but he surprised me by being all ready to go upon the giraffe. I asked Grandpa what all these people where doing here and where we were all riding too. He told me that he had entered us into the Great Elemental Race that takes place every year. Grandpa rode in the race every year but he was getting old now and was bringing me along in the hope that in the years to come I would represent our family in the race.