Iowa the Pure
In the great plains of Dettingen there lies a small hamlet, Hisbiscia. Named after the goddess of bloom, Hisbisca, whom blessed the land with her special breed of medicinal flowers that can only be grown in this hamlet. These special flowers were very valuable across the land because it could cure any illness and relieve any pain, the flowers require little time or effort to grow bringing great wealth to the 5 families that lived in Hisbiscia. Each family had a role, the seed sowers, the flower pickers, the medicine makers, the merchants and finally the protectors. All five families lived in perfect harmony, they all lived hedonistic lives, big banquets every week in honour of Hibisca, work little and play a lot, immoral relationships, and polyamory between the younger generations, which was all made possible by their wealth and their free time.
There was however a black sheep in the hamlet, her name was Iowa, she was the adoptive daughter of the seed sowers family and also the youngest. She was found in a basket next to her dying mother in the middle of the flower meadow. The families agreed to take her in and they raised her as their own, they soon came to realise that Iowa was blind, no medicine could cure her from that. She grew up in the hamlet, mostly happy but she noticed that everyone treated her differently, some like an annoyance, some like a hindrance and some like fragile girl. She appreciated and loved everyone even though she sensed that she would never be like everyone else. Unlike the rest of the hamlet, she believed in putting others’ happiness before her own even if it pained herself. She often got beaten by her adoptive father for giving away the flowers to injured animals or the poor travellers who couldn’t afford to buy the flowers and decide to pick their own. Iowa loved her family but she could not help but feel like she was out of place. She didn’t belong in this small hamlet, She had wanted to run away from home a few times but guilt of leaving her family and also her blindness were the main obstacles that prevented her from doing so. She soon accepted that her life would forever be lived in Hisbiscia.
Every week before the banquet, the five families would pay tribute to the shrine of Hisbisca, thanking her for her flowers that keep the hamlet prosperous and healthy. Iowa would often sneak away and walk the flower meadows, there was something about that place that she felt connected to, she enjoyed the isolation, she loved the smell of the flowers, the sound of the wildlife around her gave her inner peace and the freedom to dance knowing that no one is around gave her the most joy. She would often get in trouble with her father for doing so at first but he stopped caring after a few dozen times. On one such afternoon whilst dancing in the meadow, she was startled by a woman’s voice.
“Hello there,” her voice was soft but had a husky edge to it, it was playful yet domineering.
“Who are you?” Iowa asks, “What do you want?”
”My name is Imena, and I’ve been watching you for a while now, Iowa. You are someone I’ve been very interested in for long, long time.”
“Me? Why me? I’m nobody. I’m just a blind girl who gets in everybody’s way and defies her parents all the time.”
“Oh but you are special, everybody around you is too blinded by self indulgence to see, but I knew the moment I first saw you that you were different, unique, innocent.”
“What do you mean?”
“Come with me, I’ll show you.”
“I should really get back to my…”
Iowa felt a cold hand grasp her wrist and a draft of cold air surrounded her. No longer could she feel the warmth of the sun, nor smell the flowers or hear the wildlife. All she could sense was nothingness. It was a deeply unsettling experience for her. For the first time in her life she felt in the dark. Frozen with fear, Iowa was unable to utter a sound, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest, proof that she was still alive. The grip on her wrist loosened and the cold air around her warmed up ever so slightly.
“Relax child, you’re safe here. No harm will come to you.” Imena said in a reassuring motherly tone.
“Where am I?” Iowa whimpered.
“You are in the mirror realm, my domain,” a loud hiss echoed around them. So loud that it disoriented Iowa further and she lost her balance to stand. The hand on her wrist tightened once again and another arm helped prop her body up to make sure she didn’t fall. “It’s alright I got you. Sorry I meant ‘our’ domain.”
Iowa began shaking with terror, “What was that?”
“Don’t you worry, it’s just a grumpy old snake, he’s harmless really.”
“Why have you brought me here? I want to go back!” Iowa cried
“Calm down dear,”Imena said in a calm yet stern tone, she loosened her grip on Iowa’s wrist once again and her other hand rubbed Iowa’s back to soothe her tension. Her voice went back to the motherly tone, “you are here because you are special. I see something in you that no one in your life could ever truly appreciate. I see your innocence from the way you dance when you think nobody’s watching, I see your kindness in the way you help the injured animals and the strangers that come to your hamlet seeking help, I see the love you have for family even though you feel different from them, I see you Iowa, your heart is pure and unlike any other person in this land, I see true altruism from you and I appreciate you.” Iowa felt warmth from the cold hands that were touching her. It was as if the words have given her something she had long wanted to hear, “I brought you here because I want you as my aide, you have no idea how much I value good people beside me. Too long have I been attracted to the worst of the worst. So what do you think?”
“I don’t know. I mean what am I supposed to do for you? You’re obviously a very powerful woman.”
“Power means nothing if the heart isn’t in the right place and I’ve suffered far too much heartbreak to know what’s right and wrong anymore. This is why you will be my most valued aide.” Another loud hiss echoed around them, “Sorry, I meant one of my most valued aides.”
“This is all so much to take in. I mean I’m really flattered and all but I should really discuss this with my parents.”
“Of course my dear. Take all the time you need. But before you go heed these words that I’m about to say; your parents, your family, your hamlet, they will never have your best interest at heart and they need you more than you need them.”
Iowa was transported back to the flower meadows, she sensed that something was different. Something in the air didn’t feel right, there were no sweetness in the breaths she took, her fingers brushed the flowers around her and dryness of the petals as if they had all withered. She could hear outcries in the distance towards the hamlet and hurries back to find out what has gone on.
“Iowa! Where have you been?” cried her father.
“I was just by the meadows. Father, what happened?”
“The flowers, what have you done?”
Iowa was in shock, “What have I.. I haven’t done anything!”
“I told you so many times not to leave the boundary.”
“I swear I didn’t. There was a woman, she took me away.”
“Woman? What woman?”
“I’m not sure, her name was Imena and one moment I was in the meadows and the next I was…” Her father interrupted her with a slap across the face.
“Enough with your fantasies! Because of you, all our current crop died, we will have to live with what we have left until the next cycle.”
“I don’t understand. I haven’t done anything. How is this my fault?”
“Silence! Got to your room. You are not to leave this house. Ever.”
“But father..” Iowa pleaded.
Iowa went back to her room and cried in bed. Saddened and confused by what had just transpired.Later that evening, her mother brought some food from the banquet for her, Iowa asked her all the questions running through her mind, but there was only silence. She tried apologising and promised never to do it again, but still only silence. Her mother left her room without a single word said. She felt so alone in that moment, whilst outside she could hear all the cheering and laughter from the hamlet folk.
“Don’t cry child, you are not alone.” Imena whispered into Iowa’s ear
“You again! What did you do?”
“All I want to do is show you the truth.”
“The truth? What truth?”
“Well, for starters, how did the crop of flowers die and why is your father blaming you? Nobody here will tell you but I am here to give you all the answers you need.”
“Why should I believe in anything you say?”
“My dear Iowa, who else is going tell you?”
Iowa takes a moment to contemplate her options but she knew Imena was right, she needed to know and nobody in the hamlet would ever tell her. She nodded her head as a sign of acknowledgement.
“This story began before you were born, Hisbisca blessed this land a hundred years ago as a way to repay the five families who dedicated their lives to creating medicine to help people. She could not foresee how her blessing would slowly change the mindset of the families. No longer were their hearts set on helping people but more on helping themselves. Decades went by and Hisbisca was too preoccupied with her troubles to focus on what was happening in Hisbiscia. Just after you were born, Hisbisca died and.. Maybe it is best if I showed you.”
Iowa felt Imena’s cold palm pressed against her forehead. Pictures began to form in her head. She could see Hisbisca dying in the arms of a man, as her body turned into a million petals. The petals blew away with the wind and one petal flew through the clouds into the woods. It swiftly fell from the sky, past a woman who was carrying a basket, the petal drifted into the basket in which there was a baby, she’s not breathing. The woman hurried through the boundary of Hisbiscia and through the meadows. She is halted by the protectors, she pleaded with them, to help save her child. They refused to help and turned her away but she wouldn’t listen, she tried to charge through the protectors but they beat her down.
She suffered an internal injury and as she laid dying in the Hisbiscus meadow, her warm bruised and bloodied hand reached for her child. She placed her hand on the baby’s chest pressing the fallen petal into her and with her final breath she was able to hear the baby crying. Iowa could picture in her mind, her father picked up the crying baby whilst the protectors carried the woman past the boundary to a nearby grave site. The five family heads agreed to take the baby to a nearby town, as her father carried the baby past the meadows he realised something was happening, the flowers behind them started to wilt and once they went past the boundary a whole field of flowers had died. He took the baby back and concluded that the baby is linked to this land and if she ever left the flowers would die. They were worried should that ever happen, they would never live their life of luxury ever again. They decided to take in the baby, raise her as one of their own and to keep her in the hamlet forever they poisoned her to take away her eyes. This way she would be too dependant on the families to leave.
Iowa was horrified by what Imena had shown her. “Is this what happened to me?”
“I’m sad to say is, child.”
Tears flowed down her eyes, “What am I supposed to do now?”
“Well I can’t tell you what to do but I can give you a choice. You can stay here live the life you have already lived for past fifteen years which is comfortable, somewhat strict and familiar, or you can come with me, experience multitudes of whatever this world outside this small hamlet has to offer, you’ll be under my protection until the end of time and you will be my most valued aide, just don’t tell the other guy.”
“Why do you want me so bad? Is it because this power within me?”
“I couldn’t care less about whatever is in you that keeps the flowers growing here. I want you because I need you. I lost something very valuable to me when I was only a little bit older than you, when I look at you, you remind me of the person I should’ve been and with you by my side, maybe I can be that person once again.”
“What did you lose that was so valuable to you?”
Imena put her cold hands onto Iowa’s hand and guided it to her chest, “I lost my heart.” Iowa could not feel any beat in Imena’s chest, “Iowa, If you can be my heart, I swear to you that I will be your eyes. You be my conscience and I will love and protect you forever.”
Iowa had a lot of thoughts running through her mind but she looked into her heart and she knew what she wanted do. She hugged Imena and said “Thank you.”
Imena transported both of them back to the mirror realm. This time it was different Iowa could sense more, her feet were damp with water, there was moistness in the air, she could feel Imena’s breath on her neck as she stood behind her.
“In order to be my aide, you have to be transformed and embody an immortal form. In front of you is a pool of water. Once submerged you will no longer be the fragile girl from Hisbiscia, you’ll be born anew.”
“Will I be able to see?”
“I’m sorry but any ailments you had before you go into the pool will stay with you forever. But as I said earlier, you be my heart and I’ll be your eyes.”
“Okay. Wait, before I go in can i ask you something?”
“Sure what is it?”
Iowa turned around and faced Imena, “Can you show me what you look like?”
Imena placed her hand onto Iowa’s forehead, she projected her image into Iowa’s mind. Iowa’s face showed wonderment as she said, “My gods, you’re beautiful.” Iowa fell back into the pool of water and completely submerged into it. A red snake appeared from the darkness and slithered onto Imena, it hissed by her ear.
“What now Shyïr?”
“What is it about this child that makes you so fond of her?”
“She is my past, I will do what I failed to do myself, I’ll protect her before someone gets their hands on her, and takes her sweet spirited smile away.”
“I understand my mistress, pardon my rudeness.”
Shyïr slithered away and soon after an eyeless white snake emerged from the pool and slithered onto Imena.
“Imena, I am here for you.”
“And I for you, My sweet Iowa.”