There are hills, far out in the woods. We can see them all around from in town, and they seem friendly enough. They’re quiet, calm, almost peaceful. The woods are all those as well, but the hills are different, we know.
We can go into the woods. We can play in them, run down to the river where our fathers are collecting water and hide in the bushes as the deer and foxes eat the rich berries from the branches. Our mothers tell us to stop the second the ground starts turning up, though. It’s no longer safe if the ground turns up.
I asked my aunt why once. I said, “Why do we have to run from the up turning ground? Why can’t we go up the hills? There has to be a reason why we’re stopped.” Once asking, my aunt’s smile slipped, and her lips pressed together in place of the missing expression. She took my hand and led me to one corner of the village, a little off from where our farms sit. There was a little flat stone, and it spelled a name.
I asked my aunt who that was. She told me, his sister came down with an awful sickness, where she acted like another person sometimes. She would scream at him one day, and the very next, she wouldn’t remember why her throat hurt so very much. The next, she wouldn’t remember complaining about her sore throat, or about screaming. She had a cold once, too, and while it eventually went away, the medicine she got never had the same effect. She was so very sick. My heart hurt for her.
He wanted to help his sister. I agreed with him, she deserved the very best, and we don’t have medicine for that. My aunt said he didn’t listen to his mother and father, forbidding him from leaving over the hills, but he left anyway, and never returned. The few times his sister was well enough and acted as herself disappeared, and she followed. They heard her screams in the night, far off in the hills. I never asked why we had to stay from the hills again.