The girl-turned-woman, the woman-called-See, still gasping from the shock of the cold, reached out with strong strokes and paddled towards the shore, dragging her tired, loose, beaten body up onto the rocks and the sand. She laid her head on her arms and succumbed to sleep, resting on the bank under the tall, thick limbs of a tree with thin, long leaves that lit up faintly each time the lightning cracked through the swollen clouds.
As the dawn broke in the early morning, See lifted her head. She saw the golden red light filling the canyon. She saw the river, wide and calm, lapping with a little ring against the rocks. She saw the eagles far overhead, scanning up and down the river for their breakfast, as they had done since before The Fall.
And she saw, without great surprise, a tanned and wizened woman, the aged partner of the fallen man, sitting cross-legged against the trunk of the tree with the thin leaves. The woman cracked her a toothless grin, bright fire spitting out of her eyes, hair a long grey curtain around her head, her face creased with mirth and welcome. Not a sound escaped her lips, but she gestured to a pile of nuts at her feet. These nuts were not green like the ones in the story of The Fall, but large and black. The ancient one pointed to the tree above them, and See noticed that the nuts hanging heavy from those limbs were still green. The wizened one gestured again to the nuts in the pile, and then made a gathering motion at See. And again, the same gesture. Warm, welcoming, insistent.
See sat-up and crawled towards the pile of nuts. As she did, the woman reached out, grabbed a still-green nut from where it had just fallen, cracked it open with a rock, and then proffered the light brown nut meat. See squatted next to the woman, hands cupped. The woman reached out to See, simultaneously dropping the meat into her hands and reaching up to See's face with a stained, dark thumb. The wizened woman pushed her thumb into the center of See's forehead, right into the gash See had received from the sharp flake of rock that had sliced her face during the storm.
In pain and surprise, See flinched back from the touch, falling backwards off her heels, eyes squinted shut from the sudden unexpected flash of heat behind her eyes. When See sat up, she found herself at the top of the cliff again, right next to the crooked tree with the thin leaves, feet and calves dangling over the cliff's edge. Around her were piles and piles of nuts, some still green, some turned black and beginning to flake.
See still held the light pieces of nut in her hands. She popped them into her mouth, savoring the rich, tangy flavor as her belly rumbled in anticipation. She cracked open a few more of the softer green nuts, breakfasting as she watched the birds soar over the canyon. In gratitude, See took some of the shells and lit a little pyre, burning the husks into a swirling smoke that drifted out over the cliff face to join the eagles' dance.
When See returned to the people, the children ran up to her, in awe, reaching up to touch her face. She seemed different than she had been before, the mark on her forehead shining dark and red against the tan brown of her skin. The adults and old ones smiled at her, welcoming her back, knowing and not-knowing what had transpired in the one day that had passed.
The people scattered some of the black nuts around the village, hoping that someday they might grow up to provide shade. They found, also, that the black nut husks produced a dark, rich color that lasted, and used it on some of their hides.
The green nuts they shared around the tribe, enjoying the new flavor, taking in a part of the man's soul that fell so long ago. As they tasted the blood of the man who had fallen, they remembered him as who he was before The Fall. They remembered themselves as who they had been, too, and they felt some of the Fear that weighed them down lift up into the air, into the sky. Their fear melted into the small trail of curling smoke that came from the shells that had soaked in the blood of the man who had fallen.
That winter, the people did not walk, in silence, in single-file, to the crooked tree. They did not bow their heads and cry. They did not tell a story about a man who fell and brought them Fear, or about a woman whose sadness killed her soul.
Instead, they ran to the crooked tree with great shouts of joy, swinging their children up onto their shoulders, drumming, singing, and dancing. They lit a great fire near the tree and they roasted some of the stored nuts in celebration. The children sat on the edge of the cliff, swinging their legs out, calling to the eagles, throwing rocks down the cliff, screaming out just to hear the echo. The people told the story of the woman called See, the seeker of the tribe, who spent her whole young life searching for the peace and joy that was every person's birthright--and brought it back to them, and grew up into a woman along the way.