I stepped outside with father's boots on, feeling the heaviness of his feet in mine.
The people in my country's soil then clawed into his boots and pulled me down until I could no longer breathe in anything but dense thick soil and earthworm particles traveling into my mouth.
The spirits of my land traveled through me as well. They drifted in and out of my body, trading places and laughing, laughing at me and my sad predicament.
One man stumbled towards me as if under a drunken afternoon spell. His mouth hung open, saliva pouring down. When he came beside me he spat into both my eyes and I screamed, falling to the grass beneath my feet. I saw black and smelled drool and could not open my eyes.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the man from the mountain open his razored jaw and draw a poisoned needle from underneath his tongue. I watched the needle fly from his finger through my father's ear and out the other, turning all his fluids into ones of pure jade and stone. Then the foreigner strapped my jaded father to his back and continued to ride into forbidding wastelands.
Inside my head lived a frightened little boy who nibbled at his nails whenever a strange man glanced at him. I could not leave that fright alone.
I left my home and family to find him, and entered the woods. I walked deeper and deeper into the world of trees that reached the sky and damp earth that smelled of life, into a world I had always been warned not to enter. The day I left my home, I could sense the adventure that lay ahead. Armed with nothing but courage in my chest and good sense on my shoulders, I let my feet lead me into the great unknown.
Then, as I was about to reach the top of the mountain, a giant form appeared before me in the shape of soil. As I came closer to it I realized that it was not a giant form but composed of hundreds of small people from the earth. The mountain had come alive, and it did not want me to pass its presence.
As I reached the mountain's top I took my father's bones and held them to the ground. The people of the earth relinquished their skins and flesh taken over the years of people passing over their home. The skins attached the bones and rose, forming into the figure of a man I knew from when I was young.
My feet, wearing their newfound bottomed shoes, pressed gently across the soils as not to wake the men clamoring upwards. But I still felt a shadow trail at my footsteps that did not feel like my own. As I walked faster the shadow moved behind me as well, sometimes touching my bare skin with sodden ground.
Before I entered my home my brothers came out, and, thinking I was a peddler, asked how much the jade I carried was worth.
As Mother smoothed her hand over Father's forehead she looked at me reassuringly.
Everyone then stared through the guise of the false man beside me. The person, who acted as a substitute for my accomplishments, began to bite his nails in a rampant manner.
My lying brothers cried when they were forced to walk on the ground without their leather bottomed shoes. I watched as they, like my father had once, were swallowed by the ground.