'Ghosts of The Camino' by Eabha Rose

Gripped by fever, she fought her way up the steep hill towards Finisterre. God give me strength, please.
Ellen had been walking for six weeks and was no longer sure why she’d come or what had motivated her to abandon her daily comforts to hike across Northern Spain. Nothing made sense. Apart from a feeling she’d lived it all before.

Earlier in her journey, she’d met an old priest at a church in Pamplona. Story had it that he’d stand at the door each morning blessing the passing pilgrims.
‘Why do people do it, padre? Why do they put themselves through this physical and mental torture?’
‘It’s different for everyone, is it not? You’ve heard stories of great loss, no doubt and of families reuniting on the Camino, people finding the answers they sought. But there is one thing I’ve learnt and seen. For some, a moment arrives along the way when the past, present and future seem to converge. It is in this moment that the pilgrim is forever changed.’ He pressed a scallop shell into her hand. ‘I hope you will find it.’
That had been a month ago. So far, the journey had taken her across the Pyrenees, through the Basque country, along the path of bull runs, convents and vineyards. She’d trudged across the dusty Meseta, prayed at sacred sites, had her feet washed by the monks of San Nicolas, all in search of that illusive moment.
It was nearing the end. She’d come down with a fever two days before and restless nights had been filled with worry about diminishing funds and a fear of what awaited her back home.
Ellen spotted an outline on the horizon. Blinking, she watched a girl in a pink tutu and straw hat disappear over the hill. Battling dizziness, Ellen pushed onwards before collapsing at the summit.
A wet cloth stung her face. ‘Hello darling,’ Sophie greeted her. ‘You shouldn’t be walking today.’ Ellen watched this transgender apparition kneel over her, hat shielding the sun. Sophie seemed ageless, her long thin fingers wringing out a towel. ‘Sometimes we need to rest before we can start again.’

‘I’ve got to be home soon…’
‘The Camino will look after you,’ Sophie whispered. ‘It blesses us with opportunities to start again. Before the Camino, I was a sixty three year old man, working as a sculptor, selling my art, struggling to survive. Now, each day, I am growing more into the girl whose spirit has found her home.’
Sophie rested the towel on Ellen’s head as she fell into a deep torpor.
She woke to the sounds of trolleys and distant voices. Squinting, Ellen looked around the bare white room before spotting the book at her bedside - Ghosts of the Camino by Padre Diego.

With shaking hands, she opened the card...
      A gift for your journey. Get well soon. Love Dad.
Ellen rested her eyes on the cover picture. There, standing outside his church in Pamplona, was the old padre.

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