Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Worlds within Worlds #10.3
Here is a rock I know. It stands proud above the shoreline, like a miniature version of Fol Huun's spire. Downwind lie the littorals and pools of my old gang – my real gang. The outcrop marked the upwind limit of our territory.
I hadn't recognised the landmark when I first saw it because I was approaching it from the wrong direction. The hinterland of my gang's domain is made up of a jumble of hills and ravines – a difficult terrain to walk, but the cliffs here are generally low and the beaches wide. We used to do a good trade with other gangs, and the women, in bladderwracks and kelps, and many flatfishes and rays made this shore their homeland.
But the shoreline upwind of ours was taboo: dangerous creatures buried themselves in those sands, and the rocks of the hills were too sharp and loose for women to tend. Other whispers, too, kept us away from the area: murmurs of curses and madnesses that walked in the mists and foams that flocked to the shore, and the fogs that lingered around the stunted trees.
Only when I drew close to the spire, and recognised it, did the shock of realisation smack through my limbs.
You must rest. My guardian was waiting for me to arrive. It perches no more than two feet from where I rest at the base of the spire. The crabs know you are here. They will forbear.
My journey has taken so long, I have almost forgotten my purpose.
'The man is still in his healing pool?'
I remember him. I do not know him. You will help him.
'How many men – people – are left?'
It is no use asking a guardian to count things. Vuanna had told me this.
I close my eyes and try to fish that memory into my mind.
'Why do you say this thing? Guardians do not talk.'
'Not to you maybe, little Kal. Not yet. But when they do talk to you, remember that they cannot count things.'
I open my eyes and look downwind. The shoreline here is low and flat, curving gently to form a wide bay. It was a good place for building feast fires – a place where my gang mates could gather away from the judgmental eyes clustered in the long house. Women, too, could come here and join us around the fires. Each of us would bring gifts to be shared among us all, and all would leave their weapons stacked here by the spire: it was a safe place for those who knew to barter, and trade comforts.
Your other nestlings still breathe. The short one makes much water from his eyes. The tall one comforts him. Feeds him rabbit. This news shall help you rest.
In my eyes I can see a vision of the fires dotted across the sands. It was our duty to light them, tend them, as we gathered the seaweeds washed up on the low humps of sand. The work was not popular; most were glad to see us leave the long house for a few sleeps. Jiar would come often, and Leic when he was not competing to be our leader. Geit would often come here on his own.
There is no rabbit here.
Vuanna was often on the beach, I remember. She kept a glade not far from here, a couple of thousand paces landwards over the rough terrain.
'Come,' I say to the gull. 'I know of a safer place than this spot.'
'Ak! Ak! Ak-ak!'
'There might be rabbit there.'