Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Worlds within Worlds #4.2
Tell me where the sun is. Tell me why there is no night, only day.
The sand man's words come back to me as I head back to my current hideout. Luckily I am passing the first grove that I had found when the memories strike; it is not wise to walk through the woods inattentively, even now: there are things in the woods that are far more dangerous than a woman – I have heard their calls and know they roam close by.
Tell me where the sun is. Tell me why there is no night, only day.
I force myself to climb to the unknown woman's bier in the tallest tree before I surrender myself to the recollection.
Geit had told me about a place where the winds lied and the skies were yellow, not mauve. It is a strong memory because his story managed to worm its way into my dreams on many occasions afterwards.
Geit had also taught me about the words left and right. They were strange concepts, and useless to me because I did not need them to know where I was in the world. Yet they stuck with me, those words, and settled into the marrow of my bones.
The words that Sam used – night and day and sun – they have a similar feeling for me. It is like I have heard these words before, but where?
Ahh ... yes! Melwais. I can smell her coppery skin and feel the roughness of her deep plum-tinted hair as I bring her name to my throat.
It was the time of the Race – my last Race, perhaps? Before some calamity had taken me back to the healing pools and then here to this deserted place? Her face seems like an old memory, like a story that starts in one longhouse and circles around the coastline until it returns, after a hundred-hundred sleeps, to the man who first told it. But it is recent. Yes, Melwais was the last woman to lead our gang in procession through the High Domains.
Whatever. The skies had commanded a race, and the guardians had flocked over our longhouse to celebrate our selection. The great gulls came at a propitious time, for once more Leic was our leader and he had already overseen the construction of a magnificent boat – its carvings so intricate, its balance so perfect ...
I, too, had worked hard before our selection; few men were surprised when Leic claimed me to be part of the final team. When the women arrived to guide us to the competition place I was almost as perfect as our magnificent canoe.
I do not understand the competitions that the women hold, between sisters, and between clans of sisters. Perhaps it is something to do with the neatness of their sewing, or the skill at tanning manskin. They are not men, thus it is not a man's place to understand their ways.
'Will you miss me?' I asked Achoa.
'I will not miss you, little Kal.'
She looked more sublime as she spoke those words than at any moment I had ever remembered before: her sisters had braided her hair tight to her scalp and woven delicate reyalla blooms within the cords, their shape a shimmer of gold and green layers reaching down to her waist. She also wore her new cloak, the one she had been sewing since before the last Race in which our gang had competed, whose inner side was a fluff of dense down to complement the sheer whiteness of the smallgull feathers ranged in dense patterns across the outer side.
I would have sawn off my legs at that moment to be given a chance to snuggle into that cloak, to feel Achoa's fine arms cuddle us tight into its warmth.
'You are cruel to me. I have the respect of all my brothers!'
'And I do not dishonour you with my words. They are the simple truth.'
'How so?' I asked. We were gathered, my brothers and I, in Achoa's glade. Many people were there to celebrate our departure, not only my gang-mates but also many of Achoa's sisters.
'Because I am to walk with you. Have you not heard?' The shake of my head disappointed her. 'Still you are a rascal and a thief, Kal. You have no honour.'
I tried to look downcast, but it was a wasted effort. She was already smiling at my discomfort.
'Is this the one you told me about?'
The questioner stood behind me. Her voice was tuned a little deeper than Achoa's, and seemed to come from a mouth level with the crown of my head.
'It is, my Lady. This is Kal. Kal, turn around and offer the proper greetings to the Lady. She is the one who has come to walk you to the Race, and she has selected me to be her acolyte.'
I turned and stumbled some appropriate words at the woman. Her name was Melwais, her fingers were fine and un-calloused, and I was in full lust for her within three heart-skips.
Ahh, Melwais! For a while I forget the unlucky, abandoned bier in which I sit and let my thoughts wander over every inch of her body once more.
I did not speak to her again during that meal, nor did I enjoy her company for the sleep that followed – I made do with Jiar, my teammate, who was always a good friend: we were both in lust for the Lady that time, and made passion between us with conspiratorial whispers of how we could both share her comforts.
It was a long journey – twenty hundred-hundred steps and many more along the wide avenues leading into the High Domains, and around the Great Caldera, and down again to the competition place where we were to build our longhouse and ready ourselves for the Race. During that procession I had the honour of lying with the Lady Melwais twice, neither time having to share her affections with any other man.
It was during our second sleeptime together that we had talked of strange places.
'Fol Huun grows impatient with our progress,' she said. 'We must step more quickly – more work, less rest.'
'Does the Great One talk to you?'
She drew her fingers up from their settled place on my thigh – my right thigh, I recall, as the breeze was too weak at that moment to offer good directions – and trailed their tips across my skin to my stomach.
'She always talks to those who have eyes to discern the skies.'
I stared at the slew of bands and whorls above us for a while. 'I don't understand,' I admitted.
'Those patterns are Her messages – each shape has a different meaning and, together, they can be revealed as Her words, Her commands.'
'This is a woman's thing, yes?'
'And a man's thing, too.'
'One of my brothers, he told me a story of a place where the skies were different – a different colour.'
'Did you like his story?'
'No. It worried me. It worries me still. It makes shadows in my dreams.'
'Like the sun casts shadows?'
I looked into her eyes, prepared to risk another kiss. But she had the know of men's thoughts and distracted me from my idea by biting my ear.
'Ow! You cannot eat me now. After we win the Race, then you can have my flesh.'
'Oh, I shall keep you to that promise, little Kal, even if you lose.'
'We cannot lose,' I said, offended. 'What is this "sun" you talk of?'
'It is a great ball of fire that travels across the skies.'
'Now you tease me! Who has heard of such a nonsense thing.'
'Maybe your brother has, the one who talks of yellow skies.'
I could not stay peeved at her: 'Geit has many stories, but he has never talked of fiery balls in the sky.'
'Did he give a name to this place with yellow skies?'
I shook my head. 'Maybe. I do not recall the sounds.'
'Maybe he called the place Uekh.'
'Your friend is well-travelled then.'
'Such a place exists?'
'Yes.' She let her fingers pause in their circling of my navel, let them draw away towards my crotch and the baubles – now claimed as my gift to her – couched within their curly mattress. 'I have been there.'
'Truly?' I watched her nod her head. 'And there was fire in the sky?'
'Not there, no. The sun lives in another place – another world, where it travels from one end of the sky to the other, and then beneath the world to rise again, like the winds that circle the land in this world.'
I managed to close my mouth, though my eyes remained wide: 'Such madness!' I told her.
She laughed at my doubt. 'And yet it is so. When the sun is in the sky the people say it is daytime, and the light casts black shadows of their own shapes behind them. And when the sun hides under the world they say it is night time and their shadows merge together to drink the light to nothing. They tell how time passes by the circles of the sun.'
'And the beats of their hearts, I wager, and the paces they take. And the sleeps between work.'
'No, just the sun. Day and night, day and night. Nothing else matters to them. Their skies are blue and white, and grey, and black. And sometimes gold and red when the sun passes between the land and the skies. It is a wondrous place!'