Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #4.3

Standing here on the cliffs I have a good view of the little beach upwind of me, with its lagoon and healing pools. One of the men – Marc with the dark hair – lies very still on the sands; the other – Sam – is digging a man-sized hole: already he has hollowed his ditch to the height of his hips.
I did not plan to come here again, but my last sleep had been disturbed by visions of a black sky, its unrelenting colour peppered by bright points of light. I had been searching for my shadow while a terror had paced at my back, never seen.
Apart from the men on the beach, I am alone in this place ... and it scares me. No man should be alone, not like this.
I leave the safety of the lookout point and scramble down the frozen collapse of rocks to the little stream. When I reach the strand the man pauses and looks at me with hopeless eyes.
'He's dead. Help me. Please ... help. We have to bury him.'
I circle past the man as he resumes his digging. He uses his hands to scrape clumps of wet sand up to the lip of the hole, but as one clump reaches its destination, another two crumble from the sides to the bottom, which already swirls in water.
I am glad to see that the Vital Breath of Marc has departed; he did not deserve to suffer such agonies.
'Why are you digging a hole?'
'I have to bury him. I can't leave him here.'
'How does burying your brother's flesh honour him?'
My words break him from his work.
'He has to be buried. Dead people get buried, or cremated.'
I nod my approval at this idea. 'Burning the flesh is a good way to honour a brother. And it would be safer than staying here.'
The words that I share with the man seem to bring some focus back into his face.
'Is there danger here? Apart from the fucking fish ...'
'There's danger everywhere,' I tell him, 'though there's more danger in this place than there is elsewhere. Especially because you've dug a hole in the sand. Making holes so close to the healing pools – the crabs will be angry beyond their endurance.'
'Crabs ...?'
I wave my arm towards the cliffs. 'Come with me. We shall build your brother a pyre away from the reach of the crabs, yes?'
'Yes,' he agrees, wiping his hand across his tear-tracked cheek.

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