Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Wandering (Part 1)

It is official. I have too many hobbies. Maybe that is why I never seem to finish things. I jump from this to that and back again-- knitting, blogging, videos, writing, painting, music. I love being creative. Anyway, I wrote another story and will be posting parts of it weekly. Thursday? Thursdays. Enjoy.

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My name is Mary Lennox. I was part of an archaeology team on a watery planet called Leaochis. The ruins were extensive. I was assigned to a set of caves in the southern part of the two land masses of Leaochis, where I found several hides of an unidentifiable animal. On the skins was recorded a story.

Translating and interpenetrating this story has been my lives work.

I have tried to keep with the dialect of the time, but for those of us from the Milky Way, several substitutions were necessary. For example, the plant Pa has a sweet root that is harvested yearly in the southern regions of Leaochis. For ease of understanding I have dubbed it sugarcane, so that understanding may abound. But the reader should know that is not what the Leaochian people would have eaten.

We have barely begun to scratch the surface of the planets here in the Andromeda Galaxy, and many things are alien to us. Understandably, this is why the dialogues were updated. I will make available scans of the original hides, as well as my first three translations so curious observers may see how the manuscript evolved.

Leaochis is a vast ocean planet, with two distinct land masses that are not overly large. The people here were native Leaochians, they ate the plants and hunted in the forests, and fished the beaches. For all practical purposes, they were savages.

Yet this story is important to the history of Leaochis. It is one of three hides we have found. Three hides: the only documentations of life on this planet. There is not much we can glean from discarded pottery, empty caves, and grave dust. This story tells the real tale of Leaochis and her people, the story that the remnants left behind cannot.
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I remember the first birth I attended vividly. It was my sister Ignose. Her labor started at shade of the half moon, and she had shaken me awake, panting and breathless.

“My child comes,” She said. Three shade-spans later she was moaning and swaying with pains. “Don't go,” She said, but I rushed to get the Ogna. Her cries to the Creator resounded in my mind as my legs flashed over the smallpath to the village.

My frightened eyes must have told all, because Ogna May had arose and followed me without a word as I scrambled back to our leafgrass lean-to. I couldn't run now--even though I was breathless to get back to Ignose. The Ogna had been lifebringer for over fifty red moons. She walked with purpose and with a gnarled tree-root to support her and her basket, but she walked slow.

Once we arrived, she had to bend double to get inside. Seeing Ignose, she tisked. “You should have fetched me sooner. Her time is near.”

“It hurt, oh it hurts,” moaned Ignose. I had never seen her look like this, and I reached out to soothe her, worried.

She slapped my hands away. “Leave me alone! Oh, it hurts!”

“We need to get her into the water,” Ogna May said, as Ignose writhed. 

“I can't,” My sister moaned through gritted teeth before screaming. My heart began to thrum against my chest.

“Is she dying?” I asked, tears pricking my vision. Ignose was all I had.

The Ogna laughed. “No, child. She's bringing forth life. This is the way of most women.” She eyed Ignose testily for a second, before squaring her shoulders.

“You will walk. Solamae, help her.”

Ignose screamed again, sweat dripping from her face, and her belly undulated like a snake swaying in the rushes. Ogna May grabbed one arm, and I hauled at the other. Ignose rose.

“I hate the day I laid eyes upon the Sun,” She spat, but she walked, bowed over as the Onga backed out of our hut, Ignose leaning heavily upon my arm.

Ogna May talked as we walked. She talked to the moons, three were alight in the sky tonight. The blue sister, and her alabaster twin shone wanly through the boughs of the trees as we made our way to the sea. The full brightness of the evermoon shown as well, far to our backs and casting beams that highlighted Ignose's dripping face and the calmness of Ogna's weathered one. The only moon missing—the Red-- would come at shade, when the cold came down from the north and all the sisters retreated to the caves. Now, without its rose hue, everything was blue and white and dark. 

I listened to Ogna, half supporting Ignose, half watching the moons.

“For generations our women give birth in the sea. The pains come just as the red moon rises. It is our right and our task to bring life to Leaochis, to bring life from the womb to give to the Creator. He will sustain you as your red moon flows into the sea and life is born once again. He will...”

Ignose cursed, something I will not write of here. The Ogna missed a step, and came down hard on her tree-root, causing it to snap under the weight of both her and Ignose's quivering body. She stumbled to the side, and I found myself supporting the whole weight of my moon-sister as she clutched her belly and screamed. Water gushed from between her legs, drenching my calves. The Ogna fell in a heap beside the path.

Ignose panted, leaning heavily on me. Ogna May heaved herself up, tisking at the sight of her basket and pots. She had fallen on it.

“Hurry,” Ignose groweled, starting forward again. “He's coming.”

Ogna May grunted again, and I could tell she wasn't pleased. But she rose, took Ignose's arm, and we all inched onward.

I smelled the sea before I saw it. The sharp odor of dead fish intensified, mixed with salt and brine. Just before we rounded the corner, the breeze caught me with that vast emptiness, hanging just beyond my view, behind the treeline. The sea. It was near.

The trees thinned, and then we were there.

“I have to push,” Ignose said, but the Ogna just pulled her forward. Across the sand, soft like skin on our toes. To the lapping waves that ate at my ankles. She began to undress Ignose, the lights of the three moons making her dark skin shine blue and silver. We walked out, Ignose naked as the day she had been born here, on these shores, until I was chest deep and the waves lapped at the Ogna's waist.

Ignose reclined back, both of us supporting her, as she floated in the ocean, her breasts mountain peaks in the valley of waves, her belly a moon of it's own. She sighed.

Suddenly she arched her back, screaming. Red gushed between her legs, silver-black in the moonlight. Ignose clung to me.

“Solamae, Solamae, help me.”

I gripped her hand, trying to keep my panic down. This was not the way I had imagined a life-bringing. I'd seen many a maiden walk the path in the morning into the village, a small bundle in their arms, their faces alight with joy. This was entirely different.

'Shh, shhh,” The Ogna said. “It's almost over.”

Ignose screamed again. As she gasped for breath, Ogna May instructed me to stand behind my moon-sister, supporting her head and torso in the water, while she moved to peer between Ignose's legs, her hands cupping her bottom, her feet draped over the Ogna's sholders.

“Push,” She said, and Ignose pushed and cursed and cried.

In the end I was crying too, but a new sound soon stopped my tears. The mewing of a baby. I couldn't see—Ignose's hair was all in my face and the salt water kept bumping me up and down, but I knew, he was here. Ignose began sobbing in relief.

"It is a boy,” the Ogna said, and she placed the infant on my sister's naked chest.

I thought Ignose would grab him, but instead she gasped again. “It hurts, Ogna.”

The Ogna peered down, humming softly. “There is another,” She said, as my sister's cries intensified. “A good omen. The Creator has blessed you with twins.”

Chapter Two

In the morning, when the sun arose, Ignose walked proudly into the village, a baby on each arm. Her cheeks were pink and she was rosy with pride. I was exhausted. The villagers gathered around her, exclaiming over her prizes. A boy, for the sun. And a daughter for the moon. Rare to see my moon-sisters close to Ignose, but no one seemed to remember their places this morning.

I collapsed beside one of the mud and stick huts, watching Ignose. Ogna May waddled up beside me, chuckling again.

“One day it will be your turn, Solame,” She said, squatting down beside me.

I just looked at her. “I will never give birth,” I said, at last. But she only grinned.

“It is not so bad, once you get used to it,” She said. “You are only two hands old. Just wait until your red moon flows and the sun turns it's hot gaze towards you. The sun shines brightly on us, dear one.”

I just shook my head. Do that? No, count me out.

Ogna May leaned in close. “How many of your sisters have you seen go to the water? There might be pain as we bring life, Solame. But there is great pleasure between the sun and moon. That is why many of your sisters are even now heavy with child. Do not gainsay what you do not know.”

I returned to watching Ignose, but in my heart I purposed—I would not find myself screaming in the ocean at night, sun or no sun.

Ogna May clucked at me, as if she could read my thoughts. “Go home and sleep. I will care for Ignose. Eat, and rest. No one can support the moon alone.”

I don't remember walking home, but when I awoke I was on my woven grass mat. A bowl of clear river water and a cloth of fruit lay beside me. I rolled over, to hear Ignose arguing with Ogna.

“It is custom, daughter,” Ogna May said calmly. They must be standing right outside the vine-woven lean-to that both Ignose and I had carefully covered with mud to ward off the rain.

“So not only do I have to give my son up in two red moons, but now you ask me to give my daughter to another?” Hearing Ignose shout was normal, but the tone of her voice now near broke my heart. She sounded like a wounded wolf pup yapping at a mountain lion. 

“It is custom. Paqia miscarried. Her breasts ache to nurse a child. You have two. It does not change the blood, you know this. She will know of you, as she is your first moon-daughter.”

“But she is mine,” Ignose said.

“She belongs to Leaochis, and Leaochis belongs to us,” Ogna replied. I had finished my fruit at this point, and had started on some flat bread we had stored near our mats. The water I sipped slowly, and I trying to work the salt crystals from my hair. The smell of the sea filled our lean-to, and my clothes were pasted to my body, winkled in stiff, briny folds.

I drained the water. I would need to bathe. Soon.

Outside, Ignose began to wail. Her cry was high, a keening sound of mourning. I stripped myself to my flats, picked up my other woven dress, soft from the cloth-souring and meticulous mending, bundled it up and tucked my washing-stone inside.  Thus ready I and pushed back the flaps of skins that covered the opening to our lean-to, and blinked in the bright mid-day light. Before me, Ignose sat besid our fire-pit, holding her son. Ogna May loomed over her holding his twin.

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