Monday, April 12, 2021

The Wandering (part 7)


Dirt bumped over my exposed back.


I opened my eyes to see my legs hefted above me, my back pressing into the ground. Ignose's shape blurred into focus as I groggily attempted to push myself up. She was wearing my stone vest, and had one of my legs in each arm. Her face beaded with sweat as she drug me down the dirt path.

When she saw my eyes were open, she stopped, lowering my ankles to the ground.

“Those fool idiots,” She cursed, squatting besides me and easing off the vest. “They almost killed you. And you! You are supposed to spit it out, you blighted thing. Not drink half the ocean in wine.” I groaned. My arms hurt. My back hurt. My legs ached. I smelled of pee.

Ignose's gaze softened, and she leaned down to help support me. I sat, and immediately regretted it. While the trees were no longer bending or a-swaying with a will of their own, my head pounded as if someone had been playing the drum on it. My body felt all wrung out like just-washed clothes. I turned my head away from Ignose and began heaving up my insides. Bile and water rose out of me like a wave as I vomited.

Ignose handed me a rag soaked with river water after I was done, and I suckled greedily on it.

“Thank you.” I rasped, grateful for anything to easy my thirst.

“Cinna pinched my nose” I mange to hack out a little while later, between a spasm of coughing. My voice is gone. A little old woman has climbed down my throat and it is her voice that speaks to Ignose now. I take a shaky breath but go on.

“It was hard to spit it out,” I say. Ignose hurrmps.

“She would,” Ignose said. “That one holds no love for you. Avoid her, Solamae.”

I nod, sucking my damp rag. It wasn't enough. Now that I have my bearings, thirst roars through my body, unquenchable as fire. I could drink an ocean. Just no more wine. Never anymore wine.

“Is there water?” I croak. Ignose shakes her head.

“I couldn't carry a water-bowl and you,” She says. “And now it's almost dawn. You have to make it to the village”

I nod. We are close, as close as Ignose had dared to drag me. Just around the bend and through the clearing, are the first huts our of tribe. I can make it. I will make it. The luck of our tribe, our harvest and our future depend upon it.

I push myself up and Ignose swings the vest back into place over my chest. The weight pushes me back to the ground

 I can't make it. I can't even move. The stone-filled sack is heavy, and it digs into my back with significant force. I am pinned like a bug to the path, barely able to breath.

I struggle, but cannot rise.

“This is the worst part.” Ignose says. She sounds far away. “You'll have to drag yourself. Hurry.”

Her footsteps fade away, the sound of the forest rushing in to fill my ears. I push up to a crawl, only able to hold myself inches from the ground. The grass becomes my measure. Soft, dew sprinkled, salt-drenched, lighted by the moon. Inches from my face. I see a beetle, roaming with me, his shell effortlessly borne along on spindly legs. I see the wind and how it ruffles the blades like the caress of a mother.

I am a beetle. I tell myself. But the only whisper that returns to me, born on the wind or whispered by the sea is: Ryia.

Ryia. It becomes the chant of earth as I pull myself forward. Ryia. Stop, gasp. Ryia. Ry as I rise and ia as I complete the movement. The sound of my knees on the sand. The sound of the stones dancing in my vest to the tune of my crawl. Ryia. Ryia. Ryia.

The path is gone. Only sand, pressed with many feet, reminds. Thatched grass-huts. Silent black feet. Ryia, Ryia, Ryia.

The fire-pit. I have made it.


The sun rises. I am tied to the stone, our stone, the stone of the village that glows with the light of the moon every night. They dance. They sing. I am painted red, a moon-blood offering. Ogna May feeds me raw game and lets me suck the yokes from eggs gathered that morning.

By half-light, it is over. I am cut free. The Ogna removes my vest and all but carries me to the sauna, where I fall limp, spent. Once again I am washed. The sisters around me bless each other, whispering of good harvests and game luck, trading promises of sunny days and warm nights. My womb is cleansed and blessed, since I cannot be. Daughter of the moon I am, but daughter of the sea I am not.

Ignose waits for me in the treeline, Roan tied to her back.

“Good job.” She says. She offers me her arm, but I shake my head. I will walk. I have done it, and I will walk.

Ryia, Ryia, Ryia.


[Transcription Note: Several hides in this section were beyond recovery]


[Transcription Note: only legible part of several hides]

One moon-night, Cinna had beaten me just for speaking to her own daughter, a maiden of six. Both of us has been gathering mushrooms in the forest for stew. At the time I was not fully aware of my own place, and I had spoken with her, even dared to play with her. Ignose had been livid. I still felt the shame to this day, the sin I had caused against the moon and the sea.

The scars on my back remain.


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