Something within – part 7: The way we were

One night, old lady sat next to my fire. She was watching me attend my scratches and bruises. I am usually the one that asks all sorts of questions and make jokes. Not this night though. I decided to be quiet until she speaks to me.

“Do you still think of a woman that left the island?”

“Yes, sometimes I do. I wonder what happened to her.”

“We were all celebrating her departure. Even you were dancing with all of us that night. Why don’t you trust your judgement from back then?”

“Because back then I didn’t know all the facts.”

“You still don’t.”

“Will you tell me the facts I am missing?”

“What about the woman that disappeared?”

“I keep searching for her when I am on a patrol. Sometimes I think I can feel her presence but the feeling is gone too fast.”

“Which event troubles you more – the departure or the disappearance?”

“The disappearance.”

“Why?”

“You were – you are – all so indifferent to her fate. You all have forgotten her too soon. You don’t even think about her. As if she was never here. As if she doesn’t matter.”

“The woman that left the island, she doesn’t matter either. Nobody does. Not me, not even you.”

“What matters then? Who matters then?”

“To whom?”

Hm, to whom indeed. To me? No, to them? To the village?

“I don’t know…”

I was just sitting there staring at my toes. I miss my black nail polish. All they have here is something similar to the brown one. I was never into the brown color.

“A long long time ago, there was a village where all the people lived in harmony with each other and the nature. There were old people, young people, children, men, women. Their lives were pretty similar to our lives here and now.

Then one day some people came. They didn’t live in harmony with each other nor the nature. They were more advanced than the village people. They had more experience in life. That experience was corrupted though and made them more violent than what people in the village were accustomed to.

Some villagers learned to get along with them, some were bullied by them, some found them amusing. As everywhere, different people reacted to various stimuli in a different way. Elder villagers tried to protect the young ones by following the rules that village lived by for ages before the newcomers came.

Now, imagine a little girl. Some say she was 8, some that she was 12. One newcomer fancied her and was always somewhere around her, trying to kiss her or hug her or just hit her. He was a kid himself but a tad older than her. Her parents advised her how to get rid of his attention. It didn’t help. Elder villagers were alarmed of his behavior too but they were too busy to react as they should. Sadly, they reacted only on a formal level saying , “For god’s sake, she isn’t the only one bullied here.”

There were more newcomers that bullied other people too. One was mocking a villager for being different than others. That was rather new experience to all villagers. So far they have been accepting every soul as it was. Some of the villagers even joined the bully. He was hitting him, using his strength and advanced tools to make the villager miserable and embarrassed for being who he was.

One day a little girl’s bully felt braver than usual and he wanted to show her how much he fancies her. She was consistent in showing him she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. He got really mad and knocked her on the ground. At first he wanted to beat her but instead, he pushed her head in a near pond. She was trying to set loose. Other children gathered around them. She knew them. All of them were kids she grew up with. She was looking at them and they were looking at her. Each time he would pull her head out of the water, she was crying for them to help her. They were all laughing at her, even cheering for the bully. At some point, the game became boring for the bully and he allowed her to get up. She ran away to the first elderly she saw.

That elderly was too busy to deal with her tears. That villager that was being mocked for being different hit his bully in a head with a rock. Bully was badly hurt. Bully’s friends came along, some informed their captain too. Elders finally made joint decision. Newcomers pushed a villager into a corner and turned him into an aggressive individual. Those advanced techniques are banned to enter the village ever again. And so are the newcomers.

Their captain was furious but he knew he cannot mess with the villagers so they all left the village. Their camp was packed and ready to leave the area by the time night came. Elders were relieved to see them go.

That little girl gave her parents goodbye kiss and went to the holy place to seek solace. The way to the holy place is really long so she left immediately after she realised elderls don’t have the time to handle her problem now. Somewhere around the midnight she finally stepped on the holy ground. She felt safe here. She didn’t feel this safe for months, ever since the newcomers came. Holy place was a house build of stone blocks. It was once made of white stones. Now it was covered with moss. She prepared her bed chamber and ate some of the bread she brought with her. It wasn’t visible to her until she turned off her torch. Even then it was barely visible. She saw some light in the dark, some far away light. What could it be? Vegetation on that hill was partially blocking her eyesight so she climbed on the roof. That was much better. She could see clearly now. That light was actually a fire. She could feel horror pervading her whole body as she realized the fire was coming from the direction she had come. Her village was burning.

She hurried to get off the roof, packed her stuff and started to run home. What is happening there, she wondered. Somehow she managed to come to her senses. She slowed down and started to pay more attention to the roots sticking out of the ground. If she gets hurt, she wont be of any help to extinguish the fire. The sounds of nature were quiet. A little too quiet. Actually, she could only hear her own breathing and screams. Nature was quiet at first because she was far away from the village. As she was coming closer to the village, she expected the screams to become louder. They weren’t though. The smell of burned flesh and wood was horrible. But that silence was far worse than any smell.

Her tears started to run down her face even before she entered the village. By the time she came to the village, the sun was up for a few hours and the fire was gone. There was only smoke. A lot of smoke. Everything was destroyed. A village was burned to the ground. She ran from one body to another only to discover they were all dead. All the people she loved and cared about, all the people that were laughing at her yesterday, all elder people, dead.

She fetched the resin of a pine that she knew was highly flammable. By the customs of her village, all dead are to be brought to the altar made of flowers and then a holy fire is lit by this pine’s resin. The temperature made by this fire gets so high that the body turns into ashes and all that left are the bones. Bones are collected and thrown into the pit of ancestors.

She had no time nor strength for that. By the afternoon all the dead were covered by pine’s resin. Each dead got one flower on it’s head. The worst were small children that were clinging to their parents as they burned. She cried and cried and when she had no more tears, she only sobbed. Then she heard them. They were singing and laughing. She turned to face the village and say a prayer for all those poor souls. Then she ran towards the sea. She knew where they docked and she knew all the shortcuts to get there. She wasn’t sobbing anymore. She was hating. Their ship already departed when she arrived at the beach. She could see the smoke coming from the village. Pine’s resin’s smoke. The sun set pine resin on fire. She waited patiently until the wind brought some ash to her sight. Then she started laughing so loud the singing on the ship stopped. All the newcomers climbed on deck. All they saw was a little girl.

“Hey, Billy, isn’t that your little girl?”

Billy couldn’t believe she survived, “I knew she was tougher than she looks like! I like them that way! What is this silly little girl up to?” He raised his hand above his eyes to see better.

She was making circles by her hands above her head. Faster and faster. The wind was forming a small tornado above her head. Her hands were circuling even faster. Tornado raised up in the air and went back towards the smoke. When it was above the village, it lifted a dark cloud of dark substance in the air and it merged with it. Then it changed its direction. It went straight to the ship. 

The captain ordered evasive maneuvers to avoid tornado but it was in vain. That stupid girl was still making circles above her head. When the tornado hit the ship, all the newcomers were covered in the ashes of their victims. The ash was everywhere, filling the air, making it hard for them to breathe. They covered their mouths and noses with cloth of their shirts. But the ash somehow went through it. With each breath their lungs were slowly filling up with ashes until they stopped breathing. When there was not a living soul on a ship, the tornado sent it to the bottom of the sea. Then it lifted in the air again and hoovered over the land that belonged to the villagers. All the bonds that were tying the peninsula with the land were broken. A new island was born.

Tornado scattered the ashes of the villagers around the island so never again newcomers can find it. Only the passengers with permission of dead villagers’ souls are allowed to come through and are brought to the island by the tide. This is how you came here. How we all came here.”

“And the girl, where is the girl?”

“Oh, this story was told by generations of the old ladies before me. And will be told by generations that are yet to come. This girl is dead my child. Whether she died of old age, or there is some other story about her, is a topic for one of our future conversations.”

We sat quietly for an hour and then I started to get sleepy so I left the old lady and went to bed.

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