BY ANNE McADAM
Copyright is held by the author.
THE GROUND heaves. Light fills the sky.
Torrents of water rush down the slopes, pulling at their bodies. Everyone scrambles to climb the dark trees where they can hold on. Wave after wave tug at them, before finally subsiding. Now they wait for the giants to come.
The scratchings of the thin, pale giants creeping through the trees are soon heard; long slim fingers reach out to catch and carry away the slow or the weak. At last the giants give up and return to the sky. Everyone knows they will be back. It has always been so.
“Where are the children?” and “Are the children safe?” cry the mothers. Everyone searches, then three mothers begin their wailing. Matu and his clan do the proper mourning, then relax for a while. After living in this place for generations, they’ve learned that sometimes, just after eating, the land moves sharply and there is a light in the sky seeming to beckon the floodwaters. Only when adults give the safe signal, after the giants have departed, do the children come down from the trees to laugh and chase each other and compete in climbing games.
While the children play, the adults speak of many things: of bonds that hold their clan and families close, and of pride and puzzlement for the occasional glimpse of a scarlet banner woven through the treetops. The colour is mesmerizing; it stirs them. They have claimed it as their banner. Many believe it’s the reason the giants cause the floods and then come to finish them off: to retake their banner and their forest. The clan has so far prevailed, though their numbers have greatly lessened in recent days.
Mostly, they speak of the euphoric dreams induced by the delicious ambrosia from the forest floor.
Then, they are able to join their thoughts together and share dreams followed by discussions and sometimes heated debate, led by Matu, as to what it all means. Now, with their hunger recently sated just before the attack, is the time to dream. The euphoria is overtaking them.
“Come sit close to me, Teela. You know I like you right here so I can always find my way home,” Matu says gently, making room for his lovely wife on the ground beside him. Those nearby smile and exchange glances with their mates.
On a swell of bliss, their minds glide great distances and they share visions of things they have never imagined. As they visualize an unknown object, they hear a word that anchors the thought of it in their minds. Now, they float in black emptiness . . . a void . . . surrounded by countless tiny . . . pinpoints . . . of light, some closer, some farther away. Then the huge, round objects . . . spheres, that move in . . . orbits . . . speeding around a much greater sphere that is a ball of light and heat . . . a sun. Now the vibrations begin, low and thrumming at first, beguiling, exciting, gradually separating into different frequencies, harmonious and climbing, arousing; they join to become music that fills their senses, transporting them to realms where they wander enraptured until at last the feelings subside and they are left briefly desolate, to talk and wonder at it all.
When ravenous again, they’ll return to suckle the rich scarlet ambrosia.
* * *
The ground heaves. Light fills the sky.
Another day, another earthquake in Japan, but at least today the sun has come out, muses Emika. Sunbeams dance through the window onto the subtly hued silk kimono that she has cleaned and scented with the finest crafted incense for Sakura to wear at this evening’s entertainment. Their geisha house in Gion Kobu district, Kyoto, is the most respected, and the busiest.
The beautiful Sakura enters the dressing room, tossing her shamisen onto the silk cushioned divan, the instrument’s strings quivering with the force, and impatiently removes her wooden pedestal shoes.
“You seem distracted today, Sakura. Are you feeling all right?” asks Emika.
“Of course! How could I not be happy?” the geisha snaps. “I have a drawer full of silver bracelets and a silk bag full of pearls! So, I must be happy.” Sakura notices Emika now standing with her eyes downcast. “Or,” gently touching the girl’s shoulder, “so I was told by a customer at last night’s party.” Sighing, she sits on the divan. “He said, ‘Your talents are such a pleasant diversion for us, my dear.’” She frowns and bites her lower lip, knowing it will spoil her rosebud lipstick, not caring. She unconsciously scratches her head. “They don’t really know us, they care only about the singing and dancing, about drinking games and meaningless conversation.”
She gestures the length of her body, “The customers see only this. They think of us as mere entertainment — but there is so much more to me!” Composing herself now, she rises gracefully from the divan and moves like mist across the room to gaze out the bright window. A splinter on the window sill pricks her finger and she sucks away the drop of blood. “I have so many thoughts. I am full of yearnings but here I am, encased in this silken cocoon.” A growing tear threatens to spill onto Sakura’s perfect white cheek as she turns to Emika. “They cannot even imagine what thoughts and dreams are in our hearts.”
“At least, the sun shines now,” ventures timid Emika.
“Ah, yes!” Sakura wipes away the tear, then scratches her head vigorously, imploring, “Quickly Emika, bring a cup, a basin of water, and the ivory comb to the window. Let’s be rid of these disgusting lice once and for all!”
The elaborate weavings of Sakura’s lustrous dark hair gradually loosen as she removes her hair pins, causing her scarlet ribbon to slowly unfurl and slide to the floor. She bends her head down to the basin. In the flooding sunshine, Emika pours water over her hair, then parts it with the pale ivory comb to begin.
* * *
After the waters subside, the long, slim fingers of the giant find Matu. As he is carried away, he sees in the distance the scarlet banner of his clan, falling in defeat. His last thought is of his beloved wife.