Archive for the ‘Alex Dally MacFarlane’ Category
Chinrezik and the Isle of Demons
Friday, December 18th, 2009
On the south edge of the city, the river splits into two around an island. Now, in the time when the city was smaller and that island a far-off piece of rock, a group of terrible demons lived there. Manlike in visage, they possessed none of the goodness of heart and lived selfish, sordid, drunken lives.
A ship wrecked on the smaller rocks near that island, casting the sailors ashore. There, despite the city less than a day away, they fell prey to the demons’ power and adopted their lifestyle.
The city-guardian Chinrezik saw this and saddened.
Taking on the form of a giant horse, like the legendary Horse-King, he flew to the island on a foggy morning when the demons slept and said to the sailors, “Your wives and husbands are waiting with your children, fearing the worst. Climb onto my vast back and I will return you to them.”
The sailors all looked at one another, reluctant to leave this pleasurable new life – but, one by one, began to agree that their families were more important. Though some thought sadly of a return to life’s difficulties after their many days on the island, they followed the others’ – and Chinrezik’s – sentiments.
“When I leap from this island into the sky,” said the giant horse-Chinrezik, “the demons will sense your departure and call for you in the most tempting way. Fix your gaze forward and you will be safe.”
“We understand,” said the former Captain.
So the sailors climbed on the vast back and Chinrezik leapt into the sky and it was as he had said: the demons awoke and began calling, reminding the sailors of the many selfish joys the island held.
To Chinrezik’s dismay, several sailors longed for this life of constant selfishness more than their families and proper lives. As each looked at the island, he or she fell from the vast back. By the time they reached a safe distance, only the Captain and three of her crew remained.
Chinrezik extolled the virtue of these people, and he adjured them to console the lost sailors’ families and teach them similar values.
Shells, at the Ocean’s Edge
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
A girl walks by the water, counting the shells with single-sentence stories inked onto their spirals.
One: A fish wed to a man produced five beautiful children, who each became a queen of the tides – as liminal an area as their own forms.
Two: Around the ancient shipwreck, serpents fail to summon djinn and wishes from barnacle-encrusted amphorae.
Three: The coral palaces went hunting, to snare seahorse finials and eel spires.
In a whole day, only three shells. This is how the girl knows that the squid queen is dying.
She remembers the days when every other shell wore a story, in that strange language that only the girl, of all land creatures, can read. When the stories began to diminish, she reacted like a human: floated out boxes of medicine stolen from her father’s cabinet, scattered the tides with herbs that the internet recommended as general cures.
None of it has worked.
Unable to swim, and too frightened by her father’s tales of rock-smashed fishermen to try, she cannot reach the queen and ask what she needs.
So she counts and hopes. She thinks: surely the queen will find help and recover.
Three. Only three.
And, the next day, none.
Her father laughs. “Finally! No more reason for us to stay by the sea, motherless child, if that creature is gone and can’t curse us anymore.”
The girl refuses to believe in the squid queen’s death.
But, as her father begins travelling inland to view new houses, she realises that the sea will be taken from her.
“I bet the squid queen is getting angry at you,” she says to her father. “You’ll see.”
At night, she sneaks out of their house and writes her own story on the shells. Some she leaves on the shore, to trick her father; others she throws into the waves, in case the squid queen has sisters or cousins. Or other daughters.
Her story: I am at the ocean’s edge, learning how to swim, waiting, if you’ll take me.