Monday, May 4, 2009

The Other Truth, Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

She felt a bright wave of cold and then the humid air of the jungle. She had never seen a jungle, no more than the scrawny trees that struggled to grow at the edge of the city's polluted river, but her heart recognized it nonetheless.

"Let me see your hand," the boy commanded gently. She offered him her upturned palm. "No, not like that," he scolded. "Fairytale nonsense, palm reading." He flipped her hand over, and traced his fingers across the faint shadows of veins. "The trees, they echo their lives here. Their power sings here, in your hands. We will teach you to learn it."


He nodded, and led her past a curtain of vines. Two other teenage boys crouched around a small fire, and a girl her own age, not yet into her teens, stood behind them. The fire was unlike any she had seen, leaping up from the ground without leaving scorched black behind. The flames danced playfully in front of the boys' hands.

"Shamaan," her guide said, in greeting to the others. "I bring you Ulethe."

"Ulethe?" she asked. "But that's not-"

"Your name? Yes, it is. Perhaps you didn't know it, but it rises from your skin like your scent. This is one of the things you will learn."

The boys stood to greet her, and the girl behind them inclined her head in a small bow.

"I am Serij," her guide explained. "These are Ret, Veleu," he pointed at the boys. "And Kiuxo." The girl nodded again.

"Ulethe," she repeated to herself. "That's me?"

"Absolutely. You will learn to recognize this as the truth, but for now I hope you will trust me. Come, have some water." Serij offered her a hollowed gourd, with crystal water. She drank deeply.

The Other Truth, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

The weekend hours spun past, filled with gossip and laughter and fresh-squeezed fruit juice in the heat. She did not think of the boy until she descended from the rickety bus and saw him sitting, wrapped over the plant.

"You would have a skill for it, you know," he said as she approached. He had not looked up, and she jumped at being addressed. "I can hear the jaguar in your blood."

"Are you crazy? Maybe you escaped from the hospital, eh?"

"Some people would say that. But I've escaped from nowhere. This is the prison." He looked up and around, grimacing. "Listen," he continued. "We have spun the song. Come here."

Stopped, she furrowed her brow in doubt.

"I will not hurt you. Look, I'll step away. Just come near."

He rose, revealing the plant for the first time. It had shed its yellow paint, and sprouted vivid purple flowers.

She hesitated, looked around, and then shuffled closer.

The flowers became transparent, wavering things constructed more of air than matter. A hum crept into her head, undulating in rhythm with the ephemeral flowers. Shocked, she stepped backwards.

"You see it then," the boy said flatly.

"Yes," she whispered.

"They did not teach you that in your school, did they."

"No. But I don't know what it is."

"What it is? It is too big to have a name, not properly. Some have tried to call it magic, but that is false. I prefer life, but I guess that could be vague."

She shook her head.

"Come with me," he said. "I can teach you much more."

"No, I ... school ..." she whispered, and hurried off.

She regretted it the rest of the day. All day, wedged into her hard desk at school, she thought of the boy and his wonders. I always wanted something to happen, something different, like the movies. I have to do this.

Rather than walking to the right outside her school to catch the bus home, she ran down the street to the left. As she hoped, the boy sat on the curb. The bright purple flower was nearly as large as his hand, and it breathed ribbons of blue smoke.

"Are you ready to leave now?" the boy asked.

"Absolutely. I don't care where we're going."

"That's good. Because if you had asked me, I could not explain."

He raised his hand to indicate for her to wait, and then he stood above the plant. He hummed, a deep crescendo, and the blue smoke grew with his voice. It snaked up from the blossom, out into the air, forming an arc. When it circled upon itself, it hardened, and the air inside shimmered.

"Let's go." He reached out his hand, and drew her into the circle.

Continue reading Part 3.

The Other Truth, Part 1

Every day, when she walked from her second bus down the four dirty blocks to school, she looked for it. To see it still there, still struggling and still alive, was a daily relief. She had first noticed the plant the week after the end of the rainy season, and the day after they painted the curb. The bright yellow paint was such a novelty that her eyes followed the stripe of the curb for her whole walk. And that was what made her notice it - a bloom of waxy green leaves thrusting out from a crack in the curb. It was a reminder of the jungle, the wild that had been subdued for their sprawling concrete and soot city. The curb painters had splashed half the plant with thick yellow.

She couldn't decide if the plant was a good sign, for in a way it represented the city's deterioration. But she found its tenacity a relief, nonetheless.

One day, a frown took root on her face as she approached the plant, which grew two blocks from the bus stop and just below the the speed limit sign that everyone ignored. Sitting on the curb, next to the plant, was a dirty teenage boy. His back curved into a bony half moon under his thin t-shirt, and he rested his elbows on his knees. The plant was hidden between them, caught between his legs. She thrust her lip out in a frowning pout and did not break her stride.

He was there again, in exactly the same pose, the next morning, and again the following day, a Friday. On that third day, she slowed, pondering him, wondering if he had chosen the plant as his anchor, or if it were a coincidence. She heard him whispering. Her feet dragged along the sidewalk.

"You, girl," he said without turning. "What do you want?"

"Me? Nothing," she said, startled, and quickened her steps to pass him.

"Have it your way. But don't worry. I won't hurt it. I want to help it."

"Help it?" She repeated. She paused, and looked around nervously. She knew always to be on the lookout for the strange, which could so easily become the violent.

"Of course. Help this 'rubber tree' sprout. The colonizer's name, of course, named only for its commodity, but it will do."

"Oh. How are you helping it?"

For the first time he turned to look at her. He had skin just a little darker than her own, with a broad flat nose and almond eyes that angled upwards, following his cheekbones. He was handsome, she admitted.

"Singing to it. You wouldn't understand. But I could change that."

"You're right, I don't. Listen, I have to get to school. I go home another way, so-"

"I know. I will see you another morning.

"You will be here Monday?"

"Is that how it goes? Any way, I will be here. We are spinning a spirit web, Inxitha and I, and it will take time."

She raised her eyebrows and walked on. A moment passed.

"I could teach you," he called softly to her back. She kept walking.

Continued at Part 2

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma