The first thing to make a racket was the sea. In the beginning, it was she who howled a terrifying full-bellied cry of uproar. Among the welded roots seeped her kin, who in turn remained mute and abided meekly by the laws of nature. It was not the land, nor the sky, but only the sea dared to voice her grievances, despite the reign of all she had been granted and the vast depths of creatures who churned in her very belly. Her cry was loud and awful, for it was she who harnessed the greatest pain, and so it was that she was the first to break the promise of silence.
Forced into the ebb and flow that was unyielding to any slowing, to any kind of long sought after reprise. She was tired, the sea, but so long as the moon showed it’s half-cast face, careening its way in a doomsday arch across the black sky, she was subjected to the ceaseless motion. And she felt the pull deep, the undeniable thrusting force. And she endured the cycles outwardly, all the while cradling the creatures with which she had been given charge. A duty of care to the smattering of souls that slept within the orange walls of her glowing womb. But she was tired. Motherhood had claimed her entirely, without rest bite or warning, and now she hovered endlessly in this abyss of all which was outside of her control. Forced was she to churn, and turn, and rise, and fall, to support the continuity of all life with her permanence. Her sturdy nature. Her selfless dedication to playing her part in the whole. She was mother, sister, giver, always giving and giving to those who took for granted. The sea had given all she could.
But, there remained one thing that belonged to the sea, and the sea alone. A secret buried in her depths, below the crushing press of the current. Her most precious gift. It was the size of a wishbone, and incandescent. Almost invisible to the unskilled touch. Something completely her own, and now it was time to let it go. Harkened back and lifted high above the heads of all who came to lay witness at her sifting feet. Some last inkling, masquerading itself as fully formed lands and carefully preened spheres of great idea: the last great mystery.
This treasure of a thing was revealed. Unformed wisps unfurling from themselves, the churning and obscured identity of this mystic entity reaching up towards the light. It was carried along from hand to hand, passed as secrets are- carefully, giddily. These very dregs of imagination clung to the shores of every living being, riding on the backs of waves as they came to touch the last stretches of her reach. The sea, a glorious sight, gave them the words and pushed them out from under her soothing grasp.
It had been such a long-held truth, known to all kin of the earth, that the sea was the most burdened by creation. Her pain was not withheld, it was ingrained as duty. And those who had come to believe that they alone realised her true nature, were ignorant to the very nature of truth. To presume to know the secrets of the sea is to dive head first into the folly of the completely unknown. But they would soon understand the horizon, the dawning of their misgivings, and the world, too, would come to know the agony of the sea, as she released her last, precious gift.
And so it is, that the first great fledglings of curiosity began to seed. They settled like weary travelers and made their home beneath the rubble to form bones, spines, skulls, all in desperate seeking of that great, open plain. A land of untamed possibility, slowly weening itself into being, and they are at the very centre. Their steps were unsteady, their eyes and senses barely formed as they tracked the first footprints onto the skin of the soft earth. Life was open to them, theirs to mold and to create.
At first the quiet was frightening. They felt for the familiarity of the tide now that she was not there to moor them in place. They wobbled on crane-like legs of silver and flesh. This world was not what they knew, and the starkness of being unanchored was so strange. But they moved forwards, gaining power and stride, as they ventured into this new-fangled land. The sea retreated from their periphery as they marveled at the height of the canopy above, the beating lives of the creatures on land. Bandied limbs transformed into strong, lithe ropes with which they ran and jumped and captured all that they could. They forged homes from the sturdy brown bark, and founded a life of games and discovery. The working of the world was beginning to move once more, and under their hardened palms, it flourished and thrived. Those beasts, the two pronged legs sprawling like wild-fire, came to settle and claim the land as their own.
And they ate, and sang, and nourished all that had been put before them. They ran faster and climbed higher, and eventually came to plant seeds of their own. For they had claimed the world, but the joy was only half measured by their gnawing loneliness. And so they planted the seeds of their children on the cliff’s edge. They watered and fed these sprouting thistles; they danced and sang the remembered melodies of the sea, as she watched on from below.
Time passed and the coming of spring saw the seedling creatures burst like diamonds from the warmth of the earth. With the gentle touch of their elders, they had prospered and blossomed into mirrored kind. Sea-glass images.
They were curious, these cut out visages, and they laughed with budding innocence, a sound which reignited the passions of the earth, the sky. Amused as they were, by these graceless children, who stumbled, eyes shining wide, to see all they could touch. It was with such a speed that they grew, but they were not echoes of their forebarers. No, they were wilder, and more curious still. This longing for understanding of the strange new world that they had been brought into, leading them to move with purpose, faster and stronger.
It was this endless wandering which belied the comparative confines of their elders, who grew older still and more fearful. These lands were no longer their own. Their children learned the ways of the earth, the swooping blade of a fresh-cut sky, and ventured to breech the calling lure of the sea edge. One rule, the only authority laid down before them was this: it is forbidden to breech the line laid out to separate the land and the sea. For she had released her treasures without wish that they should ever return to her. This was the law of the land. It was unimaginable to break such sanctity.
But spurred on by their growing power, the seedling children became emboldened. Gone were the bandied limbs of uncertainty. Now they sprinted through the boundaries of discovery, and into new realms. The elders looked on with increasing dismay. Their carefully placed words of warning went unheard, lost to the winds of change.
Such venturing was intoxicating, the breaking of order which had been cemented like roots in the very deepest traces of the body of the world. But the children were foolish and hankered after knowledge of this forbidden fruit. They cared not for the forbiddances of the elders, for their time was already spent, and their aged knowledge of this strange land was myopic at best. They stooped further and further down, back into the soil from which they came, whilst the younger only grew stronger and wilder. The constraints of all they had been told could only ever hold them for so long. And now the gage was breaking, tearing, coming loose at the seams, as the struggle between the old and the new became too precarious to allow the scales to remain balanced.
Resentful of these chains, the limits the flowering children felt had been confining them for an age too long, they set about the change. And so the scale tipped. The elder forms retreated, forlorn eyes watching as the youths ran wicked. They were terrifying in their desire for bigger, grander things.
Soon the land became too meager, too microscopic to hold the reaches of their desires. Frustrated by adhering to the boundaries laid out by nature, before their time, they decided to fashion a new world, painted in their own image of the future. Machines dominated; they towered in metallic slate and moved in clouds of toxic fumes. Bowing to pressure to speed up the minute details of the everyday, the children tore down trees and ripped up sea-bream, they displaced the animals, replaced birdsong with the hum of production and lived in constant disillusion with the state of affairs.
Like clockwork, the elders felt their bones sing for the maternity of their native home. A soaring song, they felt themselves called back to their origins. This world was no longer a home for them. It had become hostile and hard, the towering monstrosities and sharp, loud sounds taunting them with memories of all that had once been. Now, the world had changed. The younger bodies had transformed it into something unrecognisable. Gone were soft beds of moss and the homes of forged forest. The birds and jewel crabs, the heather and the wind-snap grass, all had been crushed under the raging feet of industry. This was the world now. The scream of machines and the unnerving restlessness of action. The elders simply could not keep up with this chaotic stream of upward motion. Desire for more had hardened the once bright faces of the youths, and now the skin surrounding the greedy eyes was stormy. Their stomachs burned red with insatiable hunger. And the elders cried, mourning this loss of innocence. The tears ran like rivulets. They sparkled and stood at a distinct difference to the cruel, cement quality of the new world. There was nothing more to do. And so they followed the streams of their despair, winding like shimmering roads away from the chaos and anger of the growing world. The youths barely noticed this silent shift, so entrenched were they in the planning of greatness, gathering the building blocks of something even bigger, something even darker.
But the quiet exodus did not go entirely unnoticed. For the world itself had sensed the winding, and now turned to watch the slow trail of degeneration. Maps of the land unfolded as bees, trees, swaying leaves of all size and shape, the winnowing minnows in shallow pools and wild foxes of deepest auburn, all came to watch the funeral march. Sobered, they captured the picture before them; this doomed mirage as the procession reached the sea’s edge while behind the world fell into ruin in a splintering cloud of ash and fluorescent light.
Those wizened faces who had served along side the force of nature, came to halt at the shore line. Water sung, the sea chiming an ancient lullaby, and the withered bodies lifted their heads as one to greet the forgotten sound. Homecoming of the most melancholy sweetness. It was time. They shed their clothes, the fabrics of man pooling at their tired, webbed feet. It felt good, this sudden release as the weight dropped to the ground below. They laughed wordlessly, reinvigorated and feeling as children do, they continued the shedding. Eyelids closed and hands outstretched, they circled like lily-pads and unfastened from the knees. Unzipping skin from root to rise, peeling themselves away from the wrinkled grey sheets and stepping free from the used bodies. Such lightness, such air! An abundance of energy surged through their unmoored forms. This was freedom. And thus they were ready to greet their maker, the great surge of the tide nibbling at their invisible bodies, before taking them in and swallowing them whole. Just like that, they let themselves go, to be cast away onto the shores of oblique lands and the welcoming that awaited them.
And the sea, she had been waiting.
Do not go aimlessly into the lands of the imagined, keep your wits about you, and don’t be too quick to believe the things spun out by reckless village girls or half-worthy boys playing at being men. They live in foreign lands and do not see the same colours as you or I.
I must warn you, the sea can be a malice of merciless envy and you may find yourselves out of your depths.
We will begin with the boy, a mere slip of a thing, not yet fully formed in your mind, I’m sure. But do not loose sight of him, this boy will be yours to guide, and yours alone.
Be patient, in a short time we will meet the boy, you will know him from the way he seeks out the sounds and sways of the swelling sea, the crooked kilns of his knees and the inky blackness of his hair.
There, do you see him? He stands a ways away, cutting the gorge of the shore with a stick he has found. The beach, desolate. He is alone, a small figure calling to the sky’s edge. The village sleeps behind his back.
It is time, I will leave you here where the simmering water meets the sifting sand, the sea meets the boy, and now our story begins.
END OF PART I
Life is stranger than fiction? Clearly you haven't listened to these strange tales… STRANGER THAN FICTION is a series brought to you by some seriously freaky writers, storytellers who weave tales of foreign lands on far-away shores… or perhaps, they are even closer than you think…