Seagulls fly in a circle, high in the sky on top of the cliff, their screeching contrasting with the quietness over the emerald water. They’re doing their part in an unspoken covenant between us and them. We share our fish, and they warn us of any rare sighting from above.
Rays of sun light the water from the clear surface down to the depths of the sea floor. The water is inviting, cold, green and clear.
Swimming is my favorite activity, and I do it with pleasure. Being underwater is soothing. It feels like being back in the womb. Swimming against the soft current feels like being embraced with love, with a cold comfort and assurance that we could stay in for as long as we wanted.
Some do choose to stay in this embracing comfort forever. They are not considered lesser people for such fate. A strange sound beckons even our best to lie in the ocean bed and never wake up.
Elders call this sound “The Siren’s Song”.
The island we live in is a cruel paradise. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen travelers, who would bring us objects, spices and stories from strange and far away lands. But still, life is easy. We either swim to catch fish, or we venture inland to harvest wild berries or fruit from trees.
And then there are the beasts.
I could hear a faint whistle reaching me. It was the horn call, coming from above the cliffs. The curfew preparations began, and all able to leave the waters should do so.
Those who could not would be left behind.
Grabbing the rope on the side, I start climbing up the cliff with a bunch of mackerels bundled together with a string, strapped to my belt.
Up on the ledge sits the main elder with his horn, waiting impatiently for the last group of fishermen to return so we can begin the ascension.
“You’re late”, he scolded, “You know I cannot wait for you every single time we need to raise.”
“I know”, I replied, still leaning on the edge, still gasping for air. “It won’t happen again.”
He offered his arm and I grabbed it, raising myself to safety.
“Join me. It’s time for you to meet T”, he replied while stepping away from me, moving towards the market.
The narrow streets of the old town are colorful, lively. Every man, woman and child of the village is responsible for the well-being of their dog, cat, seagull and sheep.
The community thrives when all are being cared for. Children are taught that our animal companions’ lives are as important as our own. It contrasts with the stark rule of casting away those who do not follow the call on time.
Once we reached the market, the elder signals the neophytes with a hand gesture to begin the ascension ritual. They rush towards every edge of the small isle. And levers are pulled. The elders join together in a circle facing each other, in the center of the market.
They start chanting an unintelligible song.
The ground starts shaking. The air feels heavy. We feel heavy. And the shaking stops.
The elders need assistance after every chant. Their energy is drained, and need some rest and replenishment. I reach the main elder and guide him home, grabbing his arm over my shoulder.
“You must meet T today”, he mentioned, showing fatigue through his voice. “Your cousin is waiting for you at the pen”.
After leaving the elder to recover on his bed, I headed towards the framed pillars on top of the hill, where the pen is.
My cousin is already there in the middle of the beasts, treating them as if they were their own children.
“It stings seeing you surrounded by pricks!”
“You know, you can say that as many times as you want. It’s still not funny”, he sneered. “Why are you here?”
“The elder told me I needed to be with T.”
He looked at me, then towards T. “Are you sure?”
I stood silent. The beasts are imposing creatures. One must not show fear or display one self as a threat. A sting from their tails can pierce through the body. Even if you survive being impaled, the venom will take care of the rest.
Even though they generally live in solitude, over generations of living in captivity together changed their social habits. T is respected among all other giant scorpions.
“I need to try again.”
He hesitated for a few seconds, and then agreed. With a strong whistle, all other beast stepped aside, and T waited patiently for me to come closer.
I grab the saddle lying on the table and start moving toward T. T steps back and raises her tail.
“Stop”, my cousin demanded. “T is not ready. Maybe not today”
I let go of the saddle, dropping it on the floor. And I get closer. T keeps her tail raised.
I didn’t listen, and kept moving closer and closer in a slow place. All the other beasts move in to protect T, also with their tails raised.
“You’re being stupid and reckless!”, begged my cousin “I won’t be able to help you this time.”
I keep ignoring him, and stand still, only a few feet away from T. And I wait for her move. She resigns and lowers her tail. And so do all the protectors.
“…You’re an idiot.”
I touch a few legs just before climbing on top. It is harder without a saddle, but not impossible. By touching the back I let her know everything is fine.
“Take me where you want to go”, I asked T. Releasing a whistle she starts moving toward the cliff’s edge.
The sea gets farther and farther below until we are not able to see it anymore. Then we join the sky. Emerging in a sea of clouds.
We have ascended.