The first tendrils of the sunset crept across the sky. Orange fingers of clouds, set on fire by the dying sun, sunk lower in the oncoming gloom. Alli put her paddle in on one side and then on the other, kayaking down the slow river.
The water was clear in this part of the river, whereas, where she had started out was muddy. She had almost capsized then but had righted herself.
The river had started out a backwoods stream, tangled up in the mangrove forest, before widening out and cutting, like a scythe, through the landscape. Bushes on the banks gave way to trees. Houses dotted the shores.
Nothing escaped the sun’s rays, before it was enveloped in darkness. Water birds, restless, took off from their perches. Distant crows cawed, out of sight. Frogs burped and bellowed in the tall marsh grasses.
Alli paddled on, bright yellow kayak headed for the rushing mouth of the river, where the silt delta met the sea. The air was warm, and the occasional blue dragonfly darted by, zooming away into the humid night.
The dock materialized out of the stale air, and the mists of heat rising from the river. Alli got out and tied the boat to the dock, stowing the oar. The sun was well on its way down by now. The sky blazed a painful red and Alli knew it would rain tomorrow.
Inside the riverside cabin, Alli powered up the gas stove. Outside, the fiery blue mosquito light singed and zapped bugs in its cage. Alli put beans from the can on the burner in a tin cup and broke an egg on top of the beans. She ate the meal, and a slice of bread, with a pat of butter scraped across it.
When it was about to rain, Alli’s hamstring acted up. Nealy had sewn it back together a year ago, dabbing away the warm blood and calming down a hysterical Kaan. A year ago. Alli had worked her way back to full health then. But every time it rained, there was that old twinge.
The river carried old logs and tree branches by the house. The debris caught the posts of the dock and was diverted momentarily, tumbling and spinning in the water. Alli made some thin soup from a ham bone, before putting out the fire and going to sleep.
In the dream, ants flowed in between her toes. Alli chased after the boar in the wilderness. During the night, in the jungle, Alli cornered the red-eyed pig and speared it, the tear-shaped blade sinking into a roll of fat on the beast’s neck.
Yet, in its death throes, the spirit beast, of shadow and smoke, lunged and struck Alli, again on her hamstring, with its serrated tusk. The animal collapsed, crumbling into dust and ashes. Cicadas screamed in the underbrush. Cataracts vaulted into their basins. Every drop of moisture in the forest resonated. Alli’s skin grew cold and she sat down heavily on the ground.
Then, in that Hades, the goddess Artemis appeared, and held the wounded hunter. Light filled the woods. Wind battered the trees. Alli fainted and the gash healed, leaving no scar behind. Fountains of water gushed up from the earth, cleansing the blood away.
“Where were you, when I needed you the most?”
豊平区民TOYOHIRAKUMIN – 夕暮れsunset
Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why
Wham! – Careless Whisper
Utada Hikaru – Simple and Clean