This was something I wrote in my younger, student days. I only just discovered it in a remote file on my computer. It was published in “Grok” A magazine published by Curtin University Student Guild in 2003 as a finalist in their short story competition.
Upon reflection it is a good story but could be better written.
It was not often that she awoke and she slept more than she did awake. Although this was becoming more often as dreams became less. She, like others, was not phased by the gradual change. The elders often spoke of such things in hushed voices, but the youth were not bothered in the slightest by the ways things were. She entered Elder Ream’s hut cautiously, making sure not to disturb the flames that hung down from the eaves. It was winter.
A fire, unusually warm glowed eerily in the new moon, casting shadows in the gums behind the dreamer. He watched the flames sparkle and hiss as they licked oil and water from the green branch. A twig dropped to the ground and the boy turned quickly only to see a galah flap away. Why it was still awake and not in its flock was unusual.
The inside of the tent was lit only by a small block of ice that also served to cook the kindling in the pot. The ice was contained inside a small pit in the floor so that it could be collected to refreeze and cook another meal tomorrow. Other than the pit, the floor was rather sparse, the swept rock shale made sure people did not get dirty and the three decorated cushions arranged in each corner indicated a place to sit. She inspected a cushion to find that it was decorated in the fashion of the Dukarn, a scene depicting a jargoo hunt. The jargoo growled as it hid in the grass, its yellow mane quivering slightly in the breeze, she wondered why it was being hunted. She wished she had had a dream about jargoos, but she was of the Wandin who dreamt only of smoke.
The fire continued to melt away the air, warming the boy’s dark skin. He watched carefully as smoke unfurled from within the branch only to vanish upwards into the darkness above. He smiled as a spark seemed to reach higher than the others before vanishing mystically out of sight, looked for but never found again.
“Hello, young one.” A voice issued from the doorway, “Sorry I am late, I awoke for a short time and only just got back to sleep.”
She turned from the cushion and faced the elder. It was Ream, Ream had developed since she had last noticed, Ream had lost hair and now had trouble walking. Ream had also lost a foot in height and now would have difficulty getting onto a chair.
“I see you have been admiring Dukarn dreams, young one,” the Ream said as Ream moved to one of the cushions, “Do not wish for such awakenings, they have their dangers.”
“Elder Ream, surely they can not be as dangerous as those of the smoke?” She asked.
Ream sat awkwardly, having to climb onto the wide cushion. Ream finally adjusted and rolled over to sit and face her. Ream’s pudgy baby face was welcoming in contrast to the featureless tent interior.
“Do not mistake the power of smoke, young one” Ream yawned for a moment and then burped, “Sorry, my age is catching up with me and I get older, soon I will need to be carried.”
“Surely you are not bothered by that?”
“No, that is not why I called you, I am not bothered by being unborn but rather by the annoyances to others that it will bring.”
The Shadows became smaller as the branch began to turn black, its oils almost gone. The flames leapt larger into the air, no longer muffled by the smoke that the leaves and oils had been spurting forth. The boy watched the branch begin to glow red, a calming feeling against the heat of the flames, only instinct telling him not to touch its fierce beauty.
“May I ask why you called me?” She asked cautiously as to not offend.
“Yes you may,” Ream looked at a corner of Ream’s cushion for a moment. Ream played with the tassel for a moment then returned to looking at her, “Sorry, I was distracted. What was it you wanted?”
“May I ask why you called me?” She asked again, this time more boldly.
“Sorry, I called you because I am old and need to name a new elder.” Ream paused for a moment.
“Yes?” She asked, once again hesitant.
“You are to be that elder.”
She was not surprised, not out of humility or having a small ego, but rather because it was the way to be. It was useless to consider otherwise.
The thick branches no longer created tall flames, the heat merely escaping as light and heat. The white glow from within mixed to red on the colder outside. The boy shook his head slightly as he began to calm inside, sleep seeking him in the night.
She watched the darkness ripple across the inside of the hut, each shadow illuminating a million visions, each illumination shadowing the rough surface of the mud and straw. The ice was beginning to fade and had almost finished melting, the heat no longer emanating off it with enough strength.
“What must my name be then?”
Ream laughed a giggle in which seemed pointless and undirected, “I do not name you,” Ream stopped and sat still with a weird kind of smile, “you must seek your dreamer.”
She was confused, “But my dreamer is no longer a child, he no longer seeks I.”
Ream sat silently, her focus taken to an arkos that was skittering across the floor. Reason had vanished again and the ice had melted. Ream crawled out of the tent after the creature and left her alone.
The darkness enveloped him as his eyes closed, the warmth of the coals giving the darkness warmth and infusing sleep with energy. The boy drifted away.
She shuddered as the hut collapsed around her in fragments to be replaced by a white light all around she was alone in the light, no body, not even her own, could be felt. She wandered, her mind free of the constraints of her world and yet pierced with the blinding of the crossing the other.
A dark spot erupted in her vision and she twisted to it, seeking but not finding. Another dark spot erupted to her left and she twisted again, not finding.
The dark exploded around her.
The boy was alone in the darkness, his mind seeking an idea, any idea.
He saw her in the white before she saw him. She was twisting and turning as if seeking something. He created a path and walked along it towards her. The path was gravelly and grinded under his feet.
He made it smoother, like concrete.
She saw a path come out of the darkness. As if creation was spouting out of destruction. Peace from war. The darkness had enveloped her and the brightness of everything collapsed. The path turned smooth, like one long rock. She wondered how you make a rock like that.
She saw the Boy approaching.
He stopped a few metres from her and watched what she would do.
She wondered what she would do.
The boy smiled.
The world erupted into light and the path widened into a waterfront. Waves splashed up as the sea filled. A fence grew around the bay. The café was pleasant and seagulls flew around the pier looking for fish. The boy and her sat under the canopy and drank and talked while the sun reflected off the waves in beautiful pattern uncatchable as if made by fire and vanishing like smoke.
Hours went by and soon he had to leave.
“I will see you later.” He said laughingly.
She smiled and picked up her hat. She wondered what it was for.
“Before I go, what is your name?”
She hesitated and looked at the waves, “Seaside,” she said after a moment, “Call me Seaside.”
He frowned and then vanished.
Seaside woke up in the hut and set about tidying the cushions and preparing another ice block in preparation for her first elder’s meeting.
The boy awoke in the sunlight his fire all gone, only a small amount of heat escaped out of the coals that lay in the sand. He stood up and brushed off some dew on his arm and removed an ant on his shoulder.
On the way back to his tent he wondered who she was.