Javon Paris | Mike S. Young
I perched in the jagged scar of Hangman’s cliff, like a rickety nest built out of bones and cotton. No one that I’d known had been hanged there, but pah had said a raper was flung over the cliff back when he grew up.
The sun struck the silver speckled deep blue, painting a field of rolling coins like the kind my mah said those over yonder used. My eyes crinkled and watered, but I didn’t look away.
The water didn’t end, not like the village pond. It kept going and going until it fell off the earth. Or into the sky.
It even went on after that, mah had said, since nothing ever disappears.
Waves crashed into the stone wall and the big pile of rocks below, screaming in fury for just a breath, then fleeing back into the deep blue. I watched for a long time, wondering if there was treasure hidden between those rocks. A trove like the ones my mah said trickster rabbits kept, but by fish instead.
But the way down was as long as the main village road and there were only two or three good footholds that I saw if I leaned out far enough. My pah had also said a friend of his had fell here too.
I wouldn’t fall though. I never had. But… it would be hard carrying all that treasure back up the cliff. And there was nothing to buy in the village worth carrying it.
Maybe one day…
I couldn’t tell who called my name. The wind had taken the voice and stolen everything but the word itself. It could’ve been mah. Or it could’ve been Kili…
I pushed back into the scar, beneath a smooth hump that hid me from eyes above, and peeked up to the cliff’s edge. There was only cliff and watered down blue sky. I held my breath and became like a mouse pausing to check before stealing the cheese trap.
I shivered. It had to be Kili, since mah didn’t know where I would be. She could never find me when I hid and if she could, she wouldn’t look for me till dark.
But if it was Kili that saw me, he would wait till I had to climb up and push me off. I patted the shiny blue bell through my leggings. I had snatched it off him earlier. My stomach boiled like I had ate a stew gone sour. But he shouldn’t have cursed my pah.
The wind stole more of my name than even before. He had to be walking away. No one could find me when I hid.
I took a deep breath like pah had taught me. Then another one and one more after that. I scuttled out from beneath the hanging rock, like a beetle across an arm.
And looked back at the sea, scanning for water that rose where it shouldn’t. Huge beasts would rise above the deep blue sometimes, and if I was lucky, I would see one.
But there were only white Galls diving and snatching fishes out of the deep blue. I licked my lips as my belly grumbled. But catching birds was hard, and none made nests in the scar anymore. Uncle Tipi said it was cause of me, but I don’t see how they knew I come here sometimes. They never looked at me or came close enough to see me.
I wished I could fly though. If I could, I wouldn’t need a boat to go across the deep blue. And I could take the smaller birds out of the air just like they took the fish out of the sea.
I sighed, bored, and eyed the curve where the deep blue met the sky. Clouds hid the sun. The air became sad.
Mah had said no one comes back from over yonder. She was wrong though. She had to be.
Uncle Tupi said womanly brains get foggy sometimes, but Uncle Tupi had bad breath and mah said those with bad breath get stupid. Her breath too would be smelly too sometimes. She knew pah could fight forest pigs and had killed a seawolf, and that he could come back to the island. Back home. If he wanted to.
I shook my head. If anyone could come back, it was pah, and that was that. I played with the loop of seaweed and seawolf teeth around my neck. It wasn’t a necklace; only girls wore those.
Pah called it a seaman’s luck.
So it was lucky.
And pah would be home soon because I was lucky.
A pounding of drums loud enough to split my ears roared throughout the sky. The day went black. A lump of air caught in my throat. I had forgotten about keeping a watch on the clouds.
White fire struck through the clouds like a lizard’s tongue and the sky roared again. I stood up as the first drops of rain fell onto my eyes and into my nose.
The deep blue always rose to the scar during storms, so I couldn’t stay there. And the cliff would be too wet to climb in a few moments.
I kept my chest against the wall and sidled sideways along the ledge to where the good hand holds were. The wind thrashed me against the wall and to my left, back towards the scar, like my mah had that time I stole a peach pie.
I bit my lip and grabbed the bumps along the cliff with my palms, hoping they would keep me from being torn off the wall and into the sea.
The rain dropped like pebbles and the wind stayed strong. My belly heaved, but the rain wiped my tears away. My pah had said never let anyone see my tears, but he never said don’t cry.
I slid my bare right foot across the ledge and kept my chest flat against the wall so the wind wouldn’t pick me up and carry me away into Nevermore. Thin jagged lines of rock cut my naked chest. But I knew the pain kept me moving, even as the rain drenched me in cold fear.
I could do it. I just had to go slowly and not be afraid. My pah had courage. I had to be like my pah. I just had to…
One foot followed the other. The wind was always there, trying to pull me into the dark rushing blue and cook me for the seawolve’s supper. But I ignored it and kept moving to the right.
I reached the first hand hold. Most of the grown folk in the village couldn’t climb this part of the cliff, but my hands were small enough to fit into the tiny scars.
I stuck my hand into the wall, happy for a moment that it wasn’t so wet where my fingers met rock and dirt. How dirt had gotten in there, I didn’t know, but the grip was good enough for now.
I stood on my toes and dragged down on my right arm until I was high enough to reach the second scar.
I pulled myself up. It was a long a way up, twice as long as the fall down into the sea. But I had courage. Like pah.
And like pah, I didn’t look back.