Strings of thin grey fog floated over the arid ground. The world shone faintly violet underneath the purple shades of the Caer sky. In the distance, spiky rocks seemed to vibrate in the heat, or perhaps they pulsed on the rhythm of the heavy drum. It had been barely audible at first, the hardly present pounding of doom when waking from a nightmare in the quiet dark, but it drew closer now. Pebbles sprung from the thin layer of camel dust covering the solid, rocky ground with every dark, determined beat. There was nearly indiscernible movement on the horizon, a tremor in the jagged line separating the ground from the heavy air. The tremor birthed ants, blue ants with drums that filled the void with threatening anticipation, and slowly kept cutting into the silence of Caer’s outstretched nothingness. They grew and multiplied into dozens of men and women marching barefoot on the scorching sand. Large feathers decorated their hair. Some had crafted skirts from the same type of feather, but most appeared to be completely naked. Blue painted lines formed elaborate patterns on their tan skin. Those without drums, carried long wooden staffs which they banged to the ground with every closing step.
procession arrived at a wide, deep crevice. It stretched across the ground as
far as the eye could see. It was a gaping scar in the earth, from which smoke
spilled like puss from a festering wound. The drums had stopped, a man stepped
forward. He was older, and wore a curtain of deep blue feathers around his
hips. A feathery crown decorated his semi-shaved head. He grasped his staff
firmly as he faced the crowd and peered at them intensely.
“Bring her.” His voice was sand paper on wood.
The crowd split as two women dragged along a girl. She was stark naked, like the others, but the lines on her body seemed not to be painted, yet naturally part of her, like veins deeply embedded in her flesh. They forced her to her knees in front of the man. He lifted her chin with a finger. The girl stared into his dark eyes, hers radiating a defiant bright blue. The man grinned at the sight of the gems gazing up at him.
He threw his hands up in celebration as he shouted the word. “Zafaer!”
The crowd erupted in ecstatic roars and screams. Feet and staffs pounced on the ground, sticks hit on drums and a choir of growling voices chanted. “Zafaer, Zafaer, Zafaer!”
The crowd encircled the girl who huddled in the centre and looked around in a panic. As three men leapt forward, loud cheers rang through the darkening sky. The women started dancing to the rapid, savage beating of the drums. Two men grabbed the girl’s arms and pinned her to the rough ground. Her eyes grew wide as the third forced himself between her legs. She screamed as he violently thrust into her. Dark clouds packed together into a dense, soaked carpet. Thunder mingled with the rousing drums and wrenched the water from the heavens as more men lined up to empty themselves into their agonised victim. The women scooped semen from her vagina and rubbed it into their own and on each other’s chest, where it mingled with the lashing rain and spread to their legs and the muddy ground.
The men had all had their turn. The old chief dragged the girl closer to the crevice. She hardly moved, bruised and exhausted. Her body was riddled with scrape wounds and cuts from the hard, sharp surface underneath the mud. Everyone faced her. The drums raced on, the people groaned and grunted expectantly. The girl drifted into unconsciousness as the chief propelled her forward and threw her to her death. Men and women jumped each other like beasts. The men howled as they mounted the women and chafed their knees, women cut their hands as they clawed at the ground, and the rain crashed ever down as the clan’s ritualistic copulation matched the temper of the raging storm.
She fell down rapidly between the rock walls, entangled in sizzling smoke and pressing darkness, though to her it felt sinking down slowly into a thick, white cloud. The rain had come. Children would be gathering it in large barrels. The flood would fill the rivers for a while and paint parts of Caer temporarily with a green and yellow flush of crops. Aegur would return and shed their feathers with the next draught and the people would hope for minimal starvation before the next Zafaer came of age. They said Sapphire demanded her children to join her in the earth and in exchange for their return she mercifully brought down the rain on Caer until that day that she had gathered all her offspring and would leave the earth to perish. She wondered if Sapphire was aware of the torture her children were submitted to in the hope of retaining some of their essence and ensure their continued existence in the world. She assumed not. What mother would knowingly leave her daughters submitted to such savage degradation? Perhaps a mother who murders her worlds.
She woke among soft cushions to a misty morning ray of sunshine creeping in through the window. The light left a glimmering reflection in her blue eyes. She felt surprisingly clearheaded, surprisingly alive. A shiny, cool fabric softly rubbed against her skin as she moved. It was unlike anything she had ever touched before. She noticed the frame of the bed in which she was lying. Slim, elegant carvings of white wood rose and arched above her, supporting sheer drapes of silver between them. She felt no pain as she rolled over and stretched her legs. Carefully, she sat up. The sheets slid off her like water. Her long fingers pushed aside the cascade of silver and she gazed around the room momentarily. The white wood of the bed was everywhere; the room was filled with gracefully crafted furniture, set among the sanded travertine walls. She set a foot down on the cold marble floor. The creme-coloured tiles lit up where the sun kissed their pale golden flecks. Her toes trailed lines between them before she finally stood up and noticed in relief that her fear of collapsing to the ground, was unfounded. She moved towards the window. The surface felt cold and smooth against her fingertips. Glass. She had heard about it, but she had never seen it before. Or seen through it, rather. The sight made her catch her breath. Underneath her window, the world was a collection of buildings covered in brightly coloured flowers decorating thick braids of green vines, the exposed parts of their walls and roofs gleaming under the sun. Walls higher than the rustling leaves of the trees beside them, rose up next to open spots of emerald, through which moved what must have been people in wavy, shimmering fabrics wrapped around their bodies. She looked down at herself, at the shiny blue lines curling around her arms and thighs and on her chest. Only the chief and the council adorned their bodies with feathers. Everyone else was simply as she was now. Her eyes wandered over to the bed, to the shiny cloth she had left there like a rippling puddle. She plucked it from the mattress and draped it around her chest. The fussy hairs all over her body rose at the light touch of the fabric, and she strode back and forth for a while, the nearly weightless cloth gliding smoothly over the floor as it trailed after her. It felt as if she only barely made contact with the ground beneath her feet.
She heard a
faint click when the handle of the door moved down. Breathlessly glued to the
spot, she watched it swing open. A young woman stepped through and set down a
bowl of unfamiliar things on the table and looked at her guest with clearly
“Food.” She pointed at the bowl and took her bewildered companion by the hand, leading her to the table. Blue lines curled from underneath her see-through sleeves. Blue lines like veins, deeply embedded in her flesh. Two pairs of bright blue eyes locked in the tension of unspoken questions.
“You have been lied to.”