Above the valley by Sharmini Aphrodite

wild orchids copy

Haji Widayat (Indonesia) Wild Orchids in the Forest 1985, oil on canvas

Early morning and the fog pouring into the valley like a river. The hills a shade of emerald so dark that they are almost black. The gently rustling ferns, the wood-plank walls, the water dripping off the roof in beads of light—everything seemed to be drawing breath. She emerged from her sleep as if coming out of a cocoon, opened her eyes into the blooming of things. Through the window she could feel the crisp bite of the wind, see the fog enveloping everything as if the clouds were descending from above. For a moment she closed her eyes. Suddenly the sound of marbles falling onto the roof. When she opened them again the world had whipped itself into a storm.

It was history that came seeping up through the floorboards. It was history’s breath she felt on her skin each time she arrived home amidst the darkness. She understood it in the blinking eyes of the animals that chittered when the night came. She understood it in the blades of sunlight that cut through the tropical canopy and descended on her skin like a hymn of war. When the day came for her to die, and when all her skin and her flesh and her heart and her eyes would be consumed by flowers and earth, it would be her bones that remained, carved by history. Millenia of storytelling captured within the cartilage. She carried with her this knowledge as the days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which lengthened into years. Carried them with her always so that even on those wild twilights where the moon hung fat and bloated above her; on the evenings of the witch, after the rain with the sky yellowing and folding in upon herself—even in the endlessness of her dreaming, she understood this: that she was never alone.

But there was one night which was different from all the rest. It was dusk, and she was sitting outside with a barley husk of a moon almost falling out of the sky. A cool wind had started to blow. She shivered, and felt something inside of her move. Something she had not felt in years. She had a cup of water set beside her on the veranda, and when she looked over at it she saw that ripples had begun to spread upon the disc of water at the top of the cup. Her heart beating like a song trapped inside of a drum, she looked then towards a mosquito coil—a moon tiger, as it had been called in a book she had once read—with its flicker of flame dancing. Quickly she stood up, the cup of water spilling all over her feet. Dousing her feet in its silk. She moved from the veranda and hurried outwards to the edge of the cliff that her house had been built on, looking straight into the dark hills, the valley—the last of the light burning on the leaves. There was something coming. She was sure of it. Her joy and her grief, they were both, and at once, rapturous.

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