Fox IslandChapter 9
Thereafter, the friendship changed; the two men laughed often, and Arvor’s reluctant behaviour gave way to authenticity. His personality shone to Fox’s delight, who no longer questioned Arvor’s brotherhood. He postured himself as one with another they love—their gate, speech, and attitude jovial and relaxed, both formal and informal, honorable and frivolous. For the first time in a month, Fox felt at home with the Liberi.
Between the two, conversations of culture, politics, and religion abounded; Fox didn’t doubt Arvor was freely processing and sharing his custom and beliefs. The fresh wave of revelation brought with it a feeling that he was starting all over again; he no longer merely reasoned between words and language, but myth and reality, science and fantasy.
Take, for example, the word: “Jika”. He had a monumental struggle to discern whether it was a reference to the Passing of Time itself, or the Principle of Decay. When I say, “Have a good time,” I do not mean “Have a good hour.” A moment or occurrence differs from an hour or minute. Yet both are referred to as “Time”. Furthermore, the decay that Time has on a subject differs from the growth and maturity one gains throughout it. A human body grows at a certain rate over “Time”. But the soul develops at a very different tempo. And oneself differs from another self. A child may grow to its full height by the age of sixteen, but it may take another until they are eighteen. Regardless, the maturity of the mind and emotions may develop far sooner for the latter than the former, and with zero correspondence to the growth of the body.
When Arvor spoke of Time (or Jika), he referenced things that could be the day, evening, month, and year, as well history, maturation, birth, and death. And the root word itself was in everything involving religion, belief, desire, dreams and goals, because all were tied to this loose idea that the occurrence and passing away of things is in everything. In a great sense, time and death were in everything.
One late morning, at messakoh, the two men visited the river where the women gathered water for the village. Fox found the work was simple. The place was in greater terms a haven for the women to find peace apart from uxorial duties.
The path emptied into an extraordinary field of yellow poppies. It spread four-hundred yards in all directions; fluttering butterflies and humdrumming bumblebees danced and bobbed on them. Beyond, the river ran out of an unfathomable trench, hidden under the arctic white spray of a thousand-foot fall; a lord over them. A cave hid behind the fall—the entrance to a world underneath the mountain.
Peacocks meandered the river’s edge; finches argued like worn married couples. A forest of weeping-willows gathered juxtapose the mountain-wall; their long gowns covered their delicate feet and kissed the pond. Down the river, a mill drudged the water for the women to carry back at their leisure. But none held Fox’s attention very long.
He was astounded at the sight of three-hundred women, naiads no less, lying in the sun and wasting away the day. He recognized the supremacy of beauty the ancient Greeks spoke of; he was dumbstruck, bereft. The pleasingness and delicate flippancy ended any idea in him that women should labor. They were mantle-pieces and goddesses; a possession that is not a mere article one buys or earns. Instead, they were a possession one inherits, undeserved, unmerited, gifted by the gods. It made no logical sense to have a bride—just as little as having breath in your lungs or thoughts in your mind. He knew that if he looked too long, he would become intoxicated and a slave to their will; the sight would befall him like a coercion by Calypso and the nymphs.
Fox turned away from the sight and fell to his knees. Arvor was nonplussed by his behavior. A moment passed and he collected himself, stood upright, carrying back to the village and away from the goddesses.
Off the footpath, he saw a woman pressed against an oak with a children’s blanket laying across her lap. She wiped her tears with it, whilst trembling under the shadow of the tree.
“Are you alright?” Fox asked, approaching her.
“No, no, I am pleasant,” she said, furtively looking toward Arvor. “No need for help.”
Arvor was inscrutable. “Her name is Ina,” he said.
“Why are you crying, Ina?” Fox asked her.
Ina wiped her face and stood assertive. “I am missing my daughter.”
“Where is she?” Fox asked.
“The Voice called for her.” She looked Arvor in the eyes. “She is gone now.”
The late sun splintered through the fingertips of vast stretching grasses. A mist hovered over the meadow and dew collected on her ends. A footpath lay in its midst, where the two men leisured along. It was two days since meeting Ina, but her words infected Fox’s conscience.
“When I was on the beach,” Fox said, “I had a dream—you understand this?”
Fox continued. “I was like a sandpiper, trapped in the middle of the bog. I couldn’t fly and all the ground was stuck to me. I did my best to hunt, but everything was either dead or gone. Then I heard a voice from the waves. It sprang up loud and haunting. It frightened me, but I was not in a nightmare. Then a second voice came; only a whisper and seductive. At first, I thought it was pleasanter, but in my heart I knew it was a nightmare—you understand this word nightmare?—good. The second voice came from the jungle and now both voices hovered over me. They began wrestling in the air above me, and all around me. I was so fixated on hunting in the bog, I didn’t pay them mind or try to escape. I merely kept still like I was going to sneak up on a minnow any moment. But there were no minnows left. Everything was already dead.”
Arvor meekly smiled.
“I had thought nothing of it until Ina described the one who called her daughter away as the Voice. What does that word mean to the Liberi?”
Arvor nodded quietly. The men approached the end of the meadow and the path turned eastward along a forest. Arvor sat down on a tree stump. “I do not know the meaning of your dream,” Arvor said. “But I can remember a voice from the waves when I was a child. My guardians told me it was only a myth—there is nothing beyond the waves. But you are here, and you say that you came from places beyond the waves. I believe what I was told when I grew up, but I also believe you.
“Who the Voice is—” Arvor continued. “He is a man like me, but greater than me. And we do not speak of him unless spoken to. We should end this conversation.”
“I do not understand. Do you suppose a voice could be calling from out in the waves? I have heard a noise many times while on this island. One like a monster or dragon. One that I believe came from the mountain.”
“The sound you have heard is a myth. And our only response is to not have heard it all.”
“Does that mean you have heard it too?”
“I do not hear that sound.”
“Why do you call this man the Voice?”
“He is the Voice of Watanei—the sky-god.”
“Where is he?”
“Can I meet him?”
“—Hush!” Arvor straightened his back and looked into the jungle. He had his walking-stick in his hand and was jabbing it into the ground, nonchalantly.
A man in sackcloth came from the jungle. Arvor rose to his feet in salutation. He strode a few paces away from Fox and spoke privately to him. The stranger was stern and ugly, like Arvor looked in the first weeks of knowing him. The stranger saluted Arvor and walked away, back into the forest.
Arvor looked at Fox as if to invite him over. The conversation was over. The two walked toward the village in silence.