You alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.Kahlil Gibran
Defeat By Kahlil Gibran Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude, and my aloofness; You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs, And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory. Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge, and my defiance, Through you, I know that I am yet young and swift of foot, And not to be trapped by withering laurels. And in you, I have found aloneness, And the joy of being shunned and scorned. Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword, and shield, In your eyes, I have read, That to be enthroned is to be enslaved, And to be understood is to be leveled down, And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness, And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed. Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion, You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences, And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings, And urging of seas, And of mountains that burn in the night, And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul. Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage, You and I shall laugh together with the storm, And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us, And we shall stand in the sun with a will, And we shall be dangerous.
Water ☵ – Iron 🜝
Fever from a battered body struggling to heal itself lays waste to Captain Rae’s nimble mind. In the iron-like womb of her escape pod, she struggles fitfully with vivid hallucinations. She is hunted and haunted by visions too awful not to be real. The afternoon rains come in torrents like an assault darkening the sky with the sounds of battle.
The river’s languid turquoise turned a creamy brown and rushed up against the shore, lifting the pod from its muddy moorings. The rocking soothed Rae’s mind. The temperature dropped inside, cooling the sweat from her brow and body inside her spacesuit and helmet. With the visor down and the display dead, Rae saw a macabre world above her played out with angry raindrops exploding in random patterns on the Plexiglas cockpit and the rhythmic waving of waxy green jungle foliage in the background seemed like a vision of a saurian world.
Rae began to feel the effects of motion sickness as the pod bobbed and rolled in the currents picking up speed and hammering into stone and floating debris, flipping, twisting, churning in constant chaos. Someone screamed again. Rae watched with discordant vision as a gloved hand reached out to the panel and flipped several switches.
Ralph’s cheeky voice read off the results. “Gyroscopes on. We are settling into stability management, and at the current rate, the energy packs are good for 12 hours without recharging. Shall I monitor all the life support systems for you, Captain?
“Please do that for me, Ralph. Rae managed to squeak out a hoarse reply, her head pounding from the sudden absence of turmoil but her vision still reeling. I’m so glad to hear your voice. Please don’t leave me again. I’m scared and don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, er um, Captain. I’ll take care of everything. Your life signs show you are suffering from a concussion, multiple skin abrasions from blast friction in your suit, and subcutaneous hematomas in the right gluteus medius and gluteus maximus-from the hard landing, no doubt.” Ralph droned in his best unemotional AI voice.
“What?” Rae asked
“You bruised your butt,” Ralph replied.
If a voice can imply a smirk, Rae heard it.
“Would you like me to massage the injured area,” Ralph asked with far too much eagerness than the rules for AI manners allow.
“Ralph! No. You are not allowed to touch my butt, and you know that” It was Captain Rae now. She was coming to her senses again; adrenaline fueled her anger. Ralph teased her back from the abyss.
“Therapeutic massage is not about the masseur’s carnal pleasures. It is for the patient’s well being. Please lift your Space Explorer mind from the barracks brothels and let me help you,” Ralph insisted.
“When I get out of this mess, I’m going to have a little talk with you about AI boundaries. In the meantime, I love you and don’t want you to go anywhere. At the moment, I’m a bit overwhelmed and need your help.” Rae talked to Ralph and adjusted her pod’s systems to best navigate out of the river without anyone drowning or getting short-circuited.
Ralph complimented Rae on her thoughtfulness and river navigation acumen. He reluctantly agreed to keep his holographic hands off his Captain’s sore bootie.
A frond cut from a banana tree shed torrents of rain as Ezra watched from underneath at the flood breaking the silver egg from the mud’s viscous hold and carrying it downstream. He sat under the green umbrella, dismayed beyond his imagination. Ezra felt the gods were telling him this gift from Heaven was not his to covet. The River was too angry to swim across or follow the egg on its ride to the falls. He would have to wait until tomorrow to continue his search when the river returned to its peaceful mood.
The lone hunter pulled his thighs to his chest and lay his head on his knees. He placed his small shield in front of him. Although he wondered about its usefulness, the extra protection gave him comfort even though he hadn’t seen another tribe’s warriors in years. Ezra’s parang lay unsheathed at his side should the jungle cats decide they were hungry and he was easy prey.
Inner thoughts preyed on Ezra as the spotted cats rested in the trees without casting a glance at the restive soul below. He sat still in the storm and contemplated what purpose he served as the last tribe member? Why had he been spared? Was the greatest reward to be alone with the gifts of nature shared only between him and the wild creatures? Why did he desire companionship, and why did he pray so fervently that Tala would accept him as her Guardian?
Punishment for all his sins seemed most likely the cause of his troubled thoughts. His tribe had abandoned him in death and were wandering dangerous paths unconquered except by the jungle. His medicine could not save his mother and father from the ravages of hard work and age sickness. Yet, they had left him a rich and cultivated kingdom. What had he done, except live alone where he must consume the beauty of living things to keep his dark life alive. It occurred to Ezra that he fed on the sustenance of living things that he could know nature’s soul and understand her heart. What a woman Mother Gaia was; beautiful, mysterious, majestic, and ruthless.
It was respect for his ancestors and their urgings that came as whispers on the wind that kept him reverent to their wishes that he lives and finds Tala. Now that she had come to him, she played all of nature against him.
In his despair, Ezra heard his father’s stern voice in deep memory. “It is the female of all living things that decides on her mate, my son. The male dances and prances and develops vain gimmicks to draw her attention. She wants none of that. A woman wants a kind man who treats her as an equal. She looks for the man who roars like the Typhoon to protect her, and provide for her children she has gifted her man. She will bend him to her secret desires and recreate him in the image she sees in her third eye.”
“Look at the girl who has allowed the boy to stand next to her. See how she glances up and smiles at him? She fits him into her dreams. Now see! She looks away as soon as his head turns toward her. She must never let him know she will do whatever he wants just to keep his attention on her. That is their secret; you must always respect their secrets and their ways.”
“But why, father? Am I not the next Chieftain to rule over all our people and lands?” Ezra heard his past voice declare.
“Yes, my son. You are that and much more. You must always remember that woman is the source of all life in the tribe, and you will never rule over that. The woman is the fertile ground that nourishes life and brings forth the renewal of the tribe. You are the rains and the sun that calls the seed to rise. You are the harvester that cuts the rice stalks that new ones can grow.” The voice from the past left Ezra to ponder more profound meanings.
Tala drifted back into Ezra’s consciousness. So, she plays this ritual with me. I cannot gain her attention until I prove my worth. Ezra got up when the rains quit, and the winds of the ocean blew the clouds across the island to reveal the cerulean sky. He prepared his camp with a familiar silence and ate some of his pig jerky. Twilight comes, and Tala will give me dreams. I’ll find a way to search for her tomorrow.
Ezra dreamed of his kingdom in the mountains. Tala was with him; her smile warm as the sun on his face and her skin fragrant as the orchids that grow in trees along the river path. Tala was the eternal spring that brought life from the stars and a new tribe to Ezra’s jungle island. Or so he thought. He hadn’t heard Tala’s opinion yet and the words of a goddess matter.