John Leigh The Journey

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It was unfortunate, he thought, that the sand was a little hotter than he would have ideally liked. Looking out across the horizon the poison blue ocean was already beginning to pour into the sand and saturate it. When the waters came in, it was always time to leave. As he turned, the sand absorbing his feet in the wake the wonder what would happen one night, if indeed, he did remain out and watch the sea. Perhaps the old tales were not true, perhaps there was nothing to be scared of.

‘Modeerf’ his wife shouted out, ‘Modeerf’! ‘Yes’ came the reply, his reaction a little slow from having been walking alone for so long. You must come back for dinner now, walk beside me, let us talk for a while, we shall go through the trees’. As open as the sand and water were, the jungle was equally dense. The thick, toxic green leaves draped themselves around black and brown barks. The floor of the forest was littered with seeds and smaller, less noticeable vegetation. It was not uncommon to see many different animals if one took even the shortest of walks through this perfect, tropical forest.

‘Modeerf’, his wife’s voice came again, this time accompanied with a note of concern. You have been spending a lot of time recently, wondering away from the people, concern is growing, is everything alright? ‘ She hesitated; the words had come quickly until this moment. ‘Perhaps you are not happy with me? ‘ Bowing her head, she stared at the floor as they walked together in silence. Modeerf began to think, it was very unusual for his wife to be this sensitive, he had always walked alone, as long as he had known her. This can not be of her own decision. ‘Your being foolish’ he replied slowly and carefully. ‘You know how much I enjoy to walk alone sometimes’.

She looked up at him, a tear gathering in her eyes, ‘the others talk, they say I am no good, that I do not please you and… that, you would rather be alone! ‘ Ahead the dense jungle was beginning to thin, the blue smoke of wood fires drifted gently up and into the darkening skies. They were approaching the village. Looking up from his feet, Modeerf realised perhaps he should indeed pay a little more attention to his wife, taking a deep breath he stopped her and whispered into her ear. ‘Nothing has changed Iree, I love you as much today as I did when we first met.

I walk alone so often because I like to think of both the past and present. But every meal and every night, I am entirely yours. ‘ She looked up at him, took his hand, smiled whilst still sobbing and they continued walking toward the village. The leaf strewn floor gave way to ankle length dry and bristly grasses. The trees were much thinner here and a quiet noise of work and play arose from the village. Houses and buildings made from mud and leaf glowed with the evening sun. There were not many living here, about 100 or so. A community just large enough to efficiently support itself.

There was no employment structure as such, nor any form of currency. The work you did was for the good of the collective. The individuals of the community worked not for themselves, but for everyone. The hunter shared his food, the builder shared his work and the medicine-man helped the sick. There was no religion as such, there was but a simple belief that you must give thanks to the natural world for all it provides. When you take a fish, you must return the bones to the sea and thank the ocean for what it has given you. When a tree is cut down for firewood a prayer is said to the trees.

It is not destroyed but its ash is returned to the soil, where it may help its brothers to grow strong and good. The people themselves were not of white skin, but a beautiful olive colour that seemed very comfortable and elegant under the setting orange glow of the sun. A mane of beautiful, long, golden, matted locks hung from their heads. As they moved, the bleached hair swayed, as does the ocean when the tide sets. Clothing was minimal but modest, it was so warm that to wear large amounts of anything was un-desirable. The cloth was made from the thick and once dried, very strong water-grass that grew at the river side.

Modeerf walked on, still holding his wife’s hand. The people now turned and looked, it was unusual to see the two together, let alone walking hand in hand. As they walked on the fires around began to spit and roar as meats and fish were skewered and suspended over the flames to cook Witnessing this serene scene Modeerf felt a moments regret for what he would shortly do. ‘Modeerf, you have again spent long by the sea have you not? It is not healthy to let the mind wonder for so long everyday. You will come to conclusions of insanity and error. ‘

Modeerf looked over his shoulder to see the wise man better as they did not talk often. ‘I spend my time there out of my own free will. wise man my freedom is not something you can control, it is my own. I do my work as a father and friend when the time calls for it. ‘ The wise man said nothing but gave Modeerf the most uncomfortable feeling he had ever experienced. For a moment he felt the gaze flood every inch of his body. He had to suppress the will to tell the man exactly what he had been doing by the sea. Finally the wise man turned his head and continued to shakily walk toward his small hut.

Modeerf looked at his wife, smiled awkwardly and whispered ‘Come Iree, let us eat and rest well for tomorrow, I am tired tonight. ‘ The sun arose gently spilling light into the quiet village. Slowly one by one the people arose, it was not easy to sleep for long once the sun had come up as the huts quickly became unpleasantly hot. Modeerf was the first up. He watched the sun rise and quickly as he could dressed himself and made his way carefully out of the hut so as not to wake Iree. Stepping out the wind caught his hair and slapped his face. However the air was warm and it was highly pleasant to be awoken like this.

Hastily he made his way out of the village, it was not desirable to be caught leaving at such an early time, it would seem suspicious and confusing to the others. Reaching the opening to the dense jungle Modeerf turned and paused for a moment in order to take a mental photograph of the scene. The beautiful houses glowing as the mud and leaf caught the first of the days sunlight. Glittering water some way off in the distance distracted Modeerf and he pressed on into the jungle. Once he had reached a reasonable distance from the village so as not to be heard, he began to run and jump, leaping through the vegetation and vine.

Excited about the events that would unfold momentarily. The lush undergrowth had turned to sand and he stood on the most incredible beach. Cocaine white sands stretched for miles around and the acid blue sea lapped the shore. The effect was that of a narcotic, dizzying at first then more and more pleasurable as he watched and listened. Modeerf knew now the old stories were true. He could not trust himself when he was near the sea. It seemed to invite him toward it, to travel, to explore lands he had never seen. His eyes closed for a moment as the full impact of what he was about to do knocked him back a little.

Determined, he was totally determined. As if reading his thoughts, as if trying to stop him, the sea turned a nasty black and blue. The sky became dark and lightening began to strike. The rain was heavy and thick, his hair and cloth became extremely heavy as he walked up the beach. Modeerf’s head finally turned after a hundred meters or so to a large palm tree, the same he had visited everyday. Lying at the base of this great creature was the raft. It was reasonably large, enough so to carry a man comfortably. It had taken an extremely long time to build. Long rolls of strong white wood had been used to create the raft.

The wood was carefully bound by hundreds of meters of twine and rope made from the skin of trees. Beside it was a carefully collected pile of coconuts these were both nutritious and full of water. This water would be of the greatest importance. ‘Back again? ‘ The growling voice of the wise man came again. Spinning round Modeerf glanced at the man, grunted irritably, turned and began to move his raft down to the violent swirling waters. ‘You will find nothing out there but danger and peril’ The voice cursed his every move as he pulled the heavy boat through the sand. ‘There has been one before you, you know.

One who has spent his life by the sea, dreaming of leaving and exploring’ Modeerf stopped now, his raft very close to the sea. His brow low and his eyes set deep into those of the old man. ‘Did you try to stop him too? Let me go and tell the others not that I have left. Help my dear Iree as you can, I must do this’. ‘Then go as you will, but I will make no excuse for you for you shall not be gone long. ‘ As he steadied the raft, the water swelled up around him. It was warm but he had never had to do anything quite as hard as this. The food now onboard he hastily pulled his slender body up onto the wood.

The water began to pull the raft away from the island. It was wonderful. The shouts and warnings of that old man were all but forgotten. Exhausted, with the seas now thrashing insanely, he lay very still and waited. Modeerf awoke suddenly, gasping for air. In a fit he sprung to his feet coughing and spluttering as he stood. Clearing the hair from his face he looked around and saw the wise man was there once again. Falling to his knees in shock as his beautiful raft slid up beside him. It had been rejected, as he had, by the waters. Looking up, now angry, he shouted.

Why old man? Why has this happened to me? Why did I want to leave? Why can I not? WHY? ‘ The wise man carefully considered Modeerf for a moment. Standing, he hobbled over and taking Modeerf’s arm, pulled him to his feet. ‘You are a fool. Like me you are not content with what is perfect. The beautiful life we have is undesirable, unreal and uncomfortable. ‘ Modeerf looked as if he had been shot, spluttering he asked the question that would scar him forever. ‘Who is this other who tried to escape, did he manage it? ‘ The wise man lowered his head, let drop his staff and replied.

No Modeerf, he never managed it, from the moment he tried, he made his prison a million times more terrible. It is a curse that will haunt you and I forever. ‘ Raising his fist, showing the sea to Modeerf he explained everything. Why it was impossible. Why the current isolated the island and why it was impossible to escape. Slowly they turned together and after what seemed like forever Modeerf began the walk he had done a million times before. Today he had adventured, if only for a moment. He felt a content and ignorant happiness that he had never experienced before.

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