~ Flood ~
“Baba, tell us again.”
The wee ones scurried about the woven planks like hermit crabs. Every night it is the same; Baba, tell us the story of how we came to be. Only the little ones beg so. The older ones, those more than seven or eight, slip like eels from the hut when I begin the story. They know better. They know the why of it. And that knowledge has settled in their hearts like stones. Stones to drown them.
“Once there was earth, rich and brown, almost black, like night, like a shadow beneath the high, bright sun. And this earth was like the sea; it stretched further than you could see. And on this earth, and in it too, grew the food. Life. Well, life of a different sort, life made from green not silver.”
The wee ones knew that life was silver and fast. And catching life was their job. Beneath the floating city, it was their job to catch the flashing silver fish that fed us. Sustained us. The silver flashing fish were life. But before, on the land, life was green.
Murki burst into the hut of sleep, interrupting my story.
“What is it Murki? Have the Blue Hills come in the night to bump our town?”
“Yeshi was diving for ghosts. She went in and, and she didn’t come up to the hole.”
I frowned openly. “Patta declared night diving off limits while Maloon is bright. You know that.” I got up shifting a child off my lap. “You wee ones ride easy.” I poked my head out of the hut, “Sinta, can you watch the wee ones for me?” Not waiting for an answer I followed the boy. “Perhaps she’s teasing you boys? Hiding under the picca floats — making you ache for breath yourselves while she laughs at your struggles, your frantic pattering?”
“She doesn’t know about the picca floats.”
I reached the open rectangle of water where the children were allowed to dive. “Yeshi! Come out child. Murki is terrified that you have drown and are now a ghost who will haunt him until he too, swallows the big water.”
Murki, a boy of perhaps nine, punched my arm. “Baba, not funny!”
“Yeshi! There is sweet ahi for you if you come now. Else there will be cuda lashes for your brown butt!” I’d had enough. The Patta set the rules for a reason. Shaark hunted at night and young wander-ones provided no more than a snack for the great saagar baagh, tiger of the sea.
A high tinkling laugh drifted up from the algae storage bins.
“There you are! See Murki, your worrying earned your adversary a strip of sweet tuna. And what did you get? A wounded ego.” I padded over to the bins and grabbed the lithe Yeshi from between the bamboo walls. “Murki will not be happy with you you slippery darter. You had better share your treat.”
Returned to the sleep hut the wee ones were incessant.
“Alright, alright. Where were we? And you, Murki, Fli and Yeshi, you will listen to the tale again, as punishment for disobeying Patta’s rule.”
They complained but, as expected, settled in amongst the wee ones and became enchanted by our story of the Flood.