Life Among The Savages, Part 1.
I was shipwrecked, and nearly drowned; I was swallowed by dense tropical forest, and nearly consumed; I was trapped among spires of jagged, sun-beaten rock, climbing ever upward because behind me, below me were the murderous seas and insatiable jungle. I climbed and scaled and split my feet and hands on the stony shards until I reached a plateau, where I stopped, and fell, and lay on my back, a rack of a man draped in rags and tatters. I could not pull enough air into my lungs. The sun tried to blind me, even through my eyelids, appearing as a radiant whiteness in my skull I could not block out. The whiteness would swallow me too, as the seas had, as the jungle had, and I had nothing left in me to resist this whiteness, nor did I have a clear path of escape, so I relented and became as nothing.
Then, later, I opened my eyes and saw a dark shape looming above me, and heard a woman’s voice. “Who are you?” she asked.
“I am Job,” I said. “I am Candide and Gulliver and Robinson Crusoe.”
The shape said “No, you’re not.”
My temperament ablaze, I clutched at the shape. Gentle pressure stilled my hands. “Tell me!” I wailed. “Will you be my long-sought deliverance from peril, or are you yet another grim spectre sent to drag me unto the grave?”
“Oh brother,” said the shape.
I raised my head to ask again, and fainted.
I awoke in a bed, my body and wounds cleaned and dressed in fine bleached linen. A woman sat at the end of the bed where I had been laid, looking on me with benevolence and concern. She was finely formed, with fine skin, dark hair arranged in a complex network of thin braids, and piercing gray eyes. She addressed me, and though at first I did not comprehend her speech, I recognized her as the woman from the plateau, and therefore as my erstwhile savior. I threw my arms around her and sobbed my thanks into her bosom. The woman guided me back to my pillow.
“There’ll be plenty of time for that later,” she said. “For now, you need rest.” She moved toward the door.
“Wait, please!” I called out to her. “At least, before you go and I am left to my solitary convalescence, tell me the name of my deliverer!”
She paused at the threshold. “You mean me?”
“I do!” I exclaimed.
She sighed once, then said “Most people just call me Mindee.”
“Until we meet again then, fair Mindee!” I called out to her again. I think she muttered something as she shut and bolted the door to my chamber. I, in turn, fainted again, as I was still in dire need of healing, and further, it seemed like the polite thing to do.
My room was dark, and darkly painted, but there was a window, through which, once I felt well enough to stand, I witnessed a small fraction of the city whose people had saved my life. Such tantalizing glimpses of an alien country! Could this be my long-sought goal, the fabled Land of R_______? My heart leapt at the thought of my quest’s completion, but there was no way to be sure. Mindee looked in on me from time to time, less frequently as my strength returned. She most likely did not wish for me to become too dependent on her. Also, in the early days of my convalescence I endured waves of overwhelming emotion, and several times I threw myself into her supple bosom for comfort. I sensed my erratic disposition may have unsettled her. Whatever the reason, she now preferred to converse and deliver my meals through a small hatch in the door, the door remaining locked, for the sake of my health, she claimed.
On one occasion when she brought me food, before she could hurry away, I called to her “Fair Mindee?”
“Yep,” she said. (I assumed this to mean “yes.”)
“What do you call this city in which you live?”
“Umm, I can’t tell you. It’s a… It’s not allowed… for the name to be heard by foreigners,” she said. After a moment, she added “It’s blasphemy.”
“Also, you can’t say it,” Mindee continued. “Because you can’t speak our language.”
“Perhaps I could learn,” I said.
“Ehhhh… probably not,” she said slowly, as if deliberating over every syllable. “It’s difficult.”
“I have quite a talent for languages, actually.”
“Very difficult. Most of our people don’t even speak it.”
“That seems –”
“Strange, yes, I know. What can I tell you? We’re a strange people.”
“Indeed,” I said. I went to my window, and looked out onto a nearby square, between large buildings of smooth gray stone. I thought about fainting, but the moment felt inopportune for a spell, so I refrained. “But I want to learn more of your culture. That’s an interesting scaffold they’re building down in the square.”
“What?” said Mindee. “Oh, yeah. Scaffold.”
“Tell me, Mindee. Have you heard of R______?”
“Nope. Can’t say that I have.”
“It’s a land of which many amazing stories are told, at least such stories are told in the other countries and kingdoms I’ve visited.” I added expectantly, “I thought this land might be R______.”
Mindee said nothing.
“The name is not familiar to you?” I asked, and looked to the door. The open hatch framed Mindee’s face, her jewel-like eyes.
She looked at me for a long time and then said, “I have to go. Enjoy your pancakes.” She closed the hatch. I yelled farewell to her departing steps as they echoed in the corridor.
I gazed out the window at the ongoing scaffold construction, then returned to my bed and began to eat the pancakes Mindee had brought me, working pieces free from the whole using the provided spoon. As I ate, I felt my strength increase, and I contemplated the strange events that had brought me to this small dark room in this enigmatic city, and the stories that had inspired those events: tales of the mysterious Land of R________.
To be continued…