We will leave the past behind
Oblivion, Chapter 4
Quick recap: Elysia awoke on a beautiful island with no recollection of her past and a painting of the island Fanghu held beneath her arm. After a botanist gave her something to help her remember she awakes in a shack.
Matt Evans of composed a beautiful musical score for this chapter. I hope you enjoy this meditation as you read.
I awoke in a shack at the edge of the sea, waves nestling against an errant shore, nudging it into the sun. A peachy air fell through open windows, its sweet breath delicate against my cheek. A yawning day dreamt itself into existence and my eyes blinked open to see it, the pale pink blur of oblivion slowly melting away.
Someone was making tea in another room, a subtle clanking knocking at my senses as an idle wind spoke with the sea in murmurs. I stretched my fingers and toes and found them sprawled across a red velvet chaise, the fronds of some tropicalia tickling against my skin as though my dream still reached for me in my waking life.
And then I saw the painting. Fanghu, isle of the immortals. The scroll was hanging from a nail in the wall and unraveled to reveal a mountainous island dotted with houses made of gold, beautiful gardens, and the rivers of life flowing into it. I could almost touch what it meant to me. I felt it in my dream and yet I could not grasp it—it slipped between my fingers like a memory lost.
From the clanking came a man. He set a tray of food before me: Bright pink fish squeezed with lemon and tendrils of chartreuse seaweed tangled in an incandescent black ink that blushed blue in the sunlight. Lush, juicy melon and ripe red fruit bathed in their own juices, and some of them were squeezed into a terracotta cup, a pot of green tea exhaling its first breath beside it.
“Good morning,” the man said with a bow. “I am Taka.”
He wore a simple, gray kimono, sandals on his feet, and a languid look about him—as though he hadn’t a care in the world. His black hair was tousled by the sea, and he ran his hand through it as though suddenly aware of my gaze. He was tall and beautiful, but adrift somehow, not quite as moored as the others I had met.
“I am Elysia,” I said bowing back, my red hair sprawling across my face as I did so. “I apologize, but may I ask how I got here?”
His gaze was stoic, but I caught a hint of suspicion in his eyes.
“That is a question all of the islands are anxious to answer,” he said, eyeing my fingers as I tucked my hair behind my ear. “Though most recently you fell asleep in my garden.”
My mind blurred into the previous day—the memory of nothing sprawled leisurely across my countenance. For a moment we sat in silence and I wondered if I had done something very wrong to wind up here.
“Do you remember then?” he asked.
“I remember that painting,” I said, nodding to the scroll, its memory haunting some lost corner of my mind. “But I do not remember my life. Is that strange?”
“Yes,” he said. “You are very strange indeed.”
He contemplated the painting for an unguarded moment, his eyes surfacing some secret he did not share—it was almost as though he recognized it too. Or knew it in a way I could not. “I wonder if you might accompany me this afternoon,” he ventured after a breath. “I’d like to show you something—perhaps it will help you remember.”
Taka took me out in a wooden canoe. When the sun was high, we flicked our toes into the water then submerged ourselves into the blue, tumbling into the sea like stars through the sky. We fell through forests of gold kelp, brushing strands of colorful silk with our fingertips as though they were the tendrils of passing mermaids. Fish swam between us contorting themselves like acrobats in an underwater circus.
Between breaths of fresh air from the surface, we gulped in the bounty of underworld gardens—drifting between strands of seaweed so flamboyantly fuschia they glittered gold in the sunlight and plumes of purple coral so extravagant they might have been ostrich feathers. Clouds of jellyfish floated in tufts of white silk as colorful fish danced through the underwater sky in fins so frilly they might have been ballgowns.
And then, just where the water became deep and the forests parted, I saw something glisten. Our lithe figures hung suspended above an underwater waterfall with nothing to anchor us as our eyes wandered to where the light went. Gilded gates rose from a floor I couldn’t see, and just beyond them the spires of an imperial palace glimmered gold, its ancient glamor flooded by centuries of the sea.
It was beautiful, perhaps even more than it had been in its waking life—a fairytale kingdom asleep between dunes of lavender sands, with spires now iridescent with the light of a thousand seashells, its shrines now dreaming only of the deep, the city’s many secrets sold to the sea when it was at last tumbled into it, with only the plants that grew upon them to remember it.
Beneath us lay every manner of botany, but also the remnants of some distant past, and the ruins of our very existence.
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