(c) Nin Harris 1997-
I push my hands into my windbreaker pockets, and walk against the frisky breeze coming from the sea. The sea is very comforting, even when it angers onto the reefs with crashing momentum because it seems so normal to me, and believe me, normal becomes strange when you’ve been around some of these kooks here on Yrejveree. Now, don’t look at me like that! I’m not talking about the indigenes, you know.
No, it’s the ninnies who think they’re on to some kind of Disneyland for adults, who traipse about woodland and dell as though the sight of the indigenes would be enough to spark off some deep epiphany that could cure every kind of hurt conceivable. I don’t know who’s selling them that spiel or how they’re getting here, but they are. I don’t know, maybe I’m a snob or some kind of purist, but this place is special! Or it should be. I think I’m digressing a lot here, but you seem halfway decent, and have this air of being an old-time emigre like me, so you must excuse me.
The Sea of Exiles is how some of these people have found us. Others tripped in here through psychedelic means or through dark magicks. Some never make it back out. But the Sea of Exiles is the main connector.
Sometimes, whole ships disappear out of that other world and make it here. That’s when some of the more enterprising indigenes come in, resettling the new arrivals and dismantling the ships. Some of them get back home, except they don’t remember where they’ve been and don’t remember where they’re from. Poor bastards. Some of them stay here, or take one of the portals to other worlds. Me? I’m a bona fide emigre and you’ll find out more how that happened if I don’t digress from this story. Sorry – I’ve never been much of a storyteller.
The waves are crashing and I’m wondering where the sirens are, when I hear the sound of a wood flute being played. I turn around and it’s my friend the faun. I smile at him and walk closer to listen to his song. It sounds vaguely familiar and for some reason that strikes me as a cliche. I listen a little and that I realize why.
“Debussy?” I enquire quizzically.
The faun winks at me, and continues. I lean back against the same rock that he is leaning on, and listen to him play even as I enjoy the sound of the surf and the bite of the breeze. The breeze near the coast is always spunky. It isn’t gentle, even when it isn’t harsh. There always is some kind of bite to it. I think that is part of the reason why I’ve always gravitated towards coastal towns back there.
I used to be quite enterprising as well as inventive. Had patents in everything. You may have even seen me on the home shopping channels a time or two. It got both of my kids through college. Those kids were my achievements too, except they never believed, not like me. Looking at the teenybopper faerie-loving brigades springing up everywhere these days, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Sure I’m cynical but those believers just irk me. Yes, sorry, I’m running away from the tale again. I shan’t confuse you with how many children I have. I know you’ve met Vita, and she’s the only one you need to concern yourself about.
As my faun plays, I notice a pair of slender, webbed hands reaching out towards a huge chunk of protruding reef directly before us and one of those sirens pushes herself up, mother-naked, unless you count that gemlike tail she possesses. She looks straight at our friend the faun, as he plays, and seems to sway in time with the music. We are bonded by the music in companionable silence, although the siren is separated from us by a stretch of feisty waves. My faun finishes his ironic but still beautiful rendition of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and waves at the siren. I’ve known her for awhile. Almost as long as I’ve known him, but he doesn’t know that, doesn’t know how long the thread of history spools between us and beyond us. The siren slides back into the ocean, bringing with her my memories.
I shake out a packet of chewing gum I bought off one of the newer emigres and offer him a stick. He takes it and we chew together for awhile.
“Why don’t you react the same way?” he asks me, as he carefully wraps the gum back into its paper casing and places it into the knapsack slung across his back.
“The same way as what? To what?” I ask.
“To me, to the rest of us – like the rest of the humans.”
“Do not be so uncharitable, Maryani,” he says, smiling at me.
” I know – but some of these flakes are unbelievable!”
“Even more unbelievable than our existence? I’ve noticed that about you. You’re never surprised. You don’t try to theorise or explain why we exist. Why is that?”
“Well, what’s the use in all that? You’re there, and that’s that. Who’s theorising about who, now?”
My faun smiles to himself.
“Cardion the Centaur would laugh himself silly over the irony in that sentence, milady,” he says, and bows in a half-mocking gesture before continuing.
“You know, you’ve always been a puzzle to us. Sort of a mystery. You just stepped off a yacht here as coolly as though we were a new town you decided to visit. You’ve befriended us, but we don’t seem to be magical to you.”
“Oh, but you are,” I say, and my voice softens.
“But no more magical than childbirth, as painful as that was.”
“No more magical than my first kiss or the first time one of my inventions sold.”
“Why are you here then?”
“What, you think this island is only for exiles?” My eyes fix on him and I smile.
“I’ve had a long, and happy life. I just decided this was the best place to retire. I’m not running from anything. Just wanted to come home.”
“I grew up here, you know,” I state matter-of-factly even as I watch his eyes. He stares into mine with intent eyes. Recognition flickers. I smile at him and remove the gum I’ve been chewing. Twelve years since my last drag of cigarette and counting.
“When I first saw you I thought I was in Narnia.”
“You thought I was Tumnus the Faun?”
“You’re unusually well-read for a creature of fancy,” I remark, even as I watch his beautiful fingers play with the flute. He smiles at me,
“You’re the little girl the mermaids rescued!”
“That would be me! And you’re much sexier than Tumnus ever was!”
He eyes me.
“How long were you with us?” he asks now, as I breathe in the salt-laced air in content.
“Long enough to call this home – the only true home I’ve ever known”, I tell him, and laugh aloud at the memory of the foolish child I had always been. My memory trails back to the time when I fell out of my father’s boat, enthralled as he was by the singing of the mermaids.
I remember Her, the strange mermaid who cradled me in her arms, floating me upwards as she sang to me. I remember them rescuing my father and me again when we were caught in an angry storm. They had brought us both back here. That was a long time ago, but strangely enough, it seems as though no time has passed at all. Now, I smile and take the Faun’s hand as we stare out at the Sea of Exiles. Life is good here. It is enough, for me to know this.
“So, do you know any Ravel?”
My faun smiles, and plays for me.