Tia the sound-chronicler

Words

A random story, from hVale’s throwing of her story dice in a time of necessary healing. The dice had pictures of: an old woman, moon howling dog, well.

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Her bones were singing a familiar song of ache as she crouched next to the drain. It has been a long day of searching, and she still has not found the source of sound. She stilled her body and closed her eyes to listen more closely. The sound rose like a layer of light in the night and she could almost feel the texture of it – webbed and watery at the same time. She thought she had heard it before, and recalled a story her aunty told her when she was a child. About a woodcutter who lost his lover, and from yearning and grief, bargained his form with the insect kingdom to extend his ability to search in spaces where humans could not perceive. She wondered briefly if she was meant to bargain with guardians of some realm in her current search. But it has been a long day, and a long life to be honest, and she has for some time lost her ability to trade the material with the immaterial.

She slowly stood up and leaned against her bamboo cane. Maybe it was time to give up and go home. To contend herself with the frustrating delight of a mystery that has no fullstop. Then the sound suddenly took a turn and changed its pitch and volume. It rose like a ball of guttural anguish into the moon, and she found her heart cracking involuntarily. She needed to find the source of this pain, if only to give it some comfort through a revelation of presence. To stem its seeming loneliness with a presence and witnessing. She took a deep breath and howled gently into the space before her, as an attempt to converse. But the sound did not appear to notice. It carried on as before, ululating in its own abstract opus.

It is moving again, and she followed its thread down the road, sidling past the cempaka and nangka trees, ducking beneath the snaking ancient bougainvilleas, ruffling the pandan bushes, down and down, and picking up speed. She tried her best to keep up. Her knees were sore, but she kept moving. Her cane making a rhythmic bass note against the tarred road. Where was it going? As far as sound journeys go, this was one of the hardest one that she has had to track for awhile.

She has been a sound-chronicler since her grandmother awakened her to the craft of listening, following, weaving, holding and releasing when she was seven years old. At first, she only knew the delight of it, when the world unpeeled itself into a dance of stories that could only be accompanied through careful attention. She spent almost every maghrib sitting still, waiting for the seeds of sounds to emerge as the light of day dimmed, and then following the thread that sung most loudly to her bones. She used to only hear the brightly coloured ones. But as time passed, she honed her skills to hear also the greyer tones that played its journey with greater nuance and complexity. On a good day, she could weave them into a full story, and accompany them to their complete exhalation and becoming. But she is growing older now, and while her hearing is still sharply tuned to the songs of lost of experiences, she is losing her energy to follow every thread.

This song came to her early that morning as a fragment of a dream. In the dream, she was finding her seat on a boat that was carrying a school of feminists across the sea, but her seat was taken. So she went up on the deck and found a patch of grass that was bordered by the shifting sunlight. Then others came and sat next to her, because the patch of sun-hugged grass was inviting. And as she held up the sketchbook to begin the work of creating, she found that she could not recognise her own face, and the sound began to creep up the hull of the boat in quiet insistent tendrils. It woke her up, and dishevelled her heart. She has been tracking the sound the whole day.

And now she has tracked it to the edge of a deep monsoon drain, almost entirely bone dry except for the thin thread of sluggish clear water moving across its heart. The sound is now a low keening, almost like a mew. And she knew that it was now, ready to be heard in its fullness. She sat down, her pelvic bones against the earth, and opened up her arms, chest and third ear, and began to listen.

// End (ish) //

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