Saturday, 22 February 2014

Realm Guides

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga
She picked up the phone, waited a few beats. The tropical jungle pulsed next to her, the screech of birds flapping above the canopy of leaves. Hot air blew dust onto her itching skin, eager to get the call over with. She glanced back at the dirt road, at the snow-capped volcanoes looming in the distance. She could almost hear the rustle of the leaves fringing the drive, almost see herself stepping onto that dust swirling past her ankles.
                “Hello?”
                “Yes, hello,” Ananda resumed. “Who am I speaking to?”
                Silence.
                “Hello?” Ananda tried again.
                Another pause until finally, “Is there such a thing as too much travel?”
                Hot wind lifted Ananda’s weightless hair and her skin immediately responded with the damp beginnings of sweat. She tasted powdery dust on her lips before promptly dropping the receiver.
                “I’m hallucinating,” she said to no one in particular.
                Birds cackled in the trees, shrilled out their calls, shrieked senseless.
                “A midnight dream. Yes, that’s it. I’ve fallen asleep doing math and this is what I get.”
                Her eyes rove to the blurry colossals in the distance, blue shadows against the fluorescent sun directly over Ananda’s head. She sighed and headed towards them.
“Of all the dreams I could have had,” she muttered, “of going back to Florida, of seeing my friends – but no, here I am in yet another unfamiliar place.”
                The more she walked, the more her purpose seemed impossible, yet she knew what would happen if she turned back. It wouldn’t be that she’d find her place by the phone. Neither would it be that she’d wake up instantly.
                “I’m in a painting,” she sighed, “of all the places in the world.”
                Her voice shook slightly but her feet trudged on towards the horizon line. Her purpose seemed more possible when she thought of her destination as the horizon line. Yes, that’s right, she thought. No impossible jungle to cross, no impossible heights, just a drawing that ends at the top.
                Her hair, loose from its bun, began to stick to the back of her neck. All she inhaled was green and dust.
                A drawing that ends at the top, she nodded. Dreams can be vivid.
                Suddenly, an engine roared behind her, making her jump. Still she didn’t look back, simply moved to the side of the road.
                “Hop on!” Someone yelled.
                Suddenly, hands grabbed her shoulders, lifted her off the ground as if she weighed nothing, and swung her into a seat at the open door of a bouncing jeep.
                “Who are you?” she cried. Her heart rattled with the sudden change.
                The man beside her grinned sidelong and glanced at the front where a dark head was driving.
                “She wants to know who we are Joshua.”
                The head turned. “Ever heard of Realm Guides?”
                At that moment, the jeep veered sharply, swinging around for a whirling U-turn, and bounded back the way it came from.
                Ananda’s heart jostled while her eyes widened in utter horror at what she saw before them.
                “STOP THE JEEP!”
                More road. More trees. Dust. Not a single phone in sight.
                The vehicle came to a screeching halt and the driver turned to stare at her curiously. He couldn’t have been older than Ananda although he looked it, not with that innocent gleam in his eyes as he asked her, “What’s the matter?”
                “Just stop,” Ananda almost sobbed. “This is just a dream and you’re supposed to get me out of it, right? So why are you turning back? There’s nothing there so just take me up the mountain-”
                “Are you crazy? That’s not the way home,” the boy, Joshua, protested. “And don’t you want to explore the place we got here a bit?”
                “I just want to wake up,” Ananda sobbed out, “preferably in Florida.”
                “Good then!” Joshua exclaimed. “We’ll take you any place you want! What you got in mind, Tomzy?”
                “Any place you want,” the man next to Ananda replied. “You name it, we go there.”
                Ananda sniffed. “Really?”
                “Yeah,” Joshua replied softly. “So don’t you cry about a thing.”
                It was strange, hearing this from two muscular men, dark in their African terrain, when normally Ananda would not have felt safe in that kind of position. How could she know they weren’t kidnapping her? Of course this was a dream but still, “What are Realm Guides?”
                Joshua smiled crookedly. Tomzy laughed.
“Here we go again!”
                The jeep’s engine roared to life. After a few seconds of yelping at every bump and holding on for dear life to the back of the driver’s seat, it came to a squealing halt.
                “W-where did you learn how to drive?” Ananda asked shakily.
                The question missed the driver’s ears. “We’re here!” Joshua exclaimed instead.
                Ananda raised her head and there was the coast. Down to the bits of seaweed scattered in the piles of brown sand, an entire beach stretched out. Crashing waves ate more of it and simultaneously spit it back, pulling Ananda’s heart with the tide.
Stepping out of the jeep she all but raced for the water, taking in the lapping waves and twirling around in a circle, cupping water in her hands and throwing it in the air, so much did it feel like cool salty goodness. The waves were exactly as she remembered them.
“Keating Beach!” Ananda exclaimed. “You brought me to Keating Beach!”
She faced her guides and they simply shrugged in return.
“Don’t know how this compares to Miami Beach but,” Joshua grinned. “If you’re happy we’ve done our job.”
“Not exactly,” Ananda replied. She gazed left and right where the coast stretched endlessly on either side. “Where is everyone?”
“Not here,” Joshua shrugged.
“But I wanted to see my friends,” Ananda’s voice trailed off as Joshua shook his head.
“No, you wanted to go to Florida. You didn’t say anything about friends. Besides, we can’t really take you to see people, only places you have strong attachments to.”
“Well, that’s just dumb,” Ananda snapped. “I have strong attachments to those places because of the people I know there.” Her heartbeat quickened as her temper mounted. “Florida is nothing without my friends!”
Joshua shrugged instead of rising to her pitch. “Then let’s leave Florida. Anywhere else you want to go?”
A dark crater fissured and swallowed Ananda’s anger as she realized something she never considered. Turning her back on Joshua, she stared out to sea, trying to steady her breathing with the rhythm of the lapping waves over her ankles.
“I want to go home,” she replied softly, “but I’m afraid of where you’ll take me: whether it’ll be back to that telephone or another empty shell like this one.”
She waited a minute but Joshua didn’t reply – which was just as well, she didn’t expect him to know how to answer. She stood still until she was sure no one was there to comfort her – Tomzy and Joshua had gone so still they must have vanished as her dream changed scenes – and sighed.
Suddenly, a hand touched her shoulder. Ananda jumped as it felt surprisingly solid and warm.
“Don’t you think home is where the heart is?” Joshua murmured. “That it always stays in one place, yet travels vast distances? Carries one soul yet many others that will always remain inside where you need them and they need you?”
Ananda’s fingers began to bite into her crossed arms and she turned sharply. “No-”
Her head knocked on something hard and she saw only darkness. Her eyelids fluttered and she realized that they had been shut. Slowly Ananda felt for her forehead, somehow pressed into the lightening black that she still viewed through sagging eyelids. She frowned. Why is it so hard to push myself off? She thought. Finally, her body regained feeling and Ananda pushed off using her elbows. She blinked several times as a blinding light seared her sensitive pupils.
When she finally adjusted them, an explanation began to form.
She had indeed fallen asleep doing her math homework on her laptop. Instantly, her eyes diverted to the blinking dot on her Skype account.
She clicked on the mouse and her friend’s chat page came into view.
Still up all night doing math?
Get it done so we can chat this afternoon!
Okay, love ya~<3
Gtg to school
Ananda blinked several times before tears sprang to her eyes. Her monitor read 11 pm, Tuesday night which meant the message was sent (go back twelve, back three, minus thirty...) at 7:30 am of the same day.
Her fingers sped along the computer keys.
Since when are you a morning person? ;)

2 comments:

  1. Great first story Aline! This was such an enjoyable read. If only we could all meet some 'realm guides'!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great read, loved the story :)

    ReplyDelete