Rock matches rock.
Just one hour before sunrise, the dense forest is silent as a tomb. Soon, a flock of waking birds will shatter this new peace as they take flight through the clouds into the creeping pink. But in this pre-dawn moment, it is possible to imagine that nothing here lives and nothing here moves. Not now. There are giant faces frozen in the towering rocks. Savagely hacked away by thousands of years of water and wind. Wrathful as gods. They hold cruel stories in their muted heads of slate. The tall pines whisper with the winds in collusion. Though they too have seen all that the dark night seized, their secrets will be carried with them for an eternity. As the sky slowly lightens, the mist and winds take reign. Slim lines of white powdery ice shards snake along the ground and swirl in circular formations as though they are playing a game of chase. Tag, you’re It. Tag, you lose. The birds scatter.
If you had been here earlier, when the moon was pregnant and high, you might have stumbled upon the fine domed house of glass and the girls, soft as snowflakes, dancing within it. There were scores and scores of girls, the greatest number of girls collected in any one place. Folk travelled from far and wide to see them, and every evening, as the sun started its dip down below the ground, these watchers made their way through the pines. They climbed up the fanged rocks to the highest point, and then just waited. Finally, as the last embers of evening sun fizzled away, the house lights started to appear. By the time the moonlight beamed against the domed roof, the faint strains of music stirred. They were followed by a warm glow coming from a grand room at the front of the house. Though they stood far atop the hill, the light was bright enough to allow the watchers to consume the full splendour of the dance.
As the cymbals crashed and the violins swooned, the girls twirled around in white Broderie Anglais dresses, spinning like ethereal wraiths in a momentary merry game. Some were mere girl-lings, will-o’-the-wisps, and some were in a later stage of bloom. Ripe, budding, veritable nymphs on the cusp of womanhood – the flying skirts of their dresses showing more than they understood. The folk on the hill could hear their high-pitched laughter mingling with the music on the breeze.
As the dance ended, the lights dimmed and the girls giddily ran back through the house. The elders, dressed in black robes – as though in commiserating funeral garb – stood hunched and weary in the endless corridors, ushering the girls into their dorms to ready themselves for bed. One elder for every corridor. And by morning light, as by every morning light, one score out of the many scores of girls, across all the corridors, would be gone…
(Extract taken from full story first published, 2019)
Copyright 2019 Joon Haque. All rights reserved.