And the Sun Rose in the West


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To Indigo, my dear friend from S. 

ON THE COLD November day Dahu was born, two unusual events took place. Dahu’s father left for the mountains early in the morning never to return again. Nobody ever found out what became of him: his body was never located, nor did any news of him arrive  in the years that followed. It seemed that the farmer, who was 42 years of age at that time, simply disappeared into thin air.

However, what really made the entire village remember that day so well was the fish rain. Such rain is a rare happening, yet, as extraordinary as this may sound, the skies got dark and it literally rained fish on the day Dahu was born.

Unlike other Highlanders, Dahu wasn’t  fair-haired. For God knows what reason, his hair was black as raven feather, and, coupled with his almond-shaped eyes, gave him a bit of a Chinese or Japanese look. Yet, in case you wondered, it was impossible that Dahu was the son of a stranger – strangers were rare in that place, let alone strangers who visited for more than a few hours.

Dahu’s personality was of a most unusual kind as well. He hardly spoke. In fact, he hardly did anything at all. His favorite occupation was “sitting on the edge of time”, as the old Alistair put it. Dahu would sit quietly by a mountain stream or on top of a hill, deep in thought, refusing to leave his “post” unless he decided it was time to.

As if trying to make up for the number of hours he idled, Dahu would other times be very obedient, if not submissive.   If Mother asked him to do anything such as to go on a really long trip to the neighboring village, he’d go without saying a word.

The only exception was food. Sometimes, Dahu would not eat certain foods, and it was completely futile to force, threaten or try to convince him – he just wouldn’t eat the thing. He would stare at the empty space around it, as if stunned by the findings of some invisible calculations only he was aware of, and gently push the plate away from himself, giving Mother an apologetic look.

It appeared Dahu had fixed an unspoken deal with the world: he’d do the required minimum not to be a burden to others, but the rest of the time others must leave him alone. It seemed he was saving life force for something in the future.

***

21 YEARS went by fairly quickly as it often happens in faraway places where not much takes place. Everybody in the village knew Dahu was not like other people, that he’d probably never marry, that he was likely from another world or planet altogether (no one would have been surprised if one day that had turned out to be true), yet every villager guarded the mystery – the Dahu mystery – and hardly ever spoke about Dahu outside of the village.

Mother was largely protective of Dahu. When he was little, she worried lest Dahu should become a laughing-stock for his eccentric behaviour. But as years went by, she grew more and more reassured that Dahu was not easy – if not impossible – to traumatize or even affect in any way.

He clearly had a goal – one only HE was aware of – and that goal had made him indifferent to any other goals, except for his physical well-being and life force maintenance. Sometimes Mother wondered if having Dahu at home was much different from having a pet. But immediately she felt bad for thinking about her son in that way: she knew he was intelligent; he just wasn’t much of a talker.

If Mother were completely honest with herself, she’d say that she loved Dahu immensely, mostly because his presence and his simple (often silent) activities always had a relaxing and heart-warming effect on her.

She liked to watch his hands in particular. For example when Dahu sliced the bread, wrote with a pen or stroke d’Artagnan, their cat. She could never explain it, but when she watched Dahu’s hands it felt as if invisible rays were warming up the invisible essence in her heart, she’d get the feeling one gets from accidentally overhearing a conversation about how nice and beautiful a person they are.

Another thing to admire about Dahu was his love of nature. Nature came for free, so Dahu didn’t have to trade anything to get as much of nature as he could. He’d put his palm in the stream and sit like this for a few minutes. He’d close his eyes and turn his face to the sun, smiling happily. He’d smell flowers, sniff at branches, breathe a lot and deeply. After rain, he’d approach a tree with wide leaves and shake a branch so that the water fell in splashy drops on his head.

If anyone Mother knew was living their life the way they wanted and at peace with themselves, it was Dahu. And she was learning from him. Learning a simple yet mostly unattainable art of being happy for no particular reason – just because.

***

 THE DAY OF THE SHIFT  began just like any other day in the Highlands. The only unusual thing was Dahu – he was much deeper in thought than usual and much less willing to talk, move or do anything at all.

He ate his breakfast, very slowly and rhythmically, as if he knew he needed to finish by certain time. He then got up from the table, slowly and ceremoniously, and left for the mountains.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about Dahu leaving for the mountains – he’d go for long walks quite often, sometimes running Mother’s errands, other times because he wanted to. The day of the shift was no exception: Dahu pushed his dining chair back to the table and walked in the direction of the emerald slopes.

Around noon Mother received a phone call from her cousin who lived in the city.

“Susan, how are you?”, said her cousin. “Did you watch the news? I’m worried about you!”

“Why?”, asked Mother who was feeling sleepy that day and hadn’t bothered to turn on TV.

“They just said something big exploded in space last night, like a star system or something. And now this star wind is approaching the planet – that’s what they said. There’s high chance of earthquakes, tsunamis and stuff in some parts of the world. Have you noticed anything unusual?”

Mother looked out of the window, then checked the glass thermometer outside – everything looked normal.

“Nope”, she said. “Who knows, maybe we’re out of the way? Hey, let me go look for Dahu, I think he went to the mountains”.

“Oh, did he? All right then, call me back then if you can, laters”.

“OK, bye!”

Mother hung up and realized, quite to her surprise, that she was incredibly sleepy. If she were a character of a fairy tale, she’d think she’d had some spell cast over her.

But she had to go to the mountains to check on Dahu, and so she set out. The weather had gotten windier, and there was dry grass flying in the air in some places. Mother walked past the last house in the village into the wilderness, and then she was lost for a moment: which way to go? Dahu had several favorite routes he liked to take from there.

In a split second, Mother decided Dahu would probably take the longest route that day, because it was just getting stormy, and Dahu liked storms.

Mother walked on and on, while the weather was quickly getting nastier and nastier. A scary thought was trying to sneak into her mind, the thought of something unprecedented and disastrous, and it made her remember her late husband. The human subconscious works in mysterious ways indeed!

It was as if Dahu’s birth, his appearance, her husband vanishing, stars exploding, and her walking in the windiest weather ever, alone, all fell into places like a puzzle image – she suddenly got a hunch all those things were related.

“I’m gonna remember this day”, thought Mother for some reason. And she wasn’t sentimental or too imaginative.

She finally got a glimpse of Dahu – he was standing on top of a hill. Next to him was a young blonde man Mother had never met before. The young man’s hair was of very unusual color that resembled vanilla icing – so bleached it seemed.

An uneasy feeling of this happening in a dream came over Mother as she approached the 2 men. The wind was getting stronger with each minute, and now the sky got covered in dark heavy clouds that seemed unusually high above ground.

When Mother was within shouting distance of Dahu and the blonde stranger, she for some reason decided to stop. Dahu and the blonde guy were standing with their backs to her, their arms up in the air, as if listening to the music of the wind and the sky, their hands plugged into some organic socket.

As though he just heard Mother’s footsteps, Dahu turned, his face very serious and somehow tired. He gave Mother a “whatever” look, which she knew very well could be interpreted as “you can do whatever you wish, I’ll go on about my business”.

She decided to come closer see who the vanilla-haired man was. As she got near them, she saw that the blonde guy was probably even younger than Dahu, he couldn’t have been older than 18, but might as well have been 16 or even younger.

Suddenly, the blonde guy spoke with his eyes closed:

“What does the brother want of the other? Why does the brother fight; why does he attack?”

Dahu, with his eyes also closed, responded:

“All the brother wants is respect; all he wants is to be treated as equal. The brother is humiliated, and humiliated he fights.”

“Didn’t the other do right by his brother?”

“He sealed equal treatment on paper, but it’s not in his heart. His heart laughs at the brother; his heart mocks the brother.”

“When will the other wake up to his brother?”

“The stars will turn, and the crowns will fall. The other shall need the brother and shall repay his fault.”

Dahu’s last words were barely audible as an extremely stong gust of wind plunged in and carried them away. Dark clouds were swirling faster than ever above the three people’s heads. Suddenly, loud thunder stroke and everything went black for Mother.

***

WHEN MOTHER woke up, she discovered she was back home, in her very bed. She had no idea how long she had been asleep, she only noticed it was pretty dark outside – so it could have been the evening of the same day  or the next one.

On the chair to the left of her bed was Dahu. He was quietly waiting for Mother to wake up, his gaze fixed on the scarce raindrops falling on the window. He felt that Mother was looking at him and turned his head towards her.

Dahu was gleaming with quiet joy. His eyes were unusually kind, warm like 2 mild fires; and a trace of a soft runaway smile still visible on his face.  It seemed that Dahu was very much relieved about something.

Mother tried to recollect everything that had happened on the hilltop. She couldn’t remember what happened after she lost consciousness – someone must have brought her home. The blonde guy was nowhere to be seen, so Mother supposed he had left.

As usual, Dahu didn’t say anything. Mother suddenly realized she had learned not to ask questions when it was not necessary.

The phone rang, and Dahu went to pick it up. “This is aunt Margaret for you”, he said passing the phone to Mother.

“Hello”, Mother said.

“Susan, oh my God, how are you? I tried to talk to you all evening yesterday, but the boys said you were not feeling well and were asleep. “

“Huh?”

“And I thought, you know, I hope Dahu is telling me the truth, because you know how he is! And this other boy would sometimes pick up, his friend or something. He sounded very serious – is he still there?”

“I suppose he is gone”, Mother rubbed her forehead. “So, what happened? I fainted in the mountains yesterday and have slept until just now.”

“Oh , did you? Are you OK now?”

“Yes, I am. Must have been the weather.”

“Oh, it is horrible, so many earthquakes around the world. I’m surprised you didn’t get any in the Highlands. But they’re waning now”.

“Really? No, I don’t think we’ve had any… But I don’t really know… Look, I have a pretty bad headache, let me call you back.”

“OK, I’m glad you’re fine. Talk to you.”

“Talk to you, bye-bye.”

Mother thought she should probably watch the news, but then she figured she had no energy to. Besides her cousin said the earthquakes were waning. She looked at Dahu who now standing by the window, looking out. There he was – her son she never understood, but always trusted.

Mother put her hand on Dahu’s shoulder. He started as he always did when someone touched him unexpectedly. He then turned to Mother and they hugged. As the last drops of rain drummed on the window frame outside, Mother felt headache leaving her without a trace.

***

As Mother woke up the next morning, she felt something was different, but she didn’t know what it was. Soft sunrays pierces the curtain in her bedroom, and they looked unusual. Mother got up from her bed, her body light and full of energy. She felt that her entire being was happy and filled with invisible inner light.

In her night-gown, she tiptoed to the window and looked out. Something was off with that morning, but she didn’t immediately realize what it was. After 10 seconds or so she finally got it – it was the way the sun was illuminating the crowns of trees in the distance, which seemed as if it was evening-time . The sun was rising in the West. 

Image by: Martin Sojka/Flickr

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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful story, well told. In a literary sense, it evokes a style of fantasy, like Halldor Laxness. Good character development, in such a short story, I can’t wait to read the whole version ))

    As we all know, the sun can’t rise in the west, but I’ve often wondered how “Melancholia” actually turned out! Earth’s magnetic poles reverse regularly, perhaps one day the earth will topple over, South pole replaces North, and sun rises in West… lol

    • Dear Patrick, thanks! As I’m writing this now, I can see the book by Mr. Laxness sitting in my bookshelf – I did start it, but fortunately haven’t finished it yet – so I still have the pleasure of reading it ahead.
      You mentioning “good character development” (thanks by the way), reminded me about Anna Karenina, the recent British version. Have you seen it yet? It’s amazing how they distilled the plot and the characters in that version – no important scene has been left out, yet the story moves along pretty fast, like a carousel, and you still see all the important highlights, all the gist of each episode – it’s amazing 😀

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