From the Writer’s Block.
Spark Word: Fertility
The festival continued. Brightly-colored swaths of cloth adorned the wrists of each dancer as they spun around the fire. Some of the gauzy lengths were singed, while others remained intact through sheer speed. Glimmering body paint reflected the golden glow of the fire, and the spectators were in awe. Each of the thin females dancing was barely a woman– each of whom had only begun to blossom, and wore a breast band that was white with a vivid red stain that surrounded a smaller brown stain.
Drums sped up, and the dancing became fevered. The volume pounded through each of the dancers and listeners, and it echoed deep within them. Many of the members of the audience held their breath. Many more shifted to accommodate a need for more loose pants, or a moistening of their underclothes.
The visiting diplomats were red-faced. Their hands held tightly in front of them. White knuckles contrasted with their severe black clothing, and they looked on with awe that any people could be so depraved– so base in their happiness. The dancers wore nothing to cover their lower bodies, save bells on their ankles. The villagers typically wore the reverse– covering for their lower halves, but none for their upper.
The music sped up and became still louder, and soon enough, not a single person in the crowd was without flushed cheeks.
Silence echoed the last of the drumbeats as all sound ceased, and the dancers stopped and collapsed onto her back, feet facing the crowd and legs splayed open. Their chests rose and fell rapidly, and each looked soaked and dirty. The girls had been dancing from the height of the sun, until an hour into the night, and it was not uncommon for one or more to die if the other villagers did not tend to them.
The visitors watched with a frown as each of the watching villagers kept still, eyes filled with lust as they took in the sight of these young girls. A few had bloodied legs from their entry into womanhood, but most were simply covered in dirt and dust.
One young man– the son of a diplomat, looked around. “Why aren’t they getting water for them?” he asked in a quiet, urgent voice.
“Be silent, Morgan.” his mother whispered harshly. “This is their custom, not ours. Do not interfere.” Her thin lips spat each word as though she could taste refuse deep in her mouth.
Morgan frowned as he stared at the girls. Several were pale and grimacing. One began to claw at her chest. “They are going to die out there!” he objected in a loud whisper.
“It is not our place.” His mother reminded.
Morgan clenched his teeth. His blue eyes stared at the suffering dancers. Suddenly, he dashed forward to the nearest and tore the canteen from his own belt. He opened it and held it to her lips. She drank greedily as he straddled her and began to compress her chest repeatedly.
The villagers watched, then surged forward to aid him in saving the girls– as though they had been waiting for his act the entire time. The silence was gone, and replaced with chaos.
By the next morning, three girls lay dead, around the remains of the fire. Each had singed clothes, and unbloodied legs. They had died before help could arrive, and arrangements were made for each girl to receive her own funeral pyre, started with the embers of the fire of life that they danced around in their last hours. Old women cleaned their bodies and stripped them as they wailed in ceremony for those lost before age could lead them away.
Morgan rose from his bed to these sounds of heartbreak, only to find a nude girl by his side, adorned only in a white breast band, dyed red around a brown stain.
The young girl remained asleep as he hurriedly climbed from the bed and stood back to stare at her tanned body. Dark hair framed her soft, childlike features. Her nose was delicate and upturned. A mole adorned her cheekbone on the left side. Her eyes were closed in peaceful rest, and she slept in a child’s position, with her knees raised to her chin, and her arms like an eating rodent. Her long hair spilled down the side of the bed, and charred ends touched the ground, tracing designs in the black filaments.
Morgan backed up slowly, until his back brushed against the curtain that separated his bed area from that of his parents. He paused as he heard their voices.
“I don’t see why they insist we own her.” his mother whispered. “She is a savage, but she is still free, isn’t she?”
“This tribe views women as property. If we do not take her with us, they will stone her for not pleasing her new husband. We can take her with us, send her to a boarding school on a sponsorship, hire her in one of our companies, and be done with her. This way, she has her freedom, and we don’t have to have her near our son.”
“Will it really work? You saw how she climbed into his bed each time we moved her to a separate one! She is already attached.” The woman sounded irate.
“I’m sure she’ll settle down. She is simply grateful for his actions saving her life.” Morgan’s father chuckled. “Dora, please, stop assuming the worst. It’s only going to cause problems.”
Morgan slowly looked from the floor, to his bed. The girl was gone. His eyes darted around in terror, only to land on the girl’s figure as she stripped off her breast band beside him. Dark, deep brown eyes looked up at him, pleading as she rolled and folded the cloth as small as she could. Finally, she took his hand and placed the cloth inside. She closed each of his fingers around it, and her eyes never left his.
Filled with uncertainty, he nodded numbly and pushed the cloth into the inside breast pocket of his jacket. He patted it, to assure the lithe young woman that it was secure. Her smile illuminated his vision, and she rose to her feet to kiss his cheek, then whispered into his ear. “Kareh is mother. With husband, always together.”