Monday, December 7, 2015

Prose - The Grand Dama

The Grand Dama

The Grand Dama was there ever since everyone could remember. Nestled snugly in the hewed-out mountain cliff, so tall that clouds misted its weathered moss-crowned head; any stranger who stopped by the village would gape at its size. The villagers however never looked twice at the monolith they saw every day. Its presence was very much as sure as the sky was blue and a stove fire hot.

Little Lonla grew up treating the Grand Dama as fact, just like everyone else. Its magnitude however never ceased to awe her little mind; it was probably why she was always looking to it whenever she had the chance.

It protects the village, said Lonla's mother when the little girl asked about the Grand Dama. It's been our guardian since the beginning of time.

This made little Lonla very confused, for how can one protect anything if one's eyes were closed? The Grand Dama's eyes were never open; she knew that for she looked at its smiling face every day. The Grand Dama must be sleeping, Lonla concluded. He must be woken up if he was to protect the village.

Lonla's mother laughed at her suggestion. Why, the Dama sees all, even if his eyes are closed, she said. 

No, Lonla thought. It was impossible to see with one's eyes closed - Lonla knew only blackness met the closed eye. The Grand Dama must be woken up.

It was promptly after school that Lonla made her way to the Dama. All the villagers knew their way to the Grand Dama - it was practically their birthright to know the way. Lonla herself could possibly walk the way blindfolded, though she had never tried. With chive cakes bought steaming from Ma Ganlu with two penlas, Lonla made her way to the edge of the village and the start of the path to the Grand Dama.

It was as she was skipping through the forest when she met her classmate Tontta. He was scavenging through the rocks for spiders.

You're going to wake the Dama? Tontta's eyes widen with surprise, though his eyebrows were arched in slight disbelief. I heard that it's impossible.

But I must try, Lonla insisted. I must try for the safety of the village is at stake.

After some thought, Tontta decided that he would accompany her- partly because he was interested to see how this interesting development would end, and partly because he could not wait to laugh at her when she failed.

Lonla and Tontta soon reached the foot of the Grand Dama. Lonla once again was captivated by the great size of the Dama which was made even bigger now as they stood at its base. They stopped to rest at the Grand Dama’s feet – it easily gave them shade from the afternoon sun.

After a filling meal of chive cake which Lonla had graciously shared with Tontta, the duo started on waking the Grand Dama. Lonla first tried everything she knew, everything her mother had used to wake her up when she had refused to every morning. Pinching the Grand Dama’s toe proved impossible as try as she might with all her strength, Lonla could hardly pinch the Dama’s toe. They next tried using branches to tickle the Dama awake, swishing and swashing them across the Dama’s bare sole, but even that proved ineffective. They even shouted at the Dama until their throats were hoarse, but even that could not wake the Grand Dama from its deep slumber. Exhausted with their efforts, Lonla and Tontta rested below the foot of the Dama again.

We must not give up, Lonla insisted. The Grand Dama must be wakened to protect our village!

Between breaths, Tontta laughed. It’s impossible Lonla, he said. The Dama is just a dumb old statue. It’s not going to protect us from anything. The pirates always come and go. We just have to live with it.

No, Lonla cried. We don’t have to! The Grand Dama can protect us all!

And then it stuck her. Picking herself up, Lonla gripped the rocky surface of the Dama’s foot. Heaving, she pulled herself up onto the Dama.

What are you doing? Tontta exclaimed, eyes wide and mouth agape.

I’m going to climb to the Dama’s eyes and force it open, Lonla said as she continued pulling herself up the Dama’s gray mossy skin. That will surely work!

Ignoring the cries and pleas of Tontta, Lonla made her way up the Grand Dama’s foot. The way was not easy or safe, for little pieces broke off the grainy surface of the Dama wherever Lonla stepped. The fresh moss on the Dama’s made gripping hard and Lonla had to use all of her strength to hang on. Tontta’s shouts were now but thin wisps even as the winds blew hard against Lonla, threatening to pick her up and fling her to the forest below.
The sun had melted to a dull orange when Lonla finally reached the eyes of the Grand Dama. She had along the way rested on the Dama’s broad shoulders, but even that failed to relieve the aching muscles throughout her body. Her hands were now raw and bleeding, leaving faint stains on the Dama’s surface, but Lonla ignored the pain and pressed on. She must wake the Grand Dama. The Grand Dama must protect them. Lonla gripped a closed eyelid and pushed up with all her might. It refused to budge. With a cry, Lonla pushed. She pushed for everything depended on it – her village, her school, her friends, her family, her father.
A sudden sharp wind whipped at her, and as her foot slipped, the last thing Lonla could remember was the Dama’s face growing further away as she fell screaming into the darkness.

Lonla woke to pain throughout her entire body. She groaned even as she picked herself up, her blurred vision slowly clearing itself to reveal that she was on her bed back home. Her mother who was by her bedside, gave a cry of relief when she saw that Lonla was awake. She pulled Lonla in for a hug.
What were you thinking climbing the Dama, Lonla, cried her mother. You could have died!
What happened? Lonla croaked, her voice dry and hoarse. Her body groaned in pain even more from her mother's embrace.
Tontta saw you fell from the Dama into the forest and ran back to the village to get help, her mother sniffed. The villagers found you uninjured among some bushes. It was a miracle that you’re still alive.
Did the Dama wake up? Lonla asked. Did he rise to protect us?
Why silly girl, the Grand Dama need not wake to protect us, said Lonla's mother softly. See, your father has protected you even though his eyes are closed eternally. He protects you from all harm and danger, shielding you from the hands of death.
Lonla cried at the mention of her father. I just want the Dama to protect us from the pirates, Lonla sniffed. I miss Pa. I want him back. I don't want him watching over me - I want him here by my side. The Grand Dama must protect us so that fathers don’t have to leave. The Grand Dama...
Clear trials of tears now lined Lonla's cheeks even as her mother embraced her once more. Soft sniffs soon slowed to quiet breaths as little Lonla drifted off to sleep.
The sharp shrills of crickets filled the night as Lonla's mother stepped out from the darkened house into the night. The village was asleep, showing no sign of its bustling vibrancy of the day. Lonla’s mother sighed as she sat down on the steps to her house. The bright blue moon stood starkly against the dark sky, shining through even the wall of tears that flooded her eyes.


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