I was a little girl, aged seven, when I first met him. The old man with long, white hair who came to our village. No one knew who he was or where he came from. He used to sit under the old paulownia tree, nearer to the river, out of everyone’s way. I suppose it was his favourite spot to sit and watch the villagers hard at work. He didn’t enjoy talking and seemed quite irritable. He didn’t eat much, and he rarely moved from under the covering of the tree. The people of my village thought he was strange. I remember them believing he was a travelling monk on a pilgrimage.
It wasn’t long before we became friends. It happened the night my parents invited him into our home. I remember my father being anxious. He thought he was sullen, and, cautious of offending his guest, he hardly spoke that evening.
The old man loved my singing, and I loved to sing for him. I remember seeing the faces of my parents in a silent shock as he smiled for the first time. From that day, I sang to him daily and we became best friends. His name was Mr Mengi—or that is what I called him because I couldn’t say “Mr Menguisai” properly.
One day I found Mr Menguisai at the village entrance about to depart with three of his companions. My heart disintegrated. I remember thinking I wouldn’t have anyone to enjoy my singing, but as he left he made a promise to come back. That was, if he found what he was looking for….
I was fourteen when Mr Menguisai returned. My father had died the year before. My heart was bitter—I loved my father so much, we were always together, farming in the fields. A loosened boulder crushed him and some others during an earthquake. I remember the land quivering earlier that day, and when it ended, I thought nothing of it, ignorant that it took my beloved father away. His fellow workmates rushed to our home with the bad news later that day. They said his last words were to tell his daughter and her mouthy mother that he loved us and would continue to do so.
My mother couldn’t cope with the loss, and she began to drink more wine, staying at home most of the time in her dark room.
At night, all the nocturnal sounds, crickets chirping and winds wailing, were things I had never noticed before, but after his death my ears were unclogged. I remember he was the only one who had time for me—he and, of course, Mr Menguisai.
I still relive the taste of sour and dryness in my mouth. I lied to my mother and had not eaten for days. It wasn’t a hard thing to accomplish, seeing that most of the time she was barely sober. My strength was failing me, and it almost felt as if something was choking my throat, but I didn’t care. I stood by the river, singing that song I sang to Mr Menguisai that evening in my house. I remember the feeling on my face. It felt sticky and almost dry. I can remember feeling alone even when everyone was there. I couldn’t look at my mother because she reminded me of him—my father. I wished my father was still there with my mother enjoying one of their silly arguments and playfully mocking one another. The song was my only solace when that memory burned so fresh.
I remember the cold grip from a strong draft that morning and the dry leaves brushing past my face. I turned around and there was someone standing near, staring at me from the old white tree. He was shrouded, and his hat covered his eyes. My heart raced, could it be him? After all these years, he remembered me.
My tears seemed to have hardened in the wind as I ran towards him. It was Mr Menguisai, he had come back!
As I approached him, I slowed down. I thought maybe he didn’t feel the same way anymore, may that’s why he left me. But I was happy to be wrong. Mr Menguisai reached out and hugged me, the same way my father used to. He had missed me, and I felt joy once more.
“Mr Menguisai, you’ve returned!”
He chuckled, “Do you recall a time you couldn’t say my name properly?”
I laughed, his question had caused me to revisit my childhood.
Again, we were always together. I sang, and my mother joined in— when it pleased her. I remember brewing him some tea. He commented on how I made wonderful tea, like my father—except, no person in his correct mind was keen on my father’s tea, apart from my father himself. My father would have been happy to see him once more, though he was always silent around him.
It was the third quarter of the night. I couldn’t sleep because the noisy wind had caused small stones to beat against the sides of our house. Mr Menguisai was outside, standing by the river.
What I saw next was impossible. Were my eyes deceiving me? The river was cleaved into two parts to reveal a walkway; that I remember as clearly as our river water. Today , many years later, I know Mr Menguisai was not who the villagers and I thought he was. He was something greater. I can remember what he said to me by the river.
As he was about to walk through the pathway, I ran out and shouted his name. He turned around and smiled at me.
“Do you recall what happened at the village river after I departed, when you sang with the other younglings?”
I reminisced on what happened, the adults spoke about it for months. How could I have forgotten?
“The river turned from green to blue, and the adults said it was safe to drink from it, once more.”
“Well said,” he replied. “I purged the river as you sang.”
I was astonished, but in a weird way it all began to make sense.
I did as he told me, and that’s what happened but….
“H-how?” I stuttered.
“Never mind how,” he said, pointing his finger to the sky. “Cast your glance aloft, into the heavens, Aliqxis. Tell me, what do you see?”
I gazed up and saw a colourful vision across the sky. There where people doing marvellous things. I saw a man point to the sky, and fire fell down and consumed his enemies. I saw a child pick up a huge boulder that had landed on her mother. I saw a man turning water to ice by just touching it with the tip of his finger, and a woman who could see into the future when she sang.
“H-how is this all possible?” I said.
“These are my Ambassadors. Some have not been born yet. You, Aliqxis Juara, shall be my first, and when you call out to me like you did that day many years ago by the river, I will come to you.”
There was a sudden tremor in the ground. Mr Menguisai snatched my arm, “Make haste! Stamp the ground, Aliqxis!”
I did as he told me, and the tremor stopped. I gaped at my surroundings—I doubt I even knew what I was searching for.
“W-was that me?” I was lost in shock.
“Indeed. Today I shall bestow upon you the Majestic of the Earth. Sing to me and request anything concerning the Earth, and I will honour that.”
Visit, Let the Earth Tremble
Copyright © J.J Sylvester 2016