|Hushed Were the Swallows
Author: Tinian I'att PM
In horror, Marak watched the grisly destruction of his island. Then came total darkness. He sensed, rather than saw, the floodwall approaching. He dropped his head onto his chest and closed his eyes. Why, oh, why didn't I move my family to Athens last year, he asked himself in despair, instead of staying another summer in...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Tragedy - Words: 1,521 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 07-16-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3042330
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Like "Perkins, You're Fired" my grandma wrote this story years ago. Unlike "Perkins, You're Fired", however, this story is completely fictional.
Hushed Were the Swallows
Marak rested his foot on the gnarled trunk of an olive tree. He readjusted the strap of his sandal, then stood upright and gazed out over the Aegean Sea. It appeared almost indigo.
A gentle breeze carried the tangy smell of salt, and he inhaled. He turned to look toward his orchards, where olive trees and grapevines were heavy with fruit. Soon they would be ready to harvest.
I should do well in the market this year, he thought. The pomegranates and figs have already yielded abundantly.
Marak pushed back his crinkly hair and wiped his glistening forehead while a welcome sea breeze playfully ruffled the folds of his brown tunic. How can I leave this beautiful island? Several swallows glided into the top of a nearby olive tree and twittered, swivelling their forked tails among the leaves. Can there be another place in all the world where the grass is so green or the sky so blue?
He faced westward. The air was clear, and he saw the low hills in the distance with bigger ones climbing on their backs. Giant trees marched down to the valleys. Then came the mountains, streaked with amethyst as the afternoon shadows deepened in the crevices. Topping them all was the massive volcano funnelling into the blue.
I have to make the move now, Marak thought. I cannot put it off any longer.
He dreaded the scene with his wife. Although he had no desire to hurt her, he knew he would. He had come to that paradise fourteen summers before and married his beloved Kela, but there were many changes, and none for the better. At last he must act. He had found it hard at first to adjust to rural living after his busy life in Athens, but his great love for Kela made it bearable. He hated to think of leaving.
He stood for several moments studying the landscape, burning each detail into his mind. He felt as though he would cry. Slowly and deliberately, he started up the slight incline to the house. The sun was setting, and the pink-feather clouds, fused to the blue, formed an opal sky.
Marak glanced back toward the harbor; all was quiet. The fishermen trudged homeward after an exhausting day at the nets, and he, too, was tired. He would welcome a rest.
Kela greeted him as he entered. "Our meal will be ready shortly. I have only to prepare the fish and cut the cheese."
Marak kissed her gently on the cheek. "It's good to be home at last." He reached for an olive. "The heat was almost unbearable today." He washed his face, then dried it slowly.
Marak looked at his young daughter, Valli. Bending down, he hugged her, and with an arm around her shoulders, he went to the front door. How delicate she has become, he thought. The past year took its toll. He closed his eyes tightly. The island is far too damp for her, and her cough is much worse.
A small flock of swallows soared and swooped nearby, then soared and swooped again. Even the birds are restless, Marak signed. A reflection of my own agitation. He stroked his ebony beard.
"Father! Valli! Mother said to tell you the meal is ready."
Marak ruffled his son's hair. "Thank you, Nekos." He took Valli's hand and guided her into the eating area.
For a short time, the family ate in silence. Then Kela sensed something was wrong. "What is it that troubles my husband so?"
Marak toyed with a fig lying on the side of his plate. "We must have a family council tonight, Kela," he announced. "We need to plan our future."
Valli looked up apprehensively. "You're not going to talk about leaving the island again, are you, Father?"
"Yes, my dear, I am. I must."
Valli sniffed. "I do not want to leave! I love it here, and I don't want to go away."
"Neither do I little one."
Kela smoothed the folds of her robe, tightened her belt, and sat as tall and straight as her slim figure would allow. With dark eyes flashing, she looked across the table at Marak, and her voice shook. "This is my home. I was born here. All my family and friends are here."
Marak turned to his son. "Would you take Valli for a walk, Nekos, and watch the sunset with her?"
Nekos nodded and started toward the door. "Let's sit in our favourite olive tree," he said to Valli, who smiled and followed him.
Kela faced Marak. "I cannot leave here. I don't understand why you keep talking about it." She shook her head in frustration. "How many summers have you lived here? Fourteen? Surely this is your home now." Her bottom lip trembled. "I will not survive if I have to go."
"Valli will die if we stay!"
Kela's face crumpled and Marak bit his lip. He did not mean to be so abrupt or unfeeling.
"I have no wish to hurt you, dear one," he said, "but you must be aware of how frail she has become." He walked to the door and stood gazing into the distance, where he saw vaguely the skyline of the Royal City. "There have been other changes, too." He sighed. "Our island once was a place of contentment, but now we have war-hungry officials in power and corruption at every level of government." He turned abruptly. "I have fought in every way I know how, but it is not to be stopped, I fear."
"Marak, we have everything we need here—culture, security…"
"Everything except health, freedom, and peace of mind." He looked squarely at her, his face stern. "It will be as I say, Kela. This time I can't allow you to talk me out of it. I must do what I think is best for my family."
Her anger cooled somewhat; she searched Marak's face. "What if conditions are no better in Athens?"
He closed his eyes. "I don't want any more discussion on the subject. We'll go, and very soon, before the winter rains set in." He reached out and took her hand. "We must take Valli to a drier climate, or it will be too late."
He strode from the house and started down the incline. The swallows twittered noisily, darting about in a frantic frenzy; their tiny bodies sliced the air like weaving shuttles gone wild. Marak frowned. What's the matter with them?
He hurried to the back of the house, where he found the goats and sheep rushing along the fences in a vain attempt to find an opening. Panic had seized them. The sun was about to slip over the horizon, and an ominous heaviness filled the air. A sudden smothering heat enveloped the island, and the once-sapphire sea turned leaden.
What was that? A rumble? No…yes! It was muffled, but it definitely was a rumble.
"Kela! Nekos! Valli!" Marak shouted.
They came running fear etched on each face. Instinctively Marak turned to the volcano to see an ochre chimney silhouetted against the sinking sun. Black plumes of smoke belched from its cone. Kela and the children clung to Marak. There was another tremor, much stronger this time.
"It's our god, Poseidon!" Kela wailed. "He's waking up and shaking the earth." She turned toward the harbor. "Let's run for the boat!" she screamed above the rumblings.
"It's too late!" Marak knew there was no chance of escape.
Kela was already running down the slope with Nekos and Valli at her heels. Marak raced after them and, upon reaching the harbor, battled through fear-crazed neighbours to the nearest boat. Kela and the two children climbed into the bow and huddled together while Marak pushed it into the sea.
It's the end! He knew it, but still he rowed frantically.
Then came a deafening explosion, followed by a fall-out of flaming pumice stones and volcanic ash. The pressure within the tortured mountain built up until it could no longer be retained. With a violent writhing, the cone caved in.
The chamber beneath the dying volcano, unable to hold up under the internal upheaval, spewed millions of tons of solid rock. It convulsed and contorted, then with an agonizing shudder, collapsed. The sea rushed into the gigantic crater, and a great tidal wave was born.
In horror, Marak watched the grisly destruction of his island. Then came total darkness. He sensed, rather than saw, the floodwall approaching.
He dropped his head onto his chest and closed his eyes. Why, oh, why didn't I move my family to Athens last year, he asked himself in despair, instead of staying another summer in Atlantis?
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this story and will be kind enough to leave a review.