The Last Festival of the Island of Dreams
Hush, hush, greedy girl. Hahah. Calm your precocious vulgarities. Lay your head back down on the pillow and I will tell you a story. Close your eyes, or you won’t see it…
On the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year there arose in the center of the lake, an island, lush and forested with trees with amber leaves. Borne on the backs of a hundred solemn, white dolphins, the island made a stately rotation in time with the circuit of the sun. There happened upon the shore of the lake, the man and the woman, yes the first man and woman, and they gazed upon the dazzling beauty of the island. They longed to go to it, for it called to them with a sweet, nurturing voice, like that of a mother calling her children. But they were afraid of the dark water of the lake and did not know how to swim, and so they began to weep with desire for the beauty they could not achieve.
Hearing their cries, the great, brown eagle and his mate, took wing. For they knew history in reverse and so foresaw that they were to carry the first two people to the island. And so they did. The great eagle descended upon the woman and his mate upon the man, and they grasped their long braided hair in their talons and bore them across the lake. Crustaceans with spiral shells applauded as the man and woman were deposited gently upon the meadowed shoreline.
The man and woman were so dazzled and amazed by the honey scent on the breeze, and the warmth of the cinnamon soil that they stood, transfixed. The tiny crustaceans pinched at their feet to snap them out of their stupor and guide them toward the amber forest.
The man and woman communed with the forest and the animals and the spirits within for seven days. And for seven days they feasted upon delicate lilies filled with molasses nectar, and strips of savory, paper-like bark, and fruits dried on flat rocks in the sunlight and they drank from a river of rich burgundy wine flowing from the center of the island. And each night they dreamed. The woman dreamed of a tree, straight and tall with roots like the enormous train of a golden gown. And the man dreamed of a single mountain, strong and proud with it’s peak surrounded by stars.
Near the end of the seventh day they emerged from the forest with seven children. Three boys and four girls. The middle child was exquisitely beautiful, with honey-colored skin and hair the color of roasted cinnamon, and she was called Desiree and named the queen of the Island of Dreams. And the eagles and their children bore the man and woman and their children away back to the lake shore as the dolphins lowered the island back into the lake.
And that was the first Festival of the Island of Dreams.
The man and woman and their family waited upon the shore for the island to rise again, but day after day, year after year, the island never came back. And the man and woman cared for the children and the children explored the world as their playground. All except Desiree. Desiree remained standing on the shore of the lake, facing the place on the lake where the Island of Dreams had arisen. She did not move, did not eat, did not speak for seven years. And she grew into a tall strong-limbed woman. And then one day, after seven years, Desiree began to sing a song that had no words and all the children, all fully grown now, returned to the shore of the lake and joined Desiree in her song. And out on the lake, the Island of Dreams arose once more and began its graceful rotation.
The eagles came again with their children to carry Desiree and her brothers and sisters to the Island. Hummingbirds with curling beaks, brought the brothers and sisters gifts of clothing made from weightless spider’s silk and sandals woven from the finest roots of the Great Tree. The dress they brought for Desiree was a special one. When she donned it, it echoed with images of lives as yet unlived.
Thus clothed, the brothers and sisters walked the edge of the shore as it rotated, waving to their mother and father. As dusk approached, Desiree sang a song that lulled her siblings to sleep, and she stood still until morning. When morning came and the siblings awoke, the mother and father were gone, never to be seen again. It is said that they are now the eyes of the constellation of the Great Dragon.
The brothers and sisters suddenly felt lost, but Desiree crooned a song that soothed their worries. As the sun breached the horizon and the first rays fell across them, the Island burst to life. A swarm of wasps with translucent glowing bodies surrounded them. Seven queens, each a different jewelled color, flew out from the swarm and chose one sibling. And the colors were violet, azure, emerald, gold, amber, ruby, and milk-white. Hovering over their chosen, each queen released her glowing abdomen onto their awaiting tongues. The stingers stabbed into the soft flesh of their tongues and convulsed to inject their venom. But the siblings did not cry out in pain. They only laughed with joy for the gift they had been given and the swarms of wasps answered with a droning buzz the echoed seven times across the lake. With their life-blood thus given, the queens gently alighted on their chosen’s outstretched hands, and caressing their palms with their antennae, they died. The siblings lovingly placed their bodies in a hollow within the trunk of the Great Tree, to return their essence to the Island.
The brothers and sisters began to feel the venom of the wasps working its magic throughout their bodies and all at once they each left the forest to follow a path that called to them.
Evelynne, the oldest sister, whose skin was the palest alabaster and whose white curls always flowed and danced on an invisible breeze was given the gift of the milk-white queen, which was the essence of the air. So Evelynne went to the top of the highest mountain on the island and touched the sky and let the wind explore her body and she became as one with the air.
Darno, the oldest brother, and the strongest of all the siblings was given the gift of the ruby queen, which was the essence of the power of the unseen volcano. So Darno, was called by the unseen volcano and found the entrance to it through a crevice at the base of the mountain, and he went to the edge of the volcano and let the lava flow over him and his skin turned red and became as hard as steel.
Tomak, the middle brother, whose tanned skin and shaggy brown hair and beard gave him the appearance of a wooly goat, was given the gift of the amber queen, which was the ability to change to an animal form and communicate with all animals. So Tomak ran throughout the forest and across all the land learning the names and languages of every animal, and he learned how to take the form of a giant stag with a magnificent rack of antlers.
Miklos, the youngest brother, was given the gift of the emerald queen, which was the essence of the land and all things that grow on it. So Miklos explored the island, touching each plant and tree, learning each one’s name and which fruits were good to eat, and his skin took on the green shade of the healthiest plants.
Saorelenn, who was the next youngest sister after Desiree and always liked to play in the water, was given the gift of the azure queen, which was the essence of water. So Saorelenn, ran to the shore and dove into the lake, and she could breathe under water. And she talked to the fish and the crustaceans and learned the names of all of the one hundred dolphins that supported the island, and she grew fins on her ankles and webs between her fingers and toes so she could swim as fast as the fastest fish.
The youngest sister, whose name was Charity, was given the gift of the violet queen, which was the ability to sense and affect emotions of all living things. So Charity visited all her siblings and all the animals and all the plants and trees. She went to the shore and put her hands in the water and sensed the emotions of all the water-life. Charity was given to fits of boredom and capriciousness so sometimes, to entertain herself, she would cause the creatures to feel negative emotions.
But Desiree stayed with the great tree because she was given the gift of the Golden Wasp Queen which was the essence of the island and the Great Tree, whose roots brushed the bottom of the lake and whose canopy sheltered the entire island, was the Island. So Desiree communed with the Great Tree, exploring the folds of its bark with her fingers; letting its outstretched limbs brush through her dark red hair; climbing its branches even to the top of the canopy and knowing every caterpillar, insect and bird within its shelter. And as she explored the Tree, her body changed. She became taller. Her legs became longer and her arms became longer and her fingers grew long and resembled the branches of the tree. And amber leaves sprouted from within her curls.
Each day the brothers and sisters explored their own paths. And they feasted as their mother and father did. And each night they dreamed. Evelynne dreamed of flying along the currents of the wind. Darno dreamed of fire and stones and metal working. Tomak dreamed of coursing through the forest on four hooves, his antlers whistling in the wind. Miklos dreamed of twining his feet into the ground and raising his arms up and connecting earth to sky. Saorelenn dreamed of racing with the dolphins and sometimes winning. Desiree dreamed of expanses of blackness with swirls of galaxies all around her. Only Charity did not dream, because her mind was filled with the dreams of the others.
On the morning of the seventh day the brothers and sisters gathered near the base of the Great Tree. Desiree plucked a fruit from the tree and they each took a bite until all the flesh of the fruit was gone, leaving a single seed. Desiree gave the seed to Evelynne who breathed the breath of life onto it. Evelynne gave the seed to Tomak who touched it and imbued it with speed and cunning. Tomak gave the seed to Miklos who wrapped the seed with a handful of clay from the bed of the burgundy wine river. Miklos gave the seed to Saorelenn who soaked it with living water. Saorelenn gave the seed to Darno, who encased it in a shell of obsidian, and feldspar and chalcedony. And finally, Darno gave the seed to Charity who held it in her hand and imbued it with every emotion. At high noon, when the sun was directly overhead, Darno, being the strongest, took the seed and threw it into the sun.
For the remainder of the seventh day, the brothers and sisters sat in the meadow, holding hands and singing. At dusk, when the Island began to descend, six dolphins came forth and bore all the brothers and sisters to the lake shore. All except Desiree, who would stay with the Island from then on.
And that was the second Festival of the Island of Dreams.
And so, time passed and the world became inhabited by animals and people and the population grew and grew. Every seven years the Island of Dreams rose up from the lake. All the people would come from every realm to wait for a chance to visit the Island but each year only seven times seven people would be chosen by the eagles to be carried over. Each morning the eagles would carry the seven most virtuous people to the Island, where they dream their future and their fortunes and live with Desiree and hear her song. They are returned dawn the next day and they all become famous. And it was said that if you made love to Desiree, the Queen of the Island, your family would become royalty, which was untrue because nobody who made love to Desiree ever returned from the Island.
As the years went on, the population grew greedy, jealous, lecherous, corrupt and deceitful. Kings and queens and magisters and mayors all thought they should be the ones to visit the Island, but they were never selected. A city grew up around the shore of the lake where officials and royalty would gather to connive ways to get to the island. Once, an entire school of engineers tried to build a bridge to the island but it was thrown down each night. Now the shattered foundations of the bridge litter the edge of the lake.
Once, a clever clergyman devised a method for the less than virtuous to sneak onto the island. He forced virtuous slaves to weave large baskets and hid the unworthy under a mat and put a virtuous slave on top to fool the eagles. But as the eagles were carrying the baskets over, the bottoms of the baskets became unravelled and the occupants fell to their deaths. Their bones still litter the stony foundations of the broken bridge.
Also in the city, in the weeks leading up to the rising of the Island, festivals and feast, parties and parades would be held. Book makers took wagers to see who would be chosen. Carnivals would be opened for revellers. The fields around the city became endless campgrounds filled with stately pavilions and meager lean-tos and the crowding caused the people to become unruly. Thievery and murder and whoring and kidnapping became rampant. So the mayor of the city tried to conscript the bears of the forest to keep order within the campgrounds. But when the soldiers came to collect the bears, the bears killed them, because the bears did not owe fealty to the humans.
With his army decimated, the mayor, signed a treaty with the bears and the mercenary bears agreed to police the campground. For payment the bears only asked for bowls of ground nut meats mashed with femur bones and scapulas from the dead unworthy as serving spoons.
Even after many many years of failed attempts to sneak onto the island, the rewards were too enticing and there were those who still tried. At every rising, aviators tried to sneak over the water in hot air balloons, but they never made it because the skies above the lake were patrolled by the tam-o-shanters, named after the plaid hats they wear. During one rising many years ago, the tam-o-shanters were a famous acrobatic troup who came to perform at the revelries. They so delighted Evelynne with their flying tumbling act that she gave them wings and dominion over the skies above the lake. Now, whenever anyone tried to fly over the lake in a balloon, with the whiskey they store in their cheeks and a flick of their flinty thumbnails against the knobby heads of their shillelaghs, they shoot down the balloons with a jet of fiery breath and they laughed and danced jigs in the sky.
And so, seven times seven times seven years after the first Festival of the Island of Dreams, the population of the world had grown immeasurably large and Charity, who had grown out of her capricious phase, was struggling to maintain the balance between happiness and hate and greed and generosity. The crowds were boisterous and unruly and resentful of the bears. Revelers ran naked through the streets and made love in the doorways of the shops, while penitents begged to be forgiven for their impurities and thus gain a chance to travel to the Island. Prideful merchants and politicians paid charlatans to absolve them of their sins, but to no avail. And so they would seek revenge on the charlatans. And the bears feasted. And the tam-o-shanters spit fire and danced.
And at the height of chaos a man walked into the city. A tall man with a face and body made of wrought granite. His hair was obsidian. His faceted emerald eyes stared straight ahead as he walked on stiff, unbending legs. His footfalls sounded like distant thunderclaps. He wore only a loincloth intricately woven with symbols of the sun and moon and stars. He carried in his hand a staff made of blood red ironwood topped by a crystal sphere containing a teaspoonful of the sun and shod with a point of blackest obsidian which absorbed all light that touched it.
As the man walked through the city toward the lake, any time someone would get in his way he would touch them with his staff and they would vanish. It did not matter who, penitents and priests, ragamuffins and royalty, dauphins and derelicts. If they were in his path, he touched them and they vanished. Soon the crowds gave him wide berth. Even the bears showed deference, grinning and snapping at the air as he passed.
As he approached the shore, Tomak who was capering in his stag form and giving children rides in his great rack of antlers, stopped and bowed to him, because he knew him. Charity approached him and touch her forehead to his. Evelynne caused a whirlwind illuminated by lightning in his honor. Saorelenn matched it with a waterspout that captured the rays of the sun and scattered them in all directions.
The man approached the edge of the lake and touched the water with his staff, and one hundred ice giants arose from the water bearing the hidden path to the Island in their palms.The crowds, now silent, watched in wonder as he walked across the ice bridge which melted as he passed.
When he arrived on the Island, Darno greeted him with a wave and went to a spot halfway between the shore and the Great Tree. He thrust his hands into the earth and opened a rift which spewed lava into the air. He caused the lava to form and harden into a bed of basalt.
Then Miklos approached the bed and when it had cooled, he coaxed multi-colored ivy vines out of the ground and wove them into a cushioned cover for the bed. Then he and Darno withdrew into the forest.
And then a light emanated from within the forest, and Desiree emerged, and her skin was glowing with an internal light. She approached the stone man and took his hand. When she touched him, his emerald eyes became real eyes and he saw her as a husband sees a wife.
Together they walked to the bed and the man thrust his staff into the ground at the foot of the bed up to the depth of its obsidian shoe.
Together Desiree and the stone man lay on the bed and in front of the crowds and all the animals and their brothers and sisters, under the shade of the canopy of the Great Tree, they made love. Desiree enfolded the man within her long arms and entwined her legs around his. They made love for seven days and seven nights. And when they reached their climax, a brilliant lightning bolt shot out from the crystal sphere of the staff and the man became a mountain and Desiree became a tree with roots intertwined with his rock. And the island lifted from the water and the people watched as it ascended slowly to the sky. The roots of the great tree swayed beneath the island, and as each dolphin was touch by the roots, it dissolved into a cloud. And the island continued to rise becoming just another star in the night sky.
© 2013 Eric Kovach