Oya by Rai Ahmed-Green

Once there was an island that lay in the middle of a clamorous sea. She had beautiful flowers adorning her like jewels and large trees draping over one another, their leaves blowing on a lazy breeze. The birds gave music and the bugs crawled over her land chomping soil between their mandibles, taking in death to make their living. She sighed into herself and planted further into the ocean. The tide would attempt to overtake her but the sweetness of her soil coaxed it to caress her borders rather than ravage her shores.

Sometimes, a ship would appear on the horizon and she would wake, her trees waiting in silent anticipation, breeze suspended as the vessel drifted in. They would dock on her shores. Bullied by the waves, they would crawl to her on their knees, begging her to take them into her bosom and shelter them from the harshness of the sea.

And she did. She would open herself up, allow them to cut her trees to make huts. She let them take the fruit and the roots and the animals, her only companions on the lonely island gone to their nourishment.

They loved her. They praised her. They thanked her. And then they left, off to some new adventure, or perhaps returning home to another supple land that captured their hearts long before she did.

She raged. The trees would rot. The animals hid in their burrows. The breeze ripped leaves from the branches and fruit from the trees. She emptied herself of them, of their vessel, of their footprints, let the tide roll high on her beaches to baptize her borders. She would sigh, then she would bloom.

And then there was another ship.

She could not stop the excitement when they came and she could not fathom the pain when they left; when they loved before making off with her riches, her fruits supplying their ships and trees mending their broken pieces with her broken parts.

She tried to leave herself, her spirit bursting from the soil and crawling to meet the waves. But the once welcoming waters turn hard, a cage that nearly drowned her, her spirit ceding to slip back beneath the sand, her weeping present in the patter of rain.

She crawled deeper into her land, bruised from the tide and seeking comfort in herself. In the heart of her there was warmth. She asked the Earth to let her go. When silence answered she matched it. No flowers bloomed for months, and the animals stayed quiet in their homes. The waves crashed against the island, stripping rock from it’s sides and turning beaches in to stark cliff faces that dared people to dock. Nothing drifted up to her shores, and nothing left as she lay dormant, curled into herself.

It was the incessant sun beaming through the branches that finally woke her. She rose with a frustrated huff, eyes blurry with sleep and dried tears. But as her vision cleared she saw herself, her island, barren. Her animals huddled away in fear, some passed on without her nourishment. Looking at the distorted skeletons of trees and hard soil, the first rains in 100 years fell from the sky in a gentle patter, loving the land she had so neglected. In all her striving for companionship this was the first time she truly felt empty, and so sitting cross legged in the middle of the rot she created, she began to fill herself again.

The buds peaked from their trees gently. The birds slowly returned spilling a song into her heavy air. The wind stirred pollen and the bugs went to their tasks. The waves calmed, the ocean turning a bright blue once more. Fish slowly returned as did the coral reefs. The tide went low, revealing beach that lay before the cliffs.

When there was another ship she gave, as was her nature. She ached as strangers made off with pieces of her. Fruit stripped from her branches but not her roots, not her trees, which had grown sturdy and thick, too difficult to cut. The cliffs kept them from the heart of her, and when they turned to leave she demanded something from them. Payment for her services. Sometimes it was a map, or a wide toothcomb, other times they were odd instruments, drums or wooden bodied things with strings and holes in all kinds of creative places. Small trinkets that allowed her a glimpse at the world beyond herself. They came and went with the tide and the seasons and she played with the tokens as she watched them leave, her winds whispering goodbye amongst the storm clouds.