158. The Game

Part 3 of the series, 'The Island'. (Starts here.)

THIS, ABOVE ALL, IS a story about friendship. In the beginning, there were seven of us, all born within a couple of years of each other, which, for a village as small as ours, on an island as small and remote as our island, was something of a baby boom. Our names were very long, very hard to remember even for me - after all, this was very long ago, and nowadays I have enough memories to last several lifetimes. I hardly remember that rhythmic language we used to speak, it has been covered over with several more since then. First of all there was Doe. I remember his real name: it was Antakha'dowejangara. It meant: child of the invisible sky.Then there was Rey, real name Buntakha'reyajangara. This meant: child of the unseeable sea. Then there was Me, who is me. Much later on, when we learned about European ways, we named ourselves after the syllables of the major scale, which, on the island, had been the only scale we ever knew: Doe, Rey, Me, Fa, So, La and Ti. At first it was a joke - Fa, So, La and Ti's island names had nothing to do with their new names - but somehow they stuck. They were so much easier, and they united us. And so there were seven of us. Each of us grew up with seven mothers and seven fathers, with three sisters and three brothers. As far as we knew, we were the only people in the world, our island the only imaginable island. Our creation stories told us our forefathers had come from far away, but that had been a long time ago. We weren't sure if we should take them as real stories or as metaphors. Our boats were small boats, hardly meant to be sailed beyond the horizon. Naturally, we assumed we were the entire universe, and if this caused us any unhappiness we were not aware of it. And anyway, it wasn't like there wasn't any fun to be had. We had rivers to swim, fish to catch, mountains to climb. The weather was mostly good, we spent our lives practically naked. At night, we sang and danced almost every night. And of course there was always the Game. That was the name we gave it, although it was so much more than a game. It was our science, our art, our religion, our way of life, our law. The Game was our everything. Our stories told us it had taken our forefathers countless generations to perfect. Our elders began teaching us about the Game soon after we learned to walk and talk, but even so it took many years to learn, even for just a few seconds, and even then the first few years of the Game were tentative, unstable, flickering. The elders, who seemed to be able to do it so easily, told us this was natural, that it took everyone many years to master the Game, but that once it was learned it was very powerful, intoxicating even, which was why the Game was cloaked in rules, some spoken, some unspoken. Disrespecting the Game could cost you your life - as children, we had seen it with our very eyes, when two lovers had secretly gone over to each other overnight. This was strictly forbidden. The Game was to last only the duration of a night's festivities. By the end of festivities, everyone was to have returned. The two lovers had hung from the branch of a tree for days until they had begun to smell. Then they had been taken to sea and fed to the sharks. So you can imagine our surprise when we saw that sailing ship appear on the horizon, sailing directly in our direction. It was Fa who first saw it, who came screaming over a dune into the village to tell us about this strange monster headed in our direction.