As I write, I’m trying to remember a dream, but it wasn’t exactly a dream; it was more like a story, but it wasn’t a story I’ve read or heard. It was one of those stories that hovers around, late at night, hoping someone notices it. Like a ghost, I suppose.
The island without books
Sarah did not care that she no longer had any books; or, that was what she told herself and she did her best to believe it. Ever since she found herself on the island, she lived without stories or history or any of the other many things she once read about every day in books. She told herself, from time to time, that she did not need any of that stuff. This was just as well as there was none of that stuff on the island.
Every morning, in the small hut where she lived, Sarah woke up to the sound and sea-smell of the soft wind finding its way into and around the hut through the one tiny cracked window. A few times, Sarah repaired the window with bits of cardboard or driftwood, but the wind did not like repairs and always grew stronger to blow them away. After a while, Sarah no longer tried to keep the wind out. She grew to like the wind and it’s sea-smell and the touch of the wind on her face as she lay in bed. The smell of sea was like a nearly-memory; or, a word spoken so softly that, no matter how much she tried to hear it as a word, it had no meaning . One day, Sarah thought, I will know what it says.
Days were quiet, over and over again. Most days, Sarah walked along the narrow winding path, over the small green hills, and then up the steeper hills, through the trees, where the world went cool and shadows played, then across the small field, where the wind kept the long grass happy and rustling, and the path disappeared but she made a new one, tramping up to the tiny church. It’s walls were grey-white and smooth, like shells she found on the beach.
Sarah never went inside the little church now – not since that first day when she found it. It was back in the days when she still hoped to find a book. She had given up on finding people. She remembered stepping into the church and smelling the wood of the pews which was like stale bread and Sundays. Everything was holding it’s breath in the dim light from a tall, thin window with thick, grimy glass. Sarah looked around the very empty building, and noticed a small cupboard at the back , it’s cracked doors slightly open. She walked towards it slowly and there was a feeling inside of her like watching a bright blue sky. Yet, when she knelt and opened the doors of the cupboard, and saw it was empty, the feeling vanished.
Now, Sarah stood outside the church, and looked at its shell walls and allowed herself to remember, and then forget.
Sarah walked around the church, and across to the flat top of the cliff, and she stood on the yellow, scrubby grass . She stared out, as she always did, to the far blue-green horizon, and breathed in deeply, closing her eyes. The smell of the sea was like a distance going on forever. The sun was warm and kind on her eyelids. Seagulls cried out from the beach far below- so quietly they sounded respectful of her need to listen to the wind and to her thoughts. She felt tingling in the fingertips of her right hand. Perhaps, it was the wind moving gently by her at the top of the high hill. Yet, it also felt as if her fingers were turning the pages of a book.
When Sarah opened her eyes, she saw for the first time a ship, out near the horizon on the glittering sea. She watched it for breath after breath and breeze after breeze, as the ship grew slowly larger as it travelled slowly closer to the island. It was still far away and hazy, but she could tell it was a large ship. There was a flag flying above it, and although it was not yet clear, she could see that the flag had many different colours. It will be here soon, she thought. Books, she thought. And people, the wind told her. Yes, she agreed. People too.