Al Ras — Elisa Taber

“Al Ras” is inspired by the previously published Guaraní
myths–“Paradise,” “The Flood,” and “Reality.”

The bare sole she holds in her hand bleeds. Pricked by a protrusion in the soil. A conical thorn shed by a silk floss tree? The tip of a miniature t-shaped stake. Genoveva stands in a field of miniature crosses. White feathers settle on the arid grey soil turned silver by the moonlight. She searches for the fallen bird. Something clings to her body. She finds a bird so dark it is blue perched on her shoulder. It whispers:

The lumen are buried here.

Their scaled torsos were covered in a thin white fuzz. Their copper wings, translucent. Their legs and antennae, red and thicker than expected. At the end of each limb, a claw. They hovered. Wings and soles grazed the ground. Find their eyes. You’re hypnotized. Pus yellow colored pupils and irises of interlaced hexagons that seem to rotate. A gaze like the smell of rotting fruit.

An acrid taste and smell flooded the senses of those that hunted them and dropped their corpses. The ground was as arid as stone. Only silk floss trees grew there but held their thick green leaves and fluorescent pink flowers at an unreachable height. They nibbled on and regurgitated those decomposing below. Still, they were not killed or starved but disappeared.

They grew tired of never being where they wished to be or of occupying space. Everything they saw or heard was magnified like a painting in which you can only focus on the folds on the lap of a seated woman, how flesh adheres to the hooked nose and high cheekbones of the man, hands holding a cradled bird.

Their task on earth was to measure the emission of each light source. One day the soil started to emit a strange glow as white and cold as the burn of a fluorescent bulb. With wings tightly folded and sharp white nails protruding from soft red flesh each dug a tunnel from which they never reemerged. They reached the emitter, the sun of Al Ras, the opposite side of this flat earth.

Gravity reversed and the ground became another sky. A rolling field of grass led to a large dark blue lake by the side of which grew an enormous tree with roots that protruded like human spines bent by pain and thick low hanging branches from which hung four leathery petaled flowers as large as an average newborn, where the stigma should protrude, a dove slept curled into himself.

It started to snow. Tiny flecks of ice landed, melted, and were absorbed by their pelts. Their always scalding flesh grew cooler. Each thought, “It feels like love.” A warm sun like the light of a burning fire started to shine again. They felt close to each other and others. New beings appeared and disappeared, only to return. Monarch butterflies, a crawling newborn, an elephant, miniature in the distance. The lumen nibbled on the green blades until sleep. Awoke floating. Would never fly or dig again. They were suspended.

Their amazement never faded. Time there does not exist. Space never grows scarce. Everything grows and does not require work. What occurs there now does so elsewhere before, after, or at the same time. They vowed never to return. Pushed the crosses you see through kilometers of earth to cover the tunnels that lead to Al Ras.

The night was lit by an approaching bright red light. A comet? Genoveva’s body released her soul which descended. She died knowing where she was going. The orifice it created is so deep no one knows where it ends. A small altar was created for the girl on the ridge. Drying roses, a stuffed animal, and her photograph. Her lips are too thick and her eyes are not there, she is staring at something that does not fit in the frame.

Elisa Taber is a writer and anthropologist. She explores the ontological poetics of Amerindian literature. Her stories and translations are troubled into being, even when that trouble is a kind of joy.