When the starlings blot out the sun, in a black thundercloud of ten thousand…
The young folks smiled and danced on the beach. They were used to the blind man’s crazy talk. He was so old now that he had outlived his children, and none of them had had children. He was all alone, with his bowls of shells and beads.
That’s when we must leave! Leave the island quickly! Make preparations…
“You don’t think Benji actually knows anything, do you?” Liana asked her boyfriend as they cuddled on a blanket.
Ken laughed. “Nah. He’s been saying stuff for years. Said a great wave was gonna swallow us up back when my sister was born fifteen years ago. And here we all are.”
Liana relaxed and drank more wine. “Okay. I guess he’s just sad he has no family.”
“Yup. So, he tries to get attention through his nutty omens.” Ken kissed her. “Don’t think about that stuff anymore tonight.”
She didn’t. But the next morning she visited the old blind man at his hut. “Benji, I brought you some coconut bread. I’ll put it on your table.”
“Thank you. Come over so I can touch your face.” Benji sat on his customary mat, facing east, with his bowls in front of him.
Liana sat close enough so he could touch her. He lightly pressed his fingertips against her cheeks and eyelids. Then he nodded.
“I was thinking about what you said last night,” she told him. “There are a lot of birds in the sky this morning.”
Benji took a bead out of the bowl and licked it. Then he held it aloft. “It has begun. No one listened. Feel the earth.”
“I don’t feel…” Liana stopped talking. There was the slightest hum underneath her through the mat. “What is that?”
“Fire,” Benji said. “Would you like to leave? I have a boat. Or we can stay and join the gods.”
Liana stared at him. He sounded so calm. But at his age, maybe he no longer cared that much. “You were trying to save us all last night! You sounded different then!”
“I did what I could.” He shrugged. “Now, it’s just you, because you came here with your bread. You must choose, but quickly. The sky is darker, is it not?”
It was. The cloud of birds had doubled in size since Liana had left her house. “But my family! Ken… his sister…”
The ground shook and Benji stood up. Liana took the hand he offered and walked with him to the tiny boat he had tied behind his hut. He’d already stocked it with provisions. “You were waiting for someone to help you because you couldn’t go alone?”
Benji didn’t reply as Liana pushed the boat into the water. “Get in now,” she told him. “We’re all set to row out.”
“No,” he said. “The boat is for one. You will tell our story, Liana. You will tell it to the baby you carry. Now hurry away. There will soon be ten thousand birds.”
Liana looked up and saw the cloud had doubled again. She paddled away from the island, the only home she’d known. What if Benji was wrong? She would now seem like a crazy person running away in a canoe! And what baby? She stopped paddling and put a hand on her flat stomach. Sighing, she drank a little pineapple juice.
But as she drifted into deeper water, she saw the volcano erupt and her island home turn into an inferno, flames shooting into the sky hour after hour. And she knew that no one would survive. Benji had been right and nobody believed him. They’d all gone on dancing and drinking while he tried to save them.
As dusk fell, the fiery island turned into a red dot while Liana’s destination island grew closer. She didn’t know what sort of reception she’d find there, but she had no choice now. The black cloud had blotted out the sun and there was nowhere to go but forward on.
[to be continued]
Written for the Daily Echo
©️2019 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon.