Author: VH Ferguson
There’s a lick of wind that curls around me like satin ribbons, softly against my skin, in my hair. The view is unparalleled, out of this world.
The cliffs to the north west are a grey almost blushing pink, and make companion with the sapphire of the sky, the stars as counterparts to the bird-like shapes below them, circling the cliffs, all trills and whoops.
This place has been… unexpected. I always imagined its beauty but how could I have imagined its culture, as I can only wince and outspread my hands and admit that I never expected there to be one.
My grasp of their language is laughable, but the natives here are staggered and patient. Patient and quiet and pleasantly watchful. They seem to communicate telepathically, almost, with looks and touch and a biotic intimacy so that I feel embarrassed to realise that I am the otherness here.
To help me understand their stories they draw pictures in the alabaster sand of things I’ve never seen for hours, and later as I semi-drift to my bed as if in slow motion, I wonder if I’ll dream that night of shadows in a cave or of Orion Nebula.
I try the local dish, the district famous dish – they’re excited for my reaction as they are for all of my reactions as they’re certainly not used to tourists. It is a soup of sorts, I think. It seems oddly carbonated and lively but looks like liquid silk a shade of molten lava and it’s a highly unusual experience. The air smells not quite like hard-boiled eggs. I have that awkward creeping anxiety of trying to find a familiar sign with which to map their customs – is it rude for food to remain on the plate as in Japan, or is a drop in the bowl enough to quirk the eyebrow in distase like in China?
It makes me laugh, now, that even in the most extrinsic situation the human compulsion is to fit the world in a familiar place. It turns out, of course, that the custom is to bury your bowl in the ground when the meal is complete, the bowl having been made with organic material, which was obviously completely unexpected and sits conspicuous and unaccompanied in the library of my mind under ‘alien cultural dining etiquette’.
The wind picks up a little, as I stand here now, steeping in these last moments, the sun somewhere behind me, vast as it has ever been. I wonder how it will feel to be home, will I be changed?
The cliffs are to the north west. To the east is Earth, a dizzying succulent pinned in the sky, and I get the absurd sense that I could swim the distance.