photo credits here
by celine cheow
The wind from the North howled incandescently past my ears as they bit against my skin. The pharaonic clouds, a tenebrous grey, grumbled loudly as they passed by high above us. In the valley below, the gangly trees swayed as the yellowing grasses arched haphazardly.
I sat on the edge of the rocks as I surveyed my surroundings. It was a miracle that we had actually set a stable camp in this land in under half an hour. A remote land- not a sign of civilisation in the past few centuries even close by.
How safe is this place, actually? If there aren’t even any skeletons at all in this vicinity…
“Hey.” Talio was still staring ahead as he sat down beside me. “Cool view, isn’t it? I never knew such things existed in this world.”
“Yeah,” I replied with a smile, “they made us believe that The Dome was unparalleled in terms of beauty and the outside world is full of savage monsters.”
“And we believed them.”
I smiled grimly as I nodded. And I wonder whether my family and friends- those that had not participated in the protest- would ever know of a world like this.
“Don’t you feel cold, Talio?” I asked after a moment’s pause whereby I noticed that he was wearing a shirt and shorts. In contrast, I was wearing jeans, a denim jacket over a long-sleeved shirt, and sneakers.
We have always been shocked whenever we see Talio dress to his choice ever since we met him. He has worn woolen pullovers under the scorching sun and singlets in the snowy mountains, only to be surprised when he see us wearing what he calls an “identical dress code”.
“Nah,” he grinned. “I feel perfectly fine. Oh, and I see that they’re wearing the same things as you.”
Raykus, Azius and Cando had just exited the tent. They were looking in the other direction before Cando spotted us and pulled the other two the right way.
“Hey,” Raykus called out as we both stood up to help Azius sit. “We’re about done with dinner, you know?”
“How’s it like today?”
“Thicker and creamier than yesterday’s. More filling, which is a good thing.”
“You can taste more of the potato and the meat today.” Azius replied as Raykus furrowed his eyebrows. Cando, on the other hand, was staring hypnotised at the mountains ahead.
“Pity the taste’s still about the same. I mean, ever since we were out of the dome, all the food tastes muted.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Talio and Azius replied in unison.
At that very moment, a blinding streak of light flashed past the sky, followed closely by a sound not unlike a lion’s roar. All of us except Cando jumped up in surprise.
“What the heck was that?” Raykus shouted in shock.
“If my memory doesn’t fail, that was lightning and thunder. It will soon be followed by a water precipitate which our ancestors termed ‘rain’.” Talio racked his brains. “At least, according to a centuries-old science textbook I found in my attic when I was young.”
“That was a hell of a noise.” Azius drawled as he stretched out his legs; we pulled him back to prevent him from falling down.
“Yeah, and it won’t be the first. You’ll hear more of it during the rain.”
Water droplets began to fall from the sky. The wind began to subside to a mere whisper, and the trees and grasses slowed down in their dance.
“Let’s go back.” I urged. Water precipitate it may be, but who knew what those lights and sounds could do to us?
“No,” Talio begged, “Let’s stay for a while.”
“Yes, it’s kind of nice being out here,” Raykus seconded.
The rain was now pelting down like shards of glass from a shelter that has just broken; it was as though we were in another dome, but someone had shattered the top very violently so millions of lethal tears were pouring down on us.
“But there’s nothing nice here anymore. Besides, it could be dangerous.”
“But I like the smell.”
Talio was now breathing in like a man who had been deprived of water; Raykus took a breath and smiled as well. Azius, with his hands gripping firmly on the edge of the rocks, was leaning forward with a content expression etched on his face. Even Cando, who had never communicated with us in the spoken tongue, had closed his eyes and smiled.
Just what was I missing out? There seemed to be a common thing they were all doing and enjoying, something I didn’t have an inkling of.
And I blurted out the question I had been wondering:
“Smell? What is smell?”