The Sangata, Book 1 (The Ramayana Remix)
Written for the Remix challenge, as a remix of Nanda's story Creak.
I will tell you the truth.
I, Sangeeta, will tell it;
It is not forgotten.
With all due reverence to Daranaya,
Who sang the past into being,
The past of all the worlds;
With all due reverence to Anli,
Who knows well our hearts,
Our hearts that cannot lie;
With all due reverence to Vatatis,
Who builds with her hands the future,
The future, which is beyond our sight;
I tell you the truth.
Daughter of Esha and Vibhut,
I who was born in Parashbun,
I who was enslaved in Hetep-Wotwosen,
I who am now of Burrasoth,
I who went into the dark,
I who emerged into the light,
I who do not forget.
Remember these words.
Remember this story.
As was said by Thapayana,
Wisest of the wise,
Who was as an owl among songbirds:
The truth is too large for one soul;
Like a river, which goes from mountains to sea,
It flows through our hands.
This is my truth;
Anli witness it!
It flows from me as water from a spring.
I was not alone in Hetep-Wotwosen;
There are many tales to be told,
And each is a stretch of the river.
May all of our truths be remembered.
The silent will be forgotten.
I am not silent;
I am like a macaque,
Which is loudest of all in the forest,
Which will not be ignored.
I was young in Parashbun.
I was strong and beautiful
As a heifer among goats;
I was wise and well-read
As a scholar among students;
I was charitable and kind
As a priest among paupers.
I wandered in the gardens of Vibhut,
My father, Vibhut,
Who led many men and owned many cattle.
I was not yet called to the temple.
Nor was I yet called to the marriage bed,
Despite my years;
The gardens were my home,
And the village,
And the wide fields beyond.
The chappa'ai was silent,
Sheltered in the temple,
Standing in the courtyard of the temple,
Hung with flowers on festival days.
Thalasta was a joyous time.
It was a time of festival,
With singing and feasting
Which we shared with the birds.
Not only flowers were hung on the chappa'ai,
But fruits and seeds and meats and nuts also,
The finest we had,
For the birds which would carry our souls to heaven.
O, that the birds had safeguarded our bodies so well as our souls!
The chappa'ai lit,
Without warning there was a great burst of color and sound.
And from that water that did not flow came evil,
Came an evil that we had not known to fear.
And the birds rose,
And we celebrants also,
Without wings we sought to fly from danger.
The last I saw of Parashbun were the flowers of Thalasta,
Before a great light,
A blinding light,
Sent my soul from my body and closed my eyes to Parashbun forever.
Parashbun, that was lovely in the summertime,
Air filled with the scent of flowers,
Air filled with the sound of honeybees.
I know not if any escaped from that place.
I woke alone.
I woke in darkness.
I woke in light;
For in Hetep-Wotwosen there was no darkness,
Only neverending sun
And at night
The torches that were not doused;
Undying fire I had,
Twice over I had it.
But in my mind there was darkness,
In my heart only charcoal,
And in my soul only ash,
Left as a memory of fire.
I was alone, knowing no one, remembering nothing,
Not even the gardens of Parashbun that I had loved.
In that place,
There were many women.
We were all alone.
For days upon days I was there.
Many nights I spent in the cells of Hetep-Wotwosen;
Willingly I drank down forgetfulness,
For the darkness in me knew no better.
I confess it to you, Ushta,
Who judges all our actions,
Our actions, which build our world;
I confess to you that I submitted to slavery.
For my captors had a potion,
Thick and white and sweet,
Which washed me clean of memory,
Which smoothed the contours of my mind
Even as wind made smooth the dunes of Hetep-Wotwosen.
I felt no desire and no grief,
Nor did I wonder what I had been
Before I began to labor in that place.
I suffered, and not I alone;
There were many women there,
All working to build a tall monument,
A pyramid that meant to reach the sky.
We labored without understanding.
We emerged from our cells in the morning
And throughout the day we worked with stone,
We cut great blocks to be piled,
One on the other,
Bricks in a giant's wall.
Work and rest;
There was nothing else in that place,
Neither dance, nor story, nor song.
We rarely spoke, one to the other,
For how can no one speak to nothing?
I suffered, as did each of us, alone.
Freedom was granted only by death,
That passage into the final darkness.
But death brought me also true freedom
And passage into light;
For when Samantha came her cell was near to mine.
Another had passed nameless into death and been replaced.
Ushta have mercy upon her, that nameless one!
I did not know her
And yet she brought me out of captivity;
Freedom was borne to me on her last breath.
So did she come to us, as empty as all of us had been:
She who would not surrender,
Unyielding as a bull in the road.
Only two days passed before the first time she ran,
Dashed for the dunes,
A mare, stampeded and running, with no thought for stealth.
I thought her mad.
I was certain that we all thought her mad,
Though we were too tied to silence to say it.
Once I would have trembled to see her returned to the cells,
Afraid for her, and for myself.
But I was cold, and hollow,
And did not have enough life in me to fear.
The next day she ran again.
I shrank from her, from Samantha,
As a prisoner, long underground, might hide from the sun.
Would that I had done differently!
Much suffering might thus have been avoided.
Many times Samantha set out for the dunes,
The places beyond that we could not remember.
Each time that she failed, she drank down forgetfulness.
Until one day she did not,
And soon Marab dath Biyenyi, wise Marab, did not,
May her name also be remembered!
I saw that they were changing.
As the rivers of Parashbun swell after the first rains
I saw their souls returning,
Flowing into their mouths,
Flowing into their bodies,
Hinting of life and growing things.
Like them, I poured out my chains in the dirt.
The pain of loss is the pain of once having had.
I had not grieved Parashbun;
How could I grieve that which I did not remember?
The first raindrop to fall upon my parched soil
Was the scent of aesri in the springtime.
I could not name it,
Could not have spoken of my mother, singing as she pruned,
Refusing to leave her flowers to a gardener;
I could not have spoken of my sister,
Laughing on her wedding day as I set a wreath upon her head.
But I knew that scent,
And I wept.
Samantha, indomitable, planned well for escape.
We planned, we four,
Myself, and Marab, and young Cless Yotassin,
Who was barely old enough to bleed,
Precious in my memory.
We prepared to flee the camps.
To fool the guards, Samantha ran again.
She ran without grace or cunning,
Meaning to be seen,
As a mother, when she draws a fox from the nest.
When she was returned, I saw the smile in her heart.
Oh, the pain of waiting that I felt that night!
It seemed forever that the guards stayed awake,
Walking the halls of our prison.
Only once they slept did we begin.
Unending light we turned to,
The flaming torches, which now echoed the light of my soul.
Samantha lit a splinter, burned the bars of her cell,
And I also, slowly, that the alarm might not be raised.
I had no need of worry.
The other women slept on, or stared,
Eyes dumb as a cow's and betraying no interest.
We squeezed through the openings we had made,
As children from the womb, emerging into life,
Save that there were no tears, no welcoming cry.
Samantha led us, we four went together, out of the camp,
Sweeping our trail clean behind us.
The guards, as empty as we had once been, slept on.
We fled through the dunes,
Slipping in the sand;
I removed my sandals, went barefoot,
In the depths of my mind there was a memory of childhood,
The mud of Parashbun between my toes.
Then through the canyons,
Those narrow gashes in the earth,
Too deep for even moonlight to reach.
Unfailingly Samantha led us,
When the canyons ended we climbed
And did not fall.
Our arms were strong, our feet were sure,
Together we scaled that great wall.
I stood for a moment at the top, ignoring their calls to hurry.
I looked back to the camp as dawn broke behind me.
I swore that I would not forget again.
I have not forgotten.
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