I awake to the sound of water. Trickling quietly, as if humming a melody of its own accord. Strangely, it is a melody I recognize, which I dig out from the far recesses of my memory, from the banks of my previous life. I think I have lived a number of years. But I do not remember those years. I remember only my present, I breathe and live the orange-scented air around me, swirling as a cloud of dust does when a gush of wind sweeps its motes gently off the ground. My lashes are thick with sleep and sweat. They stick to my cheeks. It is hot and quiet around me. Dust. Smoke. Water on my skin. I imagine that these water droplets suck their life from within me. I make a slight move to lift myself off the forest floor. I scrape my hands on rotten, evil-smelling leaves, some wet, some dry. A bug scuttles on the branch of a small tree across me. My legs are plastered with leaves and mud. There is pollen in my tangled hair.
A fly settles on my forehead. I make as if to swipe it away, and when I touch my skin, my fingers are coloured red.
I am fascinated. The red flashes before my eyes. I have forgotten when and where I had hurt myself. I touch my forehead. I feel a shallow gash, about two inches long, and as I thoughtfully touch the scabs of blood which have begun to harden, I am inexplicably filled with a sense of peace and a wave of quietude washing over me.
I stand up. A dizzying sensation comes over me, and although I am nauseated slightly, I am resolute. I see more gashes on my arms, my legs. My slippers lie a few feet away from me, sadly neglected. This is true life.
Your lungs working, pumping air and oxygen into you, your blood coursing through your veins with a sense of oneness.
The smell of a wet forest, full of promise. The salty taste of sweat on your skin.
I have forgotten my past life. I have forgotten who I am. The people of the island call me Dahnay, which means “safe” and “well”, a tribute to the miracle of my living. These days, I am no longer a novelty. But every year, ever since I can remember, thanks and gratitude are given to an unnamed entity for bringing me to this island. For handing to me the second chance to live a life. But I don’t remember how to live. My guardian is a woman named Vee. I have been told that I have lived with her ever since my arrival. I don’t remember my arrival here, of course.
The natives foretell the arrival of good fortune to bless this island. I was believed to be this bearer of great tidings. But I have not achieved significance. They begin to think they must’ve made a mistake, and surely, good fortune would arrive. It has now been ten years since the sand of this island and I had committed ourselves to each other. I see no good fortune. She had been ravaged when she first arrived, I hear some of the natives still say when I walk pass their sad, hunched wooden houses.
Yes, she did not look human. Her insides were a mess.
Nobody knows where she came from. I have heard this all a thousand times. I wish to tell them all to shut up. It angers me. It scares me to know that I have survived. I do not know if I am complete as a human being. I do not know the magnitude of my survival. I do not know what providence has in mind for me, and why I had not perished. I do not know what almost caused my destruction.
But I do know that I have been given an opportunity. To re-live life. For the first few months after I arrived, I did not know what I looked like. On this small island in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by vast open water, then snow-capped mountains and endless bleak brown valleys, the native community is small. I counted once the number of inhabitants here: there are a hundred and twelve in total. I did not count myself. I am unable to. I don’t know where I belong, and whether there is another world beyond this which is missing me.
But there is a beautiful forest in this island, where the wildest flowers grow. I have ventured there. On a day when the sun hung low in the sky and sighed with tenderness, its rays warm and sweet on my face, I embraced where the wind took me, and ventured into a beaten track off the beach and discovered new shoots of life.
The forest has since become my best friend. My favourite place in this world. A place where I can run to when I am unhappy. When Vee is wont to shout at me. She says I am stupid. Perhaps I am. I have no notion on what life expects of me. On that day, I gazed into a strange, shining pool of water. It lies in the middle of a huge clearing, surrounded by tall, spindly trees, but with such huge leaves. Oh, such big green leaves, that shade you from the sun. From the rain. From the world outside. The water was still.
A nameless blossom fell into it, creating a tiny circle of ripples. I peered over. The natives say I am hauntingly beautiful. But mysteriously ugly, at the same time.
I saw my face for the first time that day. I do not recognize myself.