We were the damnation, and they, the very beings to damn us. There was no way anyone would believe a human would have any knowledge of The Sisters’ motives.
But, I guess it doesn’t matter now. It seemed our penitence was over. Matariki had softened since the sacrifice, and the sisters’ presence had not been felt for a while. Yet crops grew without Tupu-a-nuku’s command, and Waita was nowhere around when the wind flew through our village in mornings drenched in a light that Tupu-a-rangi had never allowed us to bask in before.
No. No one would have believed me with all of those unbelievable events transpiring; too much to digest, I guess. It would have been no different had I told any of the elders that Waiti and I had become so close; too much to take in. Maybe this is why I break tradition now, and risk the grave consequences for using this sacred and forbidden tool of writing, because I believe this must be told. But the scribers of our time should not be mistrusted for their accurate records of our way, our experiences. But my point of view is not one of value in my tribe. It never would have been included…
I first saw her by the water reserve. It was my first time out of the village under the 15th responsibility. I had gotten lost only to find where Waiti went to hide from her responsibilities. At first I was terrified. The sisters were not known for their fondness of compassion and understanding. They enjoyed the more torturous and demeaning approach. I guess I would have done so myself had my mother condemned me to that life in a world I was not naturally a part of.
Tupu-a-rangi had lightened the thick burgundy sky enough that I did not need to carry flame to see my way. The air was so still, so stale that it balanced somewhere between dusty tangerines and decomposed gasoline. It singed the space between my nose and inside my top lip. The ground, unusually warm underneath its usual ashen and muddy surface, padded my toughened feet.
I had reached the peak of the dunes that were about 40 lengths from the village when I realized at the time, I was lost. It was a treacherous endeavor to be finding your way back to the village at the darkening of the light. Tupu-a-rangi had a strict curfew issued, and she only gave us a few hours of light in a couple dozen.
Waiti was no more than a crouching silhouette; an outline of serene posture, pensive and still. Her dark hair pulled her face upward with its tightly wound bun, not a strand out, or out of place. She sat on her knees, the backs of her bare feet pressed to the ground underneath her. It was her bodice that caught my eye, heavy woven burlap that clung to her frame as effortlessly as skin. I knew then she wasn’t human. The seashells, leaves, and detailing were skills and materials our village did not have or come by often. It was not until the marking of my 7th that I received my first set of clothing. Before then, my mother relied on the warmth of Matariki’s wrath and articles tossed our way in charity. To wear a bodice like the one Waiti wore I had only seen one elder in my village wear when I was very small, but it did not compare.
In the fading red light, with her head bent and her long neck, I imagined her skin was what alabaster looked like…not bright, but glowing ever so slightly, in a space where it seemed impossible the light’s reflection could go. Her hands I could not see as they had become one with the acidic earth she rested on. I watched her as she spoke to the soil, hypnotized by her silence, forgetting my fear.
Over a great many sleeps, she told me of her family, always in secret. It was not long before the divide of our divine heredity had become as vague to me as the world before it was scorched.
We shared our rivalries with our sisters as though we were sisters ourselves. She and I were both the youngest to our elder mothers and I would laugh at the similarities in how we would play pranks on our siblings. She would tell me of how her pranks sometimes resulted in the natural disasters of the world – the old world – before the sky was flooded. We both felt each other’s great passion for humanity and the need to bring about change.
We never meant to fall in love. Until then my attractions had fallen to men, and I had never felt so intensely for another, the way I felt for Waiti. She had the heart of a human beating inside the chest of a God who doubted its own potential.
The moistened sand complexion in her cheeks blushed like Tupu-a-rangi was smiling so wide the sky was almost feijoa bright! I saw her blush after our first kiss every time I called her name, and I called it all the time.
The responsibility of water collecting soon became my favourite time as it always brought me close to Waiti. She would tell me how all her sisters, except for her, longed to return to the sky. She had grown concerned for her 2 eldest sisters whose resentment for their earthly prison seemed to be only escalating. Especially Tupu-a-rangi, who was deliberately shortening our exposure to light and beauty a little more each time. She and Ururangi were becoming far too fond of punishing our people.
Tupu-a-nuku, the middle child and sister of growth had felt increasingly weary and timid toward her older sisters who were bullying her into withholding the growth of crop. Waiti could not work with her anymore. She knew their task in our world was transforming them into the very beings we ourselves were being condemned for.
We never spoke of Matariki out of pure fear, for we both knew that to mention her name risked calling on her, and waking her from her eternal slumber. It was forbidden for a god to love a human, and mortals had to worship and love all Gods equally. Matariki had entrusted her daughters with a responsibility and would be gravely unsympathetic to be awakened for such treason.
Waiti and I were able to share time until I was well into my 19th responsibility. Waiti, sister of the Earth, and the earthly responsibilities given from the marking of your 15th to your 25th made it easy to meet in secret. We would explore the old world together when she told me stories of what it used to be like. I asked her one time what she missed most about where she was from.
“ I miss how my sisters used to be. All this human emotion is foreign to them, and they are like infants with too much stimulation. They were never this cruel. And I miss the times when Waipuna-a-rangi, Waita and I would dance with our elements, creating landscapes like canvas, and laughing the light of Tupu-a-rangi into being. We were so elementary in our approach to things.” Her soft and raspy voice sang even when the words she spoke were sinking.
It was Waipuna-a-rangi, sister of the winds who was first to discover our love for what it really was. She found us near the shores of Waita’s element unclothed and locked in passionate embraces. It would have been easier had it been one of my people to find us. Waipuna-a-rangi is like the wind: gusty, temperamental and unpredictable. I know in my heart she did not mean us any harm. I know it was her temper flaring which caused her to wake Matariki, and had Waita come in from the seas she commanded earlier, she would have known just what to say to calm Waipuna-a-rangi down, and things may have ended differently.
From the ground beneath me, a thick granny-black smoke began to rise like vines from around my ankles. A rumble shook from beneath the sea. I looked to Waita but her gaze told me she was as frightened as I was. The sky turned to mud and absorbed all light. I felt Waiti’s touch.
“She’s taking us back to the sky” she whispered straight into my mind. “I will not let her hurt you.”
I felt nothing of my senses then. The rumble was so loud I heard no scream. The pain in my heart was so acute that my throat felt no voice scream from it. The ground was so hot that it absorbed my tears before I could cry them. Slowly I unglued into tiny particles with minute spaces in between. Then, nothing…then…everything…
My elder mother said they found me by the dunes about 40 lengths from our village, asleep and unable to be awakened. I remained in that state for dozens of hours.
In the hours I recovered, elder mother told me of all the strange things that had gone on in my long slumber. The light was becoming brighter and longer, and with more regularity. Crops were sprouting growth all over the village. The seas had calmed and even bore small creatures we could eat. And earlier that morning a breeze flew through our village.
I asked my elder what the sisters had to say about all that was happening. Her face grew narrow.
“We don’t know, my love. They are not here. No one has seen any of the sisters since finding you on the dunes. It is very strange, and I would hate to tempt the All-Seeing-Mother, but I think they may have returned to the sky.” Her voiced quieted to a whisper as she spoke, and a smile returned to her face.
When the light was bright enough that shadows seemed to disappear, I went back to the dunes where I first saw Waiti. It was Waita who appeared to tell what had happened.
“Waiti has bartered with Matariki for your world. The sisiters have returned to the sky, and the earth will be left to heal. In exchange Waiti is no longer a God, nor is she to be human. She will be a new combination of the two. A new breed consisting of the old and the new…and she comes to this world and is growing… inside of you.”