The sky reflects on the limpid pool, only the tiny ripples rearranging the heavens dance upon its surface. Their aquatic park and playground an oasis, tree-lined and lush. A sacred place avoided by outlanders, a place to stem the arid heat and avoid punishing radiation.
Tamin boys brew up a maelstrom as they plunge and play, their laughter answering back from mighty layered cliffs above, before laying sprawled on moistened rocks as quiet envelopes.
Sliding gracefully along the outstretched limb, a native arboreal commando shimmys, with the dexterity and grace of a tree-borne predator. Sleek and confident, glistening droplets on his cocoa skin, soaked dreadlocks drip into the now-placid pool below. He lowers his body onto the snaking rope and winds adolescent limbs around its spiral. Once in place, he begins to swing. His body becomes a pendulum, each arc gaining momentum as he's encouraged by his fan club's chants, emanating from below. Swinging free and strong, the arc is right . . then back, release.
His world moves in still frame, onlookers gasp in awe, as he draws knees up to his chest, tucked beneath his chin made small by a beaming smile, prehensile tail wrapped tight around his folded knees. White row upon white, flash luminary against his charcoal face. Jewels of moisture are released, twinkling in his wake as he begins his descent. His fall commences, contrived, controlled and practised. He has no fear as he makes contact. A human meteor making waterfall. An impermanent and liquid crater marks his landing and closes rapidly over his sun-bleached hair leaving circles to expand, then fade to calm.
He doesn't surface. Only moments pass before it's clear something's awry. Friends scramble splash and dive. His name is called, screamed, cried until finally he is retrieved, lungs soaked, limbs limp, the rag doll youth is dragged onto the bank, motionless but alive. Archorid casts an eye, jaws gaping but remains motionless.
Arilla hears the call. Her grandson, bent and broken and despite her instincts she seeks the comfort of medicine offered by humans.
She weeps and sings a funeral song but he shows no recognition. Her tears fall where he has none as she leans across his tiny shape, hand on his shallow chest and turns off the respirator. He sighs two sighs and passes. There's no time to waste. There will be no Cleric’s burial for her once playful boy.
The ward is all but empty, a single human at the desk. An orderly patrols the corridors with the disinterest of Archorid in daylight. Aware that no alarm will sound, just a console light ignored by the distracted nurse, she knows what must be done.
She enfolds the inert corpse and lifts him from the bed. He has no weight or substance and even with her advanced age he is no burden to hold. She navigates the cliffside muru dusty trail and slips quietly along the pool’s still edge.
The water is still and turquoise, darkening with the fading light. No children frolic here at evening as Archorid begins to rouse, watching, waiting, fixed with jaws now closed. Arilla lays the child beneath the killing tree. This is now his sacred place where his spirit can be free to swing and sway. This is where his life began, this is where it will continue. This is where they'll share their souls since all things are connected.
Cradling the lifeless child, Grandma Arilla sings a funeral song, her wails echoing along the pool's whispering escarpment. Archorid opens an eye.
That fleeting light between day and night encroaches and red eyes begin to shimmer, she waits, silent and becalmed, holding a parcel beneath the bough, waiting for Archorid to come.