Today, I feel I must return to my starting point. I need to remember where my story began…
I remember the wonderful sunrise of Ribeira… That view drove me to do what I was told to. In that small village, I was another Schönschaf, and my duties were to wake up, fish, and sleep. The nights there were as calm as the days. I slept and dreamt of nothing. I had a house, I had my duties, and I had a name: Antonio. Yet, I felt out of place… I did not know why.
Schönschafen are not well known around the lands. Where I'm from, we lived isolated, in small villages by riverbanks. Beyond being slow creatures (slow, mind you, not tender), our looks were much comparable to sheep, only with more… concentrated body mass. The lifestyle that most of my kind enjoyed was a slow-paced, slothy one, leaving the huts by the morning and returning with shrimps at night. Very rarely did someone bother to celebrate a festivity, or to even have dinner together. We ate our shrimps alone, and only gave away food for the children of the family. At times, my fellows were cold-hearted and brute, but despite their selfishness, they were too slow to harm anyone. There was no radio signal there, and only a few books. Most of what we knew came from ancestral wisdom of the elders, who had learned with the previous generation, and the previous previous generation, and so on. I remember going inside one of their shacks once, and I saw, by the light of soft candles, a gentle lady with dark gray wool on her head, a sheared body covered by a long purple dress, wrinkled green eyes and an inviting gaze. Her name was Nana, and I visited her often, whenever a question, or an answer, troubled me. She then spoke of the stars and the angels, brewed me some tea from hand-picked passionfruit leaves of her backyard, and at the end, we played “Cocoon”, a card game she had taught me, while exchanging silly jokes with one another. I must have been nine α old at that time. I didn’t understand much of the stars and the angels, and I didn’t bother either. Nana showed me maps, drawings, told me tales of heroes, and how she crossed the globe in search of artifacts and lost relics. I loved her, despite what I thought to be pulsating madness on her part. She once brought me a round box with strings, some weird device I had never seen before. She told me it was a guitar, and I held it curiously. "What do I do with it?" I asked her. "You play it, you pluck its strings" she responded, with a sweet smile on her face. I held it awkwardly, and tried pulling those strings. I sat confused while weird, muffled sounds came from the instrument. “You’re playing it wrong, darling! Let me show you.” she said in her soft voice, taking the instrument and laying it on her lap. “This is how you hold it,” she instructed, “and I’ll play a short song for you. It’s called ‘River of Peace’...”. She began playing the quiet, slow melody of the song. At first, I did not understand what these sounds were meant to say. It was the first time I listened to music. But soon, my heart beat faster, and I became amazed at the beauty of that song… “I want to play it too.” I said right after she finished playing. After that, she spent the whole afternoon teaching me how to play the guitar. “You can have it, it’s yours.” she said by sunset, handing me the guitar. Without hesitation, I took the instrument home and practiced “River of Peace”.
One day, Nana departed, to who knows where. I returned to my duties. Her madness, though… I came to understand it, to truly grasp it, the day I was practicing her song under a palm by sunset. Feeling drowsy, I fell asleep to the sound of the river.
I opened my eyes and I was surrounded by birds of all colors. The rays of sun were blinding me. I placed my paws over my eyes to cover me when I realized they were not paws. They were wings. A colorful, blue and green plumage covered my body, and my feathers ruffled through the wind. I reached for my snout, and as expected, a small beak, hard-as-stone, laid between my eyes. The shock was subtle, and soon, these features did not leave me uneasy. In fact, strangely enough, I felt liberated from all that wool I was carrying around. I stopped for a few more moments, enjoying the strong wind fluttering my feathers by the burning sun. There was a girl right beside me. She was also a bird, but while I seemed to be more of a parakeet, she was a yellow and orange thrush, wearing a green cape with a seemingly hand-painted seven-pointed star on it. I called her sister, and she smiled, grabbing me by the wing to the shore of the river. Away from the crowd, tranquility. We sat by a crude stone bench and watched the wind flow through small waves on the water that seemed to go on forever and push the grass ever-so-slightly in a gentle swing. Everything had changed, yet I was at peace. Then, she rose up, beat her wing and flew beyond the water. My heart twisted, and I felt a burning urge to follow her. And so, that same instant, I spun my wings masterfully, as if I had done that thousands of times before, and I lifted. 1, 2, 3 meters above the water. My wings shook, the exhilaration was taking hold of me. 4, 5, 6, 10, 20 meters. I could see the crowd back there getting smaller and smaller, and the river still seemed like an ocean. Yet, my sister was much higher. 30, 40, 50 meters. The air got tighter and I began to breathe faster. I was beginning to see the other side of the water, with dense swamps and gigantic tree tops. My heart was a tambourine, but I was still far from her. 60, 80, 100 meters. I breathed deeply and looked down… I was free. I soared. The bristle rain above was covering me with tears of freedom. Flight and freedom. I could go anywhere with the span of my wing. And as I looked left, I saw my sister, sharing my awe with the most wonderful smile. How I wanted to hold her and sing with her..!
That was the last image I captured from my dream.
I woke up dizzy and disoriented, and twisted my wet wool. It must have rained during the night. Dawn was rising already. Tired, I brought my guitar back home, and I helped my father carry his boat to the shore. All I remember from this day was that I could not catch any fish. I sat there on the boat, looking down, for hours… I didn’t eat dinner. I went to bed and I hoped to see the wings and skies and my sister again…
I woke up the other day and I went onward with my duties. But... Reaching the shore, I ran towards the forest. Somewhere I could be alone, somewhere I could go away from everything. There was a clearance in the outskirts of the village. It was where Nana’s shack used to be. I sat there and prayed for her to come back and tell me what was going on… Why was I weeping so much… I sat under a tree, and waited for her. And waited. And waited.
With a dizzy sleepy sight, I saw a badger with a hat, incessantly examining the ground with a looking glass. Seemed like he was following footprints laid on the mud. I paid him no attention, until I realized he was following my footprints, and when I looked back, he was right in front of me. “Ah ha! Found the foot source!” he spoke, in a very distinct accent. I tried ignoring him but he took a small notepad out of his enormous backpack and began writing down hastily, and began asking me questions such as “What do you eat for breakfast?” or “What is your favorite sport?”, even though some of his phrases were incomprehensible. Herbert Scott, as he called himself, was in fact an “animologist” from a far away land. He studied people, especially isolated populations. But by making the most out of his job, he described himself as a “curious, explorer and discoverer”. Much like Nana, he was very different from everyone I had known. I listened to him babble about his research, his findings, his travels… Soon, he got excited and showed me all his notes. Maps, sketches, descriptions of every type of weed found in the riverlands. It was so familiar to see that. But as I ruffled the pages, one grabbed my attention. It was a crude symbol of a hand-painted seven-pointed star. I stared at that page and asked what it was. Mr. Herbert was not sure... There were many things he could not concieve in the world, he told me. Then, he began speaking of the stars and the angels, the constellations, music and the “cosmic chant”. I couldn’t help myself and opened up about my dream to the stranger. Listening, he scratched his chin and pondered… At last, he remembered. Once, he had an entire village report very peculiar dreams too. Many involved flying, swimming, digging tunnels and other experiences that were very different from their common lives. It seemed to be connected to the angels, but it didn’t matter. My heart stopped after a strong beat. My dream, somehow, meant something..! And in a blink of an eye, all of Mr. Herbert’s work fascinated me, and my mind was open to so many of these plants, people, places I had never even heard of! Then, he said he was going to cross the river and go back to his camp, waving me goodbye. Looking back, it was my heart that told me to follow him. My heart that still beats around tirelessly, that still has a lot to tell. A heart I still speak to every day in these humble notes, notes that I write at half light by my mallock before sleeping. Yet, this heart is still a huge mystery to me… I'm only certain that, at the moment it had the will, so began my story.
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