Sume el Raj stood in front of her building, no longer a vagrant. Her building stood firm and tall, full of tenants and overflowing with declarations of wealth. Not the gaudy golden-paint that Domos had favoured. But deep, vibrant colours; red and purple and blue. Colours that declared “Someone important lives here! Someone of consequence! Someone remarkable!”
And as she stood there in front of all the people of the village she knew that it was true. There were none before her who would dare call her common. The week before they may have kicked at her and sent her away, but today they were all begging her to visit their buildings and huts. Encouraging her to come through their arch as she made her way to the cistern.
Thick blankets were laid out on the lawn. Food was laid out. Not the decadent food of Domos and her daughters, for certain things were now forbidden to Sume. But rich food, nonetheless; honeycakes baked in oil and finest wine anyone had tasted. Everyone sat and ate. The village became Sume’s guests.
Sume sat to eat with them, but she did not touch the wine. Though married for only a week, she could already feel the life growing within her. And the Man had warned about wine during pregnancy. He had given many warnings, actually.
“Remember Domos, your sister,” the Man had said. “Remember what her sickness was. Her wealth did not corrupt her. It was her decadence. Beware prosperous ease. Share what you have. Be a friend to the nations and bless them.”
“Yes, husband,” Sume had answered, gazing at the Man’s dark hair, lightly falling to his shoulders.
“And take note of your older sister, Marasia,” he continued. “She plays the whore. And that is a dangerous game to play. The sickness can be horribly inflamed in that lifestyle.”
“Yes, husband.” Sume was nearly lost in his voice, deep and smooth, playing off of the dancing rhythm of the fountain they sat beside.
“And, Sume,” the Man took her chin gently in his large hand. “Stay away from the cistern.” His eyes seemed sad on this point. “Be vigilant and watch! Let nothing defile the food I give you. Be satisfied with my provision.”
Sume laughed and embraced the Man. “Oh husband! Why would I ever go near that dirty cistern when you have given me this fountain? Why would I ever eat anything but the food from your hands? You have given me the moon in a jar! How cold I even imagine anything else?”
The Man squeezed her tight. “Yes. How could you?” Sume did not see his eyes moisten.
They were feasting. The Corpse perceived this, though it didn’t see or hear or smell. Neither could it touch or taste or think. But it perceived. It lay in the bushes just beyond the fence. It had tried to enter Sume’s property, but the Man’s guards were everywhere. The same ones that had destroyed Domos and her daughters.
The Corpse lay still for hours, which should not have been too difficult for a corpse. But the lack of movement caused the borrowed body to decay quicker than expected. It had little movement left. But only a little was needed, when the time became right.
And it would be right.
In my dream I also received an invitation to the feast. In truth I was not looking forward to it. I had been in that village for a long time without a proper shower or change of clothes. And I still didn’t feel soiled enough to take a dip in the cistern. So I rubbed some pine leaves on myself and combed my hair with my fingers. I was actually thankful that there was no mirror available. The sight of myself might have been enough to stop me from going.
“Don’t worry about how you look,” Digue said to me. He hadn’t bothered to even try grooming himself. “You wouldn’t have cared if you were meeting Sume a week ago.”
“It’s different now,” I said.
“She’s el Raj now. She’s special.”
Digue shrugged. “In a way. In another way, though, she’s not special at all.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her specialness lies outside of herself. Its root is in the Man.”
“Ah,” I said. “But surely there must be something inherently special about her. Otherwise, why would the Man have chosen her at all.”
“Nope,” Digue shook his head. “There was nothing special in her. The Man’s love found its way to her arbitrarily.”
“That doesn’t seem fair, then. There are many orphans in this village. Why her, if not because there was something special about her?”
“Certain types of love are always arbitrary.” Digue stood up. “But it doesn’t matter. Let’s get going. I can smell the food from here.”
We walked together toward Sume’s building. Even before we could see the massive picnic we could here it, smell it. Excitement rose. I was so excited that I didn’t even notice, as we passed a large bush and walked through the gate, the little splash of dark, red liquid that was spat at my foot. I didn’t notice it come from the bushes we walked by. I didn’t notice the dead body there, perceiving.
I went and joined the feast.
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