• Modhayan

KayKa's Songs - Chapter 1: Songs of Hunger & Thirst

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

<< Prologue

Living in the Sand Island has become almost impossible, with dust, ashes, sea salt, and sand is all that’s left with limited vegetation that’s scarcely scattered around the island. Water can only be found in cactus, or in tiny murky ponds collected from black rain showers that pour after sandstorms, or small ponds found inside the caverns. It is a tradition that cave ponds are protected by the leader and not to be touched during peaceful days. Insects, lizards, birds, and sand mice are hunted and eaten whenever found around desert flowers and cactuses.

Shadow cannot be found other than under the clouds or inside the caves of two big rocks that are located in one corner of the island, and around the center of the island, and the caves of a third smaller rock that rested on the opposite corner of the island. Traveling from one rock to another takes around two days depending on the dunes' continuously changing patterns.

The sea is nothing but a terrifying monster. It is as grumpy as the land, even more. Its waters are very salty and its waves are high and violent. No fish or shellfish can be found around its shores, no beasts and no plants have ever been carried into the island, and no islander has ever been known to successfully leave the shores without being eaten by the sea and pulled away into its stomach. However, the shore’s black sand and seawater were found to be healing, especially around the sea salt rock formations.

There were five surviving inhabitants in the Sand Island. KayKa was around twenty-five summers old, and the leader of her very small tribe. SaKhi, two or three summers older half-brother of KayKa, and LaKhi, the young eighteen summers old half-brother, then the seventeen summers old SiKa, another half-sibling of KayKa’s. Then there was AaYe, the thirteen summers old blind little girl, who was weak and clueless and had always followed the other four who provided her with food and water, and protected her from sand storms. Their mothers and fathers all died young. They all lived in the caverns of the biggest rock. They were the last inhabitants of Sand Island.

They were all generally short, very thin, dark-skinned, dirty, rough palms and feet, had long wild hair, wild pubic and armpit hair, their bodies and faces are also covered with hair, are filled with scarres, and they walk around naked with no fabric to wear. At day time they had no cattle to herd, no crops to farm, few words to use, no words to read, and nothing to talk about, but they had the ocean waves and horizon to stare at. They were clueless and all they wanted to do is keep themselves alive by looking for food, and doing as little as possible by napping inside the caves. They sang songs they learned from their fathers and mothers. Those songs kept them alive.

If one ever dared to stop singing, the sand will haunt them and pick them up into the sky to become forever lost in a sand storm. The sand will dig the graves of those who don’t fear the sand, will pick them up to join all the infidels and sinners.

For those who lived peacefully and spent their life singing to the sand till the day they die will find internal peace. The sand will pay singing islanders one last visit in their graves, and show them the way down to the secret passages of the caverns that hold infinite streams of water and all the food that would keep islanders alive, strong, and wise, forever.

KayLak always knew when to sing, what to sing, and how to sing to the sand. She always was able to read her surroundings very well, and she always knew when to respond to what’s happening with the songs she learned from her mothers. For that, KayLak was the leader. SaKhi’s brawn and seniority alone never qualified him to lead, because the power was in the songs, and whoever held the power of song is the leader. It is the norm for women to lead the sand island tribes. Women read their environment and their fellow islanders better than men did. They also were calmer and better protectors of the tribe’s harmony.

. . .

The song of hunger keeps the islanders away from starvation.

The islanders sang the song of hunger during haunting, eating, and when hunger strikes strong. The same song, yet, they sing it in different variations.

While they haunt, islanders harmoniously orchestrate the song in a fast beat melody sung in whispers of inhales and exhales of excitement, joy, and wit. The harmony of the song is built by the lead of two or three islanders and strengthened by the remaining islanders. The chief of the tribe builds the base of the song through downbeats, she also indicates the speed and tension of the haunt. Another islander would jump into the song through a layer of anticipated upbeat beats to indicate the direction of prey, while a third islander fills the song with whispers of melodies that indicate when to sprint and jump for a prey. Others could amplify the chief’s lead, or pick one of the other two layers of the song to alter direction and sprint moment depending on how strong their opinion is.

While eating, islanders sing another joyful variation of the song of hunger, a louder one that replaces all those sneaky whispers. When they eat, they layer their song with high pitched jolly melodies. One that AaYe enjoys the most because KayKa lets her lead the tempo through the beat, while the rest progress into the song by filling it with their upbeats, anticipated melodies, and laughter.

They sing for the sand to lead their prey into their sights and into their grips. They sing for it while eating to let it know that its rewards aren’t taken for granted. The sand enjoys dancing while islanders haunt and eat. The more harmonious and joyful their song is, the more rewards the islanders get and the better they taste. And if they ever haunt or eat without singing the song of hunger, the islanders were taught that they will upset the sand, and they themselves will become prey to the sand itself.

When the feast is done, the fun is gone, and when there’s no stash of food to tame their hunger. They turn back to the same song that fed them, but this time, they use their bellies and foreheads as drums. Islanders could start the song to announce that the food they stored had perished. A soothing song that usually turns times of distress into times of solidarity and jocoseness. It’s also a song that calls for all the islanders to start digging into their own stashes and share what they’ve sneaked and hidden away for times like this. For the strong to share what they have with the weak.

. . .

The moon was almost full, large, and very bright. A great night that wasn’t disturbed by a sand storm. A blissful night that carried great rewards of food that could keep them alive whenever sandstorms struck. The sky was very clear and islanders could see all the stars scattered across the black sheet of the night. Stars had no significance though. They were just there to dance in the sky, like the ocean waves were, just there, to dance. Under the moon, KayKa walked slowly, with her head leaning, her pupils wide open, and excitedly started the song of hunger with a slow tempo indicating to others to scan their horizon for movement.

As they moved forward. On KayKa’s far-right, LaKhi and SiKa both started a harmonious layer of beats indicating that a sand mouse was there in front of their sights, and on KayKa’s far left was SaKhi who walked slowly in silly sneaking footsteps also adding upbeats of his own while his eyes were set on another sand mouse. The blind young AaYe followed their sounds in the dark with her head swinging right and left as she sang with KayKa. The more participants to the song of hunger, the more sand mice will be led to their haunt.

SiKa spotted a third sand mouse and her legs froze. She took a deep breath and made a long low pitched melody through her whispers as she prepared to sprint and started to progress her melody towards a high pitched tune that will lead to a sprint and a jump. LaKhi stopped and looked at SiKa, and traced SiKa’s line of sight, and signaled her to not sprint alone. For better coordination, LaKhi took a deep breath of his own and joined SiKa’s high pitched melody as he slowly stepped towards the sand mouse. KayKa spotted the mouse too and was guiding SiKa and LaKhi through picking up the tempo of her song and when LaKhi and SiKa got close enough to their sand mice, LaKhi and SiKa together below their final tune, and they both rapidly sprinted and jumped over the defenseless sand mice. LaKhi swung his arm and caught the sand mouse with his right hand before landing back on the ground, then rolled on his back with his arms up in the air while SiKa landed on top of her sand mouse and slipped her hand under her breast to grab his tail. Right at the same moment, without any announcements, SaKhi sprinted further away from KayKa to catch that third sand mouse. The three stood off the ground with a sand mouse in hand. SiKa and LaKhi joined KayKa’s song, while KayKa walked fast towards SaKhi and slapped the back of his head while singing in fast tempo indicating tension and signaling him to sing while sprint the next time he sees a mouse. SaKhi held the spot of his head where she slapped him and joined her song with a smirk on his face. The two tuned towards SiKa’s new melody while she sprinted towards her second prey.

With their thin thumbs, the young islanders crushed the four sand mice skulls and called AaYe who picked up her pace and walked towards them to bag their preys. SiKa and LaKhi handed over their sand mice to AaYe. Then she walked towards SaKhi’s voice and he also handed over his prey. AaYe ties the tails of all four mice and holds the knot, and the islanders carry on with their nocturnal haunt.

There’s no predator to those sand mice other than the islanders, the sandstorms, and owls and other birds that occasionally pass by the island every now and then.

Whenever the islanders are pardoned by sandstorms during full moons, they get back to their caves with two dozens or three of sand mice more or less. Using sharp rocks and whatever teeth left in their mouths, they skin and eviscerate the sand mice, and feast on a few, then cure the rest using sea salt they gather from salt formations on the shore.

After a fruitful haunt, and at dawn, KayKa led her tribe to their cave and walked into its entrance and down into its depths while they all followed her, each carrying a handful of sand mice meat. AaYe is always last to enter the cave, leaning onto its walls, she knew where to walk and knew which rocks to avoid stepping on. After all, she had known those rocks very well. KayKa now switched her song of hunger and started to sing the song of thirst.

. . .

Whenever rain falls, and whenever islanders pass by the raging sea, they sing the song of thirst for the sand to lead water droplets into their small ponds inside their caverns. Whenever they drink water, they sing for the sand to replace the water they drank with more water into their precious tanks. Whenever they pee, they sing for the sand to transform their toxic fluids into pure water that goes back to the ground and reappear in their ponds of fresh water. KayKa and her fellow islanders wear told by their fathers and mothers the tales of islanders who died out of thirst. They were told that there were hundreds and even more islanders that they would never imagine, who once lived in harmony and peace, but then fell in large numbers all at once, because of thirst. They were told that sand is merciful when it rages in the form of sandstorms and that sand’s fury peaks when it commands the skies from holding its rain to let the men and women and all living beings of sand island die out of thirst. Therefore, whenever the sky is clear, at times of peace, the islanders sing the song of thirst. And whenever the sky is darkened by sandstorms, at times of war, the islanders sing the song of thirst. They just never dare to not sing it.

Unlike the ocean wave-like and fast-paced song of hunger, the song of thirst has no rhythm and is as slow as the movement of clouds during a sunny day. Led by their chief, islanders make their most beautiful sounds and pitches to create a breathfull harmonious arie that please the sand and makes it float away dancing above the stars, and sometimes, a lullaby that soothes the sand so much it puts it into a deep sleep.

The more a song is sung, the more it has variations, not to bore the sand. Which makes the song of thirst like a cloud that masters shapeshifting, a song that is never sung the same way twice. There’s one rule that islanders follow when singing the song of thirst. Don’t break the harmony. Don't be dissonant. Otherwise, they will wake up the sand from its peaceful sleep if it was sleeping or will make the sand trip over and fall if it was dancing. For that reason, islanders spend their lives finding and perfecting the right set of pitches that harmonize with the rest of their tribe members' voices. An islander that is continuously dissonant, is at risk of being exiled or sentenced to death.

. . .

In a very low pitched voice, the moment KayKa stepped into the cavern she initiated the song of thirst, behind her, walked LaKhi then SiKa, then SaKhi who all were gladly singing with her while AaYe swung her head and echoed their song with her left hand carefully picking the right spot of the cavern’s walls to balance herself and avoid slipping and falling over the rocks of the cavern.

This was AaYe’s favorite time of the day, the only time when she starts racing SiKa and the men who all lose sight due to the cave’s darkness. It’s the time of the day where absolute darkness falls on them, and she feels equal to her tribe members.

As they moved further into the caverns, the order changed. KayKa now is followed by the master of darkness, AaYe, then SaKhi, then SiKa followed by LaKhi who always slows down to make sure that SiKa is safe. Every now and then, SiKa and LaKhi purposely stay behind to steal a chance to touch each other, hug, breath over each other’s skins, and even foreplay before KayKa notices the fade of their songs and starts to sing the song of thirst louder and directs her song to them instead of the sand. SiKa is always first to leave LaKhi’s arms out of embarrassment and respect to KayKa, picking up her pace down and quickly continuing her walk into the depth of the caverns.

The moment KayKa reached the water ponds and her foot felt the water, she stopped and gradually raised her voice singing the song of thirst with her loudest voice while she waited for her tribe until they all reached the small pond of fresh water down in the very dark cavern. Echoes of the song come from every direction, and at times of peace, this truly becomes one of the islanders' most euphoric moments. After all, it’s time to moisten their dry faces, skins, and throats. They can’t see each other in the dark, but through the song of thirst, they feel each other very well. They wait for KayKa’s voice to soften, a signal that allows them all to drink three or four handfuls of water. With every sip, they raise their water in their hands up into the air to show the sand how much they’re about to drink for the sand to replace that same amount. They only stop singing while drinking, and they don’t drink all at once not to disconnect and lose touch with the song. KayKa sips first, then SaKhi, then LaKhi, then SiKa then AaYe. The song of thirst draws their hierarchy better than any other song.

Once the three young women and the two young men finish drinking, they’re signaled by KayKa to start softening the song of thirst, a chief’s signal to the rest of the tribe to stop drinking from the pond’s water.

After drinking and washing, islanders then head to their spots in the dark and put away their cured sand mice meat on top or below a pile of rocks they use as a storage area, away from the water ponds. After that, they rest. Some go directly to sleep, while the remaining foreplay before sleeping.

. . .

Sandstorms can come at any time, but they’re more merciful when they come at day time. A monstrous dark brown cloud that can be seen far in the horizon moving like a snail above the raging waves of the sea is easier to avoid. It will strike fear into the islanders' hearts, but it is still visible. Also when sandstorms come during the daytime, the chances of the islanders sleeping inside the caverns are quite high. The absolute terror comes from the deadly crawling sandstorms of the night. Those nightly sandstorms can strike at any time while the islanders are scouting or haunting and away from their caves, the only shelters that could protect them from being skinned alive by the sand.

At the age of four summers, AaYe lost her sight, part of her head’s skin and hair because she was left by her tribe out of terror when a sandstorm struck them all in the middle of the night while they were all asleep. AaYe was carried by the sand storm and slammed into a big rock right next to the cavern’s entrance. The young toddler had to crawl and find her way to the cave’s entrance wiping blood out of her eyes and face. AaYe was lucky enough to survive that sandstorm struck, but then, when the sandstorm lasted longer, an islander approached her in the dark singing a terrifying song of hunger. He picked her up and held her face with both hands tight, then sucked her right eye out of its socket while she filled the caverns with screams of immense pain. AaYe’s mother and two other women surged into the little girl’s rescue, but before they reached out to the defenseless little girl in the dark, another man had sucked the other eye already. AaYe’s mother got the tribe’s chief permission to wipe her daughter’s face with some water and kept her daughter in her arms during that sandstorm.

In another sandstorm, AaYe was five summers old, blind, and very weak. Another islander plotted to end his starvation and tried to attack AaYe to save himself, and the tribe. But after a deadly battle, AaYe’s mother became a martyr who sacrificed her life to save AaYe’s, and her body ended three men’s starvation, including the two who previously sucked her eyes. Shortly after that sandstorm, the three men died from constipation.

AaYe never got to see the faces of those who lied their lips on her face and forcefully ate her eyes, and she never got to see who ate her mother’s flesh. She never knew who they were or ever understood what happened to her mother.

Growing up, AaYe never caught any sand mice or any other prey, she just bags what her tribe haunts. She was prey once, and the same song that ends her hunger was once sung for the sand to lead her to someone’s fist. Despite the terror felt by AaYe when the tribe sang while hunting, AaYe kept singing the same song that took her mother away. She still did not want to upset the sand, KayKa, or the other three.

AaYe however finds her most comfort and peace in the song of thirst. On the night when she lost her eyes, AaYe’s mother sang the most beautiful song of thirst in the form of an aria, joined by the other mothers, while she washed away the pain and blood from AaYe’s face. And whenever KayKa hears AaYe sings the song of thirst, she allows AaYe to lead the song. After all, KayKa was an adult when AaYe lost her eyes and mother, and she always felt guilty because she didn’t stop her father from eating AaYe’s eye and the flesh of AaYe’s loving mother. She did not possess enough courage to confront her father as a child.

Because of hunger and thirst, the islanders lived in between extreme violence and extreme peace. Hunger and thirst lead islanders to the kind of anxiousness that leads to madness. Taming one of the islander’s hunger becomes a necessity for all.

But also, AaYe’s soft high pitched voice made the most wonderful songs of thirst. KayKa knew that there was more than thirst in AaYe’s song. There was the love of a mother. AaYe’s song reminded KayKa of the warmth of her mother too.

KayKa's Songs is a story about the survival of men, women, music, and gods.

I plan to publish KayKa's Songs chapters once or twice a month here in my blog.

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