Silence

You would have thought they were mute, were it not for their public exchange of vows. Marge and Tom went by the axiom « Silence is golden » and revelled in each other’s quiet company. Their lives settled, devoid of sound. They communicated through exchanged glances, and gentle touches. They laughed a lot, thinking their own thoughts. They were well-liked, not ones to spread gossip but always extending a hand for those in need. They wrote down detailed instructions when that would save time and just left each other notes. It was like a prolonged courtship.

They really did nothing extraordinary, except keep quiet. They went to parties where they both played the fiddle, in perfect counterpoint, one assisting the other, responding with speed and an uncanny sense of beauty. People loved being around them, pouring their hearts out to these willing receptacles. They were thought very wise, with the twinkle in their eyes, and everybody enjoyed their silent company.

They were of even character, and not prone to outbursts. They had reserved one hour a week where they actually spoke to each other. The rarity of the occurrence made it that more much precious. They realized that the things that had made them mad during the week were often trivial and not worth mentioning, just a surge of emotion with no real foundation. They thought deeply on what they wanted to share orally in this limited time. They rarely found a reason to go back to something in the week to clarify, or ahead, for that matter. They had no inclination for idle chatter. They played music together, or cards in the evening. They read in companionable silence, leaving bookmarks or annotations for each other. They would exchange witticisms in the margins – their library was enriched by their joie de vivre.

One week, Marge proposed they get themselves a songbird. She had been reading about it and was enamoured with the idea. She floated the idea, full of hope, but did not press her point. She was ready to wait for his answer, as their schedule was paced weekly. Of course, Tom gave it serious consideration. Anything that was brought up in that hour gave them food for thought for the week ahead. He had time to research it, think things through, answer his own objections. He also observed his wife and saw that she was not anxious, nor pressing him in any way.

Unfortunately, his father fell very sick. Tom’s mom had already passed away and there were no surviving siblings. Father was uncaring and mean, but he was still his father. No neighbour wanted to care for him, and so the couple took him in. The songbird discussion was put on the back burner as they did their best to salvage the mean man. He was loud and obnoxious, and the strain showed on the couple. When Marge would come to tend to him, he sometimes hollered “Get out! I want my son in here with me!” Being quiet was no longer a joy but a necessity, as they found themselves riding on negative emotions.

Their weekly hour was all the more sacred. They would leave the house and walk together, unable to avoid talking about the man who had invaded their intimacy. He was weighing them down, robbing them of their joy, of the quiet. Madge asked about the songbird, Tom acquiesced, desperate to atone for the presence of his father. “Do you want me to buy it for you next time I go in town?” They could no longer drive in town together. There must be someone at all times with the father. She agreed. They hoped that the bird would cheer them up and make this difficult period more bearable.

Tom prepared himself for the trip to town. Lists were made, edited, thought about. Getting the bird was a little luxury. They felt they owed it to themselves to take steps to lighten their mood. Their house was small. Father’s bed was near the kitchen stove to warm his brittle bones. Still he coughed and complained. Cats roamed at will, coming in the house for a change of scenery. They had made themselves scarce since the old man moved in.

Finally, Tom came back with a magnificent lyrebird. It was an odd choice, but the bird man had convinced him that the exotic bird would be a perfect companion. It could sing better than any other bird alive. This particular one was a youngster, still listening more than whistling, but if the couple was unhappy with the bird, they could return it, no questions asked. They made him a place with the chickens, and he roamed as he pleased with them during the day, feeding on small insects and the occasional frog. He learned to cluck like his fellow mates and was a joy to behold with his gorgeous tail. He liked Marge’s company and would hang around the kitchen window, sometimes following a fly into the house and eating it.

After a long agony, Father finally passed away. They lived in a small community. They laid him to rest in a casket in the front parlour, where their friends came to pay their respects. The whole town gathered and there was much noise, but a deathly silence fell when his voice was heard “Get out! I want my son in here with me!” The lyrebird had chosen this time to display his talents.

Obit – Django, the dancer

Django, the well-known Brazilian choreographer, died yesterday of emphysema, killed by air pollution in his beloved city of Rio de Janeiro, pictured in his masterpiece “Ciudades/Cities”. He was 61.

Revelled or abhorred, his work left nobody indifferent. I interviewed him in his heyday, in a café in Rio. He was 5 years my senior and had just had his major success, “Ciudades/Cities” performed in New York. I was fumbling with my questions and he, ever patient, was taking his time to answer, as though he had nothing better to do. He told me he was grateful for the breather. He said he loved to “study people’s expressions as they talked or waited, were bored or hopeful. The dance of the eyebrows, the eyes, the mouth a fascinating choreography of desire.”

He observed everything, from the fretful moves of pigeons in a park fighting over crumbs, to the longing pose of a vagrant just before he brought his lips to the neck of the bottle. The brilliance of emotions contained or unleashed dazzled him and inspired his best work.

I asked him about his latest choreography. He explained passionately that traffic lights lived to their own rhythms, repeated street after street, obeying a higher will. His piece was an ordered chaos ruled by syncopated graffiti. Garbage had its place, discarded papers were thrown in the air and floated on the breeze, or glass bottles were exploded on a wall, the forceful clash releasing coloured fragments in the light. He told me about the rain in the city, umbrellas dotting a busy street, the slow pace of people safe under them compared to the race for cover of the exposed ones. Everything was a joy to the eye – he stored millions of movements which he disgorged on the scene through the pliant bodies of his troupe. I sat mesmerized by his vision, enthralled by his movements as he mimicked the rain and the people running for cover. He called the rain “urban guerilla”. He laughed a lot.

He was a poet and a dancer at heart.

I asked him what his plans were, for his next work. He talked about sounds. He said he was interested in the rhythm of people coughing at the opera house. One cough started another, followed by a third, each bolder than the first. He revelled in the myriad of expressions the body revealed even though its bearer was unaware.  The whole was always greater than the sum of its part. He wrote feverishly, captured what he saw by any means. He turned to nature for inspiration and produced more dazzling work.

Then one day he called it quits. He had said all he had to say, was now happy to absorb and retain instead of constantly creating for others. He sought to transform himself. He was called selfish by the same people who claimed to hate his work. He paid them no mind. He turned to meditation, looking for stillness as another way to understand the world. He watched his thoughts, searching for patterns in their flow and colours. The quiet was bursting with energy, he was overjoyed by his findings.

He laughed his way into death as he had into life, capturing his essence as he danced into the next state, exuberant and free.

Hermit

He cannot outrace the sadness as he runs from one distraction to another. Always, at the end of the day, sadness waits for him, a steady companion as he prepares a meal for one, as he watches tv by himself, as he goes through the motions of preparing for bed. He does not actually sleep – he lies there and waits. Sometimes his thoughts toss and turn him to exhaustion, and he finally falls into an uneasy repose. Other times, he gives up, and gets up to watch yet more tv, the flickering light repeating in an insomniac pattern across the windows of the appartment building, an S.O.S. for all to see. Except there are no rescue teams, no boats, no lifeguards, no swat teams, no, no, noone.

He doesn’t sigh – he’s not one for self-pity. He just feels the weight of the sadness pushing him down, its heaviness preventing actual movement. He distracts himself by trying to recall lists of things. Sometimes he will try and list elements of a category using all the letters of the alphabet. Those distractions offer a short respite from the heaviness, a pause as though putting down barbells and picking them up again. It’s mental exercise, at least. He sighs – who is he trying to kid? His thoughts hang on to the word “kid”, he blanks it out, does not want to go to the dark place that is his childhood. He turns the light on, looks at his spartan surroundings, a conscious attempt at avoiding hurtful associations that would send him spiralling down in no time. He lives in avoidance, walks on eggs. He thinks he might benefit learning a new language. He’s heard of people who whistle to express themselves. That would be perfect. Hopefully, his thoughts would become tunes. He perks up, ever the musician. He can relate to that. His chest fills with hope as he searches the Internet for that magic cure.

Metal Horse

The burnished rider’s red hair is slicked back. He is stooped by experience, his sky blue eyes overlooking a fine long nose – a fox lightly guiding the massive mare. He revs her up.

The plane gallops full speed on the tarmac. The passengers feel its excited gait. Up and off, a smooth transition from ground to air, a collective sigh as the metal horse strains on her reins and reaches up to the sky. Foamy clouds stream by, no doubt escaped from the mouth of the beast.

She looks out the window to the water dotted with green masses, a pétri dish of festering bacteria, overgrowing its liquid support. Further out in the distance, lakes shaped like cartoon fish, fins well drawn. A brown-red river snakes lazily amidst the lush vegetation, sunning itself.

They hit a few air pockets. Seasoned travelers laugh them off, others look to the flight attendant for reassurance. He is a large fellow, his good looks momentarily overshadowed by his skin’s green tinge. He smiles wanly at them, his pale eyes watering. The turbulence doesn’t last long.

As they start the descent, a crowd of windmills wave their welcome with their long arms. The whinnying beast slows down, it’s windblown mane flapping about. It comes to a satisfying halt, its flanks heaving and trembling from the effort. The plane disgorges its content; the flight attendant throws up discreetly in the w.c. He has almost successfully overcome his fear of flying, but turbulence shakes him to the core.

Repetition

There is something to be said for repetition
The slow accretion of days
Into stalagtites of steady drips of boredom or hurt
Into calcified stalagmites of joy and mirth
That will solidify over time
Into one smooth column of life

Like the ebb and flow of the sea
The pounding of the surf
As the tide creeps in
And surprises you
So that suddenly you’re in to your neck

Repetition of a movement
Be it music or dance
Until thought dissolves
And only remains
The tapestry of life

No two repetitions are the same
And those infinite variations
Like a breath always renewed
Introduce the colour and variety
That make conversation possible.
There is something to be said for repetition.

Discovery

– I turned myself in at a hospital’s psychiatry unit.
– I kissed Conrad under the bleachers and let him fondle my breasts at thirteen.
– You had breasts at thirteen?
– You were in a mental asylum?
– We said no questions.
– You started it.
She relents. “Your turn.”
– I learned to fly a plane.
– I can do a 360 in a car, on ice.
(Technically, she was in the passenger seat and saw her ex do it. But she knows the technique and if he can do it, she certainly can.)
– I’ve done it with two girls.
– I fell in love with a girl.
– I almost got myself killed once, he whispers.

Her eyes grow wide in alarm and instantly fill with tears. She chokes. “I don’t wanna play anymore.” She cuddles in his arms, his warmth slowly relaxing her. Try to stay in the moment, she tells herself. She can’t bear the thought of his nonexistence. All the colour would drain from her world. She breathes deeply. It will take her years to tease out the stories behind these revelations. She is studying to be an archeologist. She has what it takes. The smarts to see when a shard is part of a bigger piece, where it fits, if it’s of interest. The patience to understand it. The imagination to weave a story in which the vessel has a place. Was it broken intentionally? Initialed? Part of a series? She loves puzzles. Mostly of the inanimate kind. This relationship is a whole new ballgame.

She’s got herself a certifiably insane bigamous pilot who almost got himself killed once. She… doesn’t have that much baggage. He’s got the bad boy look she craves. Her heart is already bleeding from the hurt she will undeniably suffer. She’s doing the dishes and whistling. Her keys whistle back. She hates the stupid gadget. She doesn’t actually tend to lose her keys but she could definitely lose the gadget. A gift from her ex-boyfriend. Emphasis on “ex”. Except she despises waste so she’s been hanging on to it, waiting for the battery to run out. She’s tried giving it away, but the few friends she has don’t like gadgets either. “Chuck it,” is their advice. Like she chucked her ex, without even a look back. Her new boyfriend is the One. She feels it in her bones.

He’s picked up the dish towel and is drying the dishes, and putting them away. Nothing sexier than an unassuming muscular guy. The ordinariness of his actions in an extraordinary package. Package? Did she even think that? She chuckles. He comes closer, drapes the dish towel over her face in a slow caress. They are part of the same puzzle, some pieces don’t look like they fit but eventually find their place, surprisingly. She can’t see yet what the final picture will be, she’s flying blind and she doesn’t care.

The Fall

She was pinned to the ground. He was walking slowly towards her. “Stay calm, don’t move.” He used the voice you reserve for animals stuck in a trap. She felt helpless as he lumbered towards her, a large, slow man. She started kicking the dead weight, trying to slide away from under it. His voice took on a tone of urgency, “Be careful, don’t, don’t.” He tried hurrying along, she believed he did, but she was starting to panic, and he still did not move quickly enough. She managed to scrape her boot from under the motorcycle, marking the fuel tank. He pulled the motorbike off her, had a look at the tank. “Why couldn’t you wait? I told you to wait.” His precious bike. He didn’t even check her out for scratches. She pulled herself off from the ground, dusted herself off. The shoelaces of one boot were worn off from the slide, the boot ripped open. They were still salvageable. She was glad she had been wearing construction steel-toed boots. That could have been her skin. She was wearing jeans and a leather coat, leather gloves, helmet. Nothing else was frayed. She hadn’t been going fast, they were practising with cones in a parking lot. She had skidded out of control, not sure how or why. She didn’t care to know. She probably had been going too slow, tried to redress instead of being one with the beast. She was told it was like riding a horse. You should not fight it, just try and be one with it, follow its movements. Her experience with horses was limited to an unfortunate ride at day camp. The horse had tried to bite her and chewed leaves and bushes instead of walking sedately with the others. She was told to kick it but she did not have the heart, and so it nibbled. She had hated every minute of it, the height, the uncomfortable seat, the power she did not master. The other kids had moved along nicely, nobody struggling. She had declined to ride the following week. Said she had female troubles. They left her alone to chat with the instructor on a bale of hay, in the shade.

She wasn’t even sore. She tried limping, to give him a bad conscience. “You need to ride her again now, so you won’t be afraid next time.” She obeyed, docile. It wasn’t an animal she was afraid of. She circled the cones, cautiously, leaning in, giving a little more gas than before, gliding in a smooth figure 8. He was in the middle, a lion tamer, his voice a limp whip waiting for a mistake to rear up its head. No mistakes. “Enough for the day. Let’s pack her in.” They gathered the cones, put them in his side saddle. He looked again at the scuff mark, at her, reproachfully. She looked back. He knew better than to start an argument when she was like that. There would be other times.

Merry-go-round

Thoughts on a merry-go-round, going up and down, round and round. I set it ablaze, the whole thing engulfed in yellow-red flames, peeling away the veneer, releasing the wild horses trapped underneath.

The thoughts go up in smoke, tickling the gods above, causing one to sneeze, the vibrations shaking the highest mountain. It’s avalanche season I told you to watch out, now you’re buried, your skis sticking out like a cartoon, except you’re not laughing you’re trapped, and is that a rescue dog you’re hearing or just the wind howling? You wait and quench your thirst with snow. You snooze from boredom. You are not cold in your fancy suit. You drift off though you were advised against it, hypothermia is to be feared not indulged in. There is digging about, and shouts. You don’t want to be part of it, let me sleep. You feel like a teenager again in a deep slumber. You make the dog happy. He has been finding nothing but dead bodies but your limbs move. They airlift you, you hate flying what if it crashes? You feel close to God whatever that means.

A gust of wind, just your luck, as the helicopter crashes against the mountain wall and bursts into flames. Your last thoughts are of wild horses fleeing a wildfire. You don’t know why but it feels just right.

The Pastor and His Flock

After all this time, he still cannot get over the scenery. Underfoot and afar, rolling hills on a rocky base. The flock is scattered according to taste, clover, lavender, timothy, dandelion. They cluster about, bleating, and rotate with the sun.

It is a bit chilly, high up. Not high enough that the air is too thin and the sun burns. The sun is a warm presence, the sheep a woolly one, the predators a worry. He wears a sheepskin vest which he embroiders himself, self-consciously but with aplomb and dexterity. His patterns are a unique blend of pastoral and baroque.

A ball the size of a large, loosely fisted hand sits among the sheep. He has kicked it in their midst. Once they got over the fear of the intruder, they joined in the kicking. They are a playful bunch. Between the ball and the dog, he moves them pretty much at will. When they get bored, they start a game, pushing the soft heavy thing with their hoofs, bleating. Some have gotten quite good, others participate as onlookers. He himself does a bit of both. It beats watching, thinking or reading all the time. Just now, a lamb is balanced atop, very proudly.

He does get the occasional visitor. The laconic old man, slow and strong, who chuckles when his flock plays football. He sits with him and they share goat’s milk and hard bread before he continues on his way. They enjoy each other’s company, their voices rough from unuse. He brings news. “They’ll be digging a well. The old one’s going dry.” That’s a lot to take in. He lets the news sit with him. They stay quiet for the next hour as he ponders all that this means.

They will need to fill the old one, always attractive to young boys and wayward youth. They have been threatening a new well for years, but the water is getting muddy and stinky so this summer it will happen. For now, the women get it from the mountain stream as they did before the well. Its water is nice and soft, clear and cold. The walk back is tricky, loaded with the water and coming up the steep road. They’ve called for reinforcements, someone to find a good vein, not too deep, that they can tap for years. He sighs. Such turmoil. His visitor sighs as well, reading his thoughts.

The flock sense the disquiet, bleat in discord. Some shake their heads and snort. The lamb jumps down from the ball. He gets up, stretches, the dog does the same. The old man follows suit. He can tell the old man is preoccupied. All that movement. They look to the flock as it settles down again, the moment passed, the air just right again. The wind picks up, bringing moisture and scents with it. The rain will feed the stream below. He kicks the ball, gets them moving to the sheltered bit of the pasture. The smartest ones are already on the move, the slower ones protest, they haven’t eaten their fill. The dog convinces them to follow. The old man makes to go but he indicates the shelter and he nods.

It’s nice to hear the tinkle of the bells. He picks up the ball, discarded in their haste to move. He wants to embroider it as well. Why not? He’s got time on his hands and it will be a bright spot in the grayish cloud. A steady warm rain is falling. The sweet smell of wet wool fills the air, cools the flock. The lamb sneezes, snuggles close to his mother. Gusts of wind go past them. They are hidden behind a rocky outpost. The dog is prowling. He doesn’t like the setup, it feels too much like the time they lost a sheep to a coyote, lying in wait. It is patrolling, nose twitching, keen eyes drinking in any change. The sheep are tightly packed, warm and drowsy. For all that, they look like the dense clouds above. He smiles a thin smile. The old man picks it up, smiles as well, lights his pipe as they wait in the shelter. Heavy drops drum down. Some sheep protest and crowd the shelter. He doesn’t mind when they nibble his hair.

The rain stops and the flock disbands like the clouds. The old man cleans his pipe, taps it against the shelter post and nods his goodbye. He nods back, walks his sheep higher up, to a smaller meadow they don’t go to much. It has grown lush again, and the rain has made the ground soft and fragrant. There is thistle here, and different flavours of grasses. He likes to vary their feed. This little meadow is a special treat to make them forget their heavy coats as it dries uncomfortably for the next few hours. He sets about embroidering the ball.

 

The Twins

“Black is beautiful! Power to the people!”

Joshua is cowering inside. He doesn’t feel beautiful. He chides himself “get your black ass out there!” Another voice whispers, “You’ll get a whipping and you won’t be better off. The last thing you need is a night in jail. If you lose your job, who will provide?”

Angel and devil battling it out. He is damned either way. The black folks don’t get me, the white folks don’t get me. Internal freedom is what he’s after. He sure as hell can’t wait for external freedom to come to him.

The crowd is massive. The volume is off on the television. It’s black and white with all shades of gray in between. That’s his world. He tunes in on the gray, full of possibilities, where the colours hide, where you can devise layers of meaning beyond the contrasting black and white. He’s had enough of the rhetoric of opposites. You can see the crowd, but he can feel them approaching his neighbourhood, their dignified march, the weight of their presence.

He can feel the deeply satisfying rumble stirring his heart, calling to him. He steels himself against this folly. He has fled important events before, surely he can protect himself again, lie low and survive. His glasses are misting over. He writes down “living in turbulent times is tough, dying is easy.” He needs to expand on his thought but is having trouble focusing. His twin brother Jared is out there, feisty and strong. They disagree on most everything except the fundamentals: look out for family.

He will not march. How that was even a consideration is beyond him. He’s not remarkable in any way, save for being a twin. And that’s not anything of his doing. As far as anybody is concerned, he lives in Jared’s shadow. Except for Jared. Jared sees him and appreciates him. He is relaxed, and tender and funny around Jared. But in the end, this was Jared’s fight. He sits at home and watches the march in front of the telly. He will craft a clever article for the local paper, a mix of his thoughts and Jared’s experience of the march. They make one helluva team. He feels heartened by the thought and goes back to his writing, wondering what Jared is feeling right now.

***

I am pumped. The chanting is hypnotic. A few blond heads dot the crowd, sympathizers who want to offer what little protection their white skin can afford us, the second of hesitation which could make the difference between a fractured skull and a glancing blow. We lock arms in a long chain of Blacks, inside and out. I am elated – I am part of something bigger than myself, taking a stance against daily humiliation and injustice. I think of Joshua back home. He was right not to come. He hates crowds, for one. And standing out or taking action. I must admit I am relieved as well – I will not have to protect him – he is safer in the house. Still, I miss him. As we near our neighbourhood, our street, our house, I chant louder, more boisterously. “Power to the people!” I feel powerful. I am invincible.

The police have put up barricades. Agents provocateurs taunt the crowd, wasps tormenting the placid beast until he loses patience. The crowd shrugs it off but a small rift has opened and is widening quickly. There is some pushing and shoving. A blond boy moves forward, willing himself a human shield, fellow peaceful combatants at his side. The police groan, the taunting continues. The blond boy is taking pictures. His newspaper accreditation hangs around his neck, protection and target all in one.

The police are armed with batons and bad breath. They stink of fear and injustice – we exude resolve and righteousness. How will all this play out on television?

The first shot pierces the air, sending everybody scrambling to the ground. It is not supposed to be like this, though everyone knows trouble lends credence to such movements. If you are willing to put your life on the line, surely the cause is worth it.

It is a lone shot. A white man is on the ground, cursing, struggling against the weight of the police officer, restraining him and his gun, radioing for help. The crowd has started moving again, grateful for the protection, black and white starting to blur, the incident another wound, strengthening the crowd’s resolve.

Joshua hears a shot, glass shattering, and falls, stricken by the lone bullet.

Raven

She can’t sleep despite the warm bodies and the deep thrumming, a fluttering of hummingbird activity in her chest, reverberating weirdly. She feels calm and muddled, her thoughts coming back in a loop to last night’s incident. She had been awake as she now was, lost in idle thoughts, lulled by the soft snores and restlessness of tired bodies. She never did adapt to the nighttime rhythm of this country, resolutely attuned to the long Arctic days where life did not still during summer, precious waking hours stolen from the long winter months.

She plays with her cloth doll. It feels heavy and foreign in her hands, nothing like her baby brothers. She loves the twins more than life itself. Their smell brings a tender ache in her bones, a longing to see and touch them. The doll is a little piece of home to hang on to until she gets better. She tries not to think of home, of them. When night comes, she does not succeed.

A coughing fit overtakes her. She can not suppress the noise and a sister comes to her help propping her up with pillows to help clear her lungs. She was taken by surprise and did not have time to muffle her cough. She is coughing blood droplets, against which the sister wears a white surgical mask. Her uniform is all white. Thankfully, it is young Myriam, she of the kind eyes and gentle hands. In the morning, she brushes her hair while making soothing sounds. She does not speak her dialect; she do not speak hers. It is lonely being sick in a foreign tongue, far from home. Giant trees loom and obscure the sky. Everywhere you look something stops your gaze. The spirits are trapped and cannot roam freely.

The cough subsides. She drops heavily to the pillow, spent, calling for blessed sleep. The sister stays by her side and she manages to regulate her breath and deepen it, feigning sleep. Sister Myriam moves away to survey her other charges.

Her thoughts drift back to the previous night. A car arrived late in the day and a man in an anorak and shoulder-length black hair came out. He looked disoriented and small as he was escorted into the building. Ever since, she has been trying to locate him. She feels better knowing she has an ally, maybe someone to talk to. She will be as patient as the seal hunter. Her dark eyes glow in the half-light, the corridor lights always on whenever she wakes up.

She speaks to her doll in hushed tones. The man is an uncle mandated to take her back home. The man will turn into a rainbow at the end of which wait the twins. The man is a raven on whose back they will ride home. She falls into a feverish sleep peopled with fantastic dreams where she is playing with her brothers and everyone is healthy and strong. Raven watches over them.

Kory – Companions

The Kory people are famous for their companions. In the West, the closest equivalent would be pets. They are called “kèo”, which roughly translates to “companion”. I will endeavour here to describe their relationship. Before we start, I must stress that the way in which these animals are to be considered as pets is that they have a special relationship with their human keeper. They don’t necessarily live together, yet they are not totems as in other cultures either.

Kèos may be turtles, birds, reptiles, insects. They are very autonomous yet consider the keeper part of their family. They are usually, but not always, adopted early in their lives by the human keeper and considered sacred by other humans. Making fun of somebody’s companion is a very serious offense and meted with punishement. A companion will come when called but is also very attuned to its human and so will choose to be by the keeper’s side even when not called. It is not a random animal but one with a serious bond with its keeper. The keeper will groom it and be groomed by it. Their relationship is one of tender affection and good humour. A distressed companion will go to its keeper for consolation and, in turn, will console its keeper as needed.

There are no rules governing the relationship between a keeper and its companion. It is not gender-based, not mandatory, not necessarily exclusive. For example, if you befriend a bee, you will more likely than not be followed by a few bees so that you are part of that beehive. Because some animals have very short lifespan compared to us, they will succeed each other. In this sense, you are attuned to the animal spirit more than to a single animal. The relationship is closer to a totem and the keeper will naturally protect their environment and work with them to give them an advantage. These mutually beneficial relationships are common in the animal kingdom. The Kory do not consider themselves separate from other animals and find it natural to collaborate across species. Their whole environment is dear to them and they tend it with care. Animals are an extension of this caring. It focuses their efforts.

A small child might be close to turtles and reptiles and grow up to adopt an iguana. Roughly, a Kèo will be part of an element – it will fly, or live in water or on the land. A keeper may prefer a type of bird, but he will be attuned to the Air spirit. Animal and environment are so intertwined as to be undifferenciated. For the sake of discussion, we create categories, but fluidity reigns as animals do not restrict their habitats to make our categorization easier. Roughly 20% of the population is without a Kèo. Those people have not yet found their place in society. They live more isolated lives or are more human-oriented. their understanding of the world is limited by their own senses, not augmented by other animals’ keener senses.