Chapter 3:

Telegraph Poles Have it in for Me

Aya and the Cat

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Innisri is a strange place. We’re the Republic’s most western island. Population 1,056. Twenty miles from the mainland. Economic output: fish. Lots of it.Bookmark here

Small we may be, but our fishing fleet hauls nearly a fifth of all the Republic fish stocks. Impressive, for a population of a thousand or so. Bookmark here

School life, teenage life, is typical. Bar our frontier lifestyle, there exists little mystery in our daily life. There are no mystic dragons, pseudo aliens, quirky time travellers, manic Gods, lustful demons or magical harems. Where what little majesty exists comes in with the black storm clouds that God often hangs from the horizon. Bookmark here

We are, in essence, a land that significance forgot. And for that we are thankful. Bookmark here

We’re not mainlanders. Bookmark here

We want to Brexit from them. Bookmark here

But my daily adventures across the windswept fields and down the ivory coast, lend little to the crux of this story. As I wandered headphones stuffed in part protection and part warmth from the eastern wind, I paid little attention to the sea lions roaring from the pier. Duffle jacket close to my craw, leather boots stuffed with two layers of socks, and school jumper replaced with a red hoodie I was under siege from the cold.Bookmark here

Innisri bares a hardy climate. And so, its citizens are in reflection resilient. My hands are rough from stone and fish nets, though the requirement for my generation to become greenhorns has subsided due to mainlander pressure. I think the logic behind banning our fishermen from using teenagers as crew supplements was all well intended; I actually don’t care for the taste of saltwater.Bookmark here

Given that as rule of thumb mainlanders are not as strong as us, I can see why banning their teenagers from working underage is in their best interest.Bookmark here

Then again, there is a difference between hauling fish and stacking shelves.Bookmark here

Coming to narrow ravine where the green hillocks rise and the sandy shore dips low, I see the vast blueness and rest a while. Interwoven between the ocean are shards of a grey rock; péist teeth we call them. From the sky the form the image of a serpent’s mouth open and wide, receiving the fishing fleet and protecting it from the Mana; Ocean Sprites to use the common tongue. The local ferry has to navigate this network of razor-sharp stone every day and if it wasn’t for the brilliance of the Ferryman supplies would rapidly dwindle. He’s a queer fellow with a beard as long as the story on his tongue. Some say he hasn’t told the same tale twice. Others grumble that he has…just that we’ve forgotten about them there’s so many. Bookmark here

Whatever the case, the Parish Council tolerates him as long as he doesn’t mention anything that would upset God/ for if that were to happen…well, hell hath no fury than a woman scorned as they say. Though the less said about the Prime Minister the better.Bookmark here

By God, we’ve heard enough of her already.Bookmark here

In my thoughts, a fleeting floater of a thought rapped my memory and I glanced at my phone. Half past Eight. School would start at nine bells, and I could see the white tipped building glimmer next to the lighthouse just o’er the harbour, so no bother arriving late.Bookmark here

Expect there was a problem.Bookmark here

Along the gravel path lies a tall, black tar, weather beaten electricity poll that stands in uniform segregation from its brethren along the coast. It’s a humble poll; a lovely poll that never had wished harm or had transgressed against any, human, dog, or sheep, who had rested awhile beside it.Bookmark here

Yet, this day, standing atop the narrow zenith, as bold as brass and as brass as bold, was a girl.Bookmark here

I looked at her.Bookmark here

She looked at me.Bookmark here

A small voice inside my head happened to say, “Run,” another “Wait, maybe this is the beginning of some Romantic comedy” Several others muttered, “So much for gravity,” and “Odd place for breakfast.” One even dared reason, “…I’ve seen this before on telly. Yes, next: the fire nation attacks.” Bookmark here

But my feet, powerless due to the Greek chorus signing loudly in my ears, stayed firmly attached to my native home.Bookmark here

No surrender! This land was soaked in the blood of fallen republicans and I dare not yield.Bookmark here

I mustn’t…well, until pub opens, I guess. Bookmark here

She was gazing down at me, interested, like a raven perched above a chamber door prised to torture some forgotten bachelor to madness.Bookmark here

Again, I tried to deny the suchness of reality. Tried to turn away and unlike the great charge of the light brigade throw a finger up to my major commander super general and turn tail back to Kiev. But I would not move.Bookmark here

Was this faith?Bookmark here

Oh, God it was faith wasn’t it. This was meant to happen. Like the coming of the seasons this paradoxical, destined phalanx of reality had speared me. Trapped. Hoodwinked. InternedBookmark here

Oh, God, Allah, Buddha, Niztche,! Heck, I’d even ride shotgun with the devil. Anyone. Just save me.Bookmark here

But it was useless. If God could answer my prayers then I would have power over God, and unlike some people, my ego couldn’t take that. Bookmark here

So, I raised up my head and said.Bookmark here

“Cold, in’it?”Bookmark here

She jumped and with an impressive backflip landed beside me.Bookmark here

“Isn’t it just,” she said, smiling as her hair was tossed by the shore’s manic breeze.Bookmark here

“The ferry’s o’er there,” I pointed, “If you’re lost.”Bookmark here

“I am not.”Bookmark here

“Oh.”Bookmark here

“I’m actually looking for something,” she said, looking aside and across the green and stone landscape, “My name is Aya.”Bookmark here

“Cathal. Most people call me Cat.”Bookmark here

“Cat?”Bookmark here

“Hmm.”Bookmark here

She cocked her head, “Akai neko?”Bookmark here

“Sorry.”Bookmark here

“Nothing, nothing,” she shook her head, “Never mind.”Bookmark here

She didn’t hail from the republic that was certain, though her accent was notably neutral though its considerable flux was peculiar sounding in common tongue. It wasn’t her first language, but her mastery over it impressed an image of several years of learning onto my mind that I could barely hold a candle to.Bookmark here

She was shorter than me, but not by much. Hair black as a Morrígan, slender she was, but I guess you could say curvy in others. Though she was wrapped up in a red duffle jacket and long pants, it was not difficult to see that she was no witch. Indeed, quite the opposite in fact.Bookmark here

“Can I ask you something?” she said.Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“Seen anything…strange?”Bookmark here

“Strange? Like the sheep?”Bookmark here

“Anything other than sheep?”Bookmark here

“Then no.”Bookmark here

“Really,” she frowned, “That’s weird.”Bookmark here

“We don’t do weird.”Bookmark here

“What do you do?”Bookmark here

“God,” it was my turn to furrow my brow, “I think. What about you?”Bookmark here

“We have shrines where I come from.”Bookmark here

“Shrines. Yeah, we have them too.”Bookmark here

“You visit them often?”Bookmark here

“No. But tourists do.”Bookmark here

“Oh.”Bookmark here

“We argue about whether they were a kind of fertility symbol or a really big grave.”Bookmark here

“Not much choice in that.”Bookmark here

“We’re a simple folk,” I shrug, “Best thing that comes out of the Republic is second rate musicians who invade other people’s countries with their opinions.”Bookmark here

“Doesn’t sound like a good thing.”Bookmark here

“I said it was the best thing.Bookmark here

“Oh. Why?”Bookmark here

“Because, unlike other countries, we can get rid of them.”Bookmark here

“That’s outsourcing, right?”Bookmark here

“Yes. It’s how we deal with people we don’t like. We make them appear popular. Give them a medal, a degree, and a night-time TV show, then ship em’ aboard.”Bookmark here

“Harsh.”Bookmark here

“We like to think about it as cost efficient.”Bookmark here

“Do they know?”Bookmark here

“That’s the funny part,” I sniggered, “They still think we like them. Cracks us up to no end.”Bookmark here

“My Father told me that Republicans have an extreme form of justice. And that’s saying something. My people were samurais.”Bookmark here

I had noticed the sword—I think—strapped to her back. At least that now confirmed why she had a katana stapled to her body, the obvious follow on question of “Why the hell” did she have a sword butt naked in public still, regrettably, remained unanswered.Bookmark here

“You’re from the East, then?”Bookmark here

“My Father and Mother were born there, yes. We moved to the Big Isle when I was three. Lived there ever since.”Bookmark here

“Mainlander, then?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“Oh.”Bookmark here

“Sorry for the scare,” she said, nodding at the pole, “I was thinking.”Bookmark here

“On a pole?”Bookmark here

“You’d be amazed at how still the mind can become.”Bookmark here

“On a pole?”Bookmark here

“I thought I’d made that part clear.”Bookmark here

She had, just in every single way she had not.Bookmark here

“So, what’cha here for?”Bookmark here

“Can’t say.”Bookmark here

“Oh,” I cocked my head, “You under cover?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I’d have to kill you if I told you anymore.”Bookmark here

“Seems excessive.”Bookmark here

“Coming from a countryman who plagues other nations with his unwanted upper classes that sounds like a compliment. Where are you going, anyway?”Bookmark here

“School,” I pointed over the pier, “It’s Monday, after all.”Bookmark here

“Really? Oh, of course,” she smacked her forehead, “Jet lag. Sorry. I thought it was still Sunday.”Bookmark here

“Thought you lived on the Big Isle?”Bookmark here

“I did. I moved back east, six months ago, to stay with my grandfather. My parents passed away last summer, you see.”Bookmark here

“Sorry to hear that,” my reply did justice to appear genuine, though my eyes were still rapidly flashing back and forth between her eyes and her sword reflecting the ocean waves.Bookmark here

“It’s fine. It’s what happens, I guess. I better let you get back on your way,” she inclined her head, “But, can I ask, if you see anything…you know…”Bookmark here

“Strange.”Bookmark here

“Yes. That. Can you call me?”Bookmark here

She handed me a business card.Bookmark here

“My cell is on that. I don’t do social media so don’t bother looking for an email address.”Bookmark here

“Right.”Bookmark here

Without much ado or passing remark she turned and walked back along the path, away from the pier towards the south of the island where my village lay. Bookmark here

As hard ocean battered the black granite growlers and threw white spray high into the air, I pondered as the oddity of the occasion. A simple islander like me couldn’t expect to come across much in his life. A pearl heaved from some oily catch one day, maybe, but not a feline such as this perched atop an electricity pole. Then again, if this was a warning or sign from God, I certainly was not going to ignore it.Bookmark here

Well, until I did
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