A Place to Wear Your Hair and Skin
Thousands of towering jagged crags murderously chop the suffering sea like rusty nicked scalpels of demented surgeons, forming a ringed unwelcome committee to any visitor wanting to step foot onto the wounded and torn shores of Nelori Island. Experienced or foolhardy captains know when they are approaching the infamous island in New and Old Fog, officially not advised by any tourist or sea-enforcement agency, when they can hear the water actually being torn apart by the grotesque sentries. These notorious ‘Nelori shrieks’ have been blamed for many unprotected crew members and passengers suffering from the eponymous mad hysteria for weeks after.
The native population who are the only ones allowed to live year-round on the reclusive paradise of Nelori are the Des-ai, and what they do and create twice a year is why adventure tourists and traders in oddities risk the short journey from the relative calm of the ports, coves, and yacht clubs along Galoreya’s coast through the notorious waters of the angry restless outer mouth of the River Yeln.
Jhinhari Harbor is the only place on the island where visitors from the city’s mainland can safely disembark from their Nelori-modified vessels. The harbor protects its small population and covers the cloth-clad waves of outsiders in a balmy cocoon of soft sea breezes and fluttering Fuanan leaves. First-timers, leaving their boats blushed in nauseous green and swaying to and fro as if drunk on Djol, are always wide-eyed and mouths agape at the hidden paradise that has magically and gently cushioned them; a bunch of tear-stained babes wrapped in a soft blanket falling back to sleep in their mother’s atmospheric arms after a terrifying nightmare.
“I never get tired of this part,” Kurjl said to his mate leaning against an ill-modified boat recently violated by a particularly nasty surgical sentry, known locally as the ‘Rapist’s Blade’.
“What?” His mate asked, not really caring what the answer might be. He was too busy rummaging through the Blade’s victim for anything valuable the panicking doomed crew and passengers left behind.
“The tourists’ faces,” Kurjl snickered. “I mean, they look ridiculous. I’m sure they’ve heard about this place from thousands of others who came here over the years; but they’re still surprised.”
“Hmm,” his mate’s indifferent response echoed from deep in the galley.
Kurjl’s mate finally surfaced from the wounded boat and plopped down drinking one of his newfound treasures and fiddling with his collar.
“You’ve been doing that all day, Asen.”
“Pulling at your collar.” Kurjl mimicked Asen with an exaggerated pout face.
“Still not used to wearing this stuff.” Asen tugged on his coveralls, squirming and scratching as if the uniform was tainted with one of those poisons he heard was all the rage for revenge seekers on the mainland city.
“Yea, they feel unnatural; disgusting. How did you get used to them?” Asen squirmed in his cloth prison adjusting himself and his piercings, which were incessantly punishing him by pinching his ‘pride and two joys’. “Everything is so squished.”
“I’ve been working and living in this damn port for 5 years now. You’ll get used to it.” He finished winding a frayed rope between his thumb and elbow. “Can’t be freakin’ out the clothies when they are oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing off the boat, especially you. You’re a good half meter taller than anyone on the island.” He laughed when a mental image of his friend running down in all his nature to greet the new arrivals coalesced in his mind – a huge hairy beast clinking and clanking from parts of the body many of them would never think could or should clink or clank. “Besides, you’ve only been down at the port for a few weeks.” Kurjl looked out at the dock where the latest tourist group was stumbling in chaotic unison in what he called the ‘clothie stupor’ toward the welcoming center. He snickered and shook his head. “Don’t be complainin’, you get to go up-island for the festival tomorrow, where you can be back wearing just your own hair and skin – lucky bastard.”
“You went the last time.” Asen said as he unbuttoned the top few buttons of his overalls, to give his body a teasing breathe of what’s to come. “No luck involved, just my turn.”
Asen looked down toward the docks at the latest wobbling spectacle for the first time. “Yea, they do look silly. Look how gaudy they wear their body. They look like bobbing severed gorshin heads floating in a sea of their own guts after Bushi and his kids finish filleting their daily catch.” He closed his eyes and let the ephemeral kiss of the cool early evening breeze slip down his slightly exposed chest, turning his sweat-glued chest hair into an icy stream rushing down his suffocating torso. He released a soft pleasured moan.
“Have you decided who you’re going to spley with tomorrow night? I bet its Tueru. He’ll be ready this year. Or will it be Kase? She couldn’t make it last time.” Kurjl felt robbed last festival when his choice of spleyrij was stuck at university trials on the mainland.
Asens’s eyes were still closed enjoying the icy bath of air. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“Well, whoever it is, I’m sure the spley-art you two create will be snapped up by those eh, severed gorshin heads, did you say?” Kujl couldn’t erase the image that flooded back into his present of the first time he saw old Bushi brutally decapitate a particularly fecund catch. The squishing and slapping of their dozen or so grey-purple tentacles seemed as if they were screaming for mercy; their bulging benthic eyes pleading him to stop the massacre. He never had a dish containing the ugly but delicious sea creatures since.“I hope so. I need the money. Don’t want to be walking around in these sweat-soaked caskets for the rest of my life.” He finally opened his eyes to his reality. “Come on, let’s get back to work and fix up the old girl so she can have a re-match with her ancient attacker and I can strip out of this hell.”