Faraway Tales

Written by Tegan Benham-Bannon.

For all of their lives, Myna and Farren had heard stories of the sea.

From the time they were born, travellers had passed through their village and told tales—stories of red coloured earth, birds as big as humans and mountains as tall as the sky—of adventures through swamps and over deserts. They told of forests where everything was always green and wet, of lakes deeper than the light could reach, and of animals so strange and far away that the children could not even conjure images of them in their minds.

None of the tales, however, had captured their thoughts quite as much as those of the sea.

They longed to see it—the undulating mythically large expanse of water that was somehow the colour of the sky, the leaves, and the stones all at once. They longed with an almost hopeless but entirely unrelenting desire to see this story with their own eyes.

The desire was so strong that they began to make secret plans.

Although Myna loved her home, she had never really felt at home there.

When Myna thought of home, she thought of the thin brown creek that wove through the village. She thought of the warmth of the dusty earth in summer, and the shade of the trees that felt like family. She thought of Farren at her side.

She loved these things. She truly did. But somehow, every evening as she lay wrapped safe and warm, she would find herself looking at the sky and wondering if there was more.

She dreamt often of all the places they had heard of in stories. She imagined herself walking over rocks and sand and earth the colour of the red tree blossoms. She could sometimes almost feel the cold wind blowing on her face at the top of a mountain, so different from the wind that she knew. Each day the longing grew more intense, until one morning she realised the creek and the dust and the trees were no longer home, and she was trapped by the things that once made her feel free.

So they left. They walked and walked, and over all the miles and hills and plains, Myna would look out and think, is this where I belong?

***

Myna awoke to find her brother gone. She sat up, heart quickening as she glanced around.

‘Farren?’ she called softly. ‘Farren? Where are you?’

There was no reply but silence, whispering through the scrubby trees on the embankment and curling its fingers through her hair.

‘Farren!’ she cried again, loudly this time. ‘Farren!’

‘I’m here,’ she heard a voice call, and her brother appeared, stepping lightly from behind a bush.

Myna released her breath in a rush, and frowned. ‘Don’t just disappear like that!’ she scolded. ‘This isn’t our place. There could be many dangerous things around.’

‘Sorry,’ Farren said, and held up a bird. ‘I was getting breakfast.’

While Myna stirred the fire, Farren turned the bird’s meat over the coals. They ate, Farren smacking his lips, Myna chewing slowly.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Farren without looking up. ‘You have your serious face on.’

Myna smiled, then paused. ‘We must be close to the ocean now,’ she said, curling her fingers around a stick and prodding the fire. ‘We’ve been able to smell the salt for several days.’

‘Isn’t that a good thing?’

‘Yes,’ said Myna, ‘but … well, for years we have been dreaming of the sea. Hearing stories of it, imagining it, longing to see it. And now we have journeyed so far. What if it isn’t all we have wished?’

For a moment Farren was silent, thinking. Then he said, ‘If all the stories are true, I don’t think we will be disappointed. A thing like that … it could never disappoint.’

***

For as long as Farren could remember hearing stories, he remembered hearing them with Myna. His big sister was as constant in his life as the sky and the stars, and he loved her just as much.

So, when she whispered to him one night that she was going to turn their dream of the sea into a real journey, he knew without even thinking it, that he would go with her.

He had always known that one day Myna would want to leave. As she watched the horizon he watched her, and tried to ignore the biting worry in his heart that when she left it would be to a place where he could not follow.

So he followed her, always, just in case one day he could not. Together they climbed trees and explored the muddy corners of the creek. They wove necklaces of flowers, and did handstands in the burning sun, and whispered secrets to the hidden frogs. They listened to story after story and told their own, until the world that they shared was different to the world everybody else could see.

When Myna told him that she was going to the sea, he reminded her that for him, they went together or not at all.

‘Of course,’ she whispered. ‘I wouldn’t want to see it without you.’

Unlike Myna, Farren was afraid to leave home. But he knew that if Myna left and he stayed, she would take that feeling of home away with her and it might never come back. So he followed her, as he had always done, and they created their home and their stories together as they walked, across the world, to the sea.

***

Farren buried the ashes from their fire in the light, sandy dirt as Myna took up their belongings. Together they struggled up the rise, using the twisted, gnarled trees and each other’s hands to support themselves as the earth gave way beneath their feet. Myna had lost track of the number of steps they had walked. Suddenly the feeling of impending change overwhelmed her. She gripped Farren’s hand a little tighter.

Then, panting, they crested the peak.

And there was the sea.

The images in their minds could never have compared. The water stretched past the horizon and all the way to the sky. In this one place was more water than all the water they had seen in their lives. And the colour! Except it wasn’t a colour at all, it was every colour all at once—grey as the stones, blue as the mountains, pink as the rising sun and its very own type of green. It seemed to fill the whole world, and the children wondered how until this moment it had not been a part of theirs. Farren wanted to laugh and sing and run, to sprint across the sand and crash into the waves.

Myna just wanted to breathe.

 

Tegan Benham-Bannon’s work appears in the Illusion edition of WORDLY.

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