The Eel’s Lore

For the people of Pacific, Siberia and Yakutia

1. The man with the yellow skirt

His steps shook the town. His height reached trees’ highest branches, and his shoulders had asymmetric edges that wouldn’t fit through doors. Yellow skirts were always wrapped tightly around his slim waist, and hung down like a triangle. His unbuttoned shirt revealed his snake-like chest hair. Children liked to pet his dog and his horse, but by putting a considerable distance between themselves and the man. Neighboring women talked about how he quietly came to the inn the other night, drank all night and left the next morning. It was a common saying that any of the women scraping food off of plates to the street could sell out their husbands and children to spend a night with him. Or kill their parents to see him suck a finger.

One day he knocked on the door of a house. Went in, and took the youngest girl of the family. With his free hand he untied the rope keeping his horse, and yelled in the town square. The kids ran around not to get stepped on by the horse.

The place they arrived was like an underwater island, almost. A small round island, connected to the mainland with a narrow neck. A tiny house on the few square-meters of land. The man told the girl that they were married. They went in. Lit the grease lamps and sat down. He asked the girl to bring water and bread from the sacks at the corner. Then lifted the girl’s skirt and put his hand on her belly, and fell asleep. He never laid another hand on her in the years to come.

The girl grew up, in heights and width. Reached the man’s shoulders. Tied her thickened hair at the back of her neck and raised her arms up to the sky. Then she dropped her head down, and it touched the soil. There was one god she knew of, and it was under the ground. She opened her mouth and let out some words; her whispers turned into wails, asking it to show the path that she hadn’t been able to find. It had black teeth and crimson lips. She left her ripped insides there; rocks got covered with bloody lumps. She did hear the horse neighing, yet couldn’t stand up because of the pain; she let him find her like that. Naked, her face one with the soil that turned to mud with her tears. The man dipped his hand into the blood between the girl’s legs and finally told her his name: “Rojdat.”

It was as if the day stopped starting at their house; he wasn’t getting on his horse, leaving the girl behind. As she laid facedown, counting ants next to her on the floor, she glanced back and tasted the salt in Rojdat’s sweat dripped on her dark framed eyes. Every time his mouth closed on hers, she kept repeating on her own, what is the secret of knowing? When she looked at him, she wasn’t envisioning his majestic look as he entered the city anymore. Maybe because of his amorphism, maybe the lack of someone else to compare. Her eyes, from their new angle, were almost rejecting something in his giant torso, heavy steps, and big fists that didn’t go with his phallus. After that night when she tasted him for the last time, she told him that this time she was going to get them food. Rojdat couldn’t object. “When will you be back?” he asked instead. “I won’t, for a while. I’ll take your horse and go to cities,” the girl said. “I might be back after five nights.”

“Go then,” said Rojdat. “Stay as long it takes.”

After her food, she slapped the horse’s butt. She didn’t care what filled her stomach, she was going to get her groins filled. She went on going for a day. She stopped and got down from the horse at the center of a village with a big fire lit, unrobed her chest and stood upright. Men, women and children circled her. She talked in the middle of the klan.

“Our men, where I’m from, knew how to satisfy desires like a man. Rojdat, who lives in the sea, however, won’t go further than a mediocre meal. He took me when I was a kid, didn’t touch me for years, and got a hold of his manliness only when my blood wetted his hands. Is that what I am worth? That frail, slimy eel? I came here from the land of water where I was forced to migrate for copulating. I am the first woman to declare without shame that I’m seeking the phallus which will wrap twice around my legs. I heard your story, and fame on the way. I passed the sandy beach, and I’ve come to you. Get up, and see my love through!”

Women of the klan stepped back from the circle. All at once, men said: “Go on, your way is ahead of here. We won’t take the eel phallus’ wife.”

She went on. She stopped at another village, where residents gathered all their water on enormous leaves, and repeated her purpose. Men hid behind women. Their voices came forward: “Go on, your way is ahead of here. We won’t take the eel phallus’ wife.”

She rode the horse, continued on the line where the sea reached the pebble. She entered a village through a wall made of soil, and repeated her purpose. The response was the same. Right as she turned to leave, an old woman asked her name.

“Hinsa,” she said.

The woman yelled. “Meshel! Meshel! Come, take this woman in.”

Meshel came out from a house behind houses. He was limping. Hinsa saw his hooked nose and folded ear. Had she come all the way for this? Meshel’s mother put her hand on the girl’s shoulder, as if she were reassuring her, and unrobed her son’s pants.

Hinsa stayed there; together they made the soup.

Rojdat lay there sweating, mumbling, and when the five days passed and the girl didn’t show up, he hurt his own lips, bit them and left unfinished. His friends from other cities knocked on his door, to say that Meshel took his wife, Meshel from the klan of holy soils. He didn’t mind. He beat them all off, stayed on his own, with his dog. Counting the nights. They came again though: “Meshel took your wife; they are at the klan of holy soils.” This time, Rojdat was curious. “What is he like, this Meshel?”

“He is one crooked phallus. He has one and a half ears, and carbuncles on his face. He can’t ride, or tell mushrooms apart, or light a fire, they say.”

Rojdat squared up and said: “I will take his eyes away when he looks at the sword between my legs. One of you, go to the klan of holy soils. Tell everyone that I’m coming for his life.”

“He is coming, to take your life and your wife away from you,” shouted the messenger.

“May he come,” said Meshel. He became uglier. He was content. “What is he like, have you seen him?”

“He is slim and tall, like an eel,” he said.

Rojdat’s steps shook the klan. They circled around him. Hinsa heard those cursing at her:

“No one has ever fought for a woman in this village. We should send her away.”

The two men stood against each other. Rojdat yelled: “Take out your manliness, right away,”

Like a good boy, Meshel behaved. He rolled his dress up and showed everyone the fragile muscle that had grown out of him when he was little, hanging between his legs. When Rojdat declared a duel, he didn’t refuse. “Pick how it is going to be,” Meshel said.

“First,” said Rojdat, “I will penetrate you, then you will penetrate me. The one who survives the pain will take his wife and either leave, or stay.”

They put up a tent, and didn’t let anybody in. Days worth of bread, water and wine was supplied. People lined afar from the tent and waited for someone to prevail. Nights and days passed. Hinsa couldn’t resist and peaked inside the tent. She saw a hairy, amorph human lying on a hairless, smooth body. Their lips were covered with wounds, their hands around each other. Rojdat was whispering into Meshel’s ear, as if he were giving a secret: “My eel, you shake and bend in me/As you bow/A small man lifts the world off me.”

It wasn’t like Hinsa carried the sand from the beaches she passed, Rojdat’s soul, and they could have met. Had she put the essence that made them attract each other in them? Were they making their Hinsa-infused parts know each other in the void of the tent? She took her chances, listened to the voice telling her to go in. She got in and found herself a place between the two nudes. She neither cared about getting hurt by one nor being reminded of her childhood by the other. Grabbed their heads and pulled them close to her two sides. She closed her eyes.


II. Leshy’s Song

At night of nights, without a single drop of blood shed,

as the new moon ripped apart, Meshel glided

in Rojdat, like an eel

All his muscle, strains, each

split into fours and more

Meshel grabbed the head by its hair

and dropped it in Hinsa’s hands

“Go, bury it at the bottom of the tree at the corner of our garden!”

Day of days, without a single drop of rain hitting the land,

as the full moon grew, the heart’s slit open.

The evening was holding on to cricket shells, and the heat kept singing. Years had passed since the beheading took place, but Meshel was still childless, despite his successful achievements as a husband for Hinsa, every night. Hinsa had become quiet with diffidence, and repressed her desire. She had been devoted to her work in order not to relate the lack of a child to the curse of Rojdat’s death. The last time it rained was days ago. As Hinsa listened to the noise coming off the soil on an oddly hot day, she saw Meshel running towards her, pushing his own physical limits. He was out of breath.

“Rojdat’s head! The place you buried it, it sprouted!”

They called the old woman, showed her where the head shooted from. Anticipation of disaster was in the air. But the woman stood still for a while; the creases of her face moved rapidly before she finally put some words together: “The tree you buried the head under is a sort of coconut tree, known as ‘the sea green shell from the land of gods.’ It is coming with the abundance of the exile, before the first droplet lands. Take good care of this, you’ll see, it will feed us all in time of misery.”

Meshel collected its fruits when the time came. He gathered the whole clan around him and danced, as the life he took gave them such delicious food. They drank the juices of the fruits. Hinsa watched them from a distance.

When everybody went to sleep, Hinsa sat down near the tree, now known as the tree of life, and began singing an old song she once heard: “Managi i ane e. / Te aroba i-i-i-e!” She felt her childhood clogging her throat. She snatched a handful of the sprouts of Rojdat and ate them. She fell asleep right there. The old woman found her the next morning, covered in blood. She reached for Hinsa, between her legs, and she screamed for Meshel and the klan when she made sure of what she touched: “Hear this and be aware! Meshel’s seed has turned into a baby!”

Pots boiled for eight nights, people danced. Hinsa watched it all with a smile, but something uncanny was also growing inside her.

Pain settled in before her belly grew much. She stood up and held onto the ostea levka she planted earlier. She opened her legs apart, stood straight and delivered in front of everyone. Women and men of the klan came and patted her back, fed their own children with a piece of her placenta. Hinsa waited, holding the bones, until the ceremony ended and then collapsed when the last person left. She immediately demanded her child.

They gave her almost a forest. Trees, branches, leaves and even roots sat on her lap. Hinsa threw it before Meshel, and confessed. Told him that the sprouts she ate turned into a dark forest in her womb. Meshel leaned down, took his baby wrapped in cloth, left the tent and gathered the klan around him.

“Curse grows from sin. Curse is a forest in drought. I don’t call that a child.” He handed the baby over to the old lady for her to choke it. Then, with his dagger, he stabbed Hinsa in the stomach. As she collapsed, mothers who made their children eat the pieces of birth shivered in fear. Meshel went back in his tent, after swearing not to touch another woman again.

Women dropped Hinsa’s corpse in the ocean.


Note: “The Eel’s Lore” is originally published by Trampset Magazine.

Translator: Eylül Deniz Doğanay

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