Walk into the Ight

Take it from me, this weakness,
Take it from me, this pain I cannot bear,
I can swim strong
I can weather the fiercest current
If only you would take from me this weight
— Zhingani prayer

old paintbrush Steve Johnson flickr

Photo credit: Steve Johnson

You were supposed to paint your regrets, but how could you pull those apart from loss, self-hatred, anger?

Jai’s body was covered in it.  Blue for her eyes. Yellow for love.  White for the empty pit inside him.

Red for the blood he couldn’t stop, no matter how he’d screamed, pleading with the gods.

All day, friends and neighbors reached out to touch him.  Acknowledging.  Sympathizing.  Their arms and chests were painted too, but today, he had no eyes for them.

Now he stood on the bank of the Ight, flowing highest today, holiest.

Voices buzzed around him, praying, crying. Some child laughing.  Splashes, as others found their time, asked the goddess to wash away their burdens.

Jai’s brother patted his shoulder.  “Come, let Zhinga cleanse this grief, before it drowns you.”

As Jai stared at the symbols on his chest, his tears began the process the river would finish.

“She would want you to keep living.”

Nodding, Jai staggered forward.  His vision blurry, he slipped on a wet rock, grabbing his brother’s hand for balance.

Steadied, he let go, and stepped alone into the Ight.

Color swirled, surrounding him, slipping around his fingers.

“Please,” he prayed, sobbing.  “Take it.”

Word count: 200.  For this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Thanks to Alastair Forbes for hosting, and for providing the original inspirational photo, below. Click here to read the other stories.

Thanks also to Lynn Love for challenging me to write a story about “walking in the ight” — sometimes a typo can lead to the most interesting things!  Update: Lynn has her story up now and it’s a chilling sci-fi dystopic take on our type prompt.  Check it out here: Step into the Ight.


Photo © A Mixed Bag / Al Forbes

18 thoughts on “Walk into the Ight

  1. I’m reminded of transitory/comfort objects adopted by the developing child. It seems as if rituals are communal versions of these objects for adults performed as the name implies, in times of transition (not to deamean them in any way). However, would you say that the modern world has been moving away from ritual in favor of individual coping mechanisms?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m no expert on that, but it does seem that modern culture is more focused on individual rituals (all those things we’re supposed to do to fix ourselves, all those rules for health and career and love) than on traditional communal rituals. That said, we still invoke a wide range of rituals for transitions — births, marriage, death, graduation, anniversaries, even divorce — and those seem to be even more elaborate and numerous now (graduation from every single level of schooling).

      Liked by 1 person

      • But do communal rituals still hold the same power/efficacy as they once did? Organized religion for example offers many of these transitory narratives to frame one’s life events under but the post-enlightenment trend towards scientism/rationality erodes many of such organizations. Has the narrative landscape changed to the degree that rise of psychology/sociology (or their face towards mass culture) is sufficient substitute for traditional values?

        Liked by 1 person

      • This discussion is venturing far beyond the scope of this comments section, I’d say! But I would note that these types of life course transition rituals develop in every society across history, across every religion, and continue to be practiced and developed by those who leave those religions. That is, these are not inherently religious rituals, but social rituals, although they can become linked to whatever religion everyone in an insular society has. I’m not sure how one would measure the efficacy of a ritual, unless you’re talking about the ability of certain traditions to force compliance in group members against their own wishes (e.g., to restrict who they can marry). Certainly in more diverse societies, the fear of being exiled from one’s culture or religion is less compelling, if you can walk next door and be accepted by others who don’t share those beliefs. That said, people continue to enact the traditions they were raised with, religious or not, often gaining great comfort from them. And new and revised communal rituals are constantly popping up, and can be experienced as just as powerful and moving and exciting — witness rallies and protest marches, or sports celebrations, or Burning Man.

        I guess my short answer is that tradition changes. What I do is normal, what my parents did was traditional, what my grandparents did was old-fashioned, and what my kids do is crazy. And what our grandparents did was, at the time, considered modern and nontraditional by their grandparents. So we pass our own idea of what is traditional to the next generation, who will change it in turn.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The efficacy is the tradeoff between self and collective wellbeings. The practices of a group may provide say comfort and sense of identity to the individual but the cost is homonogenity in core beliefs. Conversely, a society of polite tolerance for individual differences borders on cultural relativism and a sort of disunity among members. Others may acknowledge divergent beliefs but any comittment beyond that cannot be expected. If such is the trend, then I fear for the culture induced solipsism (as paradoxical as that sounds) that may occur.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, once we’ve gotten into cultural relativism, it’s definitely beyond the scope of this comments section, I’d say. I’ll close by saying I’m optimistic that we inherently social creatures will continue to reinvent the bonds that hold us together in new ways that work for our times.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Step into the Ight | Word Shamble

  3. This is a great take on my slip of the keys, Joy. Such a strong and moving tale – a man’s desperate need to hasten the grieving process. You’ve really captured his pain and the kindness and support of his community. An imagined world that feels very real. I wonder if it’ll work for him? Rushing these things certainly doesn’t seem to work here – let’s hope the Ight does the trick.
    Here’s my version – very different, yet a near-spiritual experience in some ways, so perhaps not so different after all 🙂 https://lynnmlovewords.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/step-into-the-ight/
    Thanks for the challenge, Joy. It’s been good fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynn! I tend to go dark in my own way — you with chilling, me with heartbreaking. Thanks for the excuse and inspiration to build another little chunk onto my world. Now I just have to figure out where this river Ight is, which has to be the same place they call Xinxoni / Zangan by the name Zhinga. Hm. Well, at least I have an interesting cultural practice for this group already. I should really be keeping better track of these things. 🙂

      Your take on the “Ight” is so different, and so clever, I love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really is very well written, so very touching. Do you have maps of Eneana? Keep a database of places and cultural beliefs? I find it hard enough keeping track of characters’ birth dates and so on without building whole new worlds. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Lynn, I’m happy to take the compliment! I have roughly drawn maps of the main continent where all the current action is taking place, and a good idea about the elves and dwarves that live on a second continent (and why they mostly stay there), and a few major island/small continent groups. I have a whole third continent on the other side of the world of mostly humans and magruks (my re-envisioned orcs) that I am holding off on describing (saving it for dessert, as it were). The map of the geography is only half the battle, though. The tricky part is how the communities of people change over time – literally starting from when they first migrated here in prehistoric times to all the major influxes of migration and conquest by various peoples.

        Plus I have the issue of deities v. religions — multiple religions worshiping the same deity but calling it by different names, some religions worshiping deities that never existed or who have vanished since then, etc. So I have a list of which deities were worshiped by the various original peoples of this continent, and which ones were shipped in, and how the various religions merged (e.g., one religion “discovers” that the new neighbors’ goddess is “actually” their god’s sister, wife, or daughter — or the same person as their deity, or his sworn enemy).

        This is how you end up with hundreds of pages of world building notes. My document for religions alone is 200 pages. Whew. And yes, it’s wicked hard to keep track of all these little changes I keep making in my flash fiction!


  4. Very neat funeral ritual, painting the body and themselves according to the person who died, what they were like etc. I like ritual of washing the paint away after, washing away your grief. It will probably take more than that for Jail but perhaps, these rituals in some way help him take the first step to moving on after losing his beloved. Well done Joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! The ritual isn’t just for grief, either; it’s for anyone who has regrets or sadness or anger they want to wash away — to “give to the gods” and try to move on from.

      Liked by 1 person

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