Humans were born in the era of the void.They farmed during the day and rested after the sky turned dark. They sowed and harvested plants guided by their instincts, but If you asked them how long it would take until the plants became ripe, they would answer, ‘I’ve lost count of all the times The Sun has risen.’ Asking further would not help.
‘Maya, take care of yourself while I’m gone.’ Uinal wore a straw hat. He hugged Maya gently.
‘Good luck fishing.’ Maya crossed her fingers and watched Uinal sail away.
“I wonder how long I’ll have to wait until he comes back this time.” Maya folded her arms in frustration. It was a warm, sunny day that was good for sowing seeds. She should be cultivating crops before the weather began to cool. However, she just did not feel like working at this moment.
Maya could not predict when Uinal would return, but she knew he was tough enough to survive the most violent of rainstorms. Nevertheless, she was still worried about him. If only she could foresee when he would come back, then she would stop worrying and focus on farming. Now, the endless waiting tortured her from dusk to dawn as she stared at the horizon…
The Sun rose and set. Maya drew a circle and a chord cross it on the mud wall with a sharp rock. Then she drew a line next to the circle.
The next day, Uinal still had not come back. Maya drew the same symbol on the mud wall.
The third day, the fourth day and the fifth day...The weather became hotter and hotter. Maya mopped her brow as she drew the ninetieth symbol to represent the burning Sun. At that moment, Uinal was back.
Uinal set off on another journey very soon. He came back when Maya had drawn two hundred symbols. It was the day Maya harvested the wheat. She drew a few dots beneath the circle to commemorate the bumper crop.
After helping with the harvest, Uinal sailed off fishing again. When Maya drew the three-hundredth symbol, snow had covered the farm. She drew several crosses beneath the horizontal lines before she warmed herself by the fire.
Later, the fields turned parsley-green, and warm moisture filled the air. Uinal came back. After drawing the three-hundred-sixty-fifth symbol, Maya circled all of the symbols on the wall. Unfortunately, Uinal did not stay for long.
Now in the heady heat of August, the Sun scorched the farms. Uinal returned and visited Maya in her house.
‘Maya, what are those on the wall?’ Uinal examined the symbols. After years of sailing through the seas, the vigour of his youth had faded away.
’They represent the sunrises and the sunsets,’ Maya pointed at the symbols with slashes, dots and crosses, saying, ‘I recorded my observations as well. This symbol represents hot days. That one represents harvest days. And this one represents snow days. I circled this sunrise because the weather was warm. I’d draw a slash today to represent the hot weather.’
‘There seems to be a pattern.’ As Uinal counted the symbols, he noticed the four different sets of symbols were almost equal in amount.
‘Have you found any shoals?’ asked Maya.
‘Yeah, I found one on my way back and caught it right away. We stopped by an island halfway to escape the cold, but some of us still froze to death.’
‘When will you be leaving again?’
‘They say we’re leaving after two hundred sunrises. I guess they’re all exhausted.’
Maya stepped up to the wall and counted the symbols with slashes. When she counted to two hundred, her finger landed on the first symbol that had a cross.
‘If there's a regular cycle in the climate; the weather will begin to cool after the two-hundredth sunrise. You should only stay for a hundred sunrises at most,’ said Maya pointing at the symbols.
‘Well, I’ll let them know.’ Uinal nodded and left.
Before Uinal returned, Maya had a sinking feeling. She grabbed a slate and inscribed everything she had drawn on the wall onto the slate. When she finished the first slate, an uproar came from the outside. Maya put away her slates and opened the door, and she saw ten swarthy muscled men charging at her furiously.
‘Woman! How dare you profane our gods?’ One of the men yelled while throwing his fist at Maya. Fortunately, Uinal stood before her and blocked the attack just in time.
‘Profane our gods?’ said Maya in confusion. She had no clue about what they were saying.
‘Foretelling the future is an act of god! You’re trying to surpass the gods!’ said the man indignantly. He led the other villagers to break into Maya’s room. Upon entering her room, they saw the mud wall painted with hundreds of symbols...
‘Symbols of curse! Destroy them now!’ The villagers raised their blades and slashed at the walls until they had erased all of the symbols.
Since then, Maya stayed in Uinal’s cabin to avoid the villagers. One night, she sneaked back into her house in search of her slate inscribed with the symbols. Maya did not know why she was so persistent about the symbols, but she thought if the symbols could forecast the weather changes, they could create a better future for the village.
However, only Uinal believed her. That was not enough.
As Maya anticipated, the villagers prepared to go to the sea to fish. Some sowed rice and prayed to the gods for the arrival of warm weather that would bring bumper harvests.
On that day when Uinal departed, Maya asked him to bring warm clothes and plenty of food in case things went south. To prepare for the winter, she had been storing up food in Uinal’s cabin…
When the two-hundredth sunrises arrived, a snow storm came.
Maya wore layers of fur and looked through the window. The farms froze in a night, and the plants had all withered. The villagers frowned in worry and babbled…
‘It was still sunny a couple of days ago! It doesn’t make sense!’
‘Are the gods abandoning us?’
‘We’ve got no food left...Please, someone, help us…’
Maya could not bear to see the villagers suffer. She took out bags of wheat she had stored up from Uinal’s house and distributed them to the villagers, hoping everyone could make it through winter together.
When the temperature rose, the villagers all visited Maya to express their gratitude. Maya told them that they should prepare to sow rice again after a few sunrises.
Some villagers remained dubious about Maya’s symbols; some treated her as the god’s messenger. At least they were no longer hostile to Maya now, and she could finally explain her findings.
“If only Uinal was here with me…”
She had counted past the circled symbol, and the weather had warmed up again, but Uinal and his crew still had not come back yet…
Maya waited for Uinal day after day…
“Is he not coming back?” Beads of sweat soaked her forehead. Suddenly, the tears of the sky showered the village. The rain wiped away her sweat. “I should’ve stopped him. I knew winter would come.’
When most of the villagers were looking for cover from the rain, Maya heard a voice through the steady drip of the rain…
Maya mopped her forehead and looked to the far end of the path across the farms...
Uinal was back.
Soaked by the beads of rain, Maya remembered she had marked that day with a slash, the symbol that represented a bright sunny day. Now she realized that not everything was predictable; not the weather, and certainly not the vitality of a man..