It was a day like any other. The sun rose over the Hills as it should and the birds sang songs of their ancestors. The carpet makers started their day the earliest, along with the tea planters. Like clockwork, they would rise to embrace the wealth of the morning sun. And then came the wood folk who rose after the fog. Ibuk was cutting wood for a ukulele when her son appeared in front of her, his face as blank as toffee. “Hello,” she said. “Aren’t you supposed to be at school?”
Her son stood numbly and gazed deep into her eyes. Ibuk put aside her tools and walked over to him. He stood still as she approached him, and she knew something was wrong. Not wanting to cause panic, she slowly embraced him and said, “We don’t have to talk about it now …”
The boy pulled away from her and held both her hands tightly. “Buk … I found them”.
Something was happening in the village that no one wanted to talk about. Villagers would disappear into the night, never to return. There were no wild beasts scavenging for souls, or black magic games played by the village troll. Something else was happening: The prophecy.
For generations the village knew there would come a day in spring when souls would leave the village for the Vallée du Bonheur. Except nobody knew where it was and only the eyes of the innocent would find it. For 300 years the village waited but the day never came. Until now.
Ibuk looked deep into her son’s eyes. “Could it be,” she thought, “that his are the eyes of the innocent?”
If there was one person in the village waiting to depart for the Vallée du Bonheur, Ibuk was the one. She prayed all her life that the prophecy would reveal itself during her time, and that she would be chosen to go. Vallée du Bonheur was a promised land.
The carpet makers were mixing dye and the tea planters had broke into their daily tune. The wood folk were piling sawdust. Soon it would be midday and the village would break for tea. Ibuk said the ukulele can wait. It can wait forever if it must.
She walked over to a nearby hut and made her son a cup of soothing tea. They sat together while he drank slowly. They did not speak but it was apparent that something was about to happen that would change their lives forever. When the sun slipped Ibuk and her son made their way to the woods.
According to the little boy the Vallée du Bonheur lies at the edge of the forest, to the west of the Hills. As they walked through the woods they saw a long trail of ants heading west. There were millions of them and underneath the canopy of forest leaves the ants looked like a deep black flowing stream.
“Follow them, Buk. We have to follow them,” said the boy. And so they did until they reached the edge of the woods where the land beneath their feet ended and plunged deep into a dark abyss. But Ibuk saw nothing. “Where is the valley, Nak?” she asked her son. “Right there,” he said, pointing down the cliff.
Suddenly a deep voice came from behind them: “The Vallée du Bonheur can only be seen by innocent eyes. And it calls only to restless hearts”. “But my heart is restless, Grandpère,” Ibuk responded to the voice. The old man Grandpère moved forward, stood by her side and looked down the valley, holding a short spear in his hand. “The valley did not call out to you. It offers you no promises of acceptance and reciprocity. You were brought here by the boy, he whose eyes are innocent. Go home,” he said. “Please, go”.
The three of them stood there for a long time until the little boy broke his silence, “I didn’t mean to cause trouble”. Ibuk who was standing in between the old man and her son said, “This can’t be. I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Though I cannot see it, I know it’s there. And though it doesn’t call out to me, in it lies my destiny. I know this,” she said. “But Buk, how can this be your destiny? Just look at it. Or I can describe it to you,” said her son.
Ibuk turned around and started to walk away. But after barely taking a few steps she whispered, “I must seek that which I long for”. And suddenly she sprang her body backwards and dove deep into the Vallée du Bonheur. “Ibuk!” screamed the little boy.
In a speed of light Grandpère raised his spear and threw it into the valley with all his might. A long echoed scream filled the air. The spear had pierced into the bottom of Ibuk’s foot. “What did you do?! Why did you do that?! How will she ever climb up?!” cried the little boy. The old man Grandpère said solemnly, “I pierced the bottom of her sole for there lays your Heaven. May she remember you always. I am your grandfather”.
This story was inspired by Ashaari Rahmat‘s illustration.