Root crop, sugarcane, corn, and between these, giant weeds. It didn’t matter. They all speak, their susurrations a language the Maylupa do not understand. The Maylupa and their kin have been living in these hectares for as long as they can remember. And for as long as they can remember, they have been suspicious of the crop and their private speech. Because they are suspicious of their speech, the Maylupa likewise were suspicious of everything that triggers it: the cycles of humid heat and punishing rain, the ground, the wind. Distrusting the vegetation, they must content themselves with the other living creatures that reside in the fields: eels, toads, rats, locusts, birds. The pestilences ravage the crops, the species depending on the season. 

They boil stagnant water to drink, and are constantly sick. They only know what had been held true by their sires: that these lands was theirs by rights, but that it had turned traitor to them because of the hands that whispered, tilled, conversed with them. The land was not theirs in the eyes of the Maylupa, who had all the titles and deeds to disprove the claims of the nameless ones. The Maylupa had passed down the knowledge from their ancestors that the nameless ones had cultivated this secret, private language between them and the land. 

Once, they had tried venturing beyond the land they owned, past the remnants of grand old homes, past the decaying barns and silos, and down to the rivers to fish. They found people there, and tried to speak with them, pointing to the rivers. These rivers flow through our lands, and these waters are ours, the Maylupa would say, and the strangers would peer at them, confused. When the strangers opened their mouths and gestured with their hands, the Maylupa realized, to their horror, that they did not speak the same language. Woven into their alien tongue was the tongue of the malevolent crop. The strangers shook their heads, pointing to the contraptions they had built along the riverbank to trap fish. When the Maylupa tried to take the traps, or demand part of the catch, the people drove them out.

The Maylupa retreated. The next day, hungry and thirsty, they ventured in another direction and came to another group of strangers. But the closer they got, the more horrified they became. The strangers spent the day bent to the ground, moving in rows through the earth, as if whispering amongst themselves. Before the strangers could look up from their task to spot them, the Maylupa had fled.

All around them, the world turned traitor. The Maylupa realize they are a relic. Nobody speaks their tongue. They sink to their knees and beat their breasts, tearing into pieces the yellowing paper that was witness to their dominion over these plantations. 

The fields rustle, whisper to each other. Beneath them, the blood and bones of the tillers comingled with the soil, feeding the worms, nourishing the vegetation. It will only be a matter of time before the Maylupa grow hungry enough to dig for the root crop, harvest the corn, boil and chop and sink their teeth into the starchy flesh. They will be changed, in time. 

This literary piece is part of Katitikan Issue 3: (Re) Imaginations.

By Erika Carreon

Erika M. Carreon co-founded Plural Online Journal and co-runs with Neobie Gonzalez the indie art page Occult’s Razor, under which they had produced A Descending Order of Mortal Significance, one of the best Filipino books of 2017 according to CNN Philippines. Her poems and short stories have appeared in High Chair, Kritika Kultura, Philippines Free Press and Anomaly Journal. Her work will also appear in Sigwa: Climate Fiction Anthology from the Philippines and Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines (both forthcoming 2021). She provided artwork for Adam David’s zine, The Nature of Beasts vol. 1, and illustrated Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles’s poetry collection Chi. She is currently taking her PhD at the University of Melbourne with a special interest in ecofiction.

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