The dark hall was silent as the speaker approached the podium. His shiny black shoes sounded on the marble floor. Our eyes moved with him in envy and anticipation. His shoes were exceptionally beautiful. None of us knew why he was at the monastery, but the high bells had chimed and that meant it was an urgent gathering. I put my foraging basket down where I was when they began singing and started towards the hall. I wouldn’t want to be the last one there. She might get angry.

Daughters were still arriving through the arched doors as I sat down on a burgundy floor cushion. I waited for the man to tell us why he was there. By this time I was looking around nervously at my sisters. I did not like to be surprised. Unpredictability was dangerous. It moulded people like clay. The hall was a flurry of whispers. The man raised a slender hand to ask for silence. He was about to speak. He then said he was a “halfie”. I then knew it must mean he was half wizard, half whittled quill. Words poured from his lips like silken ink. They had so much power, like they could conjure the future. The man had an ancient soul. He must have been so much older than he looked. “I was born with fish sauce in my veins…” he began, and spun on the balls of his feet in the oldest dance. All the other Daughters sat in ignorance, but I knew what he was doing. Breath rushed to escape my mouth in terrified wonder. Hairs raised on the back of my neck in bumpy unison. He couldn’t speak words from The Book Of Time or our vow to the ground would be forgotten.


“Stop it at once, Quintet!” All faces whipped towards her. She came into the hall ablaze with fury. “You know never to speak those words or do that dance in my monastery!” Her robes of red were adorned with feathers and sparkling gems. Grey hair framed her sharp features in a silver cloud. Her talons matched her bloody robe. Not a whisper was heard from the Daughters. The Goddess had arrived. “They need to be free” the man declared. “Muddy feet and calloused hands are not liberation. They are proof of enslavement to an archaic way while you bathe in the luxury of modernity. At least give them shoes, mother! Why do you dress them in rags and expect them to reach a higher understanding?” Did he just call her mother? Surely not, she was a mother to Daughters alone.

The Goddess advanced towards the podium. She was livid. “How dare you talk like this in front of my children! How dare you summon with the high bells? So many rules have been broken!” I have often thought The Goddess beautiful when she is not furious. It is unfortunate that she is furious in most cases. A vein throbbed angrily in her neck. “Please mother!” he pleaded. “Do not do this any longer. It is uncivilised for you to keep them this way. The true Daughterhood calls only for bare feet to forever walk the ground. Do not oppress them further. It is immoral!” I felt a growing discomfort in my gut. I had to interrupt. “Why do you speak for us when you know not what we want.” I suddenly found myself to be the only one standing in the hall besides the two. I looked down at my muddy feet and calloused hands and realised that it was not my place, but I had already spoken.”

Deborah Emmanuel

Author: Deborah Emmanuel

Deborah Emmanuel is a writer and performer from Singapore. She has worked with The Singapore Repertory Theatre, OKTO and Disney. Her poetry has been heard at TEDx Singapore, The Cooler Lumpur Festival in Kuala Lumpur and The Queensland Poetry Festival in Brisbane. Her work is striking and intimate, painting deeply personal pictures with imagery and rhythm. Her music project Wobology has performed around the region dispersing their dub electronic vibes while she continues to explore the use of song in her poetry as a way to create more complex sounds. You can find her at www.deborahemmanuel.com