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A Far Away Heaven

by George Grubich

The people of the islands loved the lady. It’s true that she had a presence so large that at times she seemed to dwarf them and all that they did, all their entire race had ever accomplished in a long, eventful history. And she was white, as white as they were brown, or their islands green. Yet they loved her for what she was, and for what she tried to do for them.

But some of them hated her as well. Not for what she was, but for what she represented. For them she was a symbol of all that was wrong in their far away heaven. She was their serpent, their Satan, enticing the people from a simple happiness with promises that were never fulfilled. Stealing their independence and replacing it with the mirage of progress, then not even granting a full measure of that questionable boon.

For the lady’s courtiers were not Polynesian. They were Malays, Indonesians, and other imported people. Her consorts were Europeans, Norwegians this time not the French, but still the Palangi. Still the same race that had taken Paradise from them, that ruled their lands as they ruled the lady.

Yet even those who hated she represented could find room in their hearts to love the lady herself. She was beautiful, and the two thousand years of seafaring blood that ran through their veins would sing whenever they watched her leave port and raise sail. They called her Viatata, The Twilight Water.

Also, a few of them had begun to see her as a possible solution to their most pressing problem, as a way to finally make their voices heard and their grievances known. Hardly anyone from the outside paid much attention to grievances in paradise. Certainly not the plump, garish tourists who were usually too overwhelmed by the beauty of the islands to even consider that someone might not be happy here. Nor the foreign crew members who were too busy trying to help those tourists forget about any grievances so they would be generous with their tips. And especially not the overlords themselves, who still considered it their right to rule, and their duty to take care of their “island children.” It was unthinkable that there might be trouble in paradise, and that was the trouble. But soon they would all learn that paradise could be lost.