…One evening, as she lay in her bed in the dark room, Esther heard her mother complaining that she spent all her time roaming around, and her father simply responded, “Let her be, these might be her last days…” Ever since then, those words had stuck in her mind: her last days… That was what lured her so irresistibly out of doors. That was what made the sky so blue, the sun so bright, the mountains and the grassy field so fascinating, so all-consuming. At the crack of dawn, Esther started watching the light through the chinks in the cardboard that blocked off the small ventilator window, she waited for the brief cries of birds to call to her, the twittering of sparrows, the shrill whistle of swifts inviting her to come outside. When she could finally open the door and go out into the fresh air in the street, with the icy stream running down the middle of the cobblestones, she had an extraordinary sensation of freedom, a feeling of limitless bliss. She could walk down to the last houses in the village, look out over the whole stretch of the valley - still immense in the morning mist - and her father’s words would fade away. The she’d start running through the big grassy field above the river, without even thinking of vipers, and she reached the place where the path led up toward the high mountains. That’s where her father went every morning, up into the unknown. Eyes blinded with the morning light, she tried to glimpse the highest peaks, the forest of larches, the gorges, the treacherous ravines. Below, on the floor of the valley, she could hear the voices of children in the river. They were busy catching crayfish, wading into the water up to their thighs, feet sunk deep in the sandy bottoms of the torrent’s pools. Esther could distinctly hear the girl’s laughing, their sharp calls, “Maryse! Maryse!…” She kept walking through the field until the voices and laughter grew faint, disappeared. On the other side of the valley rose the dark slope of the mountain, the screes of red-coloured rocks scattered with small thorn bushes. In the grassy field, the sun was already burning hot and Esther felt sweat running down her face, under her arms. Farther up, in the shelter of a few boulders, there was no wind, no breath, not a sound. That was what Esther came here for, that silence. When there was not a human sound to be heard, only the shrill whirring of insects, and the brief cry of a skylark from time to time, and the rustling grasses, Esther felt so fine. She listened to her heart beating with slow heavy thumps, she even listened to sound of the air coming out of her nostrils. She didn’t understand why she desired that silence. It was just simply right, it was necessary. And so, little by little, the fear dissipated. The sunlight, the sky in which all the clouds were just beginning to swell, and the vast grassy fields where the flies and the bees hung suspended in the light, the somber walls of the mountains and the forests, all of that would go on and on. It wasn’t the last day yet, she knew that then, all of it could still remain there, keep going, no one would stop it.
[Wandering Star, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]