Winged Magic: Unseen Eyes Watch Over Gunung Mulu

Head to the hinterland of Malaysian Borneo and Gunung Mulu presents itself. Suitably obscure – at least in terms of access – and stretching high and long into the environs beyond, the national park is a muggy, cloying expanse of… something. Away from the river and the bats and the tribes and the mostly inaccessible peaks lies great magic and mystery.

The same can be said for the rest of Borneo, of course, but it’s here that the jungle spirits are at their most joyful, most playful, most present. The sounds and vibrations – cicadas on the edge of darkness – paint the locale in a sultry, unknowable hue. A message is constantly communicated but only the most receptive are tuned to its frequency.

The traveller walks down a dark street at night. They are alone and they have no lights to guide them. Behind them, the park seems to change shape as the flora adjusts to the rapidly receding light. The eyes have become sterner, the unseen gaze more dominant. All are blind in the jungle kingdom, and the humans know when to stay away.

Still, the traveller feels safe and warm. The lack of light is a blessing, not a hindrance, as, unwittingly, they follow a firefly down the street. Darkness abounds only for an instant; the single fly stops and multiplies. First to two, then to four then to countlessness… lost in an unthinking gaze, the traveller can barely comprehend the undulating luminescence unfolding before them. Two giant fields have come alive with light, the creatures floating as one; they share the same rhythm, the same concentric paths. There is not a sound to be heard; even the incessant cicadas have fallen silent in the face of this tiny winged tableau. Most likely the traveller has been lulled into insensibility, living only for the moment in communion with the fireflies. 

For a split second, what lies beyond come forth and envelops the traveller. They understand the gesture and thank the jungle for sharing so intimate a moment.

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