I need you, my love. I'll be joining you shortly, wherever you are, but now I need you to provide me with the strength to survive these few days we've got left here. My attention falters, my legs fail to sustain me, and I can't help getting distracted by the strange, but now familiar, sight above my head. It's the third time today that the sudden whisper of a familiar voice takes my attention off the heights. But even as I try to concentrate on the familiar work, the careful choices of herbs and fluids, the seemingly pointless processing we've all grown so accustomed to, my mind keeps tuning back to the past, wandering off into a time and place where the sky was very different from what I see now, a time and place where I saw our lost sky for the last time.
I remember I had been hunting with Ilege that day. Tears fail to come to my eyes anymore, as I remember our strong, courageous, sweet Ilege. We had been very successful in that trip, and managed to bring back a baby tucara. Remember how you liked eating the tender meat? Remember how rare an event it was, that it hardly ever happenned in our village once in five winters?. Ilege had just started accompanying me in my hunting exits that winter, so he was very excited about the event. Little did we know, it would be our last hunt together.
We knew that there was something wrong when we realized that we didn't hear the usual voices singing as we approached the village. I remember clearly how I took Ilege deep into the forest, and instructed him to hide himself and the tucara as best as he could, making no noise. I remember the acute fear that we both felt. Fear as anticipation to grief. We were in peace with all the other villages at that time, but you never know when one of them will be overtaken by their greed and make an attempt to take from others by force. A fight would follow. And whenever there is a fight, there is death, and whenever there is death, there is anger, hate and grief, painful, painful grief.
Carefully, I approached the village, making no noise, as if I were stalking a prey, the way I had learnt from my father so long ago. As I neared the end of the forest, I started hearing a very strange humming sound, unlike anything I had ever heard before, and as soon as I was close enough to see through the vegetation, I realized this was no raid from any neighbours. Our village looked peaceful. I didn't see anything move at first, but I couldn't fail to notice the strange hut that sat in the middle of the village. At least, at first I thought it was a hut, although it didn't look like one. I had never seen anything like it before. It was huge, square. One of its walls was missing, but the interior was dark.
I noticed movement and then I saw two people near the new hut. They were big, bulky figures without a face. Their skin was very strange, like water, almost, although it looked like it'd be hard to the touch. They seemed to be talking, although I couldn't see any mouths, and looking down to the ground, pointing at several places as they slowly walked towards me. Suddenly, they turned around, and began walking the other way. I waited a few moments, visually assessing the situation, and shot out of the forest, towards the shelter of one of the huts. Nobody seemed to have heard me, and after a few more moments, I approached a corner of the hut, and carefully peered at the center of the village, where the new hut was standing.
What I saw caused a shudder to run through my whole body. I could see all the villagers, friends and relatives, old, young and children. I could see the chief. After a few frightening moments, I found you laying there, among all the other familiar bodies. Lifeless. You were all neatly laying on the ground, in rows, as if someone had bothered to arrange a display of victories for his own amusement. I felt the tug of rage flowing through my veins as I watched the desolate panorama composed of almost everybody I had ever loved, hated, argued with, laughed with, hunted with or cared for. I also felt the overwhelming weight of the grief that was beginning to sink into my heart, slowly but steadily, unstoppable. And then I felt an apalling numbness race through my body as I fell to the ground. I didn't feel any pain when I hit the dirt, nor did I feel the hands that must have carried me over and carefully laid me down besides the others. It was then when I last saw it, before the darkness came upon me and I lost the sense of time. Up there. I wish I could remember what it was like, that last day. Probably white, full of clouds, as it would have been normal during that season. But I didn't even know it would be the last time, and all I could grieve about was you, Veluni, and Ilege, alone in the forest, and Odel and little Nimore, and me.
As soon as the work for the day is finished, we all head back to our huts. Some of us still can't bring ourselves to call our huts 'homes', even after all the time that has gone by since the skinny people built them for us. I enter the hut where we lived for so long, as always, avoiding direct contact with the cold, hard surface of the wall. As I cross the entrance, light sowly fires up inside, like it always does. I hardly ever notice that anymore. I look at the wall in front of me, cold, hard, strange, and remember that other frightening wall I felt when I woke up and saw your face staring at me.
I didn't notice the wall at first. I was feeling dizzy. As soon as my vision cleared a little and I saw you, over me, crying, I realized you were not dead. I called out your name, and you grabbed me in your arms and did not let me go for a long time. We both lauged and cried a lot then, remember?. As I recovered the use of my own body, I slowly got up, my back against that freezing surface, your arms around my neck, and began searching with my eyes, fearing to ask or even think about the two little ones. But they were there too, Odel sitting on the floor, Nimore in her arms, looking at us with big eyes.
I gently disengaged from your embrace, and went over to where they were sitting. I took little Nimore into my arms. He was asleep, I could feel the familiar pushing of his chest breething against mine. I pulled Odel towards me and embraced her too. She didn't say a word then. At the time, I didn't know that she wouldn't speak for such a long time. I told you about Ilege, how he stayed out there in the forest, with the tucara, which would provide him with food for the rest of the winter. I reminded you that he knew how to build his own shelter in the forest, conserve his food, hunt when the need came and how he knew the way to move silently and avoid predators and enemies as well as I did. I told you he would be happy, and grow old, and have a family of his own. I hope I was right.
We haven't been able to count the winters since then. They stole our sky, and never returned it to us. We'll never know how long they kept us inside that cage. Nimore keeps saying that it was just one day, most of it spent unconscious, but I don't know if I should believe him anymore. He's become very distant lately. We all made futile plans for assaulting our captors, not knowing a better way to act in that situation. When the skinny people opened the cage, I was sitting on the floor, with my back to that awful wall, holding you all close. We were all scared. The cage had started shaking wildly around a few moments before, so we couldn't stand up. But everything stopped and then bright light was coming out of the open door, and we all came outside to the place that has become our 'home' since then.
I slowly walk towards our bed. The bed where you died in my arms. The bed where we shared so much. I can barely crawl into it, now. I'm old, my bones are very tired, but I must resist a little longer. I'm much older than my father was when he died. Nimore says it's because of the skinny people. He says they have made us live longer, so that some of us could see the sky again. He came yesterday to visit. He was very excited. He says it's a matter of days now. I hope he's right. I just wish I could understand him when he speaks of his life with the skinny people. He lives with them now, like most of the men and women of his age. He's strong and intelligent. I'd be proud of him if I could understand what he accomplishes. But I can't.
He says we're about to arrive somewhere, even though we don't move from our village. And he can't stop talking about some kind of 'empty place' that the skinny people have somewhere. That empty place seems to be something wonderful to him. He enjoys going there. Somehow I have the feeling that it's all right, that he really understands many things, better than the most of us. I hope that the skinny people can really understand the world better, and that they have taught him their knowledge. He spoke again about our old sky. He keeps saying that it doesn't exist any more, that a huge fire consumed all that we ever knew before the skinny people took us. I... I try not to think of Ilege when Nimore talks like that. It hurts too much, but he sees it in my eyes. He says it's not so bad. He says Ilege probably lived to see and teach his own children, and died old, and probably had a thousand descendants by the time the fire consumed them all. I can't find comfort in his words. There are so many things that he says that sound wrong...
He also says that the skinny people will not stay with us and our new sky. They'll stay here, in this strange world without a sky, looking for another sky, one more appropriate for them. He also says... he also says that he'll go with them. Some of the other young will go with the skinny people too. I wonder if the rest of the villagers know. I haven't told anyone, fearing to make them grieve sooner than is necessary. Maybe I should've. He says that the skinny people wish again to thank us for all we've done for them. He says they'd all be dead if it wasn't for our special saliva. He says they were all very fortunate to find us when they did. He also says we're fortunate to have been found, so that our descendants can live for many thousands of winters under a new sky.
I need to keep my energies now, and get some sleep. I need to be strong enough to see this new sky, to see that Odel and her children will be all right there. Then, I'll be able to give them up and go join you, wherever you are. We've been waiting for that long enough. Good night, my love. Wish me sweet dreams, dreams about the time when the tips of the two mountains will separate from over our heads, revealing a sky just as red and beautiful as I remember it. I'll see you soon, love. Sweat dreams to you too.
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Last updated: Thursday, 15-Nov-2001 00:59:57 PST