It started on a cold night, during the time the sky fire makes its long journey beyond the mountains of the South. For many moons, we will not see its light or feel its warmth. The cold, white, rains will cover our world once again. The season of sky fire is short. We work without stopping to put away food and fuel while it stays with us. When it leaves us, in a short time, the plants will disappear beneath the white blankets. Animals will go deep into hiding. All we will have to sustain us is the supplies we put away.
This is the way it was for my father and his father going back to the root of our people. We all know the way. The way to life is the same as it was for those who came before us. We know the long, cold darkness will be hard. Many will die, though not all. When the sky fire comes again to visit, we will start anew in the time of plenty.
“Topa, what are we to do about the strangers who camp among us and watch as we work?” asks Awko. “What do they put away? What will they eat? Where will they live? Do they not know the way?”
“It is on my back to carry the way Awko. If you fight me, you will die. You know the truth in my words.”
Our people are fat and browned from the days of endless sky fire. We are stout from fighting the monsters of the sea. Our women are sturdy from gathering plants and roots. Their skin is soft from boiling the meat and fat of the monsters we kill. These things will be our food and fuel in the time of the long, cold, darkness.
What of the strangers? With their skinny, hairless bodies, will they not feel the cold? We did not see them eat in the time of plenty, nor did they put away food or fuel. Instead, they watch us with those big eyes as we work. All they do is make black tracks on white leaves, while they watch.
Our people are afraid the strangers will want our food and fuel. There is not enough for us. We must guard what we have. The young men want to kill the strangers now, before the dying starts and our people are weak.
I am the oldest and strongest warrior. I carry the wisdom of the way. It is upon my back to carry the way, so that our people can go on. There is no wisdom in the words of the young men. They speak not with their heads, but from their bellies. It is on my back to carry the way. The strangers are not part of the way. They did not eat our food in the time of plenty. If they do not want our food or fuel, they are not our enemies. What will they do when the dying starts and we are weak?
The young men want to kill the strangers and put what little meat is on their bones in our mouths. They want to carve the stranger’s bones into weapons, in case more like them come. It is on my back to carry the way. I will wait. I will watch the strangers as they watch us. If they do us no harm, I will do them no harm.
I fear the young men more than I fear the strangers. The young men want more than their share of the food and fuel. With no wisdom, they will kill us all. If they will not listen and obey, I will have to kill them, even my son. It is the way. The way is good for all. The way keeps the people alive.
The moment of my dreams has come. Awko is restless and angry with the strangers for being here without contributing to the community. He is the strongest young man and attempts to anger the other young men including my son. Awko thinks he should carry the way. We are half way through the long, cold, darkness. The time of dying is not upon us. Awko knows the way. Why does he listen to his belly?
One of his wives tries to restrain him as he rises to attack one of the strangers. She reminds Awko that the strangers do not eat our food. Awko rebukes her for siding with them. They bring nothing to share yet they enjoy the warmth of our fuel. That is reason enough. He pushes her down, breaking her arm. She cries out in pain. Awko’s anger grows stronger now.
I gather my lance. It is for fighting the monsters of the sea. I must now use it on Awko. It is the way. The way is good. The way keeps us alive.
One of the strangers holds back my arm from throwing the lance. Awko’s anger drives him forward. His knife cuts deep into the flesh of a stranger. The stranger does not cry out. The large watching eyes blinks once and it reaches out one finger. When the finger touches Awko, he falls to the floor of the lodge, as if dead. Awko is breathing, but does not move. The stranger touches the head of the wife; her broken arm is mended like new.
The stranger that prevented me from killing Awko crosses the room to the one who is cut and bleeding green blood. He puts his hand on the cut one’s head and the wound goes away. He then puts his hand on Awko’s head and Awko rises as he awakens. The stranger looks into Awko’s eyes and Awko feels shame. The stranger smiles. He extends a hand to Awko, producing a shiny stone. He gives the stone to Awko while pointing at the hearth of cooking. Awko places the shiny stone on the coals of the hearth. The small stone becomes red and as hot as fires used for cooking. The stone burns without stopping for weeks.
Awko and the young men make no more talk from their bellies. The strangers sit by themselves and watch the people, while making black tracks on their white leaves. I ration our food, according to the way.
When the food is near its end and the time of dying draws near, the stranger who held me back from killing Awko, puts his hand on the few scraps that remain. The scraps begin to grow and continue until there is more than we had at the start. He did the same for the reserve fuel we had. The stranger took my hand and smiled at me. I feel strong and young all over. Soon after, a bright light comes out of the North. It is brighter than the sky fire, but it is not warm. The strangers walk into the light. The light moves away past the mountains to the South, where the sky fire goes.
Awko grew old and died, as did his sons and their children. Yet I remain young and strong. The way is good. It is on my back to carry the way. The strangers did not come back to watch, we saw no more of them. Sometimes we see their light in the sky and remember them.
I tell the young ones about the strangers that watch us, from the sky, still. It is part of the way now. It is on my back to carry the way.
© Valormore De Plume
About the Author
Self educated, Valormore De Plume began writing in 2012. He entered the literary world in 2013 with his first published poem in an anthology. Since that time, through placing consistently in the top ranks of www.writerscafe.org writing competitions, Valormore’s fertile imagination continues to enthrall his followers with a wide variety of compelling short stories and his visionary poetry. Valormore’s second poetic anthology submission in 2016 to Creative Talents Unleashed was accepted and will be out at the end of June.
Interested in being a featured writer on our site? Visit our Featured Writer Submission Guidelines page to find out how you can become a featured writer.
Categories: Featured Writer's