Thinking about the next chapter
I’m going to ask you to create a picture in your mind. Close your eyes. It might help.
Rocky grey hills stretching up towards the sky with a singular thought – touch the sky. Grassy knolls surviving on ledges where top soil had previously settled, having been brought here by heavy torrential rainfall that is common to this place. Trees growing from the cracks in rocks, their roots delving ever deeper drinking cool drops of water that are still hiding from the world. The trees cling to the side of the rocky mountains growing straight towards the sky, long branches stretched in eternal worship to the sun. The steep green valley plunges down several hundred feet from the top to a rushing river that bounces off big boulders that plummeted down the valley in years gone by, making laughing jovial sounds as it races to its destination. It ends in a shimmering lake whose edge is just visible around one great hill in the distance.
The morning air is cool and heavy with the wetness of the mist that rests on the hills till the sun rises and chases it all away. In the afternoon the sun is so high in the sky, all that is left of your shadow is a small oblong shape under your feet that occasionally sticks out it’s arms and legs in mock imitation of your own movements. The heat of the day ebbs as the day wanes. People and other creatures alike venture out, usually ending up in the market square squabbling over the prices of fresh colourful food. At night each star a glittering gem on a dark velvet canvas etches its nightly path over the sky, sending messages of peace, love and impending doom to searching sages hidden in their towers.
Here life grows full and lush, as though the land is infused with powerful growth hormones. Birds chirp and build their nests with vigour, stopping only to take a quick splash in the river or some other little pool where they can cool off. Children race up and down the valleys calling to each other in playful voices and competing with each other to defeat the old Ngungu tree that is older than the oldest person’s memory in the valley.
This is the land where my great-grandfather’s great-grandfather, Chumbusho, was born.
West beyond the last mountainous hills of the valley, a great forest that stretched as far as the eye could see, covered the sibling hills. Tales of shapless terrors that ripped flesh off bone were told to children, a warning that anyone who entered the woods would not leave alive. Not since Fruha’s rebellion had anyone ventured further than a couple of feet inside the forest. Reckless teenagers testing their bravery would dare each other to enter the forest. Diiru’s middle son, Ewuno and a number of his friends had raced home last harvest season with the fire of fear in their eyes. Apparently Ewuno had been challenged to relieve himself on one of the trees that stood just beyond the edge of the forest. While he did, his friends cheered him on and when he was done – according to them – the tree had lifted a large root and tripped him. Ewuno added various details depending on his audience, a dark shadowy spook for little children, a beast that watched him from the branches that stared him down was saved for the ladies.
Chumbusho was Ewuno’s younger brother, and his most faithful servant. Even though he was not allowed to play with the big boys and strictly forbidden from listening to their conversation, Chumbusho could always be found lurking somewhere near his brother. At night he would bring Ewuno’s blanket to him and he would be rewarded with a warm snuggle till he fell asleep. His dreams would be filled with the incredible stories Ewuno whispered to him as bedtime stories. Chumbusho would have happily served Ewuno for the rest of his life.
The harvest after the Great Chief died, Ewuno and his friends ventured towards the forest once again, the memory of their previous scare entirely forgotten. Ewuno’s account of their previous adventure had been stretched to a ridiculous epic that had morphed into a tale that made him a warrior with experience beyond his years and his friends had been written out. Feeling chaffed that his story was being challenged, Ewuno had challenged his friends to do what he had done, asking them to each pick a tree on which to ease themselves.
As usual, Chumbusho was following them, ducking from tree to tree so Ewuno would not see him. The older boys jostled one another as they walked along, teasing Juum who would be married in three months to a girl he had been sweet on for seventeen months. Eventually they arrived at a grassy clearing where some large mango trees grew that were heavy laden with ripe juicy fruit. They flopped beneath the trees in the cool shade and one lanky limbed friend climbed up one of the trees to cut down some mangoes for them to eat. Chumbusho chose a large tree along the footpath, careful to avoid the large red biting ants that raced between the grass blades. He watched their journey away from the base of the tree, carrying larvae on their backs and butting against one another. The soldier ants raced along with the worker ants that carried the larvae, occasionally stopping to check for holes in the protective wall that ran along each side of the path they had chosen.
A large green eye above him slowly opened and watched.
The sudden quiet startled him and he looked around the tree to see if Enuwo and his friends were still in the clearing. The large eye closed quickly. The older boys sat scattered about the clearing, long limbs bathing in the sun, thirstily absorbing each ray into their dark mahogany skin.
Saftisfied for the moment Chumbusho turned back to the red ants.
Slowly the large eye seemed to open in another part of the tree, carefully watching. Hardly a leaf rustled as it watched Chumbusho. Other eyes opened above following his movements as he followed the path of the ants.
The feeling of being watched came slowly over Chumbusho who turned around quickly and asked, “Who is there?”
No reply came. The eyes were all shut.
Slowly Chumbusho turned towards the tree and slowly looked up, afraid of what might be there that had raised his hackles so frightfully. One eye glinted from between the leaves, catching a ray of light. Suddenly a thousand eyes opened in the tree, each one green and curious centered in the middle of the large leaves of the dunfin tree.
Before he could let out a yelp, a long vine fell from the tree and wrapped itself tightly around his ankles, suddenly toppling him over, making his back hit a raised root and knocking the wind out of him. Another vine wrapped itself around his mouth muffling out his terrified screams. Chumbusho’s hands desperately pulled at the vine searching for a weak point to break it, but could find none. Many vines followed, tying him up and making him helpless. They lifted him up into the tree and the thousands of eyes watched as frantic tears streamed down his cheeks.
Soon he heard Ewuno and his friends getting up from the clearing contining on their journey. The sound of their footsteps rustling the grass and their cheerful conversation eventually faded.
(Where is Chapter Two?)