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The Scrivener: Together With Them

Brian Barratt brings us one of the most significant and prescient stories we are ever likely to read.

Crouched beneath a tree, the man Me-Per had been working on an animal he had caught and killed. Every part would be used the meat, offal, bones, sinews, blood and skin. His first son Suaoi watched carefully, learning, but he occasionally glanced up with innate alertness at the advancing clouds in the high sky.

Inside their shelter, the older woman, Dhe, spoke to her sister Swe. 'Meat. Fire. Eat.' Swe nodded, and called to the girl Ghwe, 'Food. All eat'. They all smiled and laughed because food times were good times.

Dhe called to her younger son Suadwo, 'Meat time!' and the little boy jumped up and down with excitement. 'Meat time good time!' he shouted.

Eventually, with the other men, women and children, they gathered round the fire in the communal shelter. Gheu-Per had pride of place in their circle. They called him 'god-chief' because of his great age and his knowledge of all things. He had seen the seasons change many times since he was born. He was also the guardian of the fire, which had given him its knowledge of burning and how to make it again if it died.
He held the knowledge of the other creatures which shared their land and he was passing this on to Me-Per to guide him in his tracking, catching and killing. They lived side by side with their fellow-creatures but their fellow creatures could also kill. Me-Per must pass on the creature knowledge to his son Suaoi because there would be more days and more seasons and there would be no Gheu-Per or Me-Per. Though Gheu-Per had special wisdom, they all knew in different ways about the round of life and death which never stops. Suaoi might become their leader and take the name Gheu-Per.

The clouds had darkened and moved towards them with a life of their own and were now above them. Even protected by their roof, they were alarmed when a dazzling flash of lightning, followed by a grumble of threatening thunder, attacked their place. They knew it could happen but they did not know how to prevent it. There was no escape from this anger which came from above. They had even given it a name, Tenna, for it was a living noise-beast. Some called it Gheu-Tenna, because it was more than a beast it could be a high sky noise being.

The thunder reverberated. The smaller children clung to their mothers. The older children tried to look strong and brave but they did not move. The adults peered up at the high sky which was now coming down upon them again. The water was falling. Sometimes when it fell, they were glad. At other times, they were frightened. Sometimes it brought life to the ground beneath them. At other times in a storm it brought damage and death.

'Where is Saawell?' asked Ghwe, for the sun had disappeared.

'You must ask Gheu-Per,' she was told. 'The wise one knows where Saawell goes when the high sky falls and when he sleeps in the time we sleep.' Gheu-Per knew the wisdom of Saawell and his partner Lunk, whose white disc of changing shape traversed the darkness when Saawell sank over the edge of the land, far far beyond them. There were many mysteries of eternal return which governed their lives.

As the storm passed by, he started chanting words of thanks to Tenna that they had been spared and to Saawell for reappearing in the high sky. They would soon eat together and chatter about what they had done in the light time and then sleep in the dark time while Lunk shone on them from the high sky which they would not be able to see but many small lights told them it was still there. And they would have dreams.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2013.

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