« First Motor Vehicle Service | Main | 38 - Suicides »

The Scrivener: Pictures In The Dark

...The boy watched his father make a burning fire-stick to carry when they walked cautiously over the uneven ground into the cool darkness of Keua. At first, he could see only the rough surfaces and the shapes of the natural rock. Gradually, the magic of other-place took hold of him by the faint light of the flame he could discern animals...

Brian Barratt brings a second chapter of what life was like for the first humans as they tried to understand and make sense of their world.

Before enjoying this chapter you should read or re-read Brian's memorable first episode of the human story http://www.openwriting.com/archives/2013/07/together_with_t.php#more

There was this-place. It was where they walked, stood, sat, talked, built shelters, cooked, ate, slept, made a family. Here.
There was that-place. It surrounded this-place on all sides. It had animals, trees, streams, rocks, caves, perhaps all of them. There.

There was far-far-place. It was after the edge of the land, where the sun went during the dark-time when they slept. Beyond.

And there was other-place.

In the half-warmth of the communal shelter with smells of people and wood-smoke, the boy Suaoi woke from his sleep. Adults were snoring and grunting; children were quiet apart from an occasional quiet whimper. Through the entrance, he could see Sawell, which is how they named the sun, coming back after its journey through far-far-place. He looked across to where the adults were sleeping and saw that his father Me-Per was also waking up.

Suaoi had been dreaming. 'I saw animals', he told his father.

Me-Per understood. 'That is other-place'.

'I was this-place,' replied the puzzled boy.

'Your creature-body this-place. You other-place.'

The boy had questions but did not know how to ask them. He did not have words for this knowledge. He could not make the pictures in his mind.

Me-Per knew that his son was becoming a man. He should be told the words and secrets of other-place. He spoke to Gheu-Per, the shaman. When Gheu-Per ate certain leaves and drank certain liquids, he closed his eyes, shook his body violently, and went other-place. His words were the words of the animals. They were also the words of people who had gone other-place and did not return, the ancestors. Gheu-Per had the knowledge of other-place.

'I will take you to Keua, the hole in the rock,' Me-Per told his son. Suaoi knew of the hole-of-no-light, but he had never been allowed to enter it. It was not a place for children. His mother Dhe had told him that if he went there he would die. As a boy, he did not fully understand 'die' but now, becoming a man, he was told that it was a door of other-place. His father's words frightened him.

Me-Per picked up a piece of flint, a smooth stone, and a lump of animal fat, putting them into his animal-skin carrying pouch. He told his son to bring two strong tree-sticks and a strip of dried animal-meat. Together, they set off for that-place.

They knew nothing of spacing miles or kilometres but Suaoi knew that this was a long walk. They knew nothing of counting hours or minutes but they could see that Sawell was above them in the high sky when they reached Keua.

The boy watched his father make a burning fire-stick to carry when they walked cautiously over the uneven ground into the cool darkness of Keua. At first, he could see only the rough surfaces and the shapes of the natural rock. Gradually, the magic of other-place took hold of him by the faint light of the flame he could discern animals.

Streaks and lines of the black, umber, sienna, ochre, red and white of earths and rocks, powdered, perhaps burned, mixed with water, made pictures of the creatures which lived around them and with them. The creatures which could sometimes kill them and which they sometimes killed and used for meat and covering and even for the fat which was now burning a flame for them to see in the darkness. They both feared and respected these fellow-creatures.

Suaoi stared silently. This was different, strange.

Me-Per told him about the 'liep', the spirit that lives on after death: 'The creature-body dies. It does not move. The creature-liep does not die. It moves.' The men made pictures on the rock to give new creature-bodies to lieps, which came to other-place for the pictures. They lived again in the pictures. Other-place is dark. There is another dark. When people close their eyes and sleep and it is dark they are at other-place and see the animals move again.

They made their way back to the cave entrance. Sawell the sun was going over the edge of the land to far-far-place. They made a fire for warmth during the dark-time, ate the dried meat they had brought with them and the nuts and berries which trees had given to them along the way, curled up on the earth, and slept. Suaoi had new pictures.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2013.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.