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Into the Woods
The spicy fragrance of the Danga wood smoke swirled around him. His underdeveloped brain barely put the chanting Elders’ actions in proper context: Three Leaves gazed at him, the ancient shaman’s wild eyes and tumult of white hair heightening Valoosh’s barely contained alarm. Three Leaves once said in their creaky hissing voice, “There are many things you will come to know of our world, more than your father-God, but never will you know as much as We.” Valoosh had shivered at the declaration — never really knowing what frighted him most that Three Leaves’ always made cryptic declarations like that, or that they always referred to themselves in the plural, and it wasn’t lost on Valoosh that he was doing it also — and then ran into Salange’s comforting embrace. Valoosh wished he could do that now.
The precocious five-year-old sat in the center of a ring of fire. Three Leaves twirled his knurled fingers, making a complex siglum in the air, and by some unseen force, the blue haze peppered with glowing embers coalesced, slithering along magically through the air towards him. The sweet, fruity smell of the burning Danga wood made Valoosh dizzy. He was glad that he was sitting, because he would have certainly fallen over from the assault on his nose.
Father Valoola had said it would be safe, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Now Valoosh wasn’t sure he believed him anymore.
Wa:TaTa Salange had said, “Your father King had to go through the same thing, my son, and he was terrified as well. But look,” They had pointed to Valoola standing on the dais at the center of the Jungle Home. Valoola stood above The People, regal and powerful.
They continued, “Valoosh you were still a forming in my belly when the first of the Mud people landed in their enormous flying caves. The People were terrified, but Valoola gave them hope. Brief attacks by the OohLoo after the demons landed. That scared the Mud people so badly that they stopped their explorations of our sacred forest. This kept the existence of The People secret. Someday, The People will view you as their strong and respected leader. Already you are the future hope of The People, because of your connection to The Great Mother. You are the living prophecy. Someday you will proudly lead us to the new land.”
Valoosh had looked at him dubiously, but accepted their praise and encouragement. So now Valoosh sat there in the center of a ring of fire, letting the smoke swirl about him, the droning chants of the elders filling his ears, hoping that he would not die of suffocation. The smoke swirled faster, coalescing into a gassy cylindrical plume. A thick blackish tube of horizontal undulation, forming a point, slithering along the air, seeking a target to lance him.
The making was about to be made. He is to be anointed the next Oonoo Tana. Valoosh waited for confirmation. The evidence they said would be obvious. He wasn’t sure he believed that either, but by the time he had summoned the courage to face his father and Wa:TaTa, it had been too late.
The smoke engulfed him. Before he could react, the vision threw him flat on his back. Valoosh lay there on the ground, looking up into the hazy pink of the early evening sky. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. A hush descended upon the clearing. Valoosh raised his head to see why the elders had stopped chanting, only to find that no one was there. He looked to the right, then to the left: the Jungle home was empty.
He could feel the rumble before he heard it. The temperature of the cool, moist, red earth rose. The cool clay that always comforted him changed to scorching sand that swirled around his bare feet. Sand: he realized suddenly that it had transported him outside the safety of the of the Jungle home. Around him, there were hide-covered hovels of indeterminate sizes.
The Tent City of Long View, he thought. Just outside the edge of the of the forest line, the village enjoyed the cool shade of the tall trees, but beyond the village, beyond the flat plains to the north shifting sands. He had only been told stories of Wa:TaTa Salange and Three Leave’s home. This matched the descriptions perfectly. As he took in the sight, a powerful gust of air swept the tents away, falling to the gritty terrain in a whoosh of red sand and dust, leveling the tent city. The wave of hot air caught his little body, also throwing him into the air.
The vision grew in scope, encompassing much of the gamboge firmament. In the sky, four hulking otherworldly monsters descended through the red-gold sky. As they moved overland, they broke apart, speeding off in different directions. Valoosh closed his eyes, and it came to him. He knew the locations of the other landings. But before he could concentrate, the burgeoning vision dispersed like delicate Fillo leaves whisked into a golden eddy by a persistent wind. The lowest most point of the ship nearest him angled down.
Valoosh could see the sharp teeth of three large grinding disks, attached to a spinning spit, each disk rotating in opposing concentric circles, made of a dull reddish material that Valoosh could not identify. The point impaling the desert bosom of The Great Mother fifty meters away, stabbing and slicing deep into the warm cockles of her heart: The Great Mother screamed.
Her voice rumbled along the land. In seconds, Valoosh perceived the hiccup of fear as The Mother attempted desperately to defend herself against the onslaught. Though he could not see clearly because of the descending hulk as it buried itself into the ground, he could see the growing cloud of red pollen as it ascended into the firmament and knew what it had to be. The World — The Great Mother — was about to die.
* * *
In his long life, Valoosh had not known The Great Mother to cry so, again. Valoola had told him the truth of Valoosh’s vision. The Great Mother had suffered a near mortal injury that day. We feared she would never speak to us again. He only realized the fact that she may die, even though he experienced many visions prior to that night, the night of his making.
Fortunately, she recovered. The wounds scabbed over by the persistent breath that blew the red sands of time, though the Mud-Ones remained. Their flying caves four tumors to be incised and removed from The Mother’s essence. Valoosh remembered the vision clearly, as if it had happened yesterday. That was the principal gift of an Oonoo Tana and the burden. But he used his knowledge to train and control the OohLoo and it Densa. He resolved to join all the tribes of the Great Forest and beyond and excise the pestilence from The Great Mother.
Valoosh looked out across the top of the trees, the air rushing to greet him with the sweet smells of the jungle. He stood at the precipice of greatness. Figuratively and literally, before him, stretching off in every direction a vast ocean of green; treetops dancing in the breeze, humming the melodic sounds of flapping leaves.
Bright light gods glistening off the panels of clear sun stone of the place beyond the Great Forest. An unnatural structure built by the Mud-Ones, the place they call The Glass Cathedral. The two Sun gods took turns brushing caressing fingers of heat around his solid physique, softly warming his red-brown skin; the color of the mountains. Valoosh — he who is Son-of-Stone harnesses its strength — stood on the precipice, awaiting his legacy of greatness, knowing it would appear. The People would remember all of his triumphs for many seasons. Stories would be told of Valoosh’s greatness. The world’s forever change will be my doing. I will be the facilitator.
With knowing eyes the color of the vast green ocean of vegetation before him, Valoosh looked out beyond the forest, letting his gaze fall to the horizon. He could not see them, but he knew they were there. The Mud-Ones. When he was a boy, The Sky Father banished them from his realm. Ordering them to live amongst us, they came in their sky caves, slashing into the Great Mother’s womb with grinding blades, nearly killing her. It sickened him to reflect on it now.
As if sensing his distress, one of the pearly white heads of the OohLoo popped out of the tree canopy, catching Valoosh’s attention. Even from such a distance, Valoosh could tell that it was Vasha. The OohLoo Densa climbed higher, rising out of and above the dense canopy of the Danga trees, then stood up, balancing itself on the uppermost limbs, strong and proud above the forest. It stared at Valoosh and then matched his stance. Wavering slightly as it rolled its four fingers and opposing thumb into a semblance of a fist and placed its balled hands about its hips. Valoosh smiled. That is what my ancestors missed, the OohLoo’s intelligence. Densa, you tell me with your actions that you are also a brilliant and noble chief as well.
The grove before him were the tallest in the forest of the tall Danga trees, and they thrive on all the land of The People, from the red, sandy shore of the Uun Dana Hoout Tum all the way to the flatland, from the Great Sea beyond the end of land to here, at the feet of High Red Rocks. The trees nearly reaching the summit of the temple ridge upon which Valoosh stood.
Yet still, I am even above you, Densa. He smiled at this. He was Oonoo Tana of all, none other. They are staunch friends to The People. My ancestors should have recognized the OohLoo’s strength and intelligence and used it. The little creature’s hunting skills are equal to our own. They only need guidance. If the ancestors had used them, the Mud-ones would not have gained such a strong foothold on our land beyond the trees.
Valoosh Tama, The Saiva of The People, Oonoo Tana for all actual humans, took a deep breath of the clean air. Sucking in deep, he filled his lungs, his hard, muscled chest expanding to take in as much of the sweet, fruity freshness of the surrounding jungle as he was able. It made him feel powerful. He could feel the rejuvenating tingle zipping through his tall frame. He looked down on the Jungle Home. Many of his people, The People, the true humans, The Great Mother’s true children, the glistening rocky red color of their skin shimmering in the Sun God’s glory, were out this morning. The inner courtyard crackled with unbridled energy as they prepared for the judgment of the captured Mud-One. They captured a Mud-One who survived until they arrived at the Jungle Home. Valoosh hadn’t laid eyes upon the vile thing, chose not to, deferring to the Mother, but Valoosh had to admit: I’m eager! We will deliver him to the Mother. We will let her decide.
Valoosh turned and re-entered the temple face. The elaborately carved mouth would scare every Mud-one infiltrator. Valoosh chuckled to himself. If they live to see the sacred face of The Great Mother’s home, even if they possessed the knowledge to find their way here, they would never return to their brethren again. The mouth — a stone replica of the OohLoo deity — yawned before him, long, pointy incisors spearing the air above Valoosh’s head. Its eyes, the fiery red yellow of the Sun Stone, blazed in the glaring rays of the Sun Gods. Or because of them, Valoosh didn’t know. Immediately inside, a welcoming room, wide and ornately decorated, for the Oonoo Tana. He glanced around, taking in the various riches his tribe had gained over the generations. The accumulation brought the distressing thoughts to the surface. I must take a mate soon. It has been put off for too long; I must take a mate soon, and before the end of the Warm Cycle, if I don’t it shall be the end of my line. I cannot let that happen. But there had been no one, at least none, that he wanted. Even the neighboring tribes were sorely lacking in candidates. I can’t allow such things to command my thoughts. I want to shepherd my people through this. He lifted a torch from its sheath and descended the stairs. We will need to clean the disgusting creature first. Hopefully, the Wa:TaTa’s can manage it to The Mother’s instructions.
A column of air swept down the spiral well of stairs, thrumming its way down to the lower depths. The Great Mother waited. She had been waiting an exceedingly long time for Valoosh to become one with the world. And he still had no mate, something he needed to ascend to such greatness.
When he reached the bottom, the stillness surprised him, as it always did. The Great Mother floated at the opposite end of the vast cavern just inside, in front of the impossible window as she always has. She always knew when they would meet. Behind her, a large window looked out into an improbable sight. A grassy knoll rolled along to a cliff, a white structure stood there, a squat hovel, next to the hovel a tall, slender spire with a brilliant sun atop winking on and off, beyond the cliff a vast blue ocean.
Her fiery red hair and the white fabric wrapping her slender alabaster figure billowed about, moving to the breeze of an unfelt wind. She smiled at him with an undeniable love, and he reciprocated her feelings.
“The wheels turn, my son. Preparations must begin.”
The thought came to his mind unbidden. The World is about to die, again.
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