Expiration: 05/2020: The Fable of Awa

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A curious young Amazonian prince seeks to unravel the ancient mysteries that have been veiled from the People of the Standing Stone.

Submitted: September 10, 2019

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Submitted: September 10, 2019

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“Should the fury of fire again come ‘round,
In ruin and confusion hurled,
Awa, unconcerned, would hear the mighty sound,
And stand amidst a falling world.”

-Translation of a song of the People

I.

Awa's brown face showed his revulsion and then his wonder. All around him were the scattered, charred bone fragments of an annihilated people. Ancient rubble was strewn all about, and strangely shaped structures laid in ruin everywhere he looked. His intensely dark eyes caught the flash of something on the ground, partially hidden beneath a rock. It was an object made of the Omen Color– the color of his father's necklace and of the vision in the sky he had witnessed. He cautiously picked it up and held it in his hand as the other six members of the expedition gathered in awe around the young Cacique. It was small, thin, and flexible, with odd, symmetrical characters raised upon it. “The Prophet will know what this means,” he said with false certainty. His steadfast companions nodded solemnly but no one found the words to express their apprehension, overwhelmed by the awful mystery of the scene around them. Awa looked up to the dark, glowering sky, eyes blurring as his thoughts drifted to his faraway village, where the Prophet awaited their return from the long, strange journey that he and his fellow explorers had found themselves upon. In his mind’s eye Awa began to recollect the events that had led to this moment.

II.

He remembered the day that he and his rat-hunting party had stood on the rocky peak above the Village and had peered at the nearly barren, rocky brushland beyond. His gaze had lifted to the sky and the nagging thought had come to him yet again; "Something is different.” The sky was much as it had always been, a cold, dark swirling mist, sometimes raining black or snowing gray but something was peculiar.

He had turned to the other six men and asked no one in particular, “Is the sky getting lighter?” Several had nodded tentatively, but no one had answered him then either, as they had been too afraid to consider why it was true. Awa was sure that the forest had looked a little more colorful than he had ever remembered seeing it, and he had silently asked the Gods if it was an Omen. He had then taken a deep breath and smelled that strange sweet breeze that had been puzzling him recently. A distant crow cawed, and to Awa, it had sounded like an Omen. “Let’s go.” he had murmured, and the party had then turned down the trail, three-pointed spears in hand, making stealthily for the next ridge. All but Awa had been relieved to put the uneasy thoughts from his mind, for what Awa had always wanted most in his life was the truth.

Awa, who had worn the face paint and taken his ancestral name only five winters before, had grown up tall and strong in the Village of the Standing Stone. The old settlement was situated deep in the heart of the continent, on the shore of the Xingu River. He and most of the inhabitants of the Village had not ventured more than a day’s distance in any direction from home, and then only to hunt rats or forage for bugs and grubs. None of the Mebengokre, the People of the Wellspring, had ever traveled so far away as his father had. The People had called his father The Curious One, as from the earliest age Nauway, the Village’s Cacique, had wanted to know if the legends were true, the stories of When the World Burned, and When the People Starved. The Time Before, when another people lived who were called the Poanjos— the Others. They had inhabited the Old World where life had been better. Full of hope, Nauway and his clan of closest followers had taken a long journey down the Xingu to find the legendary Amaru Mayu, the mythical Mother Serpent of the World. Maybe the Others lived there. Perhaps the Old World yet existed elsewhere. Perhaps the People could move there and live a better life. On his arduous journey, he had found the river, but no Others. The swift current had taken the lives of several of his men, and so he had come back dejected. “There must be Others in the world, we cannot be alone,” he told the elders at the council, speaking in the special tone reserved for oratory. “The Old World is real. We must find it for the People.” Nauway urged. Yet many had respectfully disagreed, rationalizing that if no one alive had ever seen anyone other than the People, then the Others could not exist. “My People suffer. I will go again to find the Others, and I will find the Old World, a place of plenty, like in the Old Stories,” Nauway promised. “In my place, I name my son Awa to be Caquique until my return,” he declared with a great flourish. His father’s party had then left again to travel down the rivers to find the Poanjos and the Old World, and they had not returned, and it had been a very long time. Awa had assumed the duties of the chief, taken care of his mother, and had patiently awaited his father’s return. He missed his father but he had busied himself with the gathering of food for the People, a sacred task that every man and woman in the Village took more seriously than any other. A long time passed slowly, and then he had started to notice the changes in the sky and the odd smell in the air. He had thought of his father often and wished that he could speak with him about these changes. His father was wise. He would know what the meaning was and what they were supposed to do, but for now, there was only hunting.

When Awa and his party had come back from the rat hunt, he had gone to the Prophet with many questions. “Is my father alive?” “Why is the sky getting lighter?” “What is my purpose in life?” “What do the Gods want me to do?” he had asked the old sage. The blind seer’s pale eyes were set in a wrinkled face and framed by long white hair and a thin beard. He silently stared at Awa as though he could actually see him. The old medicine man had always been the keeper of the legends and stories of the Old World, the World Before The Cold. A time when many more kinds of animals, trees, roots, flowers, and fruits had grown in the forest. A time when sparks shone in the sky instead of the cold mist. Awa had asked many other questions of the Prophet that day. “Is it true that there was once plenty for all?” “Was there once many more of the People in the Village?” “Was there really a time when the land was lush and full of living things?” Was there a time when there were other villages in the World?” The Prophet had patiently assured him that the all stories were true, but Awa had still wondered if they were all just Elder stories made up to help pass the long cold nights around The Eternal Fire. “Maybe it is time to find my father, to see if he has found the Others and the Old World,” he had told the Prophet, who had finally nodded and proclaimed, “The time will come when the Chosen One shall lead the People to a New World”.

As the days passed, the World grew warmer and brighter yet, and one day he saw the vision, a slight opening in the sky, and the vision was of the same amazing hue as some of the beads in his father Nauway’s ancient necklace. He had never seen this color in the sky before and he thought the color must signify an Omen, a sign that meant the Gods wanted him to go and find his father, and to find the Poanjos and the bounty of the Old World. He asked his hunting clan to come with him on his quest. He beseeched them, “Let us stock food, make weapons, and build a large boat to carry us on our journey. We shall find my father and bring him home. We will find the Others and make them our friends. We will find the abundance of the Old World. The People will remember us in song.” The men set to work and when all was ready, the village held a feast, asking the Gods for protection on their journey. The next day they left, and over the next several weeks they fearfully floated their way down the Xingu, alertly waiting for an unknown, unspoken terror that faithfully awaited them around every bend. Many times they encountered fast water in the river, and once they capsized their boat while navigating a rocky rapids, and although they lost much of their provisions, they were lucky that no one was harmed. After that, they cautiously carried their boat and sparse belongings around the larger rapids, which both slowed them down and made them wearier. When they reached the Amaru Mayu, they nearly turned back, as the current was very strong. However, no one would admit their own fear, and they shoved off headlong into the muddy maelstrom and were swept along at an alarming speed that was much faster than what the Xingu had afforded their craft. They stayed close to the inside bends and avoided the eddies and whirlpools. They experienced several minor mishaps, but within a week, they caught sight of a wonder that they could hardly comprehend— an expansive city lying in ruin, and further yet a great tumbling waterfall racing to the mythical Great Waters below, which seemed to stretch to the ends of the World. They beached their boat well before the waterfall, upon a great expanse of sand, then climbed up past a great crumbling fortress to the sprawling ruins of an ancient metropolis, slowly picking their way through the lifeless gray and silver devastation, eyes large, hearts pounding, seeing everything and understanding nothing.

III.

A gust of cold wind woke Awa from his recollections. He looked again at the strange, thin artifact in his hand and then carefully placed it into his pouch. He then turned to his six companions and proclaimed, “Yes, the Prophet will tell us what it all means.” He paused for a moment and then continued with certainty, “My friends, I know this. There is no one here. The Others are all dead. The Curious One is lost. Our journey is now half over. Let us go home.” They had hurriedly left that desolated and chilling place and launched their boat back to the west, upstream, slowly and arduously paddling, portaging and poling their way up the strong current of the Mother Serpent of the World. After a month of arduous labor and constant trepidation, they finally reached the Xingu and turned south into its calmer waters. One day, weeks later, they wearily arrived back at the Village of the Standing Stone and were greeted warmly by the People of the Wellspring. A rat and beetle feast and special Council were made ready to honor the intrepid explorers who had safely returned. That night, after everyone had eaten, and after the singing and dancing were finished, the Council was called. Awa, the Cacique, reverently brought forth the Relic with the Strange Markings. The Prophet made prayers and asked the Gods for wisdom and direction. The People grew silent as the Elders strained to decipher the hieroglyphs, to endeavor to take meaning from the sacred symbols of an extinct people– to try to salvage an understanding of their own solitary place in the World. The Prophet was silent. The Elders had no answers. No wisdom came. The Curious One never returned. But the People lived on.

The Relic was enshrined in a place of honor above the Council Altar. It would then be curated and exhibited as a revered icon in the culture of the People for countless generations. Awa, and then other men after him, would journey down the rivers again and again, and even further upon the Great Waters, and return with treasures, tools, and knowledge. The songs and stories would grow of the exploits of the mythical Awa and his Band of Mighty Rat Hunters, who had left the Village on a Vision Quest for the Poanjos and the Old World, and had come back with a secret Sacred Message from the Lost Civilization of the Others.

IV.

Over the mists of time, the weather on the planet warmed and the brushlands transformed into a dense jungle. The fruits, trees and animals slowly returned. The seas rose again. The World became varied and multitudinous, supplying a nurturing plentitude that had never been enjoyed by the People before. They flourished and some even left to start new villages. Remnants of the Others were found in hidden places and trade created prosperity for all. As a new civilization blossomed, its people built upon the knowledge of their forefathers, inventions came at an increasingly faster rate, the sciences were discovered, and the beginnings of a modern world rose from the depths of the jungle.

Finally, a descendant of the ‘People,’ an archeologist who had studied ancient linguistics, poured over the curious Relic in a dusty museum library in the country of Amazonia. He worked to translate it from a long-lost tongue spoken in what was then called Brazil. It had been the language of a people who had been caught up in what historians referred to as “Armageddon,” the conflagration of a civilization foolishly destroyed by the misuse of power, corruption, greed and fear. As the man finished deciphering the thin, rectangular, bright blue Relic, made of a material called plastic, he reverently whispered to himself their Sacred Inscriptions… words spoken aloud for the first time in a millennium:

“Bank of Brazil: Macapá
Card # 1243 5987 9123 0045
Roberto Silva
Expiration: 05/2020’’


© Copyright 2019 Steve Heriot. All rights reserved.

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