Chapter 12 Excerpt
The following morning Allan awoke early. He hadn’t slept well. His mind had wandered aimlessly, travelling across vast mountains to his world, where he was stuck in traffic, smelling the toxic fumes of motor vehicles. There were fingers on a keyboard. A television was somewhere in the background, blaring headlines about disaster wreaked by a suicide bomber and the plight of refugees—children with glazed, gazing eyes. They were fleeing, running away from tyranny. He twisted, tossed, and saw in his fitful dream people filing in droves to promised lands in the hope of finding succour from yesterday’s migrants who’d travelled the same path.
He turned on his back and saw, in the space between the bed and ceiling, their stained, gaunt faces. They were skeletons on the move. There was no respite from pain. They were staring with hands outstretched.
In the fitful dream, he saw others in boats that had capsized, and the sea that couldn’t digest starved flesh spat their remains on manicured beaches. The scene changed again, and he saw the mothers’ anaemic eyes smiling at him because their children’s pain had ended. The mothers continued to walk purposefully. Their pride wasn’t shattered. They had the courage to survive another tormenting day, to tread on the shame of the corrupt regimes they fled.
In his restless, disconnected dream, he saw white mist creeping over him. The mist passed by and hung low over a city dying from toxic waste. When it cleared, he heard bombs. People were screaming.
He’d gone to bed that night feeling cold and uncomfortable. He’d shared his feeling with Chris, who’d also been anxious.
Allan awoke to the long, low whistles of crystal birds just as the sun broke over the eastern sky. He stepped out of his room near the gargantuan balboa trees and wandered over to the rhododendron garden. He followed a path that led to the lake. Its source was the Fountain of the Sun.
He heard whistles again and saw the birds flying toward the mountain. Their iridescent feathers reflected the morning sunlight. The animals of the forest answered their whistles.
Allan felt a deep urge. He knew it was a desire to belong to Ashaise. He stood transfixed, and humbled. Another voice joined the animal choir. The melody seemed familiar, yet it wasn’t. His mind raced back to his childhood days in church. On a Sunday morning, people had given thanks to God in a small Baptist church. He’d loved to hear the worshippers sing “Amazing Grace.” No, that wasn’t what he heard—it couldn’t be that tune. He followed the rich voice as it sang in a language he barely understood. He wondered about the words. The voice ceased as he approached, and Jiena was there, draped in a white shuka, leaning against a boulder. He walked towards her and as he approached, she turned her head to the lake. Standing at her side he looked out to the lake. The water rippled with abundant life.
“I thought I’d heard that tune before,” he said.
Jiena was quiet but looked amused by something. He hoped it wasn’t him. There was a long silence.
“It is the tune of my ancestors. After the hunt, my foreparents gathered around the fire, sang and told stories to their children.”
They were silent again. Jiena walked away to a rock where she sat with her feet pulled up and her arms around her knees. She looked at the rising sun and sang. Allan watched the early morning folk in their boats with tall, billowy sails and others in canoes. She continued singing.