Fossils of the Missing Ones – X: The Barbarian’s Story
As fast as he’d entered my body,
the boy left,
leaving me gasping for breath.
Sullivan, still shaking with fear,
helped me to my wobbly knees,
for I had collapsed
and was lying on my back.
“I believe you now,” she uttered
(barely audible because of the droning in my head),
“What shall we do next?”
She held the flask to my lips.
I drank greedily, and,
in between gulps,
managed a muffled response:
“Let’s find out what we have come here to learn;
why an entire race of nomads had decided to disappear.”
“Let’s finish this chapter, then,” Sullivan agreed.
It didn’t take long;
by mid-afternoon we’d uncovered
the mass grave;
it was shallower than the one
I fell into; the Barbarian’s
women and children –
no less than twenty bodies,
had been placed in rows,
each child on its mother’s chest;
a final embrace.
I could feel the lump in my throat again,
but this one was of the natural kind.
Sullivan was sobbing, too,
with tears like lonely rivers on her cheeks,
“I think I’ve found the father and the boy.”
I sprinted over and saw that she was right.
Had it not been for the leather pouch
(identical to the Wise One’s),
I wouldn’t have been
able to tell if he had been Barbarian
or missing nomad.
This is his story:
“Having had only a few
Deep Roots to nibble on
during the first two days on Bat Wing Mountain
(not even a hare, for the weather had
been changing over the last couple of seasons),
we became restless.
One of the hunters had brought
Purple Cactus Fruit,
a thorny bastard that tastes worse than one’s own bile,
and causes severe hallucinations.
I was reluctant,
but soon memories of my initiation
started creeping in;
the night I’d become a man,
the night the Wise One had fed me the fruit
and sent me out in the night
to talk with eagles about free spirits,
to consult the wise old owl who hoo-hooed wisdom,
and the desert wolf who told me where children go when they die too young.
And so was the night – too young –
and the fruit bitter.
But, having forgotten about
(for the time being),
we were merry.
With our senses sharp,
one of the men suggested
we go night hunting.
Our morale was low,
so the prospect of food
and a bit of excitement
didn’t sound like a bad idea at the time;
we all agreed.
We were descending the north side of the mountain
when we spotted them, moving with caution,
little furry animals!
They were ascending in our direction;
all we had to do was wait –
we would ambush them!
The wind turned slightly as we loaded our weapons.
I dipped the tips of my darts
into Black Mushroom poison;
only one drop can kill a bear.
I had a good laugh,
for my darts now resembled
each one glistening
with its own colour semen
at the heads,
and I wondered how a big black bear would react
when realizing he’s being attacked
by a raving lunatic blowing penises at him
through a pipe!
It was funny at the time,
but paranoia had decided
to ride the steady mountain breeze,
spreading its wide wings, it circled above
(were those vultures overhead?)
and settled firmly,
spreading infectious juices.
Everything became a little more distorted,
vibrant with colour;
the trees danced in pink,
the wind hummed a blue tune
when I saw them climbing the tricky path.
As their heads came into view,
the little creatures turned into demons,
their fangs dripping with acid,
and their disease-ridden pelts bringing with them
the stench of misfortune.
The other men must have been seeing
what I had seen;
without giving the signal,
they attacked at once.
There was a split-second when our darts and arrows-
just before striking the devil-creatures-
seemed to hover in mid-air,
and in that instant
appeared to glisten in the half-eaten moonlight,
highlighting panic in the innocent eyes
of women and children.
While the realization of our actions,
the horror of what we’d done
was filling our hearts,
time was standing still.
I remember the faces;
the contorted mouths
and the lifeless eyes,
not only those of the victims’,
but also our own,
for we had brought shame on our own kind
and we had insulted the land
by poisoning it
with innocent blood,
an unforgivable sin.”