In honor of Black History...specificially...looking differently at our history...I present the story Whispers From The Wind. Special thanks to Milton Davis for encouraging me to try this genre.
What happens when our ancestors are warned of the impending slave trade. Nuff Said!
WHISPERS FROM THE WIND
GUY A. SIMS
The elders sat closest to the fire. Their bodies, wrinkled and brittle, warmed as the night air set the seriousness of the gathering. In a small cluster across from the elders stood the village warriors. Their strong bodies represented the new order of discipline and direction, admired by the women and children who collected in small familial pockets on the outskirts of the circle. Voices were muffled, almost silent, as all waited for the chief, the leader, to arrive, to speak the meeting into action. The sound of night birds, normally imitated by young restless boys, were ignored as the rhythmic clicking of shells and beads became clearer and closer. All eyes focused on the large hut adjacent to the communal flame. From the licking flames, shadows were thrown but failed to shroud the regal presence of the chief as he exited the hut. With his ceremonial spear in one hand and a newly woven cloth draped over his arm, he moved through the parting villagers until he reached the stool carved and anointed only for him. The silence was broken by his first breath. In his ancient tongue, he spoke.
“Bring the boy to me!”
A warrior on the far side of the chief nodded and soon a lean and lanky boy, not yet recognized by the village as anything more than a boy, was led in. He kneeled before the chief, body trembling. From his prone position, he could barely form words. His understanding of the power his village’s leader held tied his normally loose tongue.
“Speak son.” The warrior by his side chided him with the dull end of a spear. “You have been commanded.” The chief leaned forward as the boy raised his face and slowly opened his mouth.
“The stranger appeared to me the other day when I played.” His eyes darted to meet his mother who nodded, encouraging him to continue. “I was running when he called for me.”
“He knew our language?” The chief questioned, causing the boy to return his face to the ground. “Was he a kinsman?”
“N-n-no,” the boy stammered. He was afraid of what was to come next from his mouth. “We have no kinsmen who are spirits...and flesh.” The whispers of the villagers rose and quickly fell with the slight raising of the chief’s hand.
“Tell me more of this…this man of spirit.” The boy’s mother moved toward her son, to comfort him, but was stopped by another of the village’s warriors. “Go on.”
“I was running past the large tree, into the tall grass,” he began. “Once through the grass I reached a clearing and felt a wind. It was like a storm’s wind but it wasn’t all around me, only in front of me.” The chief’s eyes narrowed but he continued to listen. “The dirt and dust whipped up…faster and faster. I covered my eyes so I not get blinded. Soon the wind in front of me stopped and when I opened my eyes…” The boy paused, fear dried his mouth. The warrior next to him knelt to give him a drink of water from a hollowed gourd. The boy choked as he gulped the water. The chief ordered the warrior to step back before pointing to the boy.
“How old are you?” The boy coughed two more times before answering.
“You are on the threshold of manhood. That being so. Stand and tell your story as a man. Do not have me ask again.” The boy stood slowly, looking around as he straightened his back, scanning the faces of those who surrounded him. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, he continued.
“When the dirt settled the man was standing there.” The chief acknowledged one of the elders, allowing him to ask a question.
“Yes. He was standing right in front of me…looking at me.” The chief allowed for more questions.
“Did he have a weapon?”
“Was he clothed?
“You said he spoke as a kinsman…did he favor anyone in the village?”
The boy’s answers bounced from one interrogator to another, each one giving no more information than the last. Finally, one of the elders, pointing his gnarled finger in the boy’s direction. His voice, shrill but sure, served as confirmation for many present.
“The boy is a weaver of tales. He seeks to find amusement in the telling of lies.” Other villagers supported the elder with head nods and grumbles. The chief, still unmoved, stood, silencing those present. He looked deep into the eyes of the boy pleading to be believed.
“Truth does not float on words alone,” began the chief as his voice boomed with authority. “It is carried on the winds of evidence and conviction.” He placed his hand on the shoulder of the boy. “When you bring proof you will be unbound of doubt.” After the chief’s departure, the villagers did the same.
For three days, the boy returned to the familiar clearing but found only his thoughts and now, confusion. He spied a felled log and sat on it. Closing his eyes, he felt the stares and scorn of his fellow villagers. Before falling into the depths of shame and self-ridicule, he sensed a stirring of air behind him. He quickly turned to see a column of air, dirt, and grass, spinning a few feet from him. Afraid, he squatted behind the log as the wind dissipated, revealing the man, the one from before. The man, facing the boy, opened his eyes. The boy jumped up to run but heard the words please…wait in his native tongue. The boy stopped. His fear turned to caution, from caution to excitement. It was here finally…his truth. The boy shouted.
“Are you a lost kinsman?” The man was quiet for a moment as if pondering the boy’s simple query. “Are you blood of our blood?”
“In a way…yes.” He smiled at the boy. “Can you take me to where you live?”
“I will take you to our chief.”
The crowd of villagers circled the chief’s hut. A row of spear-gripping warriors stood vigilant as the boy led the stranger to the entrance. Murmurs of fear and curiosity floated among the tree canopy as four men ushered the stranger forward until he was faced by the largest of the warriors. After receiving word from the inside, the massive warrior stepped away to allow the stranger and boy to pass. Now front and center, the stranger could feel the eyes of everyone scanning his person. The stranger prepared to talk but was silenced as the chief extended the tip of his knife toward the bird talon medallion hung around the man’s neck. One of the warriors stepped forward and touched it. His stoic expression turned to confusion.
“It looks real my chief,” he began. “But I’ve never felt the claw of a hawk like this.”
This revelation brought closer inspection from the chief. The leather covering his groin area wasn’t from an animal hide. The shells strung around his ankles, also found out not to be from the sea. The chief signaled for his warriors to prepare themselves. Weapons were pointed in the stranger’s direction. It was then the chief sat back.
The stranger began and even then the Chief could tell that while he spoke their language, it wasn’t his own.
“Chief, thank you for meeting with me. I know my presence may be disturbing but I wanted to come to you in a way that would provide comfort to both you and me. I come as a kinsman…a lost member of your family with…,” The stranger paused. He sensed his words heightened the anxiety in the room. “…a warning.”
The Chief laughed. The others joined in.
“You come to my village and seek an audience using a boy as an emissary. Then you stand before me dressed as one of us but your garb is…is not ours…just like your use of our language.” The Chief looked to his elders who nodded in agreement. “A man of deception comes to me…with a warning.”
“I’m not just warning you for you…” The stranger wanted to scratch his arm but dared not move. “…but for all of us…me as well.”
“Before I turn you back to the tall grass from where you came, humor me with your warning.” The Chief crossed his arms and waited impatiently.
“You are right, I’m not from here…although I am. But I came here to warn you that very soon visitors will come to your shores for no other reason except to enslave you…” The Chief stomped his foot, breaking into the stranger’s flow of words.
“You are a fool. There is nothing beyond our shores except the sun which rests there when the day is done.”
“Chief,” The stranger pushed his words slowly. “They are out there and they are coming here. I cannot say exactly when because I don’t know the exact time I’m in now…but they will arrive to capture you.” The Chief stood, sweeping his arm from one end of the hut to the other.”
“Who can come here and best my finest warriors? This is child talk.”
“I don’t know how to explain it to you…not in my terms…they will come with weapons you have never seen before…guns…shackles…cannons…” The chief roared with laughter.
“What are these words? Are they names of gods? Animals? Fruits?” The hut erupted in the same.
“It will be the darkest day of your lives…my life. I just want you to be ready. You can be victorious but only if you prepare yourself. And more, you have to distrust others who look like you…who try to draw you out to the shore…some dressed in ways you have never seen…”
“Or dressed in ways we have seen but not really ours?” The Chief’s eyes focused on the strangers. “So, why should I believe you…a harbinger of tragedy?” The stranger lowered his head. In the moment, he felt generations of pain…of despair. He knew of the death, the loss. Of whippings and broken families. Of fear and degradation. Of white sheets and bloody parchments. Of hopelessness and shattered humanity. From beyond his thoughts he whispered.
“It will become my tragedy.”
The chief stood and turned his back, signaling his meeting had concluded.
The boy led the man back to the tall grass.
“Our Chief showed you mercy because he sees you as a fool.” The stranger frowned as he stood away from the boy. “What will you do now?” A small breeze began to pick up around the man’s feet.
“I will have to meet our kinsman at another time, another place…until I am heard.” The breeze turned into a wind and soon the stranger was gone.
One year later, the boy, now a man of the tribe, held his small spear in his hand, hoping to surprise his mother with dinner, stepped out from the wooded area onto the beach. The sun was warm on his face and the lapping of the ocean waves called for him to put his feet into the water. As he moved to the ocean something caught his eyes. Cloud formations he had never seen before, moving his way while other clouds floated in another direction. He squinted his eyes and saw they were not clouds. A flash in his mind caused him to drop his spear as he thought of the stranger. He remembers the stranger warning the Chief to be ready. The boy turned to run back to his village. Tears formed in his eyes for he knew…they weren’t ready.