.. In the time frame….the minutes of 12:10 – 12:20pm
” But how can we be cursed? We just got here.” Bode asked
” And you have eaten and drank here. You even had Babu tell you stories. I say you’ve been here a while.” Zano said.
” You call the past thirteen minutes a while?” Onyeka asked.
Bode turned to Zano and asked.” You said we had more problems, what did you mean?”
From the corner of his eye Bode could see an old woman stand up from the floor and slowly approach them. Unlike Babu she didn’t use a stick to take her around but she looked a lot older than Babu did. First, she smacked Bode’s head and then reached for Onyeka’s ears, giving it a long pull until he yelped in pain. Then she coughed and started talking.
” Many years ago, Lost was a beautiful place. There were many beautiful trees,many wild plants and flowers. And when you took the right path,it led you to the River Kanu. We were never hungry and we were never thirsty. The neighboring villages envied us,we had everything. Babies were born and old people died. We used to be very happy people. ” She coughed and paused for a full minute before she continued.
” And among us you see,were gods. We didn’t know who they were, when they were born and into what families. But we knew they walked amongst us,so you had to be good to everybody. But we supposed they would come in through the best families. Surely it couldn’t have been any other way but how wrong we were.” The old woman shook her head sadly.
Onyeka had stopped rubbing his burning ears and was listening attentively to the story. They could as well get some entertainment in this perilous time frame they were in.
” Tanaram was the shabbiest,filthiest, lowest villager in Lost. He ate whatever he could find,picking off people’s remnants in clay pots,chewing on mint leaves,building whatever his head could come up with. While everyone worked in the farms and got water from the river, Tanaram would sit and play with branches,sticks, stones,leaves. We thought he was outrageous.” She paused and continued. ” But no one minded him until he started to show off his creations. You see,we were simple minded people, we loved our comfortable life. It was not something we wanted to change. But he insisted. He said we would need it that we had to but children life was to good to change. So we ignored him , spat in his face and called him names. Over and over Tanaram tried but the people would not listen. And then one day when he was showing us how to use a net for fish, someone threw a stone sending him back to his space under the trees. And that was the last we saw of Tanaram.”
” Did he die?” Onyeka had to ask.
” Oh,no. When Tanaram disappeared I was a young adult, when he came back I was almost nintey three. The neighboring villages had packed up looking for better places to settle. We believed we could still live in Lost as comfortably as we had always done. But then the river started to dry up,the trees began to lose their leaves, fruits would not grow. The crops failed miserably. The priest said we had done a great wrong but we could not find out what it was. And then one day at the first light of the sun, Tanaram appeared.”
Onyeka gasped clasping his hand to his mouth. Bode looked at him and then at Zano, Babu and Mara who were all listening intently. It seemed only this old woman could tell the story so well. The other villagers listened too but slowly went about doing whatever little thing they could do. Kala was still writhing in pains from labor and there was still no path in the forest; no sign that this was all a bad dream.
” He appeared like a god. He told us he had waited patiently over the years,expecting us to come to our senses, hoping we would realize the eminent danger we were sentencing our generations unborn to. But we were stubborn people,too simple minded to look beyond what we had to see what we could have and this was not Tanaram’s way. So he cursed us and took with him his fellow gods: one of them my own daughter.” She sniffed and Bode felt his chest constrict with pain. ” Since we loved what we had so much,we could keep it. Inside Lost we would be confined for all eternity,reliving our days over and over again. There would be no new generations and we would maintain our comfortable life. There would always be food and there would always be water and we would never grow old.”
Babu took over seeing that the woman was slowly tiring herself out. ” And should the pattern of the time frame ever change, should we ever try to leave Lost, we would pay dearly.”
” So over the years,we have been holed up inside this prison we once called home. Listening to people as they traveled past the forest, learning what little we could from the inside but shielded from the outside world.” Zano continued.
” But now you have come….” A young male adult said in a hushed tone.
” And the pattern of the time frame has changed.” Mara completed.
” And we would pay dearly? ” Onyeka asked his face turning pale.
” So you have never tried to leave Lost?” Bode asked and they shook their heads sadly. ” So what happens now?”
” Only Roku knows.” The old woman answered.
Onyeka thought he could hear the rumbling of thunder but there was no rain. ” Who is Roku?” He asked.
” Roku was our priest,diviner, healer ,all roles religious; our path to the gods. He disappeared after we were cursed by Tanarama.” Babu answered.
” You think the gods took him?” Bode asked doubtfully.
” No, Roku had been on his way to the River Kanu the day we were cursed. His own time frame probably begins at the path that leads to the river.”
” But he could have come to the village during the hour if the time frame,couldn’t he?” Onyeka asked.
” Yes,but he never has.” Mara answered.
For the first time Bode peered closely at her, she raised her head and his eyes met her big brown ones and then quickly looked away. “But there are no paths here.” Bode said.
” We have searched for decades,” Zano said. ” But we keep running in circles and ending back here.”
” Tanaram will come again.” The old woman Nana was saying. ” And when he does,all hell will let lose.”
Onyeka heard the thunder again and looked into the sky but just as he expected he saw nothing. Bode didn’t know about ancient gods but unreligious as he was, he resorted to mumbling silent prayers of appeal to the deity he knew.