The First Rain
Chilcoat felt oddly fulfilled standing alone in the plaza. The building surrounding him still radiated the heat of the day, but the rain poured a river of cool night air down onto the platform as he turned his face to the clouds and drank in the pure cold water.
“Dear God, I want to do the right thing, but I just didn’t know how. She challenges me in front of the whole tribe... Now I’ll have to resolve this matter or resign. Am I to just hunt rats?”
“You crafty old fart, you come to me now with your rats. What’s the matter, old man—you need a good laugh? You tell me now of your mice... why don’t you tell me of your daughter and her signs?” Chilcoat wandered around the platform looking at the crossing lines. “Well old man—you’re not so talkative when it comes to important things. You used to bend my ear with your stories and riddles, why don’t you talk to me now?” His answer came as a gust of cold wind that raced down the northern wall and sprayed rain in his face.
He recalled sitting around the fire with Tangar and wondering if it was all worth it. The old man would concoct some devilish brew and spend hours sipping it and muttering about the way things used to be. He never seemed to resolve anything during the ritual. He would just come around late the next day and lay down the law. “Is that what I’m supposed to do, get drunk on some of your daughter’s poison and talk to rocks all night?”
He found himself standing in the center of the great symbol. The depression where Tarra had built her fire was now brimming with rainwater and bleeding a black ribbon of ash out across the platform and off the edge. He scanned across the stage at the symbol and realized, this is the place I should be. Each of the circles spread out away from him in symmetrical arcs that seemed comfortable to him. Could that be the answer to her silly game? I should stand in the center and declare myself in harmony with YodHeaVau. That’s too simple. Surely, she would find fault in my arrogance. But, what other answer could there be? If I accept her teachings, and this symbol is what she says it is, then there could be no other answer for where I should be.
“Is that it, old man? Have you spoken to me or am I kidding myself?” The rain was beginning to fall heavily but he felt comfort in the realization that he wanted to accept her teachings. He wanted the symbol to be more than just a silly game.
He fled the downpour and warmed himself at home. The children were already in bed, so he sat by his work-hearth, drank warm tea, and smoked a small bowl of herbs. He wondered if she was asleep but quickly put it out of his mind.I wondered if she’s asleep, but no, I’m not ready to spar with her right now. Still, I sure would like to hold her close. He rose to go to bed and paused at the worktable. The pictogram again haunted him. “The Shanare certainly had a thing with that damn symbol.” He set his cup in the center of the diagram.
The tea kept him awake and the smoke jumbled his thoughts across all sorts of issues complicating his life. He kept coming back to her and her witching ways. He could feel her hand pressing gently on his chest. He couldn’t get her out of his thoughts except through lecherous wanderings with Charona, but they always led back to her, her and her father. That old coot certainly set me up, he thought. The old man set me on a path I never imagined. I grew up in an uncomplicated life among his family and friends. In the summer, we’d go to the lake, and in the winter, we’d go to the coast with the other tribes. It wasn’t an easy life, but I loved it. Now, I live in a temple in the sky and talk with spirits. He longed for the old days. Things were simple, the summer brought warmth and harvest, and the winter brought refreshing rains and renewal. Now the first rain brings the fear that it’s the beginning of another harsh winter. If this winter is going to be as bad as the last, many will be lost.
Visions of the sky-fires from last season flashed across his mind. They were different from those they had seen before; they were particularly hostile and strange. The ghost-like fingers grew until they formed a web of pulsing ropes of lightning trailing sheets of flame that twisted and strained across the southern horizon. The sky moaned in relentless strains of thunder and the ground quacked in response. The temple trembled and groaned as layers of stone flaked off the cliff face shedding the ladders and scaffolding in three places. The furor drew strength from the sun with the eerie pulsing web of energy overriding everyone’s thoughts. Tarra and her followers chanted endlessly and she claimed it was the first bonding of Hea with Vau in heaven. “It’s in the scrolls...” she claimed. “God yearns to begin a new cycle. He has learned all that He can from our foolish ways and desires to start anew with the children of Yod purified by His cleansing embrace.”
Chilcoat felt only coldness for the deity that would take his parents before he really knew them and his wife when their children needed her most. Why would You torment so many so senselessly? These people are good; they’ve done nothing to provoke such unfair dealings. Have we unwittingly done something to anger You? Perhaps the elders are right; perhaps we haven’t walked as lightly as we should on Your world. We’ve done penance as the elders prescribed, yet the weather doesn’t relent.
“Tangar..., Dad, you didn’t prepare me for such dealings. I wonder what you would do... Eat a bunch of herbs you shouldn’t and spend the night talking to rocks?” That was ironic, he thought, as his voice echoed off the stone ceiling of his bedchamber. The spatters from the rain in the plaza whispered on the stones and the small flame of his work hearth flickered ghostly shapes on the wall.
He negotiated a more comfortable position and tried to clear his head of such things. He remembered the old man’s words, “Men aren’t capable of offending God, they are of God, and play such a small part in the vastness of time that it is impossible for such a creature to offend Him. What then, can explain the harshness that has befallen us?” Perhaps Tarra is right; it’s simply His cleansing of those who are unfit.
It pained him to think that Caran was unfit. “She had only done what she knew to do, but it just wasn’t good enough. She’s now with Yod just as Tangar and my parents and so many others. Isn’t that enough? How many others must die to make You happy?” His eyes swelled with tears and his voice caught in his throat.
Tarra’s words echoed through his head, “We can only make ourselves happy that God has given us life in this heaven.”
I want more; I want God to care about me, to bring my loved ones back, to not take them in the first place. I want Him to be more like a man than an unfeeling sea of souls. He realized as never before, that to be one of the souls of Yod was all he could hope to be. “Kings, princes, and paupers are naught but one of these souls.”
He selfishly wanted his life and his soul to be more than just one among countless millions, but then he recognized that is the gift of life… It is my sacred duty to Yod to learn His lessons, to cling to this gift, this heaven, for as long as I can and to savor every moment of joy and pain. It will soon be over and I’ll be with Him to await His judgment on the execution of my duty. If He finds favor in my acts, He’ll again allow me to rejoin Vau in this miracle of heaven.
Chilcoat startled awake. He was sweating and his stomach was tight as if he had been running all night. He had dreamt of Caran. She was warm and comforting, but she scolded him about his robes. He wasn’t sure why, but she was unhappy with his treatment of the garment. “That’s all I need. It isn’t bad enough to have the old man visiting my dreams, but now my wife chastises me.”
The children were already up, and he needed to pee. He still felt perplexed by what had happened last night, but somehow his dreams seemed to settle his resolve. He knew he would have to make some sort of public announcement about Tarra’s challenge this morning; it was his duty to set things straight. He wondered if the weather would let up enough to permit a meeting.
Considering his sun-cloak for a moment, he decided it was still too damp and opted for his work clothes. He shuffled across the plaza in his bare feet to avail himself of the facilities.As he returned to his shop, he passed the altar platform and noticed a wreath of flowers left hanging off the far edge where the black stain from the fire pit ran down the face of the stone. He assumed it must be some of Tarra’s doings but he had no idea what she was up to now. Apparently she’s going to force the issue, he thought as he got his children ready for the day.