Her touch is gentle. She reaches for my hands again, but this time I find myself in her world.
Words cannot describe this world, I would try but my attention is focused on the creature in front of me. Like the beauty of this world, she is breathtaking: tall and graceful with hair the color of midnight. Strong long legs, ripe robust bosom and a waist so tiny, I could wrap a single arm around it. She moves at the speed of light: her naked feet barely touching the ground as they glide across a path in the lush green of this endless field. Ahead is a forest of some sort, this is our destination.
I struggle to keep up with her. Occasionally she glances back to see if I am still with her. Though I follow, I don’t know why I do, but follow her I must. My heart races, not knowing what lies ahead, until I catch a glimpse of her face and my heart begins to calm down some: on her face is a smile.
Faint as it may be, but still a smile. Within her smile I find assurance and knowledge about this journey. I know it seems silly to feel happy about this, but deep within my soul, something does assure me of the success of my sojourn here.
I find it hard to believe that by simply holding on to Dandago’s hand, I’m here, experiencing two worlds. Dandago and I remain physically present in her home, yet here we are also present in another dimension, in tune with two worlds simultaneously. Dandago’s spirit self looks nothing like her aged physical appearance. A furrowed forehead, grey hair and clever eyes tell of her wisdom and carrying the burden of others. She is a dark skinned beauty, but her outward appearance bears no comparison to her spirit self or beauty.
Tales about the Old Ones are legend in our village. Dandago is an Old One. I along with many believed this legend to be old wives’ tales, but my aching feet and dry throat is testament we are the foolish ones. Here I am, on a spiritual journey with one. Dandago’s spirit self is a separate entity. If I was not physical holding hands with her I would never know who this spirit is.
This place is cold and the air dry. It is difficult to breathe. Running to keep up with her is sapping the energy in me.
Finally at the edge of the forest, the air here is different: soft and pleasant with a scent of fresh-cut grass. This is more like the air in Popodi, my village, where the cool breeze whispers lullabies into your ears.
Dandago’s spirit-self is no longer here with me, yet she still holds my hand back home. My heartbeat becomes steady. Directly in front of me is a path of deep red sand bordered by green foliage. I stop to look back but nothing is there. All that remains of what I saw previously is pitch darkness. The lush greenery and its surroundings are no more. There is nothing to see. My heart skips a beat. My throat is dry.
“Maringa! Maringa STOP!”
The command came before I take a step forward. The voice came from beside me, but she is standing three feet away. I have heard of them too; voice throwers. They speak in whispers. Anyone their speech is directed to would hear, regardless of distance.
My name sounds strange coming from her, since no one calls me Maringa anymore. I’m used to Mari.
“Who calls me?”
I answered as would anyone in my hometown since we never know if it’s spirit or man that beckons. She smiles a full smile, revealing pearly white teeth with a slight space in the middle.
“I see you learned well child, I called you.”
She sounds husky, with a whisper. I start to feel lulled by her tone.
“This is the Under Kingdom, birth place of truth and conscience. Be warned whilst here. You are accountable to the last echo for every utterance you make. This is a place of truth. So naturally everything you say would be accepted as truth. Many fall flat on their faces here; mostly out of an eagerness to please, thereby overtaking the purpose of the journey. You are here to learn, observe and remember.”
“I hear you Great One. Observe and remember you say?” I said, struggling to keep awake.
She turns to go and looks at me, and I follow her lead. No moving at lightning speed, just walking. I am thankful for the movement, as it gets me away from her hypnotic voice. If I didn’t know better, I would swear this is Popodi. The lake is similar to one back home. The sounds from the wildlife were equally similar. Particularly that of a parrot, repeating names of children who come to swim or play.
My guide to the lake, Npeeta, starts becoming blurry to my vision. She was shimmering. Why I cannot say, but my heartbeat quickens once again and my feet feel like they would give way beneath me. Her image becomes blurrier until she disappears. Simultaneously I feel fatigued and her disappearance does not cause me to panic any longer. I start feeling safe and confident, as if I’m now in familiar surroundings.
Further away the surface of the lake shimmers like a mirage. Close by my attention is caught by the ripples on the surface as a canoe is rocked about. The lake is real, and so is the dark skinned canoe man with two giant protruding front teeth, with a smile though genuine, almost caused me to laugh out loud.
“I’ll take a promise to ferry you across or whatever you have to give, which will it be Mari?”
Aah…he knows my name. I smiled happily.
“I neither have a gift or a promise to give, Big Teeth, but if you choose to be kind and ferry me across, perhaps someday our paths may cross and I can repay your kindness.” I reply solemnly and watch as he struggles to make up his mind.
“Come on in then, I would prefer to leave you here, but since I still have to go back to the village, you may as well come.”
He was abrupt and I barely make it to the wooden plank which serves as a seat before he pulls off jerkily and I fall forward, making him laugh mischievously, staring straight ahead.
The sun is setting and a cloud of smoke in the horizon is proof a real village is nearby. I could hear more familiar sounds and stronger smells as we draw closer. I don’t know how long ago I started this journey, but I’m hungry and my belly begins to protest to that fact. Almost at the same time, I hear Npeeta again.
“What do you seek? In my line of work, it’s always benefits more to observe than anything else. Speak child for I lack the patience of guess work. Sadly I can’t read your mind.”
I look around swiftly but she’s nowhere near. Not even her aura…where in the world is she and why is she asking this question? What do I seek? I never asked for this. The elders told me the universe wills I become the seer; how I will be this, I do not know but they say my sojourn will end all doubts.
The belief we live in dual times and space is something my people have always held. The elders practically ram it down our throats. I begin to wonder why me? There are a dozen other boys more suited and versed in our culture and history, yet they chose me.
Big Teeth stops rowing and at the water’s edge he pulls the canoe to a tree and ties it down with palm fronds. “My journey ends here Mari, it would serve you best to leave the water’s edge before sunset as the time for the feed approaches. I can only offer you directions to the sage by the village end. He will show you things you seek.”
Before sunset? Why? The sky is golden orange. The sun is setting as he speaks and with alacrity, he leaves the canoe. Why does he refer to me as Mari? Why does he call me as if we are old friends?
I don’t know how or why, but somehow I know Big Teeth is crucial to my tutoring here in this strange land. Responding to his gait, I also leave the canoe, running so as to keep up with him. For a little man, he has incredible speed and his eyes widens as he glances back at the lake. I quicken my speed also. I am not particularly keen to witness the feed.