“Gather around, my children. I have a story to tell from before your time. This story comes from the history of our village. From the time before The Great Darkness.”
“But my father says that there was no time before The Great Darkness. He says the elders who have lost their wisdom have made up such stories. Have you lost your wisdom, Eldest of the Elders?”
“No, child. Your father was too young to know anything about the time of which I speak. I tell you this story now because soon The Great Darkness will end, and the world will once again know light.
“In the years when I was young, only a little older than the three of you, there was a great light in the sky. This light was a large Ball of Fire which travelled the sky in Its path after every period of rest. This Ball of Fire spread Its light and heat to the village and the rest of the world. The brightness of the Ball was so brilliant that if It were to appear suddenly high above right now, we would all be without sight. But The Ball did not just appear; It would rise slowly and chase away the darkness. The darkness would run away in the face of the great power of the Ball of Fire.
“One day, our people attacked another village with powerful weapons. Both villages were damaged gravely. He Who Rules Above became very angry with us. He prevented the Ball of Fire from giving us heat and light by sending The Great Darkness. This Darkness was more powerful than even The Ball of Fire. The Ball was afraid to try to defeat the Darkness. So It stayed hidden.
“Soon, however, The Ball of Fire will have gained enough strength to defeat The Darkness and will rise again. Now, my children, return to you families. The sight that will be seen after we wake will be great indeed. You will need the strength from rest, just as The Ball of Fire rests now, gathering strength for Its battle.”
* * *
My father would scoff at the tale we had been told. He would be upset that the Eldest had shared it with children. But the Eldest did not act like one who had lost his wisdom. Still, his story was for children, and I was no longer a child. I was nearly a man, almost thirteen years of age. I knew I should listen to my father regarding such tales.
Upon entering my family’s hut, I saw my mother on her straw mat. Sweat ran down her forehead from her brown hair as she waited for my little brother or sister to arrive. In the light of the torch, the sweat looked like blood. The village medicine man did not think she would survive giving birth. Yet she refused to give up the child to save herself. My father was angry that she chose to leave him for He Who Rules Above, but he did not let her see his anger.
I began to shed my skins, but the cold hitting my flesh forced me to retain the coverings. I lay down on my mat and closed my eyes. Frightening pictures invaded my slumber; the Eldest’s story of The Ball of Fire made me restless.
Finally, I woke, ready to prepare the first meal. The medicine man was there. He told me to go outside; my mother’s time approached, and I was not needed.
Taking light with me, I found the Eldest on a hill, facing the lake. I began to ask him more about The Ball of Fire and the things I had seen while sleeping, but he motioned for me to be silent and then pointed to the far side of the lake.
Across the lake, a greyness had begun to spread above the forest. The greyness was pushed up higher by a pink glow.
“They must be on fire!”
“No, child, watch and you will come to know. It is coming to pass.”
The pink grew, pushing higher into the sky. It was the color of my sister’s cheeks in the light of the village fire. As the color reached ever higher, it began to deepen. Soon, it was the color of the blood of a deer. Then it grew yellow, like fire itself. Suddenly, a curve of pure light appeared above the treetops. I had to cover my eyes; never before had I seen such a bright light. As the curve grew larger, so did my eyes. I realized that I was seeing The Ball of Fire make its first appearance in years. Finally, after what seemed more time than I had experienced, all of The Ball was visible. The Great Darkness had been defeated, and it was no longer possible to look directly at the vanquisher.
I heard the cry of a new child ring through the village at that moment.
My sister arrived soon after. “Mother has joined He Who Rules Above. The elders have asked for the Eldest. There is much confusion about the passing of The Great Darkness.”
The water of cowards formed in my eyes, and I turned away so that I would not be disgraced.
The Eldest turned to me. “My son, do not weep for your mother’s passing. Her bravery was given to The Ball of Fire so It would fight the Darkness. She won the battle. You should be proud.”
We turned toward the village, and for the first time, I saw it in its entirety. As we walked, I knew that greater changes than this lay ahead.