The setting sun cast long shadows on the sand as the melodious thumping of of our feet stirred the air. It was a summer night, humid, with a light breeze.
“are you sure we should be out here right now? What if we get in trouble?” I ask quietly
“pfft, stop worrying, Sooga!” Kloon replies, nudging me “a little trouble now and then is a good thing!”
“and you do this every night?”
“yep, its plenty fun, just keep following me”
Reluctantly, I do as told, and so do the other kids. Eventually, we come to the edge of the forest, and I stop dead.
“no, uh-uh, I am so not going in there” I say, waving my hands.
Kooga rolls her eyes “so, the big daughter of two chieftains is scared?”
My face goes red “no! I'll go in any time! Day or night!!”
Kooga comes close to my face “then prove it, princess” she challenges
I gulp, and slowly continue on with the others. Soon, Kloon comes by me again.
“don't worry! Its totally safe! And fun!” she says mischievously, then sounding stern, adds “but you can't tell any adults about it, ok?”
I nod my head silently, and she walks ahead of me to chat with Doola.
Soon, we come to a stop, and I look up, ahead of us is a clearing where the tree branches were pulled back so the area was bathed in the brilliant moonlight, and in the center of this clearing is a humongous tree! Thicker than any tree I've ever seen, with plenty of low-hanging branches and vines, and near it is a shimmering pool that reflected the night sky.
“its- its beautiful!” I murmur breathlessly.
“i told you, didn't I?” Kloon smiles “i played with the branches so its nice and bright”
Teelik runs ahead “well what are waiting for?” he calls excitedly “let's have fun!”
Kleela follows right after him “yeah!” she yells cheerfully “let's go!”
We separate, and each have fun doing what we want, we swung, we climbed, we swam, we swung into the pool, and we just plain acted stupid, well into the night.
After hours of freedom, freedom to just be kids, we all lie in the grass, staring up at the moon in the beautiful night sky.
I find myself next to Teelik, who is lying back, eye closed. The cool breeze had got colder, I scoot a little closer to him, and relax.
“it's beautiful isn't it?” his question surprises me.
“huh? Oh, yeah” I whisper back.
He nods, and turns back to the sky.
“hey Teelik” I say, nudging him a bit.
“yeah?” he replies without opening his eyes
“i never want to grow up” I say, smiling warmly.
“hee-yah!” I yell, flinging myself at the wood dummy, foot out and poised.
I feel the impact and look with satisfactory at the dummy head, which was now a good long way from where it was not two seconds ago.
Instantly, the dummy set up behind me springs up, and I turn around quick enough to shove my fist through it. When the dummy goes down, I look at my hand with a smile, and clench it again.
“aw yeah! No one messes with Sooga!” I exclaim, before turning to leave and colliding into Teelik.
“errrg, Sooga?” he asks
“hehe, yeah, it's me” I say, blushing a bit “here, let me help you up”
I grab his arm, and pull him to his feet. He brushes himself off, and looks at me, his mousy hair was exactly as it had been when we sat in the grass and looked at the stars, wondering what it would be like to grow up, only now his deep, brown eyes held a new intelligence, accompanied by responsibility, discipline, and a warm friendliness obvious to even the most blind pygmy. It had been eight years, but I still manage to get lost in his eyes, and am snapped back when he nudges me
“Sooga? Did you here what I just said, Sooga?”
“huh-? umm, yeah” I lie
“good” he says, his eyes lightening up again “i'll see you at the campfire tonight, remember, this is a BIG occasion, DON'T forget to bring it, see you later”
and with that he walks off, leaving me with my hand at my forehead in a facepalm.
Great, Sooga, just great. You managed to screw it up again.. you useless sack of spit...
I shake my head, and go to find Kleela, maybe she could tell me about the campfire in confidence of her brother.
“Kleela!” I call, seeing the long-haired pygmy at the edge of the forest.
“huh? Oh, hi Sooga!” she responds.
“hey, Kleela, you wouldn't happen to, ah.. know about the campfire tonight, would you?”
“you mean the huge meeting the adults called tonight, that will probably change our lives forever as we know it? Yah, I heard about it some”
“awesome, do you know what I have to bring?”
“didn't Teelik tell you?”
“you weren't listening, were you?”
“YES OF COURSE..... well, maybe...”
Kleela rolls her eyes and goes over it for me.
“okay, you need to bring the... food” she says, flipping through a list she wrote.
“food, okay, no problem..”
“remember, you need plenty of veggies too, as Doola won't eat meat, and mushrooms, so she and Kloon can make brownies, and-”
“Kloon's gonna help bake brownies?” I ask, chuckling.
“yes, Doola showed her how”
“alright, i'll get mushrooms too”
“-and don't forget the drinks, but NO alcohol, whatsoever, we can't afford any kind of screwing around tonight”
“got it, bye Kleela” I say, taking off.
After getting the things on Kleela's list, I hurry back to the huts, on my way running into Looby.
Goddammit, Sooga, what's it with you and bumping into people today??
“oh, hi Looby” I say, a little flustered.
“hey Sooga, say, you didn't happen to bring any.. fermented coconuts, did you?”
“no, this important, we can't afford to have you screwing around”
“oh come on! You know I wouldn't do something like that!”
I give him that 'seriously?' kind of look, and he just grins in his stupid, dorky looking way.
“i got to get to the campfire, you can miss it looking for fermented coconuts to get yourself drunk, or you can attend and be responsible for once”
His face goes a little red and he replies irritably.
“i'm responsible! You guys always- and i- you know that? ah, what the shell do you know, i'm outta here”
he stomps off, and I can only shake my head and get back to the campfire.
I get there and stand next to Teelik, trying to look focused, and Teelik leans close to me
“you're late” he whispers “what happened?”
“stuff” I whisper back “what did I miss?”
Teelik nods towards the adults “Klik's speech and a good portion of Klak's speech”
I turn to where Klak was standing. I'd always heard stories from the adults of how at my age, Klak was nothing more than a klutz, but now, with his many battle scars, he actually looked pretty intimidating. I stopped whispering to hear what he was saying.
“... and furthermore, with the ability to endure, and have dignity in silence, you can overcome even the most harsh, and brutal obstacles. Ooga will now give his speech on Courage”
with that he sits down, and Dad stands up in turn, I catch his warm glance for a second, then he turns to everyone else and begins.
“a pygmy who doesn’t have Bravery, is a pygmy who can't live, who can't stand up for what he believes in, stand out. You can't be afraid to do what you think is right, to stand up for what is right, even if you're standing alone” there is emotion showing through as he continues. “I did not understand Bravery or Courage when I was your age, I did not believe, or stand up for myself, I had my fun hurting others and making it impossible for them to believe, then, the gem broke, and I had to either shape up, or die for good with the rest of my tribe, after we returned, I didn't seem to learn my lesson, I was willing to split from the tribe, and while Klik was the one who decided it, I went along with it, aggravated the situation, and was willing to fight my own tribe, my family. Things didn't help when Sun and the girls came in either, I acted aggressive, I felt threatened, I needed to be in control, but when my loyalty and ability was challenged, I had to get back to business, and we grew fond of the other tribe, I became specially close to Sun, we've been through a lot, but now our turn is over, it's your turn now” with great emotion and drama, he sits down, and Booga gets to start his speech on Strength, and Power.
But I don't pay attention.
What does dad mean 'it's your turn now'? Is something happening? Is it bad?
These thoughts float around my head, and I can't stop thinking about what might happen, worrying about what lies ahead. Before I know it, Dooby is standing up, talking about Understanding, and Kindness.
Weird, that wasn't long enough for Nooby's whole speech, was it? They must have skipped it again, but why?
I clear my head and turn to where Dooby was.
“...and you see, dudes, when you act kind to others, they will totally open their hearts and minds to you, and your ideas, you just have to show care towards everyone else around you, and like, when you open your mind, you'll realize you have a family right with you, at your side forever” with great emotion in those last words, he sits down, and both Dad and Mom stand up. After a quick nod to Mom, Dad steps forward and speaks.
“you kids have lived here with us a long time, shared our homes and gem, and we always thought it'd be that way for good, but Klik foretells otherwise, The Gods wish for you to travel to the temple, and you must claim a gem of your own”
“wait, WHAT?” we all cry.
Dad nods “the Gods say you need a trial, to see whether or not you are worthy of eternal life.
This will be you're adventure, as we may not come”
“wait, does our Regeneration stop NOW?” Teelik asks.
Dad shakes his head “no, not until you leave the island”
Kleela stands up, looking worried “when do we have to set off?”
“tomorrow, by afternoon, until then you must prepare” Dad replies.
Teelik stands up and nods “okay, we will prepare now”
Dad nods “yes, prepare now, then rest, you will need it” with that he dismisses us, and we scatter to get ready the best we can, but as teenage pygmies run to grab weapons, food, and materials, I can only stare out into the ocean, and wonder how many of my friends weren't coming back after tomorrow.
To Be Continued...