Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Promised Land
By OFW editor:
Carlos J Cortes
Published: November 19, 2012
In eerie silence, throughout the afternoon and well into the night, dark robed figures poured into the bowl court; a never-ending stream of tormented faces, lips blue from the bitter cold, sunken, sallow cheeks and set grimaces of pain.
As cottonwoods before a gentle wind, the crowd swayed and a rustle of cloth echoed with the subdued whispers of bare feet on cold stone. Thousands huddled for warmth in the structure The One provided long ago; a shape His will carved out of solid rock, capable of transmitting the word from one edge to the other.
Ad-Am stood in the center of the basin, aching before the suffering faces, understanding their awareness and yearnings. He shared with them the universal feeling, the great equalizer that allowed any being to sense how others felt regardless of species or nature. Hunger. Ad-Am was hungry. As famished as the others were, with a deep-seated, aged, profound, and all-encompassing ravenousness. His brothers starved with the lost despair of knowing that their land was barren, inhospitable, cold, and sterile, as it had been for a long time, as it would always be. He willed his hunger to subside, to cry out and fill the bowl with his anguish, for Ad-Am’s powerful belly muscles had forgotten the incommensurable glory of stretching to capacity. Why had they made him their leader? Why now? A leader was supposed to lead, but where to?
Arms raised to the new red moon, Ad-Am’s voice resounded with only a hint of its former splendor. “The hunt is but gone; each day we dig deeper for nourishment to no avail. We have exhausted the land.” They came for hope and he stated the obvious, but his announcement couldn’t be hurried. “We share ancient memories of plenty, only legends now. There’s no food left. Our covenant with The One has been clear from the beginning of time: the Promised Land will be ours, but only after we’ve shown our resourcefulness with a sign.”
He set one hand, palm up, before bringing the other down with a thwack that sent ripples thought the ranks. “Over the past twenty-three moons, we have sent our envoys. We have begged The One to redeem us, but His ears are deaf to our plight: He insists that there has been no sign; we haven’t shown our resourcefulness.”
His feet splayed, he whipped his arm in a wide arc. “Must we eat the rocks? Because, brothers, we’ve devoured everything else!” In a whisper Ad-Am intoned a litany. “We’ve eaten the leaves that rustled in the wind, the rodents that scurried in the woods, the creepy-crawly-spindly legged-crunchy creatures that lurked in the soil.”
After a soft thud, Ad-Am peered at an amorphous lump rolling down the incline. At least his torment was over. Many more would die before long.
As the gathering swayed, all eyes downcast, he paused. Ad-Am’s heart sunk, anger rising; burning his throat. “We are dying. Our females are barren. Fewer young grace our homes each passing season. We age into to oblivion. But… my brothers, E-Ve, fourth daughter of the third son of I-Nir, from my clan, my own sister, has sinned.”
The crowd gasped and their collective intake of breath was a fierce wind.
“I have called you to this gathering because sin is with us. The Covenant is clear, The One promised us a New Land, but only after a sign.” He thought the sin was great. But, would The One accept it as
sign? Besides, E-Ve was a child. She’d been allowed to breed only three seasons earlier. Had she been resourceful?
The One was angry. Last moon He culled O-Ma, Ad-Am’s predecessor. Last moon He delivered a warning, “One chance, you have one more chance. If your next envoy does not announce a sign, if you don’t show your resourcefulness, our Covenant will lapse.”
“I will go to The One for the last time. I will demand the Promised Land. Do I have your blessing?”
In unison, heads bowed once. Then, in silence, the shrouded figures filed from the bowl for the long trek to their lands. Some, too weak to walk a long distance, would never get there. Those who made it would carry the word of Ad-Am and a glimmer of hope to their clans.
Ad-Am waited until the arena emptied and then he cried, he fell to his knees and pounded the cold rock with his fists because he wasn’t sure. Was E-Ve’s deed a sin? Was E-Ve sin
sign? Had she been resourceful?
When he calmed down, he gathered his staff and set off walking due north at a good clip, but not for long. Soon his step slowed. He walked for three days and nights, his mind locked on the earthen dome far over the horizon; the place where The One spoke.
The word had traveled before Ad-Am. Countless others stood by the road as he moved though bleak villages. Some had already collapsed, and lay face down on the dust. Others, too weak to stand, sat or kneeled by the roadside watching him with red-rimmed eyes brimming with expectation.
Nearing exhaustion, Ad-Am sat on a stone by the wayside, uncertain about having the strength to stand up again; when the miracle happened. An old female kneeled by him to caress his hair with infinite tenderness. She unslung a pouch from her neck to produce a small rodent’s carcass, mature and rotten, with very little meat left. Gingerly she separated the head and cracked it gently with her teeth. Then she forced the morsel into his mouth.
Ad-Am waited. For several hours he had remained silent before the dome, knowing The One was aware of his presence, dreading and lusting for the moment He would summon him.
When the door opened, Ad-Am walked in, suddenly unafraid, his overwhelming hunger fueling his resolve. He stepped into the circle of light and waited for the address. Al-Ba, the last clan member ever to come alive from counsel with The One had coached him thoroughly.
When His voice sounded it issued from nowhere and everywhere, a kind and gentle voice, firm but compassionate. “What do you want of me Ad-Am?”
“The Promised Land”
“We are hungry”
“You are always hungry.”
“We have had a sign.”
Silence grew louder before the voice returned. “Explain”
“E-Ve, fourth daughter of the third son of I-Nir, from my clan, my own sister, has sinned.”
“Explain her sin.”
“She was with child. She was hungry. The child was born. She ate it.”
Another long silence ensued.
A wave of hope washed over Ad-Am’s tormented head. His hunger remitted a fraction. “There is no food to gather, no hunt to cull and the clans must eat. This is the end.”
The light vibrated. “Not the end, but the beginning. Yours is The Promised Land. Go. Feed. Come back alone by the new moon.” Then His voice rang, stronger and more important. “Bring The Resourceful One as your companion.”
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