Day four of my five day challenge courtesy of Scillagrace! Another bit of flash fiction, this time inspired by this photograph of Mount Arenal which was puffing odd bits of smoke out when we visited a few years ago. Nevertheless, it did seem quite benevolent when we were clambering over it’s rocky foothills and bathing in the glorious hot springs. I can only hope that there is plenty of warning for everyone should it ever decide to erupt with any force ever again.
When the child woke, he looked up at his mother smiling above him and simply said
‘What is coming child?’ the mother asked. She wasn’t surprised. The soothsayer had welcomed the child as an omen, and had told her that he would have powers even as he had taken his first breath. Now, at four years old, he was precocious and serious, with a permanent frown. He didn’t play, but was often to be found sitting with his back against the mud walls of his home just observing the world through his dark eyes.
‘Tell the others’ he said in his curiously unchildlike voice ‘tell the others they need to leave. It’s coming’
‘You need to tell me more child’ said the mother as she washed him.
‘Mother, be warned. It is coming. It is coming soon. The Red is coming.’ And the child gripped his mother’s hand and looked at her so earnestly she thought her heart would break.
‘Red? What Red? Explain child’
‘The Red, from the mountain’ and he pointed towards the volcano that had towered over theirs and many other villages for time immemorial. It was the volcano who’s quiet breath and rumbling snores had only ever been heard by ancestors. It had stood silent, still and benevolent while rich flora and fauna crept further and further up it’s sides. Some of the young men had even dared to climb to it’s broken peak and peer into it’s secret stomach, but even they had not reported any danger, just a craggy, dusty interior.
The mother did not know what her boy meant. She had never heard of an eruption, nor seen it’s effect. She had not been schooled and had never left the safety of the remote village.
Her husband occasionally went as far as the town, but even he did not understand what the child had meant by ‘the Red’. So they took him to the soothsayer, where he repeated his prophecy.
The soothsayer, as was her habit, was sitting on the large rock that guarded the entrance to her hut. She puffed on her long carved pipe before declaring that the whole village should take note, and flee as the child had urged.
‘But why?’ asked the mother ‘What is the Red that he speaks of.’ And the soothsayer explained how the volcano would one day spew forth it’s innards, spilling rivers of blood red molten rocks on to the village.
‘No one in their path will live to breath another day’ she said.
Word spread quickly, and since the soothsayer’s word had never been questioned, all the villagers packed up their worldly goods and walked away from the small settlement they knew and loved. Not a tear was shed, as they believed life was more precious than any belongings, but they did turn and bid farewell to the volcano with sadness.
They walked for two days before the child and the soothsayer, having been consulted, declared the new site for the village. From it, they could still see the volcano in the distance, quietly brooding over it’s surrounds. The child watched it knowingly.
After a week, the new village was complete. To mark the occasion the villagers held a party. It was a rare event. All the men got dressed up in the feathered headdresses passed down from their fathers, and the women all wore elaborate beaded necklaces. The darkness descended as the happy group danced and sang around the huge fire which burned between their new homes. They feasted on meat and fruits, and drank purple juice that made their heads swim merrily. The boy still watched.
‘The Red is coming’ he muttered to himself, not without a frisson of excitement.
There was no time in that place. No clocks. No beginnings nor ends. But at some point as the revelries of the evening were beginning to slow and the huge fire was turning to embers, a firework display began.
The first boom rocked the very soil they sat on, and they watched in wonder as that gentle volcano put on a show, shooting red stars into the air, and spilling glowing streamers down it’s sides as if in celebration with them.
‘It’s the Red’ the child said.