For the first time in my life, I woke up without feeling any pain. To my surprise, I could even stand up. And I walked into the outer room of the hut. The sunlight streamed through the windows, flooding the small house with warmth. Unsurprisingly, The Oracle was already at home. My mother sat coldly on the other side of the room, and interestingly enough, my father was around. He looked at me, with eyes filled with a plethora of emotion. Half pride, half a deep sadness.
“My son,” he said, coming forward. He held in his arms, and for a moment I was the little boy that used to play on the banks of the river, before everything changed.
The moment passed briefly, and I was back to being the perpetually sick young man. I sighed audibly. The Oracle stood up and signaled for me to follow me. I grasped my father’s hands and looked him solemnly in the eye.
He opened his mouth to say something, but stopped halfway, leaving the moment thick with suspense and unsaid words.
I followed the Oracle, who walked really fast for someone of his age. He swooped through the village, striking the ground with his staff to shoo young children out the way. Most of the older kids would scurry away fearfully, trying to avoid the wrath of the oldest man in the village. Before long, we had reached the end of the village. There were two large huts and one incredibly tiny one. The Shaman stood in front of the small hut, his long robes billowing gently in the wind.
“Welcome son,” he said brightly. The Oracle scoffed and disappeared into one of the larger huts.
“There’s a cleansing ritual you need to go through.” The Shaman explained, gesturing towards the small hut. “The Last Day of The Year falls in two days, so it’s imperative that this is done.”
“What happens if I don’t?” I asked curiously.
“The weight of your own dreams will be too heavy for you to bear, how will you carry the hopes and fears of others?”
I thought back to all the nightmares I had before, fearing that each of the monsters in my head would manifest physically.
Out of nowhere, the Oracle loomed behind me and pushed me violently into the tiny dark hut. I tumbled headlong into the confined space and took a few minutes to sort out my bearings.
When I’d finally distinguished up from down, I sat. The first thing I thought of was home. It made me sad to realize that the only thing I knew about home was my bed by the little window, watching the villagers go past, living lives in which they were fully independent. The next thing I thought of was my father. I was somewhat amazed to find that we were the same height. My legs didn’t work the way they should have, but they reached the length they were supposed to. Perhaps they would become even longer. I couldn’t tell. I remembered the calloused grip of my father’s hands. Hands that never taught me anything, but to cover my mouth when I cough and to clap my gratitude for small kindnesses. My father nurtured my mind though. He helped me stretch my imagination far beyond my legs that didn’t work and out of the small window. My imagination stretched further than the river and far beyond the mountains. I often dreamt of a country, where of course I was fully well, that I roamed and called my own. I wasn’t a fisher man however, I was a farmer. Or maybe even a scribe or a student of law. I could anything.
As time drew on, I became accustomed to the dark. The time seemed to stretch forever, and I was beginning to wonder of the Last Day of The Year had come at all.
After a very long time, a sliver of light shine through a small gap in the darkness. I squinted at it, as I watched it grow larger before it was momentarily blocked by a small figure. I felt a wizened hand grab mine in the half dark and I realized it was the Oracle.
“Do you want me to follow you?” I asked the Oracle. The Oracle scoffed softly and I realized with embarrassment that he couldn’t talk. “I.. I’m sorry, I..I didn’t think.” I stammered hurriedly.
“As a matter of fact,” the Oracle said, ” I do want you to follow me. Just not right now.”
“wait,” I was awestruck. “You can talk?”
This time the Oracle laughed. It was a deep laugh.
“Of course I can, I just choose not to.” His voice was gravelly and his breath laboured. He spoke slowly as if each word was precious, and he had to weigh them all out.
“You’ve done well, my son.” He said. Even in the half dark, I could hear the earnestness in his voice
“All I did was sit the dark,” I chuckled.
“For two days, alone with all your thoughts. Many wouldn’t have lasted.”
“It’s the Last Day of the Year?” I felt my heart fall. A very small part of me had hoped it was all a joke but a stronger part of me knew it was as real as life itself.
“We must go now.” The Oracle said. The hut was plunged momentarily into darkness once more and then flooded with glorious sunshine.
I crawled out the hut and stepped out into the light. Judging by the weak rays of the sun, it was still early morning. The town was already decorated with bright streamers on the huts. The women set out all their lanterns and were polishing and shining them one last time, before they put their festive candles in. The young girls were all in the midst of cooking one thing or another, the air was thick with the aroma of baking cakes and frying chickens. The young men did not go fishing on this day, they instead mended their nets and roasted the fish they had caught the day before. But all these were just a backdrop. For me, the dream catchers stood out starkly. Fluttering unassumingly on the porches of homes, heavy and weighed down by the dreams and hopes of all the town.
The Shaman strode out to meet me. He wore a huge smile on his face, and clapped my back heartily. “Get ready, the festival will begin soon,” he smiled at me, before steering me in the direction of their bathroom. Two days in a hot hut can make you smell quite funky.
After cleaning myself up, the Shaman and Oracle led me to where the festivities were being held. before everyone cleared off into their houses to close off the year, the whole village came together in the village square. food was passed around, the young ladies danced and for the afternoon, the village was happy. Eyes passed over me unassumingly. It was the first festival I had attended in years. Most people did not even recognize me. Presently, the Shaman stood up. Silence settled unevenly over the crowd. Finally as the last baby was cooed gently to quietude, the Shaman begun to tell stories. He weaved worlds with his words, constructed dreams and restructured nightmares. He spoke into existence our history and it almost seemed as if the characters in his accounts were alive and walking amongst us. Then he went silent. A chilly wind rippled through the crowd, and a sombre silence, as dense and heavy as death.
“We must go now.” the Shaman said shakily. He cleared his throat and said in a stronger voice. ” Hang out your dream catchers, for we can not move forward with the weight of the past holding us back. We remember, but we do not dwell.”
Perhaps my eyes were playing tricks on me, but suddenly the sky seemed a bit darker. Mothers scooped their infants up and scolded the ones that lagged behind. Fathers held onto their daughters hands and guided the steps of their wives. In no time, the village square was empty once more. The winds picked up speed and the temperatures dropped.
The Oracle turned towards me and put his wizened hands on my shoulder. “Your hour has come.”