My name echoed in the dark and the sound of Anna’s voice brought me back to my senses. I woke up and found myself on the ground bound in a big net. I saw many humans pointing their spears and lances at me.
They looked scared and terrified by my size and I smelled fear in them as I looked around for Anna. I shouted her name and all the humans fell silent. Intimidated by my voice, they all took a step back. Anna was being held by two humans, but I could not see Baby with her. I became irate and started to look around in search of Baby.
It was a big cave with many lit torches hanging from the walls. I made a thorough search, but still did not see Baby. I looked at Anna as she pushed her way through the humans. She then knelt down and held me while she cried.
I tried to free myself from the net. When the humans saw that I was struggling to get free, they tied a rope to the net and suspended me with my head facing downwards and pulled the net so that it became tighter.
The rope tied to the net was also attached to another long, thick rope which was nailed to the outside wall of the cave. It was a very big cave with a wide entrance.
The humans seized Anna and one of them ran into the cave and yelled something which I could not understand. Then another human pulled a different rope which lifted me up a bit more. I watched while the rest of them rushed out of the cave.
It was easy for them to drag me along with the rope. They moved me out of the cave and into the light. It was chaotic and I heard humans shouting at the peak of their voices. I did not know what they were saying. I was way above them and there were so many of them, like grains of sand. I had never seen such a great number of beings in one gathering.
I looked down from above and noticed that the other end of the rope was tied to a giant old tree outside the cave. If I were to cut the ropes that tied me and free myself from the net, I knew that the fall would kill me. I had no idea where I was but I knew who had caught me, so I needed to improvise fast.
Anna looked helpless and seemed to be in danger from where I hung. Lightning could be seen from a distance and the sound of thunder clapped continuously, accompanied by heavy winds but not a drop of rain kissed the ground.
From above I sighted many humans beneath me, shouting and holding sticks, arrows, lances, spears and even tiny swords. I saw Baby in the hands of another human woman, so I shouted at Anna and pointed to the woman who was carrying Baby.
The humans were too many. Have they all gathered to see me and probably watch me humiliated and killed? I pondered.
Anna sighted Baby too so she kicked the one who held her. She then rushed towards Baby then snatched him from the human woman, attacking her fiercely like a wildcat.
I used my teeth to untie my hands. When the humans saw that I was free and was trying to struggle out of the net, they began to shoot their spears at me and missed. I became wild and yelled at them from above. I jumped and landed on the ground with my two feet, supporting my body with my hands, then rolled over and knocked many of them down the slope.
I picked up their spears, finding them to be too small for me. I knew they were too many, but I had to scare them off. I roared as I headed towards Anna and Baby. However, by the time I got to them, a human man had placed a knife on her neck and threatened to kill her if I moved any closer. The human man was trembling. Some of the humans ran away, but the rest of them surrounded me, holding their spears.
The clouds began to thicken and it thundered terribly. It looked like a heavy downpour was about to occur and the wind was blowing atrociously, bringing with it a great storm.
Another human woman approached me from amongst them, unarmed. She was older and I recognised her even with her half burnt face. After a careful look, I realised she was the one who had handed Baby to me during the night of the attack on the humans. She smiled at me with tears in her eyes, then spoke to the rest of the humans. They immediately lowered their arms.
I threw the spears away as the human woman walked toward Anna. She got to Anna and reached out her hands to take Baby from Anna. Anna protested but I yelled at her for the first time and made her understand that Baby belonged to the other human woman. However, Anna began to shed tears and held Baby tighter.
Anna just could not hand over Baby to the human woman and the two of them began to cry.
Eventually, Anna managed to give Baby to the other human woman, but Baby cried out loud. The human woman tried to breastfeed him in order to stop him from crying but Baby’s voice overrode the storms and everybody fell silent. Anna then rushed and snatched Baby from the human woman. Baby chuckled.
I smiled as I watched Anna laughing. She could not look into the eyes of the human woman who owned Baby. From what I observed, it was obvious the human woman who owned Baby had no choice but to let Anna held Baby.
While we were all watching the drama between Anna and the human woman, some human men arrived. As soon as the one who looked like their leader saw me, he ordered the rest and all of a sudden they threw nets at me and attacked me.
They tied ropes to my legs and continued to throw themselves on me. I struggled but it was too late, they had successfully trapped me once again. I did not want to harm them. They dragged me back into the cave again.
The bad human leader walked into the cave and ordered Anna and Baby to be brought to him. He spoke to Anna in a tongue I could not understand but he did not harm her and she seemed to be familiar with him.
The bad human leader called out three of his human men and sent them out on horseback. Then he asked for food and water to be brought for Anna. However, she insisted that they attend to me first.
Most of the humans gathered around the entrance to the cave to watch us, murmuring amongst themselves. Food was offered to us but as I was still tied up, Anna first fed me, then herself.
After a while, the human woman who owned Baby walked in and sat down. She watched Anna, admiring the closeness between her and Baby. She was touched by what she witnessed.
The bad human leader sat down and kept staring at me. I wondered what was going on in his mind and what he would do to me as he continued to gaze.
Not long after that, I heard the sound of horses galloping, coming from outside the cave. The three human men sent out by their leader had come back and one of them whispered something into his ears. With his eyes still focused on me, he ordered them again and they walked out.
The three human men returned with two other human men; an older human man whose beard was grey with age and a younger handsome looking human man. The two that came had finer garments compared to the humans who had ensnared me.
The younger one rushed towards Anna. On seeing her, tears formed in his eyes, then he hugged and kissed her. She started to cry and he wiped her tears as they continued kissing.
The older grey-bearded human carried a staff. He and the bad human leader had a long talk. It looked like he was trying to convince the bad human leader of something. The grey-bearded one would talk and point upwards in a forthright manner. However, the bad human leader would just shake his head in disagreement.
The bad human leader again ordered more food for the two human men who had come for Anna, but the older grey-bearded human man rejected the offer.
Anna then spoke to the old bearded one and pointed at me. He stood up and walked slowly over to me, bending down and looking at me without fear. He stared at me for a while, then raised his right hand and touched my forehead. He then spoke to me in my own tongue.
“What are you called, young one?” he asked.
At first I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, until he asked me again.
‘Buga,’ I responded sedately.
He then told me that Anna had informed him that I had saved her life. She would not forgive him if he did not make sure I was set free. I asked him who he was but he ignored me and after a long stare, he stood up and went back to Anna. He whispered something to her and she began to cry. Anna fell to her knees begging. A little while later, she turned to the younger human man who had accompanied the old bearded one.
The young human man agreed to talk to the older one, but when he tried to explain something to him, the old bearded one’s attention was focused on the sound of thunder outside. It seemed as though he just wanted them to leave, for he appeared to be agitated and in a hurry.
The old bearded one then quickly turned to the bad human leader and spoke to him while pointing at me. The leader refused and became furious. The old bearded one just turned and started to walk away. Anna and the young human man followed him while continuing to beg.
She then pulled out something which was wrapped in a tiny garment and showed it to the old bearded one. He stopped and stared at her then took it and returned to the bad human leader.
The old bearded one emptied the tiny piece of garment onto the table. It had contained some of the precious stones which Anna picked up from the cave where the beast had guarded us. The old bearded one gazed in silence. The bad human leader bit his lower lip and his thumb lightly, before calling out and ordering the three human men to untie me.
The old bearded one looked at me once more then quickly turned away and started to walk off in a hurry.
After I had been set free, Anna smiled joyfully and invited me to follow them. The old bearded one mounted a white horse. Anna held Baby and rode on a black horse with the young human man. She instructed me to come with them. She searched for the other human woman who owned Baby among the crowds. The two of them smiled at each other and the other human woman bid Anna and Baby farewell with tears in her eyes. Baby chuckled. The sky was getting darker as we moved away from the human settlement.
I had no idea where we were going but I followed them on foot as they rode their horses. Anna continued to look back to check if I was still following.
It began to rain heavily. From behind us we heard an outburst coming from the human camp. They began pursuing us. The horses ran fast and I ran faster myself, taking shortcuts in order to catch up with them through the thick trees. We were in a dense forest surrounded by many hills. There was a furious commotion that rose behind us, approaching from the human settlement. The bad human leader most have ordered the humans to bring us back, I thought.
We got to an open field and I saw a heavy giant ship supported by large logs. Many humans came out from the forest and ran toward the ship. They were approaching from all around, making chaotic noises, screaming and yelling. Their voices rose like a great roar.
The old bearded one continued to charge his horse ahead, followed by the one Anna rode. Her attention was on me and she continued to look back to check if I was still with them. I had already caught up with them and was running beside the black horse.
The clouds became darker and it thundered louder than I had ever heard before, while lightning struck continuously. I heard someone shouting my name from the surrounding hills. I looked to my left and saw thousands of Puricans descending from the higher grounds to where the giant ship stood. They were led by the chief. Anna noticed them too so she called the attention of the young human man.
I stretched my hand out to touch her while running, she stretched hers out too and our fingers touched. At that moment I felt like it was the end and I might never see Anna again. I knew I had to do something about the Puricans before they got to Anna.
Anna screamed my name, probably trying to hinder me from doing anything hasty. I saw a spear strapped to the side of the black horse and pulled it out. The younger human man looked at me while continuing to ride his horse at a fast pace. I gave him the sign to go ahead. He smiled, nodded and slashed the horse hard, making it run faster. I turned and faced the Puricans who were running toward us. I took a turn and charged straight at the Purican chief. Water started to come out from the ground. He saw me coming and screamed my name. I called him by his birth name, ‘Duwekah!’ meaning, “The end!”
The Puricans realised that water was rising from the ground, so they scattered in confusion, along with the humans. Strange, heavy sounds of water and waves clashing came from all over the earth, approaching the giant ship.
I had never seen the sea so angry. Water rose from the ground. None of us alive had ever seen what was unfolding, nor had I ever heard of such dreadful events.
The sight was terrible and most of the humans scattered in fear and some of them were carried away by the waves. I had never seen humans gathered in one place like they were on that day. The waters rose from all round the giant ship and shot up high like the mountains. I sighted the old bearded one on his horse with his hand raised up as if he were using his staff to clear the wind and water ahead of him. I turned at the very moment when the Purican chief raised his sword from afar and charged, together with some of his loyalists. I turned again to see if Anna had reached the giant ship. At that moment, I understood that this was exactly what she had been trying to explain to me all this time.
Everything she had said and explained made sense; choosing precious stones and putting them in the basket and the rain destroying the other stones. Anna had known about the heavy downpour and that was why she had been trying to make sure that we arrived in time to escape the flood. It was never about me making a ship for us to escape; it was all about the giant ship which the humans had built.
I kicked the first Purican who approached me and dodged the chief’s sword, before lifting him off the ground with my left hand. I shoved him up against a big tree and thrust the spear through his mouth so hard that it stuck in the tree. I left him hanging there then turned to the next Purican who attacked me, seized his sword and cut off the chief’s head. His headless body fell to its knees and collapsed on the ground. At that moment I found peace, seeing his head stuck to the tree. By that time, the two horses had made their way into the giant ship. I saw the doors to the giant ship being locked as water swept me off my feet.
The wave was heavy and the current too violent for me to swim with ease, so I stopped struggling and let it carry me along. By the time I was able to surface above the water, there was nothing but total chaos. I sighted the giant ship being shaken violently by the current, and I could see some humans falling from its deck. I did not know how they got on top of it but they were washed away as the giant ship tried to settle under the pressure from the violent storm.
I saw trees, humans, animals, Redicans, Adaganians and Puricans scattered all around, screaming and crying for help, both above and below the water. Those who could not swim were dragging anyone they could lay their hands on down below. Thunder and lightning continued to strike the water violently, killing anyone in its path. I felt terrified. The water level kept going up as the heavy downpour continued from the skies. Lightning struck the waters and travelled through them, striking whatever lay in its path. I sighted a tree floating and I grabbed. However, a big wave tossed me and the tree against the giant ship. The tree knocked me against the side of the giant ship, I lost consciousness.
I was later awakened by a cold breeze. I opened my eyes and looked up at the sky. It was so clear and the sun was up. My vision became clearer and I managed to stand up. I found myself on top of the roof of the giant ship. I looked around and the entire earth was filled with water. I could not see any Puricans, humans or animals in the waters. I then looked up at the skies for the black bird from my dream, but it was not there.
The ship was sailing calmly and my stomach was empty. I had never felt as hungry as I did on that day. I stamped on the roof with my feet to let them know that I was up there. However, no-one answered.
The ship rocked, so I had to find a good position to lie down or I might fall off into the waters. I was amazed by the beautiful sight of the clear skies. However, there was no sign of land nor any sign of life; just water and the beautiful skies. Despite the calm, my mind was troubled by the images of the huge black bird from my dream.
My health was deteriorating. I could tell I might not survive long, but I had to hold on and stay strong. I had survived worse but never faced such a serious illness. I felt cold and I was coughing hard. I could feel the weight of my heart and lungs but I was a Purican warrior. Death held no fear for me and that was why I survived to this day. I had stared death in the eyes too many times and charged against it. I did all and conquered all simply because I had no fear of dying. Death and I were familiar with each other because I saw it in my reflection whenever I looked into a river or stream.
“How did you get up here?” inquired an angry voice.
I stood up and saw the old bearded one pointing his staff at me. Behind him were other humans who must have climbed up through an open hatch in the roof of the giant ship.
“I said, how did you get here?” asked the old bearded one again.
‘I do not know … I am thirsty!’ I replied.
He lowered his staff and asked someone to bring food and medicine. He sat down and looked around, clearly not comfortable with my presence.
“You were not part of the plan!” he added.
‘What plan?’ I asked.
He laughed and spread his arms.
“This … this whole plan of His” He pointed at the surrounding waters.
I then asked him to whose plan he was referring. In reply, he pointed up at the sky. My heart almost leaped as I looked up at the sky, thinking I would see the huge black bird from my dream. However, I saw no one. I was also worried about not seeing any sign of life and how deep water was. I wanted to ask the old bearded one many questions.
“Save your energy, Buga,” he said.
They served me water and food. While I was attacking the food, Anna came to us. She looked so happy to see me again. She hugged me tight. Later, she spoke to the old bearded one and told him how grateful she was.
After I had finished eating, the old bearded one mixed some herbs and asked me to drink the mixture. I did but it was so bitter. He then rubbed some of it around my face and chest.
“This should keep your soul in your body for a while, but you must be strong,” he added.
The old bearded one smiled and ordered some garments to be brought to me, which he then used to wrap me with. I felt so much better.
The old bearded one became an interpreter because I could understand him. I asked about Baby and he told me that Baby was too young to be brought up because of the conditions on top of the giant ship. He said Baby was doing just fine. The old bearded one explained to me that Baby is a term humans use to refer to a very young child who has not yet begun to walk or talk. I never knew Baby was not a name so we both laughed at my stupidity. I asked him if Anna had picked a name for the child yet. He smiled and told me Anna named the child after me. I was so excited that tears of joy rolled down my face. I again asked the old bearded one how he got to build such a giant ship, and he laughed.
“It is not a ship, it is called an ark!” he said, smiling sympathetically.
I then asked him about his story but he was more interested in mine and so he begged me to tell him more about myself and how I encountered Anna. I smiled at him, lowered my head and looked at my hands, noticing that they had turned pale. I chuckled to lighten up the mood and cleared my throat.