Topic: Squid challenged me to come up with a piece of fiction from the point of view of people watching the a human deliberately make fire for the first time. This was, politely, a total bastard (and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for the first chapter of The Voice Of The Fire), and I’m only half happy with what I’ve produced, but it’s what I’ve had time to write this week, and part of the point of this is to force me to produce and publish something. So here’s a very short story about shamanism, enlightenment and a few other things.
He was bad luck. He slept away from the rest of them. Invisible things spoke to him. Hidden people. Secret whispers. No-one wanted to hear them. It would make them bad luck. They would twitch and mutter to themselves, and clutch their heads. They would cry out in the night, when hidden things attacked them.
Sometimes, when the voices spoke to him, they told him things. Sometimes, he would tell them to hunt in one place, and they would catch a big beast. Sometimes, he would tell them where to find the best fruit. They listened to him when he told them what he heard. They listened to him, and they left him food at short way from the group.
They did not want him to die. If he died, the hidden voices would find someone else to talk to. They would make someone else like him. Everyone felt them pass by, but they only spoke to him.
If he came too close they would throw rocks at him. Close enough to talk, if he shouted. Not closer.
When it was cold, they left him a burning branch, and some wood, and let him build his own fire. They would not let him share theirs. He had told them where the storm beasts would touch the ground, where they could find a burning tree to make their fire from.
He talked to the fire. They heard him muttering to it. Whispering. Sometimes, he would shout, and dance and scream at it. Sometimes it was “Leave!”. Sometimes, it was “Come back!”. Sometimes, it was just noise, and made no sense at all.
On some nights, as their own fire burned low, and they heard him dancing and shouting, half a mile away, so of them felt something move past them, almost like a wind, but not moving, and they shuddered. The secret things were going to talk to him.
It was like this as long as the oldest person knew.
It was the hot season. Even in the hot season, it was cold at night, so they still kept a fire. They were by the river, where the beasts came to drink. They had not seen him for many days. His fire had gone out. Some of them said he had died. Some of them said that the invisible things had made him go. Sometimes they did. Some of them were glad. Some of them wondered if it would be harder to find food if he did not tell them where to move to when it got cold again.
It was like this for two full moons. Even the oldest person could not remember him ever being gone as long.
He came back. He was not the same. He walked straighter. He did not twitch. He did not mutter. They asked him if the invisible things spoke to him, and he said yes, and that they did not have to be afraid that the invisible things would talk to them. Still, they would not let him close to them.
He went apart a way, and sat down a while. Then he got up again, and walked around, stopping now and then to pick up small sticks and bits of grass. The he came back, and sat as near to the them as they would allow, just a little further than the rocks they threw at him.
It got dark, and some of them said they should give him a piece of their fire, but others were scared of him now, and they said they they should not, that he was not the same, and that he was more bad luck than before, and nobody moved.
Then there was a light. There was a fire by where he was sitting, and there was no light and sound of storm beasts. He had made it.
He had made it.
He had made it.
They were afraid.
They heard him laughing in the dark. They could see him, beside his fire, that he had made, laughing. There was the rushing of the invisible things. They were scared, and they fell on the ground, hoping that the invisible things would pass them by. His fire got big, and theirs went out. They could feel the invisible things all around.
He reached into his fire, and pulled out a burning stick, and walked over to them. They were so scared. The could see the light of the fire in his eyes, and his white smile. He put the stick in their fire, and it grew up again.
“The invisible things showed me” he said. “They are called ‘gods’, and they teach me many secret things. I am master of fire now. I will make the ‘gods’ be good to you, and you will bring me food. That is how it shall be.”
He did not twitch and he did not mutter. He smiled at them, and they were scared.