Here is an extract of a short story. It is published in a collection of poems and stories called “The Afroverse”.
Where It All Began
It came out of a furnace, from the torrid heat within a ball of fire which, after a million millennia, cooled down to a white hot globe. It was a desolate place if, indeed, it was a place at all. One could only say that it was a planet of flaming hot dust. No-one knew how big this place was, because there was nobody there at the beginning. Had there been, one could have seen that, far and wide, across the dusty horizon, just nothing existed except the ground itself.
And so it was, for thousands of eras: a place that was not a place at all. It was hot, dry, barren and empty. Then, very gradually, at an excruciatingly slow pace, over many more millennia, it began to cool down. From eight hundred degrees centigrade, down to seven, six, four, and one hundred degrees. The ever shrinking temperatures sucked a wild turmoil of stormy winds and hailstones all over the sandy earth. Violent gales whipped up the sky and thrashed the surface above which intergalactic storms howled, far out in space, wildly ripping through the stars to such an extent that a myriad of planets and suns exploded and crushed together into tiny fragments. Asteroids were whisked all over the black heavens, creating the milky way.
On earth, near that place which, at the beginning, was no place at all, there are now some people and there really is some earth, albeit rather dusty and dry. Because the rains and the hailstones did not last for ever, and were not the only influences on that soil. Acid rains, caustic storms, tornadoes, earthquakes and sulphuric gasses from below, all contributed to the wonder that happened one day, as the temperatures stabilised at around forty degrees celsius. Nowhere else on earth but this place had been prepared so well, after aeons of disruption, to create the very first, and only, form of life. How long it had waited, just below the surface no man can say, or how its wood became scorched black inside, no one will ever know. But, it is common belief, now, after so many thousands of years, that the tree did not suddenly appear, and it was not already mature when it first adorned the earth. Instead, it is assumed, that after that marathon of storms, the millennia of agitation, as the new epoch began, it really did take seventy years for the Mpingo tree to grow to maturity. It only seemed that it pushed out of the ground and was instantly a tall, old tree.
That tree is a symbol for all that is pure and wonderful. Everyone knows about the tree and its magical abilities. Yet, not even the wisest elder, who lives in the village of the tree today, can explain how the boy got there. He just suddenly appeared, sitting alone, beside the tree. But from where did he come, and how, and from whom? For these questions there are still no answers, only legends, although why he was there becomes evident, when one hears his story…
A young boy, even this cocoa coloured imp, with wide, white and brown eyes, and a permanent smile, is a sign of caution. An imp can be fun, cheeky and loveable, but he grows into a man, and a man can be unpredictable, can be good or bad, wise or weak.
This particular child, being the first human being on earth, was given a unique prize, a gift that no man would ever inherit again. Rumour has it that this gift came directly from the tree. It was wisdom. Indeed, there were theories that the boy was originally part of the tree. A root, that had grown above the ground and, without any bark, had a beautiful, flawless dark complexion. As the root grew with the tree it sprouted upwards and filled out, and took on the shape of the little boy who sat, patiently, waiting for the right time to begin. He knew, in his infinite wisdom, that he could never succeed but he knew that he should try. He knew too, that his knowledge would dwindle as he grew older.
But there was still a lot of life in the blackwood tree as the four year old boy sat there, alone. Mpingo was not only wise, but magic. He had also inherited from the earth, the magic of life, the mystique of a thousand years of storm.
The cosmic powers that had compiled the recipe, and the forces that had created galaxies, gave the tree the joy of music. Mpingo had the soul of heaven in his sap, the love of the Universe in the veins of his leaves and the rhythm of the beating rains in his trunk and branches. The horrific gales that used to rule the world were now savannah breezes that wafted across the tips of the first yellow grasses, making them sway and shimmer like the rolling tides of the sea. Thanks to Mpingo’s bacterial effluence, which made the ground sweet and nutritious, the grasses were even able to grow in the dry ground. Overjoyed with the breeze and the new signs of life Mpingo rhumba’d his limbs, rattled his leaves, and, through his trunk, resonated the most wonderful sounds that had ever been heard in the Universe. Music was born!
The old folk, who pass on this tale, from generation to generation, insist that the music woke the boy up and that, before the music, the boy was part of the tree, a mutated part of the root, which just happened to look like a little African boy. The music tree woke him up, gave him life, and passed on the intelligence and wisdom of all eras gone by.
Miombo, the little boy, rubbed his eyes and smiled as he perceived the music, and saw the golden savannah grasses dance in front of him. They were sparse but stood proud, for they would be the home of the world’s most regal animals.
Miombo stood up. He was a little wonder. His shiny brown skin showed tiny beads of sweat as his body just naturally swayed with the music of the tree. He danced and sung, and laughed in the breeze, all morning long, until the sun climbed up so high in the sky that the breeze stopped, leaving the world empty and quiet again.
This ritual of dance continued whenever the wind blew up. The tree made music, over a period of weeks, months, and years. At the outset Miombo was very happy but, over such a long period, it became rather monotonous. It was Miombo’s fate, to dance and sing when the wind blew, and to sit alone when it was gone. Unfortunately the cradle of the earth has always been mostly hot, dry, and without wind. Well, not always, but the elders would say that the winds and the rains were exhausted after the millions of centuries that cooked up the earth’s atmosphere and gave birth to the tree. So, Miombo’s happy dancing spells were few and far between.
Perhaps it is so, they say, that life itself, shows us that although everything can be fine and wonderful, it will not always be so, and that man must never forget that there is music in the air, the only wonder which can happen again and again.
In spite of his wisdom Miombo was often sad, for he was on his own, and although the tree made him dance and sing he could not hold back a little sob. The tree tasted the boy’s salty tears. and knew he was sad. So he played a more melancholy tune whenever the wind did blow. Slowly, through the sadness and, above all, the passing of time, Miombo’s wisdom would begin to diminish, he would get older and his knowledge, and his ability to cope, would get less every year. What good is such a gift when it is never used? Mpingo would have to think of something else.
As a young man Miombo became bitter and resentful. No longer would he smile whilst he danced, nor was his song warm and sweet. He chanted aggressively, shouting up into the sky. But the spirits of the storm failed to understand him. Without word, without language, he communicated to the powers that were, but they never listened, never answered. His chants evoked a challenge, but there was no-one to hear his call.
But the tree saw Miombo’s misery and changed its tune. No longer did the winds rustle up a melancholy tune, instead they whipped up a rocking, afro beat….