The team was led through the village. Several small circular huts were fixated on the edges of the clearing they found themselves in. Just outside each hut, a small number of natives stood, watching the arrival of Arantu and the off-landers. Arantu led them to a large hut, larger than the previous ones. Two guards, armed with large spears stood at each side of the entrance. Arantu gestured with his arm for the team to enter. Each member slowly meandered inside. Roger found himself pausing for a moment to throw his cold eyes at Arantu. All Arantu did was smile. Roger growled under his breath and moved inside the hut. Jonah was the last in line. Just before crossing the threshold, he spoke to Arantu.
"What is it you want with us? What are you not telling us?" Jonah gave his best attempt to intimidate. The quivering within his voice did little to put across what he had hoped for.
"We tell you all. This Moon, we will come. You all observe our ritual. Get blessing. Sleep. Next Sun, we go." Arantu gestured toward the inside of the hut once again after he spoke. Jonah gathered some courage and stepped up within inches of Arantu. The two guards reacted instantly and Jonah found the sharp points of the spears nearly touching his throat. He swallowed audibly and continued.
"We go where? You keep say we are going where we seek, but I do not understand! We do not even know what is here to be found!" His voice raised despite his brain raging against that decision. He just about flinched expecting the killing blow to come, but it did not.
“You know what it is you seek. It is different for each one, but the same as well. No fear. No harm. We will come for you when Moon shines." Arantu quickly turned and walked away. The two guards lowered their weapons but stepped toward Jonah. He conceded and walked inside. Emily ran up to him and guided him away from the entrance.
"Look at this, Jonah," she spoke in a low voice. Jonah took in the inside of the hut for the first time. It was a simple wood hut, held together by vines. Small piles of leaves and ferns were laid on the ground for sleeping. He wasn't sure what Emily's pleading eyes wanted.
"What am I looking at? It’s a hut." Emily's brow sharpened and annoyance surged across her face. She grabbed his arm and pulled him forward. She now had his full attention.
“There are six of us. There are six piles of bedding. How did they know there were six of us, Jonah? How did they know?" It was Randall who spoke with quite a tremor in his voice. The statement caused Jonah to scan the room again. There were six piles. In the largest hut in the village. Jonah stared in disbelief.
"Like I said before, this is fucked," Roger said as he slumped down to the ground, his back to the wall of the hut.
A few hours passed as they waited silently in the hut. The Sun had set and the Moon was now hovering low within the sky. Arantu arrived, wearing much more fur and bones, his face painted with several large dots, and a headdress of vine and feathers. As he entered the hut, a few of the team rose to their feet, including Jonah. Roger hadn't even glanced Arantu's way.
"It is time. Come." It was spoken as a command. More natives, six in total and all in similar outfits as Arantu stepped in, bearing crude clubs and spears. Reluctantly, the team followed.
They were lead to the center of the village. A large fire was burning in a rock pit that had been freshly made. Several natives surrounded the fire in a circle, each one bearing a variation of the dotted paint, in various colors. They sat on their knees with their heads bowed towards the fire. Arantu led the team to an open spot within the circle and gestured for them to sit. Despite the tension, everyone sat as the natives did, on their knees. Arantu walked towards the fire and stopped just a few feet from it. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and swung himself around with his arms in the air. He began to chant, and the other natives slowly chanted along. The rhythm of the chants slowly sped up, the volume of the natives increased. A wind had begun to whip through the village. The fire swayed along with Arantu, and the chanting reached a furious pace. Arantu began a dizzying spin, coming ever close to falling within the flames, but he seemed in total control. The chants were now deafening. Emily had covered her ears. Another member screamed. The tempest of the ritual bounded to its crescendo. Arantu fell to his knees and threw his hands into the dirt. The winds went calm. The fire burned smaller now. Arantu stood, tears in his eyes.
"Off-landers. What you see here is our way of life. We know you have fear. We know you are angry." Arantu's eyes locked with Roger's for just a moment. "We do not wish this! You have come here. You are here for a great purpose. We know this. It has been told to us Eight of Eyes. She sees all. She knows all. She speaks to us all as one! You do not believe, but that will change." Arantu shouted for all to hear. The smile had found its way to his face again as he continued.
"You want to know how we know you come here. Eight of Eyes say it be so. She say make six places to sleep, and no more. Six! And now you see. And you still fear! Do not fear." Arantu approached the team and now spoke much softer. He knelt down in front of Jonah.
"We know of the words you carry. From your ancestor. It speaks of our home. Eight of Eyes knows." Jonah felt numb. He could not feel the tears streaming down his face, nor did he care. Arantu clasped his hands.
"You all seek the same thing. Tomorrow, we will take you to the place of Eight of Eyes. You will see what we see. Know what we know. And your lives forever change." Arantu stood up and backed away. Guards now moved quickly to all the team members. Each one was given a bowl with a foul-smelling liquid. The guards then pointed their spears and clubs towards each member.
"You must take this blessing we give you. Then we will celebrate this Moon. Deny it, and we must end you. We cannot have any offend Eight of Eyes." Arantu's smile had faded and a most sobering look had set within his face. The team members looked at each other, but knew there was only one choice to be made.
"Fucking damn it." Roger muttered as he downed the bowl. He grimaced and shook his head a bit, but managed to get it down. The other team members slowly followed suit. Arantu's smile emerged once again. He raised his hands to the Moon.
"Eight of Eyes! This night is yours to give!" This brought all of the natives to their feet, hollering and shouting. They began to dance as drums began to be played. Arantu removed his head dress and ran to the team members who were still recovering from the so-called blessing.
"Come my friends! Dance with us, celebrate this night we have been given." Arantu spun around and shouted with a smile as big as it could have ever been. Jonah looked towards Emily and couldn't help but smile too. She laughed hard and shook her head. Even Roger had walked over with a sideways grin on his face. The rest of the night faded into a blur as the drink took effect.
This will be a four part story, keep tuned for the finale late this week.
Want more short stories? Just search below: