Time and Again
Njobo Takes Charge
Njobo sat on a limb, munching on the roasted
monkey. He had cooked it
away from the stranger’s camp and brought it here to eat while he
watched. At the same time, he had placed some fruit near a tree
where the stranger could see it. However,
the man seemed not to be able to see well in the forest after the
setting of the sun. While
it was fairly dark, Njobo was very much used to his home and his eyes
were used to seeing around him in the dark.
He watched as the sky sled rider tried to make himself
comfortable. The stranger
talked softly to himself, reached for his companion several times but
changed his mind and sat back against the tree trunk. He pulled out some
kind of metal device and sat it on his lap. Finally he reached over and touched his companion on the
neck, under the metal hat that sat on the BaMbuti’s head.
The companion immediately shook his head, made strange noises and
started talking to the sky sled rider.
Lights began showing on the BaMbuti’s chest and the
second voice began talking. Njobo
could understand none of the voices, but as he finished his meal, he
watched carefully. After
he had finished, he pulled out his stone knife and began working on the
bamboo molimo, still observing the pair below him.
He concluded that this sky rider was from the
same clan as the sky rider he had met as a young man.
He never had learned much more than the man’s name and a few
words of his language, plus the fact that he was from far away. The
stranger from long ago had mostly drawn things or made signs to
communicate and they had conversed after a fashion before other sky sled
riders had rescued him.
This stranger and his companion finally built a
fire, lighting it with the strange and magical weapon that the taller
man had been holding. It
gave out a bright light that made the wood smoke and then burst into
flames. Njobo smiled, thinking that if he had this, it would be
something that would make his friends very jealous. The man seemed to relax after he had started the fire.
That is good, Njobo thought.
The stranger is happier and he will be safer.
He continued to watch and listen, smiling when the man found the
fruit he had left.
Even though the fire made the stranger appear
more at ease, he still seemed sad.
Perhaps he was feeling unhappy over the destruction of the Mother
and Father Forest. Njobo
continued to work on his molimo until it was smooth inside as
well as out, and he was satisfied.
He looked through the bamboo toward the stranger’s fire and saw
that he had done a good job. The molimo would work well.
Njobo felt a compulsion to sing to soothe the
forest and this man who had so violently become a part of it. Putting the end of the molimo trumpet to his lips, he
started softly, first singing the song of the flowers and insects, and
then the birds. The notes
coming from the end of his molimo sounded like the soft rustling
of the breeze through the vines and foliage, then the buzzing of the
insects and then the flapping of wings and the soft love songs of the
birds he had watched, heard and known all his life.
He watched the stranger, he saw the man lean against the tree and
close his eyes. Njobo knew that the song was helping the man feel better.
He changed the song to reflect the lives of the
forest floor denizens, the okapi, the sondu and then the leopard. As he sang, he not only saw in his mind the things he was
singing about, but he saw other things.
He almost dropped the molimo when he saw a woman whose
skin was as white as this man’s in a place that was totally foreign to
him. He saw the woman with
a little boy and realized that the boy was this man a long, long time
ago. She called the
child, Wil-yam. Just as
Njobo was his own name, this man’s name was Wil-yam.
As he continued to sing in his molimo about the bright
plumed birds, Njobo felt his bird and the man merge into one entity and
he felt the stranger’s joy at flying with such freedom through the
forest. Then again he
saw into the dreams of his stranger.
They were in another weird and wonderful place with another
stranger who seemed to have the spirit of the bird of prey in him. The bird stranger, whose name was that of a bird, had wings
strapped to his back, and he leaped from a cliff into a barren landscape
devoid of the forest life that Njobo was so used to.
His stranger, Wil-yam, yearned to do the same, but didn’t quite
relinquish his fear enough to do so.
Njobo’s song continued until he was singing of
the sky and the wind and the clouds and the rain.
He sang of the Mother Forest and of the entire Ndura, the
whole world, and then Njobo saw the Ndura from which Wil-yam had
come. He felt the sadness
of this man below him, seeing the land sick and dead, and he felt
sadness as well. So Njobo
sang a happier song of the forest and felt Wil-yam share in his joy and
contentment. The man continued to sleep, while Njobo continued to play the
molimo. Even after
his songs ended, Wil-yam continued to sleep and dream of happy things,
while the BaMbuti singer pondered what he had seen and what had
Njobo had never shared songs and dreams with the
stranger from a long time ago. Why
have Mother and Father Forest given me these dreams? Why do they wish for me to see into the heart of this
stranger? Finally he
decided that this man carried something within him, something that the
forest gods wanted him to have.
They shared because they both had something to give to each
other, Njobo finally decided as he made himself comfortable on the limb.
His last sight was of the metal BaMbuti taking the magical
weapon and keeping watch over Wil-yam.
Then he dreamed the dreams of the forest and shared the dreams of
the man below him. And
Njobo felt the happiness of the forest gods.
The next morning, Wil-yam awoke just before the
sunrise, still happy. After
the sun rose and after the sky sled rider had eaten and refreshed
himself, he picked up the now sleeping metal BaMbuti and set off
through the forest. This
time the stranger moved a bit slower, his steps careful in the more
dense and dark forest in this area.
He stopped to find water a time or two, and to eat fruit from
trees along the trail. It
rained once, refreshing both himself and Wil-yam, who had removed his
upper garment to get the full benefit of the rain. After the rain, the sky sled rider put his garment back
on and picked up his smaller companion.
This time, when the stranger started out again, he walked even
more slowly, faltering a time or two.
Njobo sensed something wrong and watched carefully.
Wil-yam stumbled, almost dropping his metal clad companion.
Gently, he laid the strange BaMbuti down and then reclined
against a tree. He held his
head in his hands and moaned softly.
Then he tried to get to his BaMbuti companion.
To awaken him? Njobo asked himself.
The man was in pain; of that there was no doubt.
Wil-yam could not reach his companion and fell asleep, his hand
on the metal BaMbuti’s leg.
Periodically he moaned and shook, but Wil-yam did not wake up.
What did he do to awaken his friend the night before? Njobo pondered what he should do next when he felt a presence
“Father,” Mabosu said quietly.
Njobo looked over his shoulder. Behind his son, squatted Aberi, his brother.
“They are both sick,” Mabosu observed,
handing his father the dawa pouch.
“No, only the stranger, Wil-yam, is sick,”
“You have learned his name?” Mabosu asked,
incredulous. “Does the
metal BaMbuti know our language?”
“No, my son, Wil-yam and I shared molimo
Mabosu and Aberi both stared at him.
“How is such a thing possible?” Aberi finally asked.
“Only the forest gods know.
And only they know why.” He
looked back down at the sick sky sled rider.
“I want you two to stay away from this camp.
I do not know what kind of sickness this one has, but I have to
go down and help him, and to try and awaken the metal BaMbuti.
I am going to give the stranger medicine to help his pain and
Aberi was still staring wide-eyed at the
campsite below him. What
Njobo had told him about the molimo dreams, plus what his eyes
were seeing astonished him beyond measure.
“What is that creature?”
“Have you never seen a BaMbuti dressed in metal garments
“I have only seen enough metal in my lifetime
to know what it is, brother,” Aberi replied.
“Doesn’t he get hot?”
“Maybe that is why he sleeps during the day,” Njobo said. “He has two voices, too.”
Aberi did not answer; he continued to just stare
at the creature lying still below him.
Then the stranger convulsed and curled up into a
ball, crying out in pain. Njobo
turned to his son. “You
will be the hunter. We will
all need meat, especially the stranger, Wil-yam.
Try to find a big buck sondu. That
will give us much meat.” Mabosu
“Aberi, my brother,” Njobo said. “I leave to you the gathering of more medicines, because I
think this one will need much from the dawa pouch, even more than
“Mangese Njobo, I will do as you
“Do not call me great one, until this stranger
is well and on his feet again,” Njobo said, clapping his hand on his
brother’s shoulder. “I
am glad you came. This is a
strange time and it is better if one is not alone to face the strange
“Njobo, if anyone can make this stranger well,
you can. May Mother and
Father Forest look after you both,” Aberi said solemnly.
Looking into his brother’s eyes, Njobo could
see that he, too, saw something mysterious and special about this sky
sled rider and his BaMbuti companion.
Using a vine, he slid down the tree trunk and approached the sick
stranger. Lightly he touched the man on the arm, feeling the smoothness
of Wil-yam’s clothing as well as the heat of the man’s body.
It was as he thought. Part
of the man’s sickness was a fever.
Njobo found a large leaf and folded it to hold
water. He next found a
reservoir of water in the crotch of a tree and filled the leaf bowl.
Reaching into his dawa pouch, he pulled out a small packet
of yellowish powder and poured half of it into the water.
Laying his pouch against the tree, Njobo held up the stranger’s
head and began coaxing him to drink.
At first the man didn’t respond and the medicine ran out of his
mouth, but then Wil-yam began swallowing, weakly at first, coughing and
choking at the taste, but Njobo managed to coax him into drinking it
all. Wil-yam opened
his eyes and looked at Njobo briefly, and then, with a sigh, closed them
again. “Thanks, Twiki,”
he murmured. Njobo had no idea what he had said, but knew that the man
was not really aware. He seemed to be resting more comfortably, though
and in that Njobo was grateful.
He gathered more water and gave the sick man another drink. This
time, Wil-yam drank eagerly and weakly reached for more when finished.
Njobo gently laid the man’s head back down on the soft ground.
The sky sled rider immediately fell back into a deep sleep.
Njobo pondered his next step. Even though it was still daylight, he needed to try and wake
the metal BaMbuti. On
the other hand, it was close to evening, and he needed to build a hut in
which the sick man could reside until his illness had passed.
Njobo also saw by the sky that it would be raining again soon.
Njobo looked around for the fito trees, but didn’t see
any. Then he heard Aberi
above him and jumped back when his brother began dropping the fito
saplings to the ground. By
the time Njobo had fashioned the fito into the framework of a
hut, Aberi had returned with an armload of large heart-shaped mongongo
leaves. His brother
gathered several arms full and then melted back into the forest to hunt
for the barks, roots and berries Njobo needed to help the sick stranger.
The BaMbuti took the leaves and covered the framework with
them, overlapping them to keep the water from falling on the sick man.
Njobo soon finished the hut, leaving the bottom of the framework
open to let the fresh air carry away the heat of the sickness.
Rain began falling and with it came a refreshing
breeze. Njobo dragged the
metal BaMbuti into the hut and then pondered how to awaken the
strange man. He felt that
this BaMbuti companion was a key in understanding better what the
forest wanted him to do.
Reaching over, Njobo touched the side of the metal BaMbuti’s neck just below the strangely shaped head. Nothing. He moved his finger slightly and felt a place where it fit perfectly. The BaMbuti moved his head, sat up, looked at him and then cried out. The lights came on in front of the strange man and the other voice spoke.
Njobo understood neither voice, but still he
felt it important to let this strange two-voiced man know what was
happening. “I am Njobo of
the Lelo Bazwanna group of the BaMbuti.
Father and Mother Forest have led me to you and your companion. He is very sick. You
should know this so you can help me make him well again.”
Pausing, Njobo watched the strange colored lights on the man’s
chest blink on and off. One
of the voices made indistinguishable noises and the second voice said
something that quieted the first voice.
But the one thing Njobo noticed, to his astonishment, was that
the two voices had spoken briefly--at the same time!
There had to be magic. “You
are a dawa man, a BaMbuti of extraordinary magic.
You must help me save your friend, the sky rider, Wil-yam.
He is very sick.”
The second voice began speaking again, but this
time, it was in his own language. Or
close enough to his own language for Njobo to understand him.
“I can understand you.
I am Dr. Theopolis. The
other voice is Twiki. You
called my friend William. Where
did you hear that?”
“I shared dreams with your friend. Last night. He
was called Wil-yam in the dreams.”
“I do not understand exactly what you mean by
dreams,” Theo said and then stopped.
Buck had mentioned dreams. “I
don’t know how you were able to do that, but I am grateful that you
did. My friend has several names.
William is one of them, but his ‘real’ name is Buck.”
“Buck?” Njobo asked.
“Yes,” Theo affirmed.
“But however you did the dreams, I thank you. They made him very happy.”
“It was good for me as well,” Njobo said.
“But now we must work together to make him well.
He is very sick. I
have given Buck medicine to bring down his fever.
It has helped only a little.”
The metal BaMbuti arose and walked the
short distance to his friend and Njobo noticed that the strange man was
only a bit shorter than he was. They
both could walk easily in the hut he had built.
Doc-tor Thee-o-po-lis/Twee-kee took Buck’s hand and held it a
“I am grateful for your help,” Theo said.
“Buck calls me Theo.
That will be easier,” the second voice said. “And you are right.
He does indeed have a fever.
It is almost 105 º, a very dangerous level.
We must get it down.” The
strange BaMbuti turned to him.
“Is there water nearby? If
he is bathed in water it will help to bring down his temperature. And
more of your medicine will help as well.”
“I used some of my fever remedies when I first
came to your camp. It is
too soon for more.”
Theo gazed at this man who had doctored Buck.
His sensors almost felt overwhelmed.
First the idea that there was a tribe of forest dwellers living
and apparently still thriving on Earth surprised him.
When he had studied old languages, Theo had thought the BaMbuti
or Ituri pygmy language was a dead language.
He could not ignore the fact, also, that this man was unselfishly
helping them. Theo had no idea how he was going to tell this man that he
had contracted a deadly virus from the man he was so graciously helping.
“I am called Njobo.
I can gather water, but not a great deal at a time.
The next time it rains, I can remove the roof of the hut.”
“That will help,” Theo said. “And Buck needs plenty to drink.
He has lost a great deal of fluid.”
“That is easier to do. I
will return soon.”
“Njobo, wait,” Theo said.
The pygmy stopped and gazed at him.
“What Buck has is a very evil sickness, easily spread to other
people. You have been close
to him. If there are others
of your people nearby, do not go near them.”
“It is as I suspected, Thee-o/Twee-kee.
I will be careful.” And
then he was gone.
Buck moaned and thrashed about weakly. Twiki took his friend’s hand. “You have to make it, Buck. You have to,” he said mournfully.