Time and Again

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

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 happened.  

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 behind him.

“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,” Njobo stated. 

“You have learned his name?” Mabosu asked, incredulous.  “Does the metal BaMbuti know our language?”

“No, my son, Wil-yam and I shared molimo dreams.” 

Mabosu and Aberi both stared at him.  “How is such a thing possible?” Aberi finally asked. 

Njobo shrugged.  “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 fever.”

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?”

Njobo chuckled.  “Have you never seen a BaMbuti dressed in metal garments before?”

“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 nodded. 

“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 I have.”

Mangese Njobo, I will do as you request.”

“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 magics.” 

“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 moment. 

“I am grateful for your help,” Theo said. 

“Doc-tor Thee-o…”

“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.” 

Njobo smiled.  “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.” 

Njobo nodded.  “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.

 

 

 

 

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