Crossing the Shaky Bridge

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about someone forced out of their home.... view prompt

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Fantasy Middle School People of Color

   “Father was on another one of his great mysteries in Nigeria when he found me. Our country is quite beautiful. It is known for its elephants, buffalo, and forest monkeys of all kinds. But it is most known for its Bigisu Arabica coffee. This is how our community and farmers support themselves.”

    Nanny listened very carefully, for Alora rarely spoke of how she been forced to leave her country or how she had become adopted by the man they called Father.

     “When our neighbors house burned down, everyone got together donating lumber and plumbing. Everyone pitched in and the house was quickly rebuilt. We had frequent mudslides that would destroy entire villages. But no one would move away. This was our home. These were our people. And this was our lives. We simply rebuilt.”

    Alora reached for a glass of water, swirling it around and around.  For a few minutes, all that could be heard was the clink, clink, clink of the ice hitting the glass. Nanny waited. 

    “Once over 10 homes were destroyed. We rebuilt one home at a time. Entire families slept in the huge community center. The men would carry the heavy lumber and other supplies to the site where the current house was being built. The stronger women worked side by side with the men. The older women would cook the group meals and tend to the young. The younger children who were not strong enough to work, would sit in groups and count out nails and screws, placing them in pouches to distribute to the men at all the corners of the house,” she raised her head with great pride, for she had once been one of those children.

    “One time, they needed to make a pulley at the highest point to hoist up the heavy lumber, but the ceiling walls were not sturdy enough yet for the big men to climb on. So, they sent up Giselle. He was only 6 years old and tiny, but quick and nimble. We called him Giselle because he would jump from rock to rock, making it look so easy and effortless. He reminded us of the gazelles frolicking on the plains below the mountains.”

    She raised her eyebrows and whispered. Looking at Nanny, for Alora always loved a little drama, “We all held our breath as he jumped from beam to beam with the rope in his hand. He climbed to the highest point, balancing on the logs like an acrobat on a tightrope. Only he had no net below him to catch him if were to slip or make a wrong move. Everyone gathered around, praying, and watching, as he slowly made his way upwards, circling the rope around the highest pulpit, then tossing down to those below. Then making his way about halfway down and encircling a second pulpit, this one destined to be a chimney for the fireplace.”  Leaning back, she concluded, “One by one, all the homes were rebuilt by the entire community.”

    “But our village was struggling. Over 90 percent of profit went to the middlemen who sold the coffee for us. We lived in a remote area with difficult, mountainous terrain. Our access to markets were poor. We needed someone to transport the coffee. They took most of the profits. Other times, the crops would be destroyed by mudslides and a disease called ‘la roya’ or coffee leaf rust.”

     “We needed new equipment and partnerships with the coffee industry moguls. But just because we were poor, does not mean we lacked hope and insight. Siyanda, the wife of the head farmer Jono, held a community meeting. We needed to be smarter and wiser. She had heard of a man named David Robinson, the son of the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson. He had returned to Tanzania from America. He wanted to return to his ancestral lands and was changing the coffee industry. “We can do this also,” she said.

    So, she and her husband started trying to raise awareness of our problem. They organized coffee tours that were led by guides with knowledge of coffee farming, processing, and roasting. It was helping greatly, for a while. But after the tours began, coffee started missing. They thought it was from one of the tourists but could not prove anything.  So, they called Father to solve the great mystery.” 

    “It was indeed a ‘tourist’. Father easily followed the tire tracks, that were different from their normal middlemen. Trixie was then able to follow the trail to the local boats by smell. Father used his famous chemical analysis to prove where the beans came from. After all, a bean is not just a bean, and each have their own characteristics depending on the soil of where it is grown and how nature has treated it. Our people never would have thought of this, but Father did,” she said proudly.

    Then with a sigh and more sadly, “But while Father worked on solving the great mystery, the tourist plotted how to avoid being caught. He had heard that my natural mother, Ramla, could see things in her dreams and he wished to avoid her sight. Never guessing that his downfall, would be Father’s logic, he decided to drug her tea with Kava. The tea caused her to fall into a deep dreamless sleep.”

    “My natural mother and all those before her had dreams dating back to as far as her ancestor, Daniel, when he advised King Nebuchadnezzar. Morpheus, the angel protector of dreams, often sent dreams to my mother. Morpheus sent from God has longed helped the people of Earth to make it a better place. Bringing wisdom and new inventions, philosophy, and peace, to all those that would listen. Morpheus has massive black wings, since he is of the mortal world and no longer in heaven. He can transform himself to look like a man, making those dreaming more receptive to his messages.”                    

    “He gave Paul McCarthy of the famous Beatle Band his song ‘Yesterday’ in a dream. Paul did not trust his dreams quite as much as other Dreamers and spent many weeks asking everyone in the music industry if they had ever heard the song. When he finally realized that no one had ever heard the song he dreamed about, he claimed it for his own.” 

    “When Einstein was a young man, he dreamed that he was sledding down a steep mountainside, going so fast that he began to approach the speed of light. At that moment, when he reached the speed of light, the stars in his dream changed their appearance.  He awoke shaken and could think of nothing else. He meditated on this idea he had dreamed of and began formulating what would eventually become his most famous scientific theory.  It is said that many of his great works came through such dreams.” 

     I wish I had listened to mine, she thought guiltily to herself.  Father had told her over and over it was not her fault, but wasn’t it?

     “This is how Morpheus would help those great dreamers. He would inspire those artists and those great inventors to help make our world a better place. And as he helped those famous people in time, so he helped my mother. Our tribe looked to her for guidance and help. She was considered a great Prophetess and they depended on her wisdom and insight.”

      “But now the tourist had drugged my mother into that deep dreamless sleep that left her feeling groggy and fuzzy headed when she finally awoke.  She decided to take a hike up the Mountain to gather elderberries and passionflower for the tea she liked to brew.  She always said they brought more peaceful and insightful dreams. She would awaken refreshed afterwards and not with this horrible grogginess. She did not know what had happened at first, just that she needed to fix the problem. She had missed the warning signs of the Great Rain, as had the village people. For they had been so entranced with helping Father to solve the great mystery.”

    “Once the case was solved, Father also decided to take a hike up the Sipi Falls with its three cascades located at the foot base of Mount Elgon. He wanted to reward himself with some free time before having to return home by viewing some of the area’s famous beauty. It was at the top of the mountain that he had found my mother. In her grogginess, she had stumbled over some rocks and sprained her ankle badly and was unable to walk. My birth father was also injured, as he had tried to grab her as she went tumbling down the mountain before coming to a ledge that overlooked the valley below.”

     “I had stayed home from school that day.  I had developed a fever and mother did not want me going out. I was really upset. All my best friends were in the new play for the tours, and we were supposed to be practicing that afternoon. The idea of a play had originated because my friend Aklan had thought that maybe the kids could contribute to the visitor’s center also.”

    “Adwin had written the scenes, he was very artistic. No one could write or draw quite as well as Adwin. He wanted to move to America and make beautiful sets for New York plays and someday win an Emmy.”

    “Alika was the most beautiful, so she had the lead part. She had long straight hair, big chocolate brown eyes and ebony skin. She had a large infectious smile that lit up the room when she laughed. I always wished I could look like her. My own skin was a rich mocha and my hair thick and curly. The only thing I had that she did not was bright blue eyes, the color of the sky and high arched brows and a little cupid mouth. My mother always said I got them from my grandmother who descended from royalty, King David himself who was also known for his sparkling beautiful eyes. They were said to be the most beautiful imaginable eyes ever seen. She also said that I was quite beautiful just the way I was and that we always wanted what we did not have. She was a wise, wise woman.” She wished she was here now, as she often did. She felt the sadness. She loved Father and Aiden, but she missed having a mother.

     “Ekon was the strongest. He was supposed to lift Binah into a spin, for she was a great dancer. He would lift her high in the air above his head and spin and spin and spin. His muscles rippling, providing a safe haven as she arched her lithe body into graceful curves. Her arms would reach out, hands perfectly curved as if receiving a great gift. Landing on long legs with her toes pointed. It was difficult to take your eyes off them as they moved in sync, masking all the other dancers on the floor.”   

     “Amadi sang the songs behind a heavy curtain. Her voice was like an angel, sometimes soothing those listening, casting them into a spell of tranquility. Then rising in great passion with scenes of excitement, leading those listening to grip their seats in front of them.” 

    “And I, the dreamer, thought up the plots to tell Adwin, so that he could write the lines. It was a wonderful play, and we were all excited to be able to create it.” 

    “But this time I was missing all the fun. And in my fever, was too late. I had fallen asleep but was awoken by a horrible dream. Like my mother before me, I have always had dreams. Sometimes of wonderful things like the play. Other times of horrible things. The dreams had always been there, and I did not remember a time when they were not. This time I dreamt of an avalanche that killed my parents and destroyed the three villages of Bududa, Bulambuli, and Sironko.” She looked away because she knew that she had been too late.

    “Mount Elgon was known for its horrible mudslides or avalanches, and we usually left the area. As a community, we had built a large community center many miles away. It was complete with cots and blankets for sleeping and canned foods for provisions. This is where everyone went when we knew there was danger. Not returning to inspect the damage until we knew it was safe. Only this time, we had not been expecting a rain. I was terrified, for I knew my parents had gone to the top of the falls.” 

    “I jumped from my bed, not bothering to change out of my pajamas. I tripped over my shoes, unable to get my shaking hands to get them on easily. My voice kept screaming in my head, I must get to them, I must get to them. I could barely think through the panic. The rain was already starting when I ran out the door. At first, there were only a few solid drops on my face as I looked up to the top of the mountain. Then suddenly, without warning, a torrential downfall with bursts of wind that made it hard to stand up. How could this be happening? Where did it come from? I must warn them, I must warn them!”

    “As I struggled to the top, Father was trying to figure out how to get to the ledge to help my birth mother and father. They looked down and saw me trying to get to them. They knew that Father would not be able to help both them and me. My mother cried out to the stranger, ‘You must help her. You must get her down the mountain now, before it is too late! She is our hope, she is the future.’ My birth father repeating her and cried out that he would help my mother and said to go help me…before it was too late.”

    “As the wind howled and roared around him, the stranger turned and looked down to me and then up to them. Not knowing what to do, but knowing he had to make a choice, started trying to make his way down towards me.”

    “The vigor of the waterfalls was spewing a great mist. Over the roar, I called out my parents’ names over and over. My voice was hoarse, and my throat hurt, but no one answered. Through the mist, a partial sunlight momentarily broke through the overcast skies and I saw a man standing there. As we looked over the edge, we saw the avalanche starting.”

   “He screamed for me to run, that there was no more time.” But I stood there frozen, looking at the destruction. The mud was rushing down the mountain side at great speeds, wiping out everything in its path.” 

    “I watched as my beautiful friends ran from the schoolhouse with our teacher. Aklin and Adwin, Alika and Amadi, Ekon and Binah...struggling to run faster and faster. But the mud was faster. I tried yelling at them to run to the left, but they could not hear me.”

    “The sound of the avalanche was deafening, like the roar of train. It started as a rumble, then built until it sounded as if it was coming from everywhere all at once. I stood frozen as the mud rushed down to sweep them up. The man grabbed me up in his arms and started running down the path. I was afraid he would drop me, and we would both tumble over the edge, but he held tight. He would not let me go. He was running as fast as he could down the steep and slippery path, but the mud was getting closer and closer. At the middle waterfall, we found a small cave hidden behind the waterfall. He dove in there, barely missing being swept away by the mud. We lay there panting. Him from exhaustion, me from fear. We looked at each other, not knowing what to say.”

    “When the rumbling stopped, we started back down the path. It was difficult, because of all the limbs and debris in the way. We were almost down when the rumbling started again. We were running once more for our lives. At the bottom of the lower falls, we dove into another cave. Just in time to avoid being swept away. The angels were looking after us. We looked out at the back of the waterfall, not knowing what we would find when we could once more venture out. The falls were beautiful, but our hearts were heavy.”

    “Once we did venture out, we found hundreds of houses destroyed. The bridges were gone. The roads were gone. Only one foot bridge remained. People were trying to cross the river now filled with mud. The bridge was shaking. The people were shaking. Father carried me over the bridge in his arms. He still refers to it to this day as ‘Crossing the Shaky Bridge’.”

    “We never found my parents and the few villagers left could not take me in, because of their own poverty. They told him that when you save a life, then it is your responsibility to take care of it, so he decided to take me home with him.  

    “We sat there, exhausted and sitting up against a great muvule tree. He finally asked me my name. I told him Alora. In our Bantu language it means ‘My Dreams’, for I had always had dreams, as had my mother.  I took out a picture of my mother and I, both with the same crystal blue eyes. Both with that same silky mocha skin and high arched brows. He nodded solemnly while looking at the picture and said that in Hebrew, it meant ‘God’s Light’. Either way, he said, it was appropriate. And that is how I came to be with Father.”

March 15, 2022 18:20

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5 comments

Watch Dog
04:29 May 02, 2022

i love your story i would like to read them to the people on youtube and make them come to life.. do i have your permission?

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23:25 May 02, 2022

Let me have some time to think about it. I appreciate your kind remarks. I just don't know if it would ever affect my chance of getting it published.

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Palak Shah
14:24 Mar 19, 2022

You are very skillful and the way you have constructed this story is brilliant. I hope to read more of your work :)) Could you please read my latest story if possible? :)) Thanks :))

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10:36 Mar 20, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words. And I will enjoy reading yours.

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Palak Shah
15:30 Mar 20, 2022

Thank you :))

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