Little Sun, Part Three
P. G. Hurh
May 14, 1994 22:39:13
The nova didn't appear today as predicted by your fellow researcher. I waited outside on my porch for about two hours in anticipation. According to the radio it should have been visible overhead at midday, but... nothing. Perhaps the sun blocked it out, but the radio has not reported its appearance anyplace else.
I am of course concerned for what this means to your research, although I have seen the widespread debate and skepticism about this scientist's prediction. However, my first thoughts are consumed with how this nonevent will affect Tantu and his village.
Tantu stopped by during late afternoon. He was very upset. It seems he told--announced, really--the entire village of the coming of the "Little Sun." He claimed that this would be a message from the spirits to show the villagers he was the chosen one to lead the Mayoruna to the Nascente. When the nova did not appear, Blue Mouth and his followers pronounced Tantu a fake and a liar.
Tantu yelled all this at me, clearly blaming me for his own haste and greed. I tried to be as honest as I could and explain that sometimes this was the way things happened with science... that he shouldn't place so much faith in it. This did not seem to help. He looked at me incredulously like I was uttering blasphemy. The only thing I could say that seemed to calm him was that the date and time may have simply been calculated incorrectly, that the nova--the "Little Sun"--may yet appear.
I felt almost evil telling him this--the prediction could have been off by months, or even years. Since I could not make Tantu realize that he had deliberately led his village to think of science as a faith, I simply encourage him further in his plot for power? Still, what was I to do? Tell him the truth? Tell him that I secretly hoped the nova would never appear?
Yes, I think that is the truth. Without the physical nova, Catherine, there's a chance your research would become suspect and mocked. And without the "Little Sun," Tantu's techno-fetish leadership doesn't have a prayer. These things would satisfy my vengeful thoughts of your betrayal and cleanse my conscience of the guilt of inadvertently corrupting Tantu's tribe. Admitting this is not easy, but perhaps it is the first step towards understanding myself.
May 16, 1994 16:08:57
The nova appeared today! It appeared early this morning, rising maybe an hour and a half after the sun. It was incredibly bright for an object so far away. Later in the day, the moon was visible through the foliage, and I think the nova is brighter than its crescent, even during daylight! Despite my misgivings about what the nova could mean, it has filled me with awe and excitement.
Of course I immediately turned on the radio to see if there was coverage of the event but the radio was useless. Nothing but static with rare snatches of signal. Perhaps it is the nova itself that is creating the interference. If that's true, maybe I can raise Leticia when the nova has set.
Later, with the star high overhead, I picked my way through the forest to the Mayoruna village. I was very anxious about what I would find, but I was immensely curious also.
The village was a beehive of activity. Blue Mouth and a few of his followers were huddled together on one side of the village, surrounded by angry men who held spears and blow-gun reeds. But the vast majority of villagers were not paying them much heed--women were hurriedly rushing between huts carrying the cups of dried gourds. Shouts and sounds of laughter could be heard from the nearest huts.
I crossed the compound to the old chief's hut where there was a large crowd of men talking loudly. As I passed by Blue Mouth's group a few of his men shouted and stared at me defiantly. Their faces and shoulders looked bruised and swollen, as if they'd been beaten.
Tantu was in the large hut. As I approached, the talking men clustered about the doorway parted and I entered. Tantu was sitting in the hammock. A man I recognized him as the one who had administered the frog potion to Tantu days earlier, rubbed white paste into Tantu's shoulders gingerly. I could see gashes in his skin and dried blood in his hair. Tantu's face was bruised and one eye was almost swollen shut.
Tantu smiled when he recognized me and stood to greet me.
"Kane! It has happened! The Little Sun is here..."
"Yes," I replied. "It has happened... but it has brought a lot of pain also." I pointed to his face and the white paste drying on his shoulders.
"This is good, Kane. This is because we were bad to not believe it would happen." He looked at me as if I should have known that.
"What? This is... your punishment?" I tried not to raise my voice too loud. Suddenly, I thought of Blue Mouth and his men outside. "Did those others do this to you when the nova--the Little Sun--didn't appear?" I looked around at the faces of other Indians in the hut: many of them displayed cuts and bruises. "Did they do this to all of you?"
"We were bad to not believe the Little Sun would come," Tantu explained again, smiling. I leaned forward and examined Tantu's eye; it looked very painful, but in the dim light it was difficult to tell if any permanent damage had been done. "When Little Sun leaves the sky, we will be forgiven."
"And what happens when the Little Sun comes tomorrow?" I said without thinking.
Tantu's smile disappeared. "The Little Sun will come here again?"
I looked around the hut. All eyes were on me. "Yes," I said. "It could come every day for the next few months...." I paused, not knowing what to say. "They really don't know how long the nova will be active or visible."
"Who is they?" Tantu asked.
I tried to think of a way to explain it, but I was starting to get sick of the whole situation. I felt guilty and responsible, not for the beatings, but for Tantu and the village's perception of the nova. I had made the supernova into a false god.
"I don't know, Tantu. Just some scientists...." In the hut, all the faces were watching me expectantly, as if I were supposed to perform some ritual or feat of magic. "I have to go," I said, and started to leave.
"Kane." Tantu stopped me with a hand on my back. "I am chief now of the tribe. I want you to be our shaman."
I froze then. It had all come down to this... I didn't know what to say. I knew I couldn't refuse, but I don't think there was anything I could say. Tantu began to speak again, but all I heard was the blood rushing through my head. I brushed his hand off and left the hut.
I heard a muffled yell from the hut and then nothing more as I marched away from that crowd and out of the village. I wanted to get away from Tantu and the hysterical religion I had helped instigate. I walked faster, swatting at the leaves and branches along the trail as I went. I felt sick to my stomach.
Behind me, I heard a gunshot.
May 18 1994 04:21:37
I am kept awake now by my dreams and thoughts of what I have done. In the afternoons I become drowsy with the heat and humidity, and it is during these times that I try and rest. My dreams are filled with visions of the lacerated flesh of the Mayoruna and Tantu's swollen eye. Each morning, when the nova appears in the strip of sky over the river, I see Blue Mouth punishing the Mayoruna again because the Little Sun has not yet forgiven them.
I have stayed inside almost the entire time since I returned from the village. Yesterday evening I went to Bolognesi, hoping to find some diesel fuel for the generator and perhaps a way to contact Mohammed in Leticia. I haven't been able to raise anyone on the radio, even though the static isn't as bad at night.
Bolognesi was virtually empty when I arrived, making the trip almost useless. I found a dock foreman and asked where everyone had gone. He was sitting atop a stack of crates with a rifle over his shoulder and a pistol beside him, smoking cigarettes and watching the nova. He said they heard no boats or planes would be coming while the radios weren't working, so the boat men had left for Leticia when they learned they wouldn't be paid. He and a few men were staying to guard the shipments and lumber that were still here and earn a reward, or take what they could if it turned out to be a long wait. He said they had heard shots from the east, in the direction of the Mayoruna village, and had seen Indians peering at them from the jungle. He didn't have any diesel, so I returned to the cabin, increasingly agitated.
I am afraid to go back to the village. I am afraid to go outside. Soon I will run out of fuel, then batteries.
May 20, 1994
Tantu and his followers came to my cabin today. They ransacked the place and took almost everything--that is why I am writing this by hand--I think I am just lucky to be alive.
I heard gunshots from the east last night. So I knew something was happening. Then at about noon today Tantu appeared at my door with five other men. All of them carried guns, and Tantu's eye looked infected.
Tantu approached me and asked me again to be his tribe's shaman. I think I must have chuckled at the absurdity of the situation because he stepped forward and grabbed me by the shoulders and demanded that I use the radio to tell the Little Sun to leave. He stared at me and yelled something incomprehensible.
I removed myself from his grip slowly, assured him that I would help with his eye and I went over to one of my small trunks. I pulled out a first aid kit and walked back toward him.
Tantu looked at the box, clearly dismayed. He pointed his rifle at my chest and demanded I use the radio. I tried to explain that I couldn't, that there wasn't enough electricity and that the nova prevented it from working anyway, but he wouldn't listen. He pushed me across the room and started to search the cabin. I moved to stop him, but I suddenly realized that other guns were pointed in my direction. I backed off to a corner.
Tantu tore through my belongings, moving from shelf to box to trunk with increasing frustration. Just when I thought he would give up, his body froze. Slowly he stood up from the trunk where I had stored the first aid kit. In his hand was a beaded rosary that my mother had given me. Tantu stared at it and then glared at me. His hand began to shake then and he suddenly erupted, tearing the rosary apart. Black plastic beads flew across the room. Tantu threw what was left at my face.
He then went through a fit of rage and yelling. Most of it was in Mayoruna and incomprehensible to me, but several times he broke into English and called me a liar and a shit. He yelled out the words "Jesus Christ" with fierce hatred. He shook his gun and then pointed it at me. I thought he was going to kill me and I shut my eyes.
Instead, Tantu barked out commands to the other men and they began to dismantle my computer and radio equipment. They roughly carried it outside in loads. When I protested, Tantu struck me across the jaw with the butt of his rifle. I collapsed to the floor.
When they left Tantu said nothing to me. He just walked outside, off the porch, and back towards Bolognesi. I peeked out the doorway and saw his small group of followers pulling and pushing the small generator trailer behind him. It was piled with my computer, radio, and a rough jumble of cables.
Now I am here writing on the blank pages of computer manuals like a pathetic idiot. But I can't go to the village, and I fear to follow Tantu toward Bolognesi.
May 22, 1994
I learned of your death today in a hissing report over the AM transistor radio. You've been dead for a week and I didn't know until now. I feel so empty. I was dead to your life and now... now you are dead to mine.
I didn't feel empty when I heard the report this morning, though. I was full of screaming rage and hatred of the zealots and murderers that drove that bombed the SETI research center. But now the red has faded from my eyes. I look around me at the remnants of the cabin interior. I finished destroying what Tantu and his men hadn't destroyed in their rampage earlier. There is almost nothing of any value left... at least nothing that I can make myself care about.
I threw the broken rosary and the transistor radio out into the river as far as I could. The radio bobbed for a moment before being pulled under by the Javari's strong current. I then went to the Mayoruna village. I wasn't sure what would happen there. I was a mixture of rage and loneliness, and beyond caring
It didn't matter, because the village was gone. Empty huts and discarded gourds were all that were left. And the bodies... the gunshot bodies of Blue Mouth and his followers.
Blue Mouth was draped over the body of another in a makeshift funeral pyre. The fire had never really caught and the bodies has smoldered for some time before cooling. Now they were half-burnt, bloated and crawling with insects.
I returned here. After seeing that, your death somehow fits in neatly.... It's as if there is nothing left for me now.
When I listened to the radio's news report this morning after the anchor recited your name in a list of the dead, I heard who claimed responsibility for the bombing. My parents give money to that group.
If I leave quickly I may be able to catch Tantu and the Mayoruna before they become completely immersed in the rain forest. They'll be traveling slow, dragging that generator with them. It should make them easy to track. I may not last long in the forest, but if I return to the world I used to know, I won't last even that long.
Maybe I will see you on a new sun.
Kenneth James Mayhew
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 3 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 P. G. Hurh.