10 May 2009

The River Of Life by Christopher Mlalazi

A star seared across the dark sky – then, without sound, it quickly exploded, sending lemon streaks of flame spurting in all directions, almost lazily.

In the white centre of the explosion, a human being appeared, hurtling towards the glowing orb of the earth in a graceful dive, its naked body haloed by a golden light.

It plunged into a deep pool below a waterfall that savaged down a steep cliff. Water exploded upwards where it disappeared, the spray curling outwards.

A yellow full moon sailed the sky, gazing down from its lofty height at another similar moon that danced in solitude in the middle of this pool.

Suddenly, the moon in the pool erupted in another shower of spray, and where it had been, the human being surfaced, its head bobbing up and down in the water.

The human being had a face, but no facial features. It also had no hair, or ears, but just a smooth round dome that glistened brightly with water as it caught the sparkling night light.

The sky moon slowly brightened. Then, a yellow beam shot from its body, shafted through the darkness towards the head in the river, and fastened on it.

Slowly, slowly, the moon beam whirled around the head, whirling with it, so that the head faced to the east, to the north, to the west, to the south, and finally to the east again.

When the head had completed a full circle, its face had grown eyes, a nose, a mouth, a pair of ears, and a full mop of hair. The face looked up at the moon, and smiled, a dazzling smile full of all the beauty of creation.

The human being raised its hand out of the water, and grabbed the moon beam that bathed its brand new face. It jerked it down - and all the stars in the sky exploded as one in a kaleidoscope of vivid colours.

Where the stars had been, there appeared countless faceless human beings racing earthwards in graceful dives. They were all headed towards the river where the first human being stood neck deep, its eyes two welcoming red beacons in the darkness, their bodies also halloed by a golden light.

At dawn, when the still invincible sun traced its rosy fingers across the swollen belly of the sky, and a thick mist rose up from the jungle to welcome it, the white sands of the banks of the river were crowded stiff with all varieties of jungle animals, which were all staring wide eyed at the strange heads that bobbed in the middle of the water. The eyes on all the heads were closed. A light breeze was blowing.

A cock flapped its wings and crowed. As if on cue, the eyes on all the heads opened, and they all fastened on the animals on the bank, hunger in them, just as the sun peeped its purple eye from behind the serrated top of a mountain in the far distance.

Instinctively, and as one, all the animals whirled around from the bank and they crashed into the jungle, their flight riotous with terrified cries, barks, screeches, hoots and roars.

All the birds on the trees that hung over the river also shrieked in alarm, and took off into the sky in bursts of colourful wings.

The Star People walked out of the river, their naked bodies glistening with water. They were all perfectly limbed, with well muscled chests, but provided with no sexual organs, except for their leader, who was shaped as a woman. She was the first to step on dry land.

On the bank, she turned around and faced the river. As the rest of the sexless Star People stepped out of the water, she grunted and touched their smooth brows lightly with a finger, and turned some to the right, and some to the left, where they grouped silently, all their eyes on her.

Those she turned to the left immediately grew male organs on their blank crotches, and all those she turned to the right grew female organs, and their chests swelled to become two perfectly rounded breasts.

One by one, she carefully inspected the seeding tools of her people, tugging here, probing with a finger there, and she discovered that there were no imperfections, or infections. They were all ready for increase.

The Star People stood in two groups on either side of her, all silently staring at her. She sank down into a squat, closed her eyes, and her face screwed up in effort. There was a peal of thunder.

She stood up, scooped her faeces from the sand with her hands, and threw them into the river. As they plopped into the water, a small dark cloud slid over the staring sun. It suddenly rained furiously, then abruptly stopped again.

The cloud had disappeared. The Star People all looked up at the cerulean sky, beatific smiles on their faces. They turned around and walked into the jungle, following a well used dinosaur track. Their skins were all colourless, and their tongues knew no words...

The River of Life was written by Christopher Mlalazi, and is an extract from his first (NAMA awarded) book Dancing with Life published by ama'Books Publishers, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Copyright Christopher Mlalazi 2008.

Christopher Mlalazi writes prose, poetry, drama (TV and stage), and also children's fiction.

In 2004 he received the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED citation in the Sable Lit Mag/Arvon (UK) Short Story Contest. In 2007 he was shortlisted for the HSBC PEN SOUTH AFRICA SHORT STORY CONTEST, and in 2008 he was awarded the OXFAM NOVIB/PEN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AWARD.

He has published short stories in Zimbabwe, Europe, as well as on the web, and was also published in the 2005 Cain Prize Anthology (Orbituray Tango),the 2006 Edinburgh Review, and the 2007 AFRICA PENS. In winter of 2009 he is publishing his debut short story in The Literary Review (USA).

Currently he is working on a novel he hopes to finish by mid 2009, if not earlier, and has a stage play under rehearsal.

On the 14th of Feb 2009, Christopher was awarded the NAMA in the Outstanding First Creative Published Work category for his debut book, a collection of short stories called Dancing with Life.


Colin Meier said...

Hi Christopher! It's an extract, I'm happy to see, 'cos I really wanted to know what happens next! It does work as a short story, too - I guess that's why you used it.

It reads a science-fiction, but there are some elements of myth in there as well (particularly the leader's use of her faeces - waste products are a common feature of creation myth). I think the mix works quite well.

I'd love to read more, and see what you do with your Star People.

The only question I have is - what color is colourless skin? I saw them as blue until I read that and then...are they transparent?

Colin Meier said...

Sorry for 2 comments in a row. I can appreciate the poetry behind the colourless skin and the silent tongues - if I'm not completely wrong, the idea is that without colour and without speech there's likely to be more peace? That's what I understood by that line, anyway.

Colin Meier said...

Sorry for 2 comments in a row. I can appreciate the poetry behind the colourless skin and the silent tongues - if I'm not completely wrong, the idea is that without colour and without speech there's likely to be more peace? That's what I understood by that line, anyway.

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