If you missed part 1, click Here for the whole story.
The Story of Aaliyah, part two
For the next couple of days there was a sadness for Aaliyah deeper than any sadness she had ever known. Though the forest was as bright as it had ever been, it’s beauty was hidden from her by the cloud of her thoughts. Though there had been bright colored birds everywhere around her singing beautifully, there was not a bird song to be heard except for the occasional cry of a hawk far, far in the distance. Everything she had done with great pleasure from gathering food to arranging her bed of leaves for the night she now did with disinterest.
There were coconuts high up in the trees but they were too high for her to reach. Long vines grew up some of these trees and she had discovered that by tugging on these vines she could loosen a few of the coconuts so they would fall to the ground. But now when she tried this she had no success. She tugged and tugged and shook the tree more and more violenty, grunting and shouting, but no coconuts fell. Finally the vine broke high up in the tree, Aaliyah fell to the ground on her back, the vine fell into a pile on top of her and one of the coconuts fell to the ground almost hitting her in the head. “Wow,” she thought, “these vines are really strong and they bend nicely”. Then she had an idea. She spent the rest of that day weaving a very large basket. She felt strong enough now that she thought she might be able to carry a basket of fruit back to the village. It would be hard going and the basket would be heavy but she felt pretty sure she could do it, and it was certainly worth a try. She had come to the mountains to die, and if she died trying to get back to the village to help her people at least she would have tried as best she could.
While Aaliyah was weaving her basket, she thought through her plan. There was a problem. She couldn’t possibly carry enough food to feed the entire village, and if she showed up with only as much as she could carry, there would be a riot. All those people desperate for food would struggle with each other to get just a piece of the fruit and no one would really be better off. Then she thought of the two strongest people in the village. There was Chidi whose name means “God Exists”. Chidi was the head of the village and was the one who decided when the men would go on a hunting trip. No one had any idea how he knew it was a good time to go hunting, but before the drought, every time they followed Chidi there was an abundance of game, and whenever a smaller party was organized by someone else they would find nothing. Aaliyah also thought of Halla whose name means “Unexpected Gift”. Halla was most respected of all the women and she was thought to have a god-like understanding of plants and the earth. Although she was among the older women she had a strength and perseverance greater than any of the other women and in fact most of the men. “Yes,” thought Aaliyah, “Chidi and Halla could make this possible.”
After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast – she had learned to catch fish from a pond and cook them over a fire – Aaliyah packed much fruit and a few dried fishes into the basket, placed it on her head over a cap she had made of dried mosses and headed off over the mountain. She ate as little out of the basket as possible. It was a difficult trek and there were times when she dispared of ever reaching the village let alone successfully enlisting the help of Chidi and Halla. But thinking of the people she loved gave her strength and finally she arrived at the side of a hill just out of view of the village late one afternoon. She set down her basket, ate a few berries and curled up to get some sleep. Early the next morning, long before the sun would rise, Aaliyah rose, left her basket where it was, silently walked into the village and crawled into Chidi’s tent where she found him sitting, eyes closed in deep meditation. As soon as she entered the tent without making the slightest noise, Chidi sniffed the air deeply and a smile crept over his face. When he opened his eyes, Aaliyah was holding a warning finger to her lips. “Meet me over the hill on the path that goes to the mountain,” she whispered. Chidi broke into a wide grin and nodded in agreement. Aaliyah then found Halla in her tent and was barely in time to clap a hand over her mouth preventing a scream at seeing this girl risen from the dead and looking so healthy! When the three gathered around the basket, Chidi and Halla ate heartily while Aaliyah told them about the rainforest on the other side of the mountain. They stayed in that place until they were fortified by the food they had eaten and then began the journey over the mountain.
Some days later they made their way back to the place on the path on the other side of the hill, each with a large basket of fruit and dried fish to plot the midnight kidnapping of six of the strongest and most trustworthy people in the village. Those left behind, being somewhat delirious from hunger and dehydration, began talking about the mysterious disappearance of more and more villagers every few days. Among the theories being proposed where that the missing people had been snatched by beasts more fierce than any they had ever known. Those most willing to believe this spent their nights trembling in fear. Another theory was that the gods had levitated the missing up to a glorious heaven and those who believed this spent their days staring at the sky and acting as if they were drunk. Eventually, a sufficient number of villagers had disappeared over the mountain that they were able to carry back enough food to feed all of those who remained, and early one morning the entire village stood gazing in disbelief as a steady stream of the missing villagers came over the hill, each carrying a basket of food, and each no longer looking thin and emaciated but glowing with good health. The entire village burst into celebration and many versions were told of the story of how a young girl had found the fountain that saved the village. “But where is Aaliyah?” several people began to ask. No one had seen her, and some of those who had been with her said that she had been right behind them on the path. Chidi and Halla just smiled as they watched all the worried faces. “There she is!” shouted a young boy. Everyone looked toward the hill to see Aaliyah coming over the top with a basket on her head and followed by…a cow. Unlike the skinny cows they had tended before the drought, this one was fat, her udder was full, and someone said it looked as if she were soon to birth a calf. For the first time in many months, drops of rain began to fall from the heavens.
That was not the last time the village suffered a drought, but the villagers always managed somehow to get through the hard times. Life there was not easy but it was good, and Aaliyah seemed to have forgotten that she had saved the village, even when the little children sat wide eyed listening to the stories told by the elders about the girl who discovered the rainforest. It was more than enough reward for her just to see her people happy and contented.
Next Clue: Compassion at Breakfast