I woke from a deafening roar. My bed roll was tangled with ShaShe’s bed roll. The cave violently shook and ShaShe sot my protection. She grabbed my waste. I had no time to comfort her as the whole tribe scrambled in a state of panic. The warriors scrambled for their stone hammers, and the gatherers collected the children. DaWin’s baby cried, and she gave it some root to calm her down. The warriors gathered and looked to me. Warriors and gatherers were both sexes. Warriors were composed of anyone who could wield a hammer. Gatherers were anyone small who could fit through the cracks of rocks.
I nodded to the warriors, and the panic subsided into nervousness. Most of the tribe was hardened by the angry sun. They could deal with crisis as we’ve had many over the years, as many had succumbed to the wrath of the Sun God. This situation was different, and I could see the fear on the warrior’s faces. These were men and women who usually faced death with stoic bravery. I could sense their fear.
“We must go investigate,” I proclaimed to the warriors. They began to wrap themselves in the day fabric. It was black, lightweight, and loose to capture the sweat and create a breeze from our movement. The fabric wrapped every part of the skin. Deformities were a common punishment for those who had the audacity to bare their skin to the Sun God.
The fabric was weaved from the leaves of the Zuuzaan plant. It was one of the few that didn’t live in the shade of rocks, so it offered special protection. Water not in the belly of the Earth God was rare. Finding a Zuuzaan was a gift of the Earth God. For the most part, we stripped the fabric from the dead to create our clothes. Mine was a combination of my mother and my fathers.
ShaShe was not pleased. She voiced her objection, “You will not last long. It’s still daylight.”
“We are honor bound to protect the tribe. We must go investigate,” I said firmly.
She conceded with no further objection. Arguments never lasted long. The Sun God sapped the energy to argue.
The warriors and I carefully made our way to the front of the cave clutching our stone hammers. My grandfather claimed he found a spear made of wood once, deep within a cave. The wood spear burned when he left it out in the daylight too long. He gave me the stone tip when I accepted tribal leader after my father’s death. I wore it around my neck. The stone would heat during the day and leave a scar. The scar is my reminder to be wary of the Sun God or fall to the same fate of my father.
As we came closer to the mouth of the cave the heat rose before the first crack of light. Once we saw the light of day, the heat began to suffocate. Our bodies poured sweat. Our throats became dry. We carefully sipped from the water skin tube near our mouths. Drink too fast and you’ll run out before you can return. Drink too little and the Sun God will claim you.
We were leaving the protection of the Earth God. The Earth God was the only god to stand up against the Sun God. She sheltered the Water God in her depths. She provided reprieve and sometimes cave dwelling fauna for a scarce meal. Though for the most part, we hunted small creatures and ate plants that dwelled between the rocks on the surface.
We stepped out into the Sun God’s realm. The landscape was barren. There were no clouds in the sky. The baked sand and craggy rocks stretched in all directions. We were about to turn around when HaraTas, the leading female warrior, pointed to the horizon.
“Look. The Fire God signals us,” She pointed to a glint on the horizon. The glint was a regularly blinking silver light. The warriors murmured at the discovery. The Fire God was controlled by the Sun God. He burned at the whim of the Sun. But the Fire God was also a trickster. He gave us fire to cook our meals and make our tools. If the Sun God knew the Fire God was going behind his back, we’d surely loose the gift of fire. So why was the Fire God openly defying the Sun?
“We will answer the Fire God’s call,” I decided.
There was a nervous shift among the warriors. “But we will not have water for the return journey!” One said.
“We must answer the call,” HaraTas retorted.
“The Fire God will betray us!” Another said.
“Anyone who wishes to return may do so. The Earth God held us in her womb and shook violently. She wants us to answer the Fire God’s call. We must honor the mother and answer the call,” I said and simply began walking. HaraTas followed. The others followed. I hoped I was right. The Earth God could be crueler than the Sun because of the hope she offered, especially if the hope was misplaced.