I do not know about the most of you. About how you lived your nights or how you survived blackouts whenever our “dearest” (KPLC) was out on a routine maintenance of her incompetence. For us, we would tell tales and it was during these moments that we would hear all the craziest myths there is. Like why it rained or how it thundered. My favorite one would however be, because Satan is currently battering his wife. Interesting. Because for a brief minute we all start asking ourselves the important questions in life. Like how did Satan get up there if hell is down here?? Or how is rain a blessing if it pours from evil??
The sky was a moody grey after a day of sobbing. The wind, a whispering cold probably to calm down the tempers of the scorching sun maybe a bit too late and the lack of chirping crickets only added to the dampness of the night. The grass was soaked enough to give out the nerving sting of a cold iron blade on the bare skin. It was relatively silent, except for the center-piece crackling of the dried Cyprus that only seemed so imminent in the spirited night. Embers played in a glorious orange glow as they shuffled above the raging fire like a poker draw. Bright enough to illuminate our faces in a ghost fashion but dark enough to match the cold comfort. The ethereal glow of the half-moon covered beneath the clouds barely showed our rest. And as we sat there hypnotized, moth and human alike, you could not help but appreciate either the delicate balance of fire and ice or the currently over tripped one of man and moth.
His name was Imani. Tall, dark and handsome was one way you’d lazily describe him and get away with it. But, he was a towering giant in a heavily modded frame, symmetrical face and a high flying selfdom that was luckily anchored by a genuine heart. Literally and figuratively. And as the silence grew, his husky silky smooth voice in the night not only did it justice but also was, egocentrically, the missing piece to the elemental quartet that was already going on for the four other gents and ladies around the campfire.
“In not so distant lands lived a peaceful village called Siwa. A small town on the setting sun far west of the current Sahara Desert. A town that many stories believed was where Alexander the great, during his triumph campaigns, became convinced that he was conceived from Zeus. It was a town that its reputation not only matched but superseded it as Siwa flourished like no other towns in its vicinity to give it its so much coveted status of an agricultural capital. It went by many names; The Oasis, The Cactus flower or my personal favorite, the Oracle of Amun, the Egyptian desert god. Siwa was indeed a living oxymoronic but synonymous tale of Ezekiel’s dead army. The wet flesh on drying bone or the beating heart of a corpse. And to this regard at the 7th hour of 7th day of the 7th month, the people of Siwa came out to in pilgrims to give thanks to their 7th god.”
“I didn’t hear the rooster woman. What do you want?”
“Guess what day it is?”
“Mona…. So long as the rooster’s quiet it’s not yet….”
“The Lottery!!” said all of them in unison as their excited chant sent ripples in the damp early morning silence. Not that it mattered anyways because all if not everyone was already wide awake.
“Mona looked at her younger brother ecstasy deciding to relish in it not only as much as she could hold but also as much as the hyperactive, impatient and buzzing brazen young lad could hold still. With the corner of her skirt that had certainly seen better days or maybe needed a better wash, perhaps both, she gently wiped the drool that had solidly marked it territory down his cheek and to his right ear like a slithering slug. It was only on this day out the 365 that he’d actually be excited to wake up that early. In fact it was only on this day he would wake up that early.”
“I hear the neighboring towns have stopped having the Lottery”
“The same damned ones??”
“These new generation is an utter disgrace to the gods…”
“This is my 70th Lottery. 70th!! Amun…. Rid these ungrateful young ones of their years and give me so I can serve you more!!”
Murmurs buried the village like a cloak making it difficult to pick out anything from the crowd. But, if you managed to snake your way through the tightly packed bodies, then like a well tuned radio, you could tentatively pick out the old men begrudgingly urging they get on with the process before the brutal desert sun grazes the only barren part of Siwa. Their heads. Or the usual top tier gossip that couldn’t wait for daybreak and the more interesting but a classic hushed scolds of perturbed mothers which was equally balanced by the muffled whining of their children who were already mucked from their early morning endeavors to the river to find the smoothest, or roughest, smallest, or largest stone they could gather all to ones biased preference.
In the other lands, The Lottery was a process that took weeks to finalize but in Siwa, they had mirror finished the process and at most took an hour to complete. Though even this was too slow for the old folks who were also unsurprisingly but hugely contrasting the last to arrive. Old man Asik, the chief, being the very last of them made his way to the loosely piled rocks at the center of the crowd that made for a makeshift podium and with him the all to familiar black box. His eyes sunken and weary more than usual testifying the sleepless night he’s had to endure writing down the names of every single man, woman and child in the village. The box likewise matching his aura but much more aged as the years started to show on its loose hinges, splintered wood and scratched out black paint. They were talks to replace it but they never bore any fruit as some of the people believed it would usher in bad luck in the process.
“Is everyone here??”
“We would start with the households as usual. Every household should bring forth a man who would draw for them. After that we’ll have the members of the picked household drawing. I believe you’re all too familiar with the process so let’s get on with it”
As he made his way to the front a hush sneaked back through the crowd in an eerie fashion. He picked a paper from the box and clutched it on his right arm not allowed to peek until everyone has drawn. One by one they made their way to the Stonehenge pulpit.
“Mr Maheer…… Mr Abdullahi…… Mr Akim…… “
And when they were done, Mr Said called to order the crowd that had already started murmuring again like badly behaved campus students and instructed them to open their slips.
“Who has it???”
“It’s not the Akims”
“It’s the Maheers’….. The Maheers’ have it!!!”
“It’s not fair ….. You didn’t give him to choose”
“Everyone saw…. You didn’t give him time!!”
And though begrudgingly, the Maheers made their way to the front. The crowd parting like a plague for Mr. And Mrs Maheer followed closely by their children Mona and Akim. Mr Maheer returns his slip back into the box and it is shuffled once again with three other slips. A third wave of silence hits the crowd but as they start drawing movements can be heard from the crowd as the head to the front. Maybe to see better, maybe to hear better but most certainly for a better angle to something. And as they drew their slips the villagers started drawing and handing out stones to the rest from the makeshift pulpit. And as they opened their palms the rest clenched. And as they read out their fate, the rest grew ever so impatient to seal it. Mona opens her slip and she’s met by the gravely dark spot. Her family parts from her and she’s left at the center of the now emptied “pulpit”.
“It’s not fair….” “It’s not fair….”
She looks around with tears shimmering in the orange glow of the rising sun for any sort of remorse from the people she called her own but her tears only reflected back an unfamiliar unfamiliarity. Small pebbles then big builder stones, the villagers buried their bad luck for a more prosperous one for the next year.”
The lights flickered back on as it signified the end to a gruesome wait and washed away dark comfort of the night. But the kids weren’t done and as Imani rose in sync with a silent unanimous decision to switch off the lights, Steve kindled the fire to keep it going on as he cleared his throat for another round of suspenseful merry making.