[Continued from Part 1]
The entire village stands as statues. Each pair of eyes frozen and fixed upon the water buffalo. Saliva accumulates in each observer’s mouth at the thought of enjoying such a feast. Surely, the Nine are the greatest heroes their tribe has known. Surely, the gods must have given them a special blessing on this day.
The leader of the hunting party steps forward, dropping the brunt of the great beast’s weight near the fire pit in the center of the village. He stands before them a champion, but takes no credit for his success. Slowly, meticulously, he explains the morning’s strange events. The lone bull, the flailing buzzard, the arc of lightning from the gods. It is all so odd, and the people follow along as best they can; yet his tale is woven with ancient puzzles and symbols they cannot fully comprehend.
“Mmmnh huddah mnnnah drmph,” he concludes, lighting the great fire that will later roast their meal.
The village bursts into applause and tears of joy. After all, no person alive could do anything other than savor such a bountiful day.
“Do you have any idea what kinda trouble you’ve gotten us into? Any idea? Brotha… we’re dead. Dead!” A scrawny, jittery Representative paces nervously around the hangar. Behind him, a single-engine aircraft lies in shambles; wings battered, landing gear stripped, metal scratched and scraped.
“I done my job far as I could. If your boss spent more time and money on basic maintenance and less on fabricating golden workshed tools, this’d never even be an issue, ya pissant.” The Pilot climbs down from the wreck and marches down the half-ruined runway as the Mann Co. Representative flutters about, following him in a nervous, eccentric trail.
“This is not happening! This can’t be happening! You got any idea how much these things cost?,” he laughs nervously. “You think Sasha’s a wallet-drainer? Buddy! Buddy… I gotta tell you that that’s nothing compared to these babies. These babies, they’re worth more than actual babies. You think Austalium grows on trees?”
The Pilot pauses, turning quickly. “I spent the better half of my life in outback trees, and there’s only two things that grow there: koalas and urinary tract infections.” He continues. “I’d almost reckon there ain’t any such thing as Australium.”
“Woah woah there, buddy! You think I’d be hyperventilatin’ over anything less than the rarest of the rare elements? Last time I checked, regular gold didn’t exactly transubstantiate chucklenuts inta solid metal statues, did it? Ya ever clonk someone over the head with yer Rolex and watch’em glaze ovah inta solid dubloons?”
“All I’m sayin’ is, if these wrenches can turn whatsoever they kill into gold, why isn’t Mr. Mann smackin’ fresh tilapia over the head to turn a hefty profit on goldfish? Right there: instant and infinite wealth. Not to mention… I can’t stand tilapia.” The Pilot half grimaces, half chuckles as he continues his march down the cracked runway.
“It… hey! Now wai– wait up! It doesn’t work like– it doesn’t work on–” the Representative rolls his eyes and catches his breath as the pilot hops a fence, throws his rifle into the back of a parked RV, and drives it away.
“–on animals.” Sighing heavily, the Representative flicks a switch on his headset and glances at his watch. “Mr. Mann, it’s me. He’s gone. Hell, it’s all gone.”
Away from the baking sun, the Nine drag the bull’s mighty carcass to a shaded alcove in the cliffs that shelter them each season. Each knows his role. The Hunter keeps watch over them, to repel any hyena or warring tribesman who dare come near. The Giant blocks what sun remains from the backs of his comrades and the quick-spoiling meat of their game. The Witch Doctor cuts through flesh and bone with his powerful ceremonial saw. And the Shaman plays his nyatiti, praying for blessings from the spirits above.
But today, the Shaman’s music has ceased. As the other eight warriors laugh, work, and butcher the felled beast, he alone is transfixed, as if the world has frozen him in time. With one unnoticed incision by the Doctor, something lodged deep in the water buffalo’s skull gleams. It shines with the intensity of the sun, burning directly into his soul. It beckons him.
And, when the others turn their attention to meatier portions of their next meal, he takes it, placing it discretely– jealously– into his pouch. He glances about nonchalantly. Nobody has seen him, and a superficial calm washes over him. He picks up the nyatiti and resumes his song. A song about the day the gods granted man the consciousness of Self, the consciousness of Power.
The consciousness of Desire.