K and I are co-creating. I doodle on ArtRage, and he writes a little story for me. It makes us happy.
“So who is this man Totumoro, exactly?” I press Mali. “What’s with him and the volcano?”
Mali shakes his head, taking another puff on his cigarette. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway, you’re just asking so you can make some insensitive remark about superstition and ignorance. Aren’t you?”
“Look I’m sorry about yesterday OK,” I plead. “I’m ashamed of myself and I promise it won’t happen again. I swear, I sincerely want to know.”
“You worship this God that your parents told you about and you don’t even question it,” he mutters spitefully to the wall behind me.
“Oh come on, Mali, seriously? This is not … Look, I’ll buy you dinner. At Madam Wong’s.”
He glares at me, “And drinks.”
“And drinks!” I was practically begging.
Mali leans back in his chair, flicking ashes all over the floor as he slowly exhales a cloud of smoke in my general direction.
“This is the story of Totumoro, Keeper of Past Treasures. I tell this story to you.”
I sat in respectful silence.
“There was a time long ago when Amaan was restless, blowing smoke and ashes every day. For years He heaved and rumbled, and threatened our people with burning death. He was not happy with us. We had gone complacent. Every year, the new men and women would still climb up His side and offer into Him their Past Treasures, but it had become a symbolic ritual, done for some out of obligation, for others out of fear. Some even used it to show off their families’ wealth. Still what else could we do but what we have always done?
“Each year passed, and each year the Elders grew more fearful. Then it was young Totumoro’s turn to become a man, and he climbed up Amaan’s side with six others, including Chief Pamotoka. He was very poor, and was born with a bad leg, and the only treasure he had with him was the cane that helped him walk. He was the slowest among the six and Chief Pamotoka walked with him, while the others went ahead. By the time they reached the top, the six had become impatient, and mocked him for being weak. Chief Pamotoka silenced them, and after praying to Amaan he commanded each child to give up his or her Past Treasure. They did so, one by one, hurling their beloved possessions into Amaan’s mouth while He rumbled and hissed. Finally it was Totumoro’s turn. Totumoro turned to Chief Pamotoka, and handed him the cane with both hands.
“‘No, give your cane to Amaan, not to me!’, said Chief Pamotoka. Young Totumoro looked up at him, and said, ‘Chief Pamotoka, when I was climbing, I thought for a long time. It was not a difficult choice at all, giving up this cane, for I can make another one anytime. This cane is also my only possession, and so I did not have to think at all about what to give up. But then as I was climbing, I realized that there is one more thing worth far more to me than anything else I will ever come to possess, and so I have decided not to give this cane.’ And Chief Pamotoka and the six new men and women watched in horror as Totumoro hobbled slowly up to Amaan’s lower lip, and threw himself in.
“And Amaan was pleased, and quietened Himself into a deep slumber. Chief Pamotoka was still standing in shock when he heard Totumoro calling from below, and scrambled up in fear and awe to peer over Amaan’s lip for the first time. There he saw Totumoro smiling up at him from a ledge below, sitting on a small mountain of Past Treasures.
“And so Totumoro came back down the mountain carried on the shoulders of the Seven Witnesses, and became the Keeper of Past Treasures. There was no need to offer anything to Amaan anymore, for He had gone into slumber. Each year, up to this day, the new men and women would go to Totumoro one by one and tell him the story of their lives – their deepest fears, their secrets, their dreams. He writes them down, and keeps them. And then he tells them what they need to know.”
Mali smiles at me with his crooked teeth.
“Give him your Past Treasure, Kai, and he will tell you what you need to know.”
Written by Kenneth