Today’s Theme: Water
Bahari, Boy of the Sea
By: Robin Gagnon
Bahari waited at the pond’s edge, as it reflected the moonlight above. For centuries, his people had come to this pond for answers or guidance, but tonight he just wanted answers. He wished to know what had happened to his parents.
When he was just a child, Bahari had shown up on the island’s shore without out a name or a mother or a father. The people of the African tribe had found him unconscious at the time and took him back to their village to heal him. When he had awoken, he could not remember a thing about his past life, not even his name. So a woman of the village took Bahari in and gave him a name. He learned their ways and their language, growing up to be like one of them.
However, some people in the tribe didn’t like Bahari very much. They thought him to be an evil curse from the outside world because the colour of his skin wasn’t the same as theirs. He was white, like the people they saw on the ships that travelled past their island, and they believed that he would bring the ships to their home and the people on the ships would take over.
“He does not belong here,” Kofi, the son of the chief had argued. “We need to give him back to the sea and let it decide where to take him.”
“The sea is what brought him here,” the chief had replied to his son. “So he must of been brought to us for a reason.”
Kofi had not been very happy about the decision to keep Bahari there, but let it go. He wasn’t overly friendly to the young boy with dark brown hair and blue eyes, however, and some days Bahari would sit in his room and cry because of the ill-treatment he received from some of the other tribe’s people.
“It’s okay, Bahari,” his adopted mother, Nyarai, had told him one day. “They will accept you one day. You just have to convince them that you are a good-hearted person. No matter what, always be kind.”
So that’s what Bahari did. When the elderly needed taking care of, he was there to help; when the tribe needed food, he always made sure to bring back plenty for everyone to eat; and when storms blew in and destroyed parts of the village, he was one of the first to help them rebuild. Eventually, Kofi and the others trusted him enough to accept him and consider him as part of the tribe.
“I want to know what happened to my parents,” Bahari told Kofi one day, as they say on the beach and watched the waves lap the shore. “I need to know how I ended up here.”
Kofi looked up at him cautiously, like he was considering whether or not to tell him something. It had been many years since they had found Bahari on the beach, and now the two boys were young men in their late teens. Both had grown tall and muscular, like all the young men in the tribe.
“There is a pond,” Kofi finally replied, throwing a rock from the beach they sat on into the water. “It is sacred to our tribe and is said to show you the answers you seek or help show you the way when you are lost. Perhaps if you talk to my father, he will teach you the ritual and allow you to go into the pond to learn about your past.”
Bahari looked up at Kofi in surprise. He had never been told about this pond until then and was eager to see if it would show him the answers he was looking for.
When the two young men had returned to the village, the chief agreed to allow Bahari to ask the pond to show him his past. As the sun set, he taught him the ritual and pointed him in the direction of the sacred body of water.
“If it is willing to answer your questions,” the chief explained at the edge of the line of tropical trees. “You will be able to find it. If you do not find it after the moon has reached its highest point, then you must turn around and come back.”
Setting off, Bahari searched for the pond in the jungle of the small island. He hoped that he could find it to learn more about his past. When the moon was at his highest point, Bahari began to get nervous that he may never get the answers he was seeking, but suddenly, he approached a clearing with a pond that looked like what the chief had described.
This was the sacred pond of his people, he realized, the ones that had found him and had treated him like one of their own when he had lost his memories of his biological parents. Was he really ready to learn the secrets of his past? Would he want to leave the tribe when he learned who he was? The fear of these questions froze him in place, as he stared at the pond’s glass-like surface.
Gathering his courage, he undressed and slowly waded into the pond until he was standing in the middle. The water rose to just above his navel and the coldness of the water caused goosebumps to spread across his skin.
In the light of the moon, he raised one hand above his head and waited for the water to go still again. He wasn’t sure how this was going to work, since the chief hadn’t bothered to explain that part. All he could do was follow the ritual and wait to see what would happen.
When the water’s surface had returned to it’s glass-like state, Bahari remarked out loud, “I ask the spirits to show me, Bahari, what happened to my parents and reveal to me how I ended up on this island.”
He slowly lowered his hand, with his pointer finger out and touch the surface of the pond with his finger. Large ripples spread and glowed a bright blue across the water from where his finger had touched the surface, leaving Bahari in awe. It was as if the pond had obtained a heart beat.
Suddenly, Bahari was dragged down into the water and into impossibly dark depths below. This should have been impossible because the pond wasn’t that deep, he realized, before he blacked out.
When he woke, Bahari realized he was in a dream. There was a thick blanket of grey fog around him, so he walked forward through it. Eventually, he found himself onboard a large ship. Many of the people around looked like him, but nobody seem to notice that he was standing there. Their clothes were strange, he realized, and they seemed to cover more of their body than the people in his tribe.
“Henry,” a voice called out, making him turn to see a woman with curly, short brown hair run towards a young boy that stood in the middle of the deck. “Where have you been? Your father is worried sick.”
It took Bahari a moment, but he recognized the young boy as himself and assumed that the woman must of been his mother. The pair walked along the ship’s deck to meet a man with a big belly and a bushy mustache.
“Don’t run off like that,” he scolded the young boy. “This cruise ship is filled with people and it’s far too easy for you to get lost.”
Bahari’s eyes widened, as he watched the family and realized he was beginning to remember his past and the language he used to speak. The scene went fuzzy for a moment, causing a thick, grey fog to surround Bahari once again. When it cleared, he found himself in a room that he knew was on the ship. He remember that the room was called a cabin.
His young, five-year-old self was currently curled up in bed, as his parents slept on the other side of the room. His father was snoring and he couldn’t sleep, so he hopped out of bed and went out into the hallway. Bahari followed himself, as the ship began to rock back and forth. He began to run down the hallway and, eventually, pushed through a couple doors to find himself outside, as it poured rain during the middle of a thunderstorm.
The wind made his hair blow every which way and, instead of going back inside, Bahari’s younger self ventured further onto the ship’s deck to look out at the raging storm around him. Large waves seemed to form out of nothing and slammed into the large ship, causing it to sway in the choppy waters.
Becoming scared, Henry headed back for the door that led inside the ship, but was swept off his feet by a wave that had gone over the railing. Thunder rumbled loudly above him and when a clap of thunder lit up his surroundings, he looked up in horror to see a wave larger than he had ever seen before, come barrelling down towards him.
“Run!” Bahari yelled at his past self. “Get inside now!”
But the young boy was too afraid to move and the wave hit the ship, overturning it in the process. Bahari and his past self plunged into the water, as the huge ship sunk with him into the dark depths below. His parents were probably still fast asleep in their rooms.
Swimming back up, Bahari and his other self broke the surface together and struggled to keep afloat. Some debris, which had come from the ship, floated over to them and they both clung to it, only to be swallowed up by another wave.
Moments later, Bahari opened his eyes to find himself underwater and unable to breathe. He panicked and pushed upwards, only to find himself standing in the center of the pond. He was left speechless and wide-eyed at what he had learned.
When he had reached the village, Kofi, the chief and Nyarai waited for him at the edge of the treeline. They seemed to look anxious, since they must have wanted to know Bahari’s origins as well.
“What did you see?” his adoptive mother asked anxiously. “Do you know where you’re from? Do you…want to go back?”
Kofi watched him with a silent expression. Bahari knew that when he became quiet like this, it was because he was nervous. The boy who had treated him like an outsider, had become more like a brother and Bahari was certain that he was worried that he would want to leave after learning his origins.
“My parents are dead,” he replied, regarding them carefully. “I used to be one of the white people on the large ships, but during a storm, a wave swallowed it up and sunk it to the bottom of the sea. By some miracle, I somehow survived and ended up here.”
“Bahari, I’m so sorry,” Nyarai apologized with sympathy in her dark eyes. “It must have been terrible to relive that. Are you going to try and go back home to find your family?”
Kofi watched him with anticipation and Bahari regarded him for a moment before replying, “No, I am home with my family.”