November 16, 2019

Yarn heard from a burntlander in Panama

«Back when the Fall was fallin’, humans f’got the makin’ o’ fire.  O, diresome bad things was gettin’, yay.  Come night, folks cudn’t see nothin’, come winter they cudn’t warm nothin’, come mornin’ they cudn’t roast nothin’.  So the tribe went to Wise Man an’ asked, Wise Man, help us, see we f’got the makin’ o’ fire, an’, O, woe is us an’ all.

«So Wise Man summ’ned Crow an’ say-soed him these words: Fly across the crazed’n’jiffyin’ ocean to the Mighty Volcano, an’ on its foresty slopes, find a long stick. Pick up that stick in your beak an’ fly into that Mighty Volcano’s mouth an’ dip it in the lake o’ flames what bubble’n’spit in that fiery place. Then bring the burnin’ stick back here to Panama so humans’ll mem’ry fire once more an’ mem’ry back its makin’.

«Crow obeyed the Wise Man’s say-so, an’ flew over this crazed’n’jiffyin’ ocean until he saw the Mighty Volcano smokin’ in the near-far.  He spiralled down on to its foresty slopes, nibbed some gooseb’ries, gulped of a chilly spring, rested his tired winds a beat, then sivvied ’round for a long stick o’pine.  A one, a two, a three an’ up Crow flew, stick in his beak, an’ plop down the sulf’ry mouth o’ the Mighty Volcano that gutsy bird dropped, yay, swoopin’ out of his dive at the last beat, draggin’ that stick o’ pine thru’ the melty fire, whooo-ooo-ooosh, it flamed!  Up’n’out o’ that Crow flew from the scorchin’ mouth, now flew with that burnin’ stick in his mouth, yay, toward home he headed, wings poundin’, stick burnin’, days passin’, hail slingin’, clouds black’nin’, O, fire lickin’ up that stick, eyes smokin’, feathers crispin’, beak burnin’ . . .  It hurts!  Crow crawed.  It hurts!  Now, did he drop that stick or din’t he? Do we mem’ry the makin’ o’ fire or don’t we?

«See now, said Meronym, riding backwards on that lead-ass, it ain’t ’bout Crows or fire, it’s ’bout how we humans got our spirit.»

—Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, 2004