Saturday, December 8, 2007
Fighting Monsters (first draft)
It had been almost three years to the day that Panya and the old man, Abiola, had been numbered among the few that had survived the attack of the monster that had come down from the mountains of the north and destroyed the village. Panya had been only 13 but she had sworn revenge on that day. Every day from that day to this one she had spent planning that revenge.
After the destruction Abiola took Panya under his wing. He watched over her, ensuring that she was safe and protected. He ensured that she was fed and sheltered. Most importantly, he was careful to try to teach her the ways of peace and happiness. They moved to another village where Abiola believed Panya would be able to move on from the past.
After the attack Panya had shared her desire for revenge against the monster. Instead of agreeing with her, Abiola would only shake his head and try to warn her.
“I will avenge my family and my village,” She declared
“Dear Panya, you must be very careful with this desire to fight the monster. It is very dangerous. You must leave vengeance to the Lord.” He talked of gentleness, honor and peace. She did not heed him. She thought the danger he spoke of was from the monster.
Of course she knew the monster was dangerous, but she was young and getting stronger every day. She had met Senwe an old warrior in the village who knew of the monster and everyday she would go and learn from him.
Senwe taught her many things. He drew a map of a way that led through the desert, over the foothills and into the craggy mountain to where the monster lived. She learned how to survive in these places because he taught her how the monster survived there. In her heart she felt her self becoming determined in her goal. She felt her heart and her backbone growing stronger. She was not afraid.
“Panya, what will you do on your sixteenth birthday?” asked Abiola one morning.
“I will set out to fight the monster,” She answered.
“Dearest Panya, please think of other things. It is very dangerous for you to fight the monster; terrible things can happen to you. Let vengeance be left for the Lord to attend to” Abiola warned again. But Panya would not hear him. The more she learned of the monster the more she knew she could destroy him. She had become more determined and less gentle but she knew that gentleness would not help her fight the monster.
Senwe continued to teach her about the monster. He taught her how to remain hidden from the monster. The monster could smell an enemy 10 miles away and had eyesight like the hawk. Most importantly he also taught her how to hide her true intentions for the monster could read a person well. He taught her to smile when she was sad, how to look peaceful when she was angry and how to look as if she meant to do good when she was ready to destroy.
One morning when Panya was getting dressed she noticed a green scale growing over her heart. What is this? She wondered to herself. She studied it for a few minutes but not understanding she quickly pulled her shirt on and went about her business.
That day as she wandered through the village she came upon a lovely young woman she had never seen before. The woman sang as she worked and around her legs little children played and laughed.
“Hello Panya,” She called. Panya was surprised for she did not know this woman. “I am a friend of Abiola. He has told me about you, how beautiful you are and how much he cherishes you. I am Yakini.” Panya stopped for a little while and met Yakini’s children and listened to the joy in her voice. She watched as Yakini seemed to be happy doing the simplest of chores and her children seemed to share that happiness.
“Will you join us for lunch?” Yakini invited.
“I cannot today but perhaps another day. Thank you for your kind invitation.” Panya said and she headed to Senwe’s house, smiling as she went. It had been so pleasant and peaceful with Yakini. Senwe was angry when she arrived.
“Where have you been?” He demanded to know. “Surely you understand that if you wish to fight the monster it must be all consuming you can not be dilly dallying along the road.”
Panya told Senwe of the green scale growing over her heart.
“That is good. It means that you are becoming more prepared to fight the monster, for what has been growing hidden in your heart is beginning to show through. But,” Senwe warned her, “do not tell anyone about the scale.” He did not tell her why and she felt very uneasy about the scale. But, she trusted Senwe so she obeyed him.
She began to feel a bit of a tug of war begin inside her after that day. When she would stop to talk to Yakini she would feel an urgency to leave and go to her lessons with Senwe, When she was with Senwe she longed for the joy she felt just being near Yakini.
The day drew near for her to go. She knew that she could fight the monster and destroy him. The green scales had spread across her chest. Senwe had told her this was to protect her. The morning before her 16th birthday Abiola watched her getting ready as she made her preparations to leave.
“Please do me one favor before you go, “Abiola said very quietly to Panya.
“Yes Abiola, I will do whatever you ask. You have been good and kind to me. I love you Abiola.” Panya said.
“Please go and have lunch with Yakini before you leave. Listen to what she would speak of and then consider all things. I fear greatly for you. I have told you of the danger of fighting monsters, but you will not listen to me. Please go and please, please listen to Yakini.”
“I will go and I will have lunch with Yakini. I will listen to what she has to say and then I will go and say goodbye to Senwe. Tomorrow I will go to fight the monster.” She kissed Abiola. She finished her packing
Later that afternoon she sat with Yakini and shared a meal. She was absorbed in her plans to leave but Yakini tried to share the truth with her.
“Panya,” Yakini began. “Panya, your name means a twin child. Not because you are a twin but because in your heart there have always been two children. The woman you may become is dependent upon the choices you are making. Abiola is a good man, his name means born in honor. He has always lived as an honorable man and he has tried to teach you rightly. Senwe has also been teaching you. But know this; Senwe’s name is dry grain stalk. In the end, if you choose to follow his teaching it will not lead to honor but rather to fruitlessness in your life.”
Panya was listening now but it all sounded like some sort of story that she could not believe. Perhaps it was merely a coincidence that the names of these men were what they were, or perhaps Yakini had made it all up to try to stop her.
“Panya please understand. You are headed down a wrong path. A wise man once said ‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.’ Beware my dear Panya, I fear that perhaps you have already started to turn into one.”
“I don’t know what you mean Yakini. Thank you so much for lunch. I hope I will see you when I return from fighting the monster.” Panya smiled as she got up to leave. “The story about the names was very interesting. By the way Yakini, what does your name mean?”
Yakini hugged Panya. Then bending close to her ear she whispered, “Truth.”
Early the next morning, even before the dawn, Panya slipped out of the home that she shared with Abiola and began her journey. As she spent many days crossing the desert the sun began to bake her skin. One morning she awoke to discover that her arms and legs now were covered with the scales much like the ones on her chest. The scales helped her to stay cool in the desert so she did not mind them so much.
After many days and nights where her only thoughts and conversations were with herself, and she was always thinking about fighting the monster, she came finally to the foothills. As she began to cross the foothills her legs began to lengthen and she was able to move more quickly so she welcomed the change. She was careful to remember the things that Senwe had taught her. She watched her trail, kept close to the path that he had directed her and stayed away from people.
Panya was excited she had made her way through two thirds of her journey; she had only to cross the great mountains of the north. There had been little danger and she smiled when she thought of Abiola’s warnings. Yes, she knew there would be danger but her travels so far had only made her stronger and more agile. Every night before she went to sleep she would feel that last hug from Yakini and remember that she whispered truth in her ear but every morning the only thing she thought of was to fight the monster.
As she began to travel through the mountains she had to use her arms more and more to pull herself up the great crags. She felt the sinew in her arms growing stronger. One morning she woke up to discover that she had grown great wings. Now she could travel even faster and before she knew what was happening she found herself at the entrance of the cave to the monster.
“Welcome friend,” came a voice from deep inside the cave.
“I am not your friend.” Panya replied. “I have come to fight you.”
“Don’t be silly. Why would we fight?” The voice asked and this time the voice was nearer.
“You are the monster. I have come to fight you.” Panya shouted angrily.
“Come here my child and look into the pool.” Panya looked about warily, took a few steps forward and looked down into a great dark pool. “See,” said the monster. “We are the same.” The monster stepped forward. He was covered in scales, he had long lean legs and beautiful wings.
Then Panya remembered all of Abiola’s warnings, and Yakini’s entreaty, and she knew then that Yakini had told her the truth.