Beyond the steel walls of the Harras Maximum Security Prison,
Gregory Buchanan escapes into the freedom of dreams. Again
the African sun warms his bare skin. Again the laughter of
the Baoule women stirs his blood. In dreams, he again allows
the curiousity of his desires as a young man to become his
downfall. He knew his actions were wrong. He knew he violated
the most sacred of Baoule traditions. Still, he could not
Day fades into evening, and the Baoule men retire to their
huts, leaving the women to their rituals. All of the men remain
inside. Any man who dared to disobey incurred the wrath of
the strongest power in any village: a woman's body.
A Baoule woman was the bringer of new life to the village.
Through her, the tribe appealed to the god of the earth for
good harvest. Through her, the tribe sought protection against
disease. Any man observing the naked women performing their
rites desecrated the sanctity of their gathering, and sentenced
himself to death by his actions.
He tries to stay inside. A half-hearted gesture at best.
But the steady beat of drums, the women's voices rising in
pleasant unison to the heavens, the glimpses of gleaming skin
flashing past the cracks in the hut walls, overwhelm his senses.
He catches a brief, teasing glance of Raoua's smile, brilliant
under the moonlight.
Behind him, his father remains deeply involved discussing
the disease which has infected their tribe. Smallpox. It is
the reason they have come to this neighboring tribe for aid.
It is the reason they call upon the power of the Baoule women.
It is the reason Gregory slips unnoticed from the hut.
A moment, no more. The briefest instance when Raoua's eyes
meet his; when Gregory's heart quickens in response. Sudden
gasps from the other women as his presence is discovered.
Cries of outrage which are soon answered by the Baoule men
emerging from the huts. Imminent disaster until lightning
flashes from the skies, momentarily blinding the men while
the women frantically scramble for their robes.
Ororo, living goddess for the Baoule, descends in thunderous
fury. Tense silence falls over the tribe. Her steely eyes
freeze Gregory's blood. He cries out as her winds pull him
from the earth, then slam him onto his knees before her. She
speaks, her voice vibrant even above the strong winds and
"What is to become of you now, curious one?"
Gregory stands, squaring his shoulders as he meets her direct
Raoua's cry sends another gasp through the tribe. She runs
forward, falling onto her knees, then respectfully bows her
head to Ororo's feet. Ororo's heart softens. She is not much
older than this young woman whose kindness and courage quickly
earned her Ororo's deepest affection. Still, she cannot absolve
this man completely. His impulsiveness has seriously compromised
Ororo remains silent, considering the situation. To the Baoule,
their goddess is merely showing a moment of benevolence, allowing
the young man and woman their time for goodbyes before he
dies. The moment passes. Then another. A sob escapes Raoua's
lips. Her tears dampen Ororo's skin. Hushed whispers buzz
through the tribe, questioning why the goddess has not struck
this man dead. The whispers increase annoyingly.
A final clap of thunder and the winds still, the lightning
ceases. Ororo rests her hand on Raoua's head.
Raoua stands. Her dark eyes shine with unshed tears. Ororo
forces herself to turn away and concentrate on Gregory.
"Were it not for my intervention, you would have destroyed
the sanctity of this tribe. By the Bright Lady, the women
and their ritual were not defiled. No, little one, you will
Cold disdain creeps into her voice.
"You have not earned the privilege of joining
your ancestors. In truth, you are more of a child yet, than
man. For three passes of the full moon, you will be returned
to the tribe as the child your actions reveal you to be."
Gregory flushes. He has only recently endured the rite of
passage into manhood. How can he return to his village knowing
that he will be watched over, followed, kept from Raoua until
he again passes the rites of maturity? To have this witch
condemn him to childhood, by mere words, is more than he can
bear. Thoughtlessly, he pulls back to strike her. Instantly,
Raoua moves between. His blow lands hard on Raoua's cheek,
knocking her to the ground, unconscious.
Ororo cries out, stunned. She eases Raoua into her arms,
checking her carefully. The other Baoule women hurry to her
aid, respectful of Ororo's status. There is no thunder this
time. No deafening crash. No blinding flash of light. Only
unnatural quiet. No one speaks on Gregory's behalf now. Ororo's
judgement is quick, definitive. A single word spoken in barely
controlled, angry whisper.
Gregory pales. One by one, the Baoule turn their backs to
him. He seeks his father, grabs his hand pleadingly. His father
shoves him away.
"You shame me."
Slowly, Gregory gathers himself and takes leave of the tribe.
As he passes through the village, he turns again to the one
responsible for his loss. His heart hardens against her, vowing
that one day she, too, will understand what has been lost
to him this night.
Continued in Chapter
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