I think reading fiction can be therapeutic. In the beginning of this pandemic I was inspired to write. I wanted to understand how in the past our ancestors faced adversity. This story I’m about to share was the results of my research.
Around 300000 BC
The air condensed the lights of the sun, when it circulated between the petals of the flowers. A melody of perfumes spread across the region.
The butterflies collected the nectar while the ladybirds explored the myriads of possibilities that the terrain offered them. Gradually, the colours faded in the sky letting the first constellations of stars shined in a beaming glow. It was at this precise moment that Hina was born. Her mother wept when she first saw her because of her congenital malformation; Hina had no right hand, and only four fingers on the left one.
In this harsh climate, a disabled girl from birth would struggle to survive. The temperature differences between day and night were so drastic that only the fittest were capable of handling these conditions.
Hina would need all her abilities to gather the fruits and help the community with the necessary labour required of her.
Jinna her mother told her father Omma that Hina was sick, and would probably die soon. Since the first months of her pregnancy, Jinna had not been in a very good health. She felt early on that something was wrong. The birth of her daughter confirmed her worst premonitions.
Jinna thought that Hina could be a burden, and she would probably be ostracized in the tribe.
Jinna felt so desperate by the situation that she decided to go to the nearby river with the intention of drowning her baby and telling afterwards that it was an accident.
But something in Hina sensed that her life was in danger, and she cried and screamed so vigorously that Jinna had remorse about what she initially wanted to do.
A feeling of compassion and love for her baby timidly emerged like a gentle spirit who was watching over her. From now on, she would protect her child the best she could. There was something special that she could not explain which emanated from Hina that had a fierce appetite to live.
Each step of growing up for Hina was a challenge.
It started by the other women in the tribe who complained that she was too slow, and she was not a real help for them.
Jinna always replied that she would work twice as hard to compensate what Hina could not contribute. Jinna was in constant fear for her. She always used to tell Hina to stay where she could see her.
In this network of caves tightly embedded in the hills, you had to be extra vigilant.
The life in the tribe was hard, you had to move often to avoid predators like snakes and leopards.
You also had to be very wary of the other tribes in the area who never missed an occasion to attack to either steal your food or to assert their predominance.
Two people in the tribe were always assigned to give the alert if something threatened the integrity of the clan. It was not rare that the tribe had to mourn the loss of three to five warriors per year.
Somehow, with discipline and repetition, Hina managed to develop a dexterity to pick up fruits.
But it had been an upheaval battle. Climbing between the branches was particularly tricky for her.
In the beginning, the other children use to mock and bully her because she was different.
Her only friend was her cousin Hine, he was kind and supportive.
He helped her to develop unique skills to gather what the tribe needed. After years of practice and determination, Hina became the best girl to collect fruits. Everybody was amazed by her achievement.
Jinna was more confident about the future of her unique child. Maybe she could make it after all.
One year a locust swarm devastated the region.
The tribe had less to rely on.
Hina decided against her mother orders to venture further that the group of women used to go without being seen.
When she was exploring the wilderness around the cave, she came face to face with a leopard.
The beast stared at her, but something told her to remain calm, and she had the presence of mind to grab a rock and to throw at the leopard’s head.
After that she ran to rejoin the cave. When she told her story, her mother was very angry because she disobeyed, but many people in the tribe thought that she made it up, and they laughed at her.
Hina was the source of constant jokes. They teased her every day.
Jinna was ashamed and told her to never tell this story again. Hina did not care that nobody believed her, she used that as confirmation that she was more courageous than most people. Leopard attacks were what people feared the most.
Hina continued to secretly explore the area near the caves. Jinna kept calling for her to know where she was. Hina always had an excuse ready to give her mother.
During her excursions, Hina learned about different aspects of the surroundings.
She was also very observant of was going on in the tribe. Even though it was unusual for a girl, she asked her father Omma how he fabricated spears, and how to select the best rocks to do it.
When she was around ten year old, she asked her cousin Hine to show her how to hunt preys.
“I can’t show you that, it’s only for the men, you know that.” said Hine.
But every time she could, from a distance, she liked to see how the hunters ran long distances to make their prey tired and finally exhausted before they killed them. During these hunts you had to be very careful to avoid the lions, they could launch a surprise attack at any time.
Recently, one man died like this.
Hina reached adolescence, it was time for her to marry. Her uncle Jime who was the tribal chief had to select the best suitor for her.
But unexpectedly, something strange happened before she could marry.
Without understanding why, people in the tribe started to fall ill. Maybe it was something in the food they ate. But one by one they felt weak.
The symptoms of the disease ranged from severe rashes, vomiting or other intestinal problems followed by enormous fatigue and the need to sleep long hours. The healer of the tribe used medicinal plants that he knew could alleviate the pain.
Both of Hina’s parents suffered from the disease but by miracle she did not get it. She was very worried for them. She accompanied the healer to collect the plants. He taught her the best to use. Because the healer was so busy, Hina became his assistant.
After a massive fever some people died of the disease. Most of the men were affected by the sickness.
What was unimaginable before became a reality. Because so few men could hunt, it had been decided that Hine would show Hina how to hunt in order to provide more food for the recovery of those who were not in the condition to attend their duties.
Hina was now one of the few able bodies capable of performing what was necessary to bring meat to the tribe.
But even diminished, many men protested against the idea of incorporating Hina in a hunt. They said that it would bring more bad luck, the gods were already angry against them.
Jime the chief stood firm, and he said to them that there was no choice if the tribe wanted to survive.
The first hunts, Hina was tentative. She did not master the right timing to throw the spears at the preys.
But Hine always encouraged her, and after many attempts she managed to kill a prey. She was totally elated.
Her mother’s health did not improve. Jinna passed away few weeks after she had the first symptoms. Hina and her father were totally heartbroken and inconsolable.
After three months, new calamities afflicted the tribe. It was the beginning of the most severe drought that they had known for years. The main sources of water diminished in size to become small pounds.
The tribe had to move to find a more a welcoming place. Jime decided to send Hina and Hine to prospect the area to find somewhere they could use to build a settlement around it.
It was an arduous mission because of the scarcity of food and water, but they were now the only two people who had the fortitude to do it.
Hina remembered that her mother always told her to follow her intuition, so they headed west.
They walked for days but could not find any large source of water.
During their search, they ran across two men from a rival tribe who tried to attack them and to rape Hina. Like possessed by the devil, Hine and Hina managed to severely injured the men, and they fled the fastest they could.
Two days after, a huge desert storm appeared.
Hina and Hine had to stay under a rock to wait that it passed. They kept walking to the west. After one more day of marching, they finally saw something they had never seen before, it was like an infinite river. They tasted the water, it was a strange sensation, they did not like it when they tried to drink it. They roamed around the shore.
They found a river and also a large lake.
Hina and Hine were so happy, this place was perfect to establish a new settlement. They admired the warmth of the colours on the horizon above the waves just before sunset.
Because Hine was an expert to follow animal tracks, he had an exceptional sense of orientation and a very good memory. They rested two days to regenerate. They started their journey back to the tribe.
After one week, against all odds, they reached their destination.
When they arrived and announced that they had found the best place to settle, it was an immense celebration.
The tribe started their long march to reach their new homeland.
They established a new community near the sea.
They learned how to collect the seashells and the difficult art of fishing.
Hina married a strong and courageous man.
She became a mother then a grandmother.
She had a long and happy life. She was the matriarch of the tribe. At night, around the fire, she told the story of her life to the children.
She always finished her stories by saying:” Follow your heart, it’s the best guide you will ever have.”