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Faces&Voices


AN ANTHOLOGY
OF VERSE, PROSE

AND ART

by
the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,
2001-200
2

  Contents
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E. R. BRAITHWAITE
Professor

Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5



Storm Watch
Kavita Manohar - Maharaj
Trinidad & Tobago - Biology/Pre-Med

        The storm was approaching fast across the plain, a monstrous grey wall of cloud and dust swallowing everything in its path. It would roam the rocky plain like a hungry beast, consuming what scrub vegetation lay in its path, taking only enough to sustain it, to whet its hunger without satiating it. It would grow and move in its rage, always seeking more, never dying.
        Tian watched the distant storm with sharp, angry hunter’s eyes, as if her rage could force it to veer to one side or another. It was approaching good hunting ground and in its wake the land would be unsafe for hunting for years. The green stuff growing there would be inedible for even longer. Briefly, she considered returning home to Dwelling to weather the storm in underground safety. But how could she then call herself a hunter? She composed herself on the rocky outcrop, sparing a brief glance for the metal plate that covered the entrance well to Dwelling. She had already sent word of the storm down with the others and did not expect another hunter to emerge.
        She studied the storm again, eyes narrowing as a line of sparse shrubbery vanished behind the dense grey clouds. Now and again, she would see flashes of light in it, but it was still too far away for her to hear the accompanying rumble. Close behind her there was the grate and scuffle of someone walking slowly on fine sand and rock, a human like her, a hunter and no cause for alarm.
        “It is dangerous to watch the storms,” the other said when she did not turn, “You should go below with the others.”
        “I will stay,” her voice was low, dry like the plains, “Someone must. You of all people should know.” She turned to see Leon, Chief of the Dwelling hunters, unhurriedly seating himself some distance away, watching the poisonous storm clouds pensively with spear in hand. He had the greater right to be there than she, though it was no privilege. No hunter could track the herds of plains beast as well as Leon had in his prime, or predict the path of a storm so accurately. The awe at being part of his hunting party had not worn off despite the time that had passed since her appointment. She studied his lean form. He sprawled on the rock as if utterly fatigued, trying to pierce the storm with his eyes much as she had been doing before. Was he actually squinting?
        Inwardly, she cursed herself for being distracted and trained her gaze on the storm once more. She pondered his words, once again questioning her right to be there. She was a skilled hunter but it had not been her sharp eyes that had found the Outsider, a little over a year ago. Tian was sure of the passage of time. Her father had been a scribe and had taught her something of the Above People’s writing and their years, though exactly what a year was, he had not known.
        It had been a year ago that Leon had brought the Outsider to Dwelling. The man had had the storm sickness, the Hunter’s Syndrome, from wandering too far and too long. He was constantly sick, exhausted and bleeding from every pore in his bruised body. Leon must have known it was hopeless, but still, he had brought the man to Dwelling. Only days later, he died. Both Tian and Leon had been present the only time he had been able to speak. His words were the same as theirs but somehow they sounded different, harsher to the ear than Dwellers were used to. Apparently that was how people spoke in Habitat. The man, Tyree, had never recovered enough to explain why he had willingly left his shelter so far behind, or the reason for the shackles on his legs or the scars on his back.
        Tian, truthfully, had been relieved when he died. She wished to hear no more of Habitat. Leon, however, had been overwhelmed by the knowledge that there was another shelter, another dwelling with humans just like his own people. In the months since then, he had been roaming the West Plains in search of Habitat. Did he know that she marked his lengthy absences? Did he know that she knew what he searched for? Could he ever know how she hoped he would not find it, even though the length of his search threatened his very life?
        The storm wavered, first left, then right, then continued its steady advance. Tian heard Leon’s sharp intake of breath. They stood watching the fury with no words to bridge the distance between them. Leon was the one to break the silence, “It is useless to hunt today. All the plains beast will have gone from here.”
        Tian was sure she would never be as wise as he was to the ways of herds and dim skies alike. “The storm must be watched and any stray animal out must be caught. Dwelling needs the food more than ever now.” She struggled to keep the tinge of fear out of her voice, “The lights over the cave fields are failing and we cannot repair them.” If only the Storians knew such useful lessons instead of their fanciful tales about the long vanished Above People and the great clouds that had driven them away.
        Leon smiled, but it did not reach his eyes, “Tian, it was always so, you, never failing in your duty, always putting Dwelling first.”
        For some reason his words unnerved her, “And you?”
        “Me? I am a dreamer, a hopeless dreamer,” he lowered his eyes, his chin sinking to his chest as he rubbed at a strange red bruise on his hand. His next words emerged as a rumble, “It has begun, Tian. I have dreamed too much and roamed too far.”
        A long moment passed before his words had impact and a pain she did not know existed welled up in her chest, “Leon, no!”
        He cut her off, “It is no use, Tian. I have not been well for some time now. The fatigue, the aches, they grow worse.” He held out his arm so she could see the storm -inflicted burns. “Even now my heart thunders like a beast in its death throes. I cannot hide anymore.” She watched in silent disbelief as he planted his metal spear, fashioned from railing shaken loose from the lower levels of Dwelling, firmly into the ground. He removed the large storm cat’s tooth, mark of the Chief Hunter, from around his neck and knotted the cord loosely around the spear before lifting his eyes to meet hers. Tian fought the stinging behind her eyes, not trusting herself to speak, acutely aware of the tooth rattling against the spear. Again Leon broke the silence, “Serve Dwelling better than I have, Tian.”
        She battled the tears that threatened to spill and the ache welling up inside her just enough to speak, “You will be remembered, Leon of Dwelling.” He bowed his head and weaved his way down the rock, beginning his slow walk towards the storm. Tian watched with sharp, bright eyes as he crossed the plain to become a mere speck in the distance. She moved to claim the spear, her spear, only after the storm had swallowed him.


© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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