First Revelation By Nigel Klemencic-Puglisevich
It was a hard walk. The stones beneath my feet began to agitate me more and more, as if they were mosquitoes gnawing on my arms. The sun’s rays penetrated deep into my heart, heating my insides as if they were its next meal. The sun-gods were unforgiving on this day. As pained as I was, my walk had only just begun. I had left the town of Ardud, my home and the only town I’ve ever been to, earlier on that same day. To be frank, my survival skills were few to none. The fertile wilderness that I found myself in was more likely to kill me than any other tribe living in these parts.
I sat down for a moment on a rock to rest and pray. The old gods might have had some words to say so I prayed to their names, asking for guidance and courage. I asked for the safety of the Amaa, my people back home. “To this day, they live in secrecy and insecurity for fear of their slaughter. Deliver us now from evil and we shall repay you graciously.”
Upon completion of my prayer, I stood to continue my quest: to defy my destiny and to prove Ardud’s god wrong. I will not visit the cave.
It was my people who casted me out to seek a new home—not the others, the majority. One would think that the majority would have been the ones to drive me out first, but alas! It was my own people. For my outcasting, though, I play the majority more than I do the Amaa, for it wasn’t the Amaa’s wish to have me leave. It was only the safest choice.
By tradition, the town sends one young citizen to the cave of Antrum every moon-cycle. There, they are to go without water, food, or sleep until they receive divine knowledge from their single god. By selection, I was chosen. By choice, I was going to make a stand against their false god and their threats against my people, to tell them that we will no longer be held down by their cruel hands. My family agreed that this would be for the worst. To avoid catastrophe, they ostracised me and sent me out to find a new home for myself. I left only with the clothes upon my back and a sack of dates.
My getting up seemed to alert a beast to my presence. By the sun god who saw me then, I could have sworn to have heard a beast the size of two houses. Once I caught a glimpse of it, I saw it was a hyena, foaming from the mouth and ready to consume me whole. In a fit of panic, I ran from it. Without looking behind me, I could hear more joining its path; the path towards their prey. With a growing army of hyenas behind me, I decided to engage in the only form of warfare I knew: hide.
I looked around for any sign of a place that I could access but that they could not. I began to climb a cliff face, aiming for the flat ledge that laid halfway up. I had never climbed this high before, but the pain was more than I could have imagined. My feet were already hurting from my walk and now my hands hurt just the same from my attempt to scale the cliff. I tried to keep a hold of my sack of dates but as a result of focusing on the pain in my hands, I let go. The sack fell directly beside the hyenas. I dared not look back down to see if they devoured them or not; it was safe to assume that they did. At last, I reached the flat edge of the cliff where I could rest my feet and hands. Only, as I looked around, it was clear to me that this was not a flat edge but, rather, an opening inside of the cliff. By some miracle, I had found a small cave to house myself from the sun. It was damp and cool but superior to the company of the hyenas.
Much time passed before I dared to check if the hyenas had disappeared. I peered over the edge to look down only to see that the hyenas were looking up. Upon seeing me, they started to make terrifying, gruesome noises again and I frantically scurried back into the cave. I did not know if they could climb after me. So, void of sleep, I awaited their ascent.
The sun began to set and I remained in the cave without water or my dates. Even if I could sleep, I didn’t know if I wanted to out of fear of the hyenas. Time passed slowly and I was all too aware of myself and the hardships that my conditions were putting on me. Without food or water, and with the persistent hyenas, there was only so long I could last. Night soon turned to day. I checked once again for the hyenas and to my surprise, they remained. They were also seemingly devoid of sleep, yet they retained the same amount of energy as the day prior—I did not. I went back into the cave and felt as if I was never going to escape, stuck in the cave only to starve and wait for the hyenas to one day climb inside and consume me. I dreaded the thought. I truly didn’t think my desire to alleviate the Amaa from persecution would lead to my death. I suppose I never truly thought things through.
I sat alone with my thoughts, prayers, and worries for yet another day before the sky went dark again. I once again checked to see if the hyenas had left their post, but my hope was in vain. They remained still, and likely would for the rest of time.
The lack of resources began to get to me. I ached for food or water. I was too tired to search the cave for anything that might do me any good. Getting up from the cave floor required energy that I couldn’t find within myself.
My paranoia kept me awake another night. The fear of the hyenas and of starvation drove me to hopelessness. With no way out and no energy left, death was imminent. I had to make peace with this. Oh, but peace was not easy to find.
The sun began its ascent into the sky and I lifted my head to watch, hoping for a better day ahead. The sky was replaced by an orange, followed eagerly by a Damask rose that gave way to the colour of the sea in mere moments.
Rather, in mere moments it seemed, I felt a presence around me. Not one of a hyena as I might have guessed. This presence was tranquil, yet to be feared. Calming. Humbling. I turned my head from one corner of the cave to another, but nothing was to be seen. Only felt. And I could feel it in every part of me.
“Read, young one. Read for me,” the Presence spoke. The fact that it spoke to me made me uneasy. I heard it clear as day, though the message was not clear. “I cannot read,” I responded anxiously.
“Read the words,” It demanded of me again. “Dear Presence, I cannot read.”
“I am an Angel, young one. Sent to you,” the angel said very calmly. “Read the words I have placed before you.”
I looked at the cave wall and saw the words that the angel spoke of. They read of literacy and educating my town in the name of the single god. I read this aloud to the angel.
“Angel, there is no singular god. How am I to educate people on false ideas?”
“My dear, I am sent from that god. Sent to you. Take these words to heart,” the Angel continues. “Take these words to your home.”
The Presence quickly disappeared. I sat for a moment in disbelief before running to the cliff’s edge.
The hyenas were gone. Suddenly filled with energy, I climbed to the bottom of the cliff and ran back to my town. I had to share the words of the Angel. Why, whilst trying to avoid my fate, I discovered it. It was in the majority all this time. The cave of Antrum is divine. They knew this the whole time. They were right.
Upon my entrance to the town, I was swarmed by the town’s people, including the Amaa who banished me. I now had to tell them what I had heard.
My explanation was curt, but its message was clear. Within a few short moon cycles, small institutions were opened to make people literate and educate them on the words shown to me within Antrum. Children and adults alike were to take part and record their history, their stories, and their businesses. Sooner than I’d imagined, Ardud was populated by a unified literate community which centred itself on the education of literacy to others. Thus, this magnificent practise, which was only the first of many revelations to come to me within the cave, came into being.