General Fiction posted May 27, 2013


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Masai passage into adulthood

TRADITION

by rtobaygo

Tradition,
By
Raymond Tobaygo
 
 
As all the young men of the Kenya’s Masai clans reached the age of ritual, where childhood ended to be replaced by manhood, my clan elders were no different, exhaustively training me for the ultimate test.  My grandfather, the head of our clan, along with my father and his brothers dutifully instructed me on how to survive the ordeal.  A trial, if passed, meant I, Rambika Maseru would no longer sit at the children’s table in the Great Council Hall of the Masai, but would be accorded all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of an adult Masai male.    
 
To appease grandfather, father and uncles, and to protect family honor, Rambika went through the motions with feigned enthusiasm.  He had studied the rings and knew well the reasons that made the passage mandatory for all sons.  As the date for Masai manhood drew closer, the less he was able to pretend interest, preferring to write and read poetry over the proper use of his weapon and accompanying equipment needed to survive the ritual.
 
The evening before the great day found the clan leaders and their extended male relatives feasting inside the Great Council Hall.  As other male members bragged about their son’s prowess, Rambika’s family at times, found themselves hard pressed to provide favorable comparisons.   He felt especially bad for his father since he was his only son.  With the feasting in the great hall near its end Rambika’s father took him aside, explaining at tomorrow’s first light the hunt would begin.  He then told him what he could not earlier.  What Rambika hunted would be hunting him.  Everything they had prepared Rambika for would determine his success or failure.  The hunt would be played out until only one survived.  This was the Masai way.
 
Rambika instinctively nodded, the information hitting him like a hard slap to the face.  He had no idea of the finality of the situation. 
 
His father’s deep voice told him why the necessary urgency of his preparation.
 
Rambika now wished he had spent less time with Byron, Shelly, Keats, Wu Yun and Chaptura, and more time concentrating on his marksmanship and endurance training.
 
 
Five A.M. arrived.   With his weapon attached to his backpack, Rambika took inventory.  A self-contained bio helmet – the hunting ground’s oxygen level was a constant fifty-two percent -- a water container and jivir knife attached to his belt and lastly his left forearm’s pattern unit.  Satisfied he found himself staring at the massive doors of the ten kilometer- wide domed amphitheater.  Within his helmet’s internal audio relay he heard the well wishes of those who had trained him, coupled with conflicting last minute advice.  A forced smile acknowledged their concern.
 
Rambika told his father to tell his mother not to worry as father had trained him well.
 
Again his father enforced the message that Rambika should know his quarry’s location so he could focus his attack.  His father wished him luck and that the Gods are with him on this day.
 
With foreboding finality, Rambika watched the immense doors close behind him.  Alone, he checked his gear’s functions before engaging a left circular hunting pattern.  Every plant inside the amphitheater was enormous, making progress in certain areas easy, while in others, difficult.
 
 
Rambika checked his timepiece.  He had been inside the amphitheater nearly three hours and the molecular disturbance pods hadn’t registered a single life form.”  He looked at his forearm tracker.  The circular route had not been productive so he switched to transverse pattern.  Through his visor he saw water droplets hanging from the ends of the speckled leaves.  His father told him his prey thrived in high humidity.  Since it is a predator, logic dictated it would blend in with the flora’s most abundant colors of different shades of green.
 
Even with his specially engineered bio suit Rambika felt the humidity. 
 
 
Two hours later Rambika stopped and reassessed his strategy.  He cursed at the sauna-like conditions while he studied his new route.  A pinging noise from the sensory pods activated his helmet’s heads up display which registered faint bio energy readings emanating from an area seven hundred meters left of his current position.  Rambika’s smile faded, replaced by a sick, burning feeling that knotted his stomach.  He had come to the realization the initial bio energy spikes were increasing exponentially in strength and frequency. 
 
Rambika realized he was being hunted.
 
He remembered what his father said . . . . verify twice before choosing a defensive position. The time between pings decreased, indicating the creature had increased its speed.   “Whatever it is, it was huge.  Rambika looked at his weapon and wished he had spent more time on the target range. 
 
 
Eleven meters up in a small Mandan tree, Rambika studied the information on his helmet’s heads up display.  Whatever the nature of the creature, it was increasing in size as it approached his position.  The foliage was too thick for a visual lock; his only choice was to wait for it to come to him.
 
Four hundred meters out, the creature cocked its triangular-shaped head toward the faint scent carried to its receptors by the warm, gentle breeze.  It rubbed its mandibles together, generating droplets of light brown liquid which it gathered with its forearms to clean them.  Finished, it moved in slow, measured steps toward the scent’s origin.
 
 
Rambika’s heads up display grew in intensity, indicating whatever it was sustained speed was not one of its strengths, its movements more indicative of an ambush predator whose color would probably match that of the surrounding vegetation.  The logical course of action was to make his stand in the Mandan tree. 
 
Rambika read the latest information on the heads up display.  The data confirmed it knew of his location.  Rambika knew he wouldn’t have long to wait.
 
 
The beast pressed forward slowly, methodically, stopping every thirty meters to confirm its prey’s location.
 
Rambika found the creature’s slow precise movements towards his position unnerving.  He knew he had to maintain control.  Failure to do so would cost him his life.  Rambika looked at his timepiece and was surprised he had been inside the amphitheater over six hours.
 
The five meter long creature moved among the plants with ease, its primitive mind telling it the prey was within reach.
 
Hidden among the Mandan tree’s light green colored leafs, Rambika slowly rotated his neck then shrugged his shoulders to ease the building tension.  He knew his adversary was large, required high levels of oxygen, humidity and enormous plant growth, the latter making it easier for it to attack.  Rambika felt he had stepped back in time to the Coniferous Era, where Earth’s high oxygen levels allowed for massive insect size.   A sharp chill ran down his spine.  He looked at his heads up display and a second chill touched him.  The distance separating him from life or death was now two hundred and twenty meters.
 
The slight breeze continued, carrying Rambika’s scent to the creature.  Its primitive brain, having sensed food lay ahead moved the plant’s branches just enough to make room for it to travel to the next one.  It went to the next branch and stopped its food only a hundred meters ahead.
 
Rambika’s heart beat loudly.  Sweat collected about his eyelids, trickling into his eyes, stinging them.  He looked hard at the data.  Based on the readouts he figured he was being stalked until within the creature’s striking radius.  Rambika reasoned if it were indeed a pure ambush predator it would have waited for him to come to it.  Whatever the creature was, it had to move in close to kill.
 
With deliberate slowness the creature moved towards Rambika only to stop a mere twenty meters from his position. 
 
The helmet’s readouts confused Rambika.  He knew the approaching creature dwarfed him.  Frustrated– all the data could confirm was that it was very large – he knew his only move was to crouch and hope for the best.
 
He dare not move less the vibrations of the plant’s branches and leaves alert the creature of his exact location.  He would have to gamble.  He checked the lasgem rifle’s safety and pointed its barrel at the foliage where he guessed it laid in wait.
 
Rambika heard a swooshing sound as a huge spiked claw tore away the Mandan tree’s huge leafs.  This was followed by another large spiked claw that grazed his helmet, knocking him back against the Mandan’s trunk.
 
Head and neck sore, he looked at his tormentor’s physiology: large triangular shaped head with two bulbous eyes at the upper corners, a long thorax and even longer abdomen, supported by four legs, with the remaining two on the upper thorax possessing rapier-like grasping forearms.
 
Rambika swallowed hard.  He knew what it was . . . a praying mantis, length four point seven meters weight one hundred and thirty seven kilos.  One of nature’s most efficient killing machines.
 
Still sitting, Rambika fired at the insect.
 
A shrill-pitched whine filled the amphitheater.  The mantis’s right forearm had been hit. 
 
For a specious moment, predator and prey stared at one another.  A second pull on the trigger exploded the mantis’s head.
 
Black-green substance oozed from the top of the thorax.  Rambika sat transfixed.  Heard inside his helmet’s communications array were congratulatory remarks applauding such a noble kill followed by the extraction time from his location.  Rambika didn’t know how to react.  Should he gloat at such a clean kill? Should he feel proud to have earned manhood within the Masai culture?
 
Damp with sweat, he remained sitting on the Mandan branch, amazed at the chaos required to become a Masai adult.  He knew well before his great-great grandfather’s time, the ritual focused on a single young warrior with his cowhide shield and long-bladed spear against a single lion.  He convinced himself that the act took raw courage, unlike the sterilized version he undertook this day.
 
The end.


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NEW TWIST ON AN AGE OLD MASAI TRADITION
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