We heard the sound again this morning; a high pitched whirring noise like a giant bee caught in an empty honey basket, although it is more menacing than that. I think back to what Pasca told us – that he saw something odd in our sky when he was fishing off the rocks near the beach.
‘I tell you brothers, I see a strange flying bird that was stiff, not like a forest bird! Almost square with four crooked feet, one at each corner – and a red winking eye in the centre!’
He drew it in the sand for us with his stick, and we all laughed at the very thought. Had he been fermenting his root sap again? He said it flew high and then returned some time later, turning a circle over him before moving off, over the sea and away. What does this mean? Was it sent from the gods? Are the gods angry with us?
From this treetop on the high ground I see nothing unusual. Above the morning mist almost the whole island is visible and all looks peaceful. The different monkeys are chattering as usual and the birds argue over food but all is undisturbed. The giant bee has flown away – but where did it come from and will it return ? Is it related to the giant bird that flies in straight lines across the sky, very high and far away ?
The thought disturbs me as it disturbs us all. We are frightened of another assault by the ‘strangers’ who come periodically and try to assail us. They know we don’t wish to speak to them, but they persist in disturbing our lives. We are forest people. This island forest gives us everything we need, shelter, food, cures for sickness, our bodily adornments and our security.
We hunt with bows and arrows like our oldest forefathers and catch monkeys in traps, devised long ago in the mists of time. We lead a happy, quiet life and want our children to do the same. Yet other men, people we do not trust, dressed in strange clothes come in fast boats which roar and splutter as they glide over the sea in a way which is not natural. They shout across to us and threaten to invade our small land. We run into our forest and hide. We do not want them. We do not want to know them. They will ruin what we have. We know this from our ancient wisdom, handed down from other island nations who were overrun and subsumed into a different life. Some escaped with their horror stories. The rest perished with sickness or were persuaded to adopt a new life. Not rich and purposeful like ours. They became slaves to others, begged for food and died alone in poverty. This is not what we want! Why can they not leave us in peace?
Two seasons ago, they came in quiet canoes, onto our shores; one man in particular smiling and open. He was waving something in his hand; a wooden shape of two sticks crossed, with a figure tied to it. Why would anyone want to carry such a thing – a man tied to a wooden cross? Would they do that to us? They only left when we succeeded in shooting him with our arrows. They took his body and ran. We frightened them all away at last. Then the noises started… every few moons we hear the giant bee. Our people hide deep in the forest foliage and keep our children close. We will fight if we have to but hope and pray the forest gods will keep us safe. Meanwhile, we remain vigilant….