On The Guddah
Sunface Eye, hung suspended just above the horizon as Father and brother Aho paddled our longboat through the calm waters of Sian Kan. The silhouettes of the palms on the barrier isle stood stark against a blood red sky, a typical sunrise on the eastern shores of the Yucatán.
“If we maintain this pace we will be at One Palm by nightfall,” Father said in a low voice. “Hopefully they will not have succumbed to the hungry fever spirit.”
From my position in the middle of the canoe I watched my older brother dig his paddle even deeper into the placid waters.
Under cover of darkness the three of us had slipped away from our village with my little canoe tethered behind. It had been Father’s intention to take our leave and meet up with his brother and family by nightfall. Two of my Uncle’s children had been taken from us by a sweat fever two nights past.
“Tell me again about One Palm Father,” I asked a little too loudly.
I was ashamed after I said it for I knew his heart was heavy with the loss of family and all his energy was aimed at reaching our destination in hopes of helping them. I remembered too, that human voices travel great distances across open water when there is little wind, and it is never wise to attract unwanted attention. Fearful, I glanced at him over my shoulder in the dawn’s reddish glow. He said nothing.
The surprisingly unexpected deaths of my cousins had raised the specter of fear and alarm in our village. Would others be consumed by such powerful spirits? It was a grim possibility that set many on edge. Following their deaths the Noble Elders had immediately called a counsel and decided to send the remainder of the stricken family away into isolation.
Disobeying the wisdom of the Elders had been my Father’s idea, he wanted to assist his brother and bring food and other items to help make their time easier. I too wanted to help, as did my own brother, spirits or no. We wanted to see our family and help them and learn if they had survived their ordeal. The two older boys, Chak and Kinto, my cousins, were my very best friends and I wanted to be with them.
Later when Sunface Eye had arisen the width of my two hands, Father broke silence and said, “Cauac, it is your time to paddle, your brother needs rest.” Though stronger than I, Aho had apparently lost his rhythm one time too many.
We carefully traded places in the narrow dugout. The handle of his paddle, still slippery with sweat, let me know that it would soon be very hard work. I would have to put all my weight into it to keep up, for with my smaller canoe tethered behind, more than the usual effort would be required. Fortunately though, I soon found my rhythm, for Father had taught me well. There was even a story in my family how he had put a tiny carved paddle into my hands before I could walk, and now nearly a man, I am able to handle a canoe better than most in our village though I do not have the stamina to go long distances.
Father hissed, “Ha, Ya, see there.” Pointing, he directed our attention to the left. Ahead on the surface, a tell-tale swirl, a smooth slick upwelling of water, a sign of something moving beneath. Paddles dripping, we coasted silently and then spotted another smaller disturbance a bit further away. Aho rose slowly, spear in hand, at the ready.