He was the winner.
I watched as he cracked the creature’s spine and prepared it for the flame already crackling in the fire pit. We had watched this done many times, but this was the first time he had ever won. I was happy for him. Meat was hard to come by in the desert if you weren’t fast or skilled. It was certainly a luxury we would not have every day.
My father had said he would be a fine hunter as he grew older and though he had not lived to see it, I was certain that he had known what he would be like just watching as he learned. My husband could have been mistaken for my brother. He had lived with my family since I was born. It was not known if he had been abandoned by his family or if they had come to a bad end. In these times both things were possible. We had abandoned the cities long ago in search of water that was not contaminated. It was just as easy to die from the chemicals being used to treat what was left of the city’s water supply as it was to be killed in the wild. We figured we would take our chances.
Out here people did like they used to do and dug until they hit water and then a town sprouted up around the well. It was not like the Wild West however, everybody had a gun and knew how to use it. The bad-asses of the Wild West past would not have dared to go up against the fire power we now sported. It was all civil like too, if you wanted to commit a crime they wasted no time on juries and judges, they shot you right there in the process of the crime, looted your body, skinned, filleted and sold your meat to cannibals for supplies, and burned what was left to keep down disease. It was best to just behave and avoid such incidences.
The contest was just to choose your weapon and down the wild game type of sport. My family did it every month to keep their skills up. Because we chose not to live in the townships, it was always possible to have unexpected circumstances arise. Things had long past the original crisis point where people stole water from wherever they could get it, especially after someone died drinking the water discovered in an abandoned well. Being a master of science, my father made it his life’s work to discover what had poisoned the water and determine if it were possible to turn the well back to being drinkable.
The natives who’s land this had been reported deaths associated with that well from the day it had been dug. My father poured over old books and accessed the internet, when it was up, to see if he could find anyplace were poisoned water existed that had not been contaminated. He found that in many places near sacred native lands similar things had occurred.
He learned much about the wells. It did not kill to touch the water and it was clean to bathe with, but no living creature could survive having ingested even a drop of it. For this reason no one risked the bath. It did not however hurt plants, but you could not eat plants that had been watered with it. It was a good defense for prowlers and predators alike. We left signs at our gate to let everyone know that the penalty for eating the vegetables from our garden was death. Some people tried it and thought because they had gotten away with the vegetables that they were safe, only to die at the eating of them.
My father on the other hand risked a bath in the water every day. He said that it encouraged him to feel clean in water that was not contaminated no matter how poisonous. When he finished his bath he would towel dry quickly and then rub unguents and emollients onto his skin. My mother said he was beginning to look better every day despite his illness. He had lasted much longer than she had thought he would after leaving the city. Our homestead was little more than two rock walls at a ninety degree angle with welded steel plates spaced for security and defense, as well as for circulation of air and generation of heat and electricity. The solar panels on the roof accumulated enough energy during the day to provide power to all the homesteads in the area.
Water was the only real issue. We had taken a truck load of supplies from the city. Medicine, can goods, dry goods, building supplies, electronics, fuel, and lots of other staples. They kept well in our cave-like storehouse where they were safe from vermin and inaccessible to varmints both human and the animal kind. But despite all of its contents, it contained not a single drop of water. My mother drank canned soda when she could get it, but our water was generated from a gathering system. Any type of precipitation, in any weather especially winter, generated water. It was funneled through my father’s natural filtration system and stored in tanks above the storage cave. It was enough drinking water for our family and for emergencies, but could not quench the thirst of an entire township. That was the reason the well was so important to my father. In quantity it was enough for a small city.
My mother had been bathing herself and all of her children in this water since we came here thinking if it was good enough for my dad it wouldn’t hurt us, just the same we kept our mouths shut until the bath was done. By the time I turned fifteen we all began to notice keener sight, resistance to bugs and creature bites including snakes, and a resistance to natural poisons in general. My father, whose illness was in remission theorized that the water had somehow altered our systems but the only way to be certain was to drink the water itself. My mother begged him not to do so, and cried fiercely until he agreed. But the idea did not leave him.
Several years passed and his research had gotten no nearer to clearing the poison from the well. Our skin had turned ruddy from the water and weather. Anyone looking at us might have mistaken us for the original natives of the land. My father’s illness had resurfaced and he knew he did not have much time left. He begged his wife to let him test the water. Still she declined.
On his deathbed he whispered to me, “The water in the well is like the earth, it holds the secret to survival. First you must embrace it, become a part of it and it makes you a part of nature. For us to be a part of nature it must be also a part of us.”
He asked me to bring him a glass of water from the well. I brought it to him. Nothing could change what was happening to him now. I brought him the glass. I was nineteen then. My mother was angry and walked away saying that I was killing him. He turned up the glass and finished every drop, then sat back against the pillow and breathed easily. He lived for twelve days afterward, ordering things, instructing my brothers and giving his consent for our marriages.
“No one who is unwilling to bathe in the water could ever drink it.” he said to me on his last day and closed his eyes for the last time.
My mother said she did not blame me, she knew it was not the water that killed him and wished she had allowed him to drink it back when he had originally asked. On the day we buried him, my mother, each of my five brothers, my husband and myself drew a ladle of water from the stainless steel bucket my father used to draw his water and drank from it.
That was twelve years ago, now not only could we drink from the well but eat of every plant on the land. For those who came looking for an escape from the pollution and contamination of what was once civilization, we taught them how to cleanse themselves in the poison water, and for those unafraid we made them a part of a tribe and sent them to live in the places where the wells existed.
We are the natives of this land, and we are a part of nature.
Back To Nature © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved