Lem had the dream again. She’d begun having the dream from the day she saw her first flow, which meant she was now able to start wearing her seer stones and sit with the arobos, the tribal seers. She could now sit with them and hone her skills as one of the people chosen by Laa Gui, the Water Mother, to guide the village.
It was a strange dream and this time it was different.
It started with her in her mother’s womb, just before Laa Gui called her mother’s water. Her people the Gui believed that a child in a womb, surrounded by gui’she – the waters of life, was how Laa Gui gave the gift of life. They believed that Laa Gui formed the child in the depth of her own womb, Gui’mbe the wide expanse of water on whose shores they lived, and slowly transferred a little bit of the water and the child into the mother’s belly as the child grew. When the child was ready to live in the world, Laa Gui announced this by calling back her water which flowed out of the mother’s body, before the child came out.
In Lem’s dream, however, Laa Gui called her mother’s water but instead of being born into the world a screaming baby, she was born back into Gui’mbe fully aware of who and where she was. She would spend the dream swimming under water, never surfacing for breath. She played with Laa Gui’s other children, those who still lived in her womb and either had yet to be born or were destined to stay in Gui’mbe so the Mother would not be lonely. She learned their languages and ways, ate their foods, learned their secrets of healing. All through this, a sense of foreboding stayed in her mind. It felt as though Laa Gui was making her see and learn these things as a reminder. A reminder and a warning. Of what, she couldn’t tell.
The dream always ended in the most confusing way. She would suddenly feel the need to breathe which she hadn’t felt before, so she would swim to the surface. When she emerged from the waters, it would be dusk. Gui’mbe gleaming with the burnt orange light of Saa Shan, Laa Gui’s mate who ruled Shan’mbe –the skies. Every evening he sank into her bosom for their nightly connubial rest. As she treaded water, breathing the sweet evening air, marveling at the beauty of Saa Shan’s descent, a dark shape rose from the point where Gui’mbe and Shan’mbe met.
Moving slowly, it would grow and grow till it became fully visible. It looked like a krong one of the small crafts the water masters used when they visited Laa Gui to catch fish for food. But unlike the water master’s vessels, it was bigger and longer, with tall spikes covered with wide stretches of cloth.
In her dream, she would look back towards land and find that she was far from the shore, so far she could barely make it out. No one would hear if she yelled. She continued to tread water, watching the vessel move closer and closer, a dark, ominous feeling creeping over her as it did. When they were close, so close she could see figures moving aboard – figures that looked like men. She watched in horror as they released what looked like a huge spear, a spear attached to a chain. Slowly, they lowered it down the side of their vessel towards Gui’mbe and then just before it touched the waters, they released their grip so instead of breaking the surface gently, the spear pierced right through, it seemed, into Gui’mbe’s belly, the long chain to which it was attached allowing it to fall till it hit Laa Gui’s back with a thud.
The jolt of this thud usually woke Lem up from the dream, but not this time.
This time, the piercing of Gui’mbe generated a ripple. This ripple grew into a wave which swept Lem away from the vessel, bearing her towards the village at a speed faster than she would ever have been able to swim. The wave deposited her on the shores where the water masters kept their krong and as it receded, flowing back into the depths from whence it came, Lem heard Laa Gui speak to her, the first of what would become many times.
“Naa mu fe nk’a, Lem. Naa mu Gui ben-ben. Naa mu shatani wi long pem.”
Warn them, Lem. Warn my children, quickly. Warn them their downfall is coming.