The shaman of the hill people prodded a pot with one finger. The hill people called themselves “All-in-one” because the founder had been enlightened from his body by the very sight of god. The shaman’s name was Boman, because he was born in the fifth month. He had started a fire of twigs in an earthen pot and laced with semi-lethal herbs and bits of shell in order to create a call point. He put his mouth slightly into the pot.
“Can you hear me?” he called, “I was saying…hello?”
Contact with god had been sketchy as of late. Boman scratched his privates, scrotal piercing clacking against his fingernails, and plotted what to do next.
God did not live very far away, but was hard of hearing. Boman prodded the fire with his finger one more time and then gave up on it, leaving it to burn itself out. He had been participating in what he found a lively discussion, over the new widow in the village and how many years she had left before becoming pendulous.
Several warriors passed him on the path and nodded out of deference. They squeezed to the side as he passed, so as not to step on his shadow and become poisoned. When Klee the messenger came winging to his hut, Boman was relaxing with a mug of hot root water prepared by his youngest girl-wife.
“Father,” Klee gasped, “visitors from another place.”
Boman motioned him to sit. It was not polite to be seen in too much of a hurry when addressing a shaman.
“Perhaps this was a dream,” he offered, “or some kind of sunspell. You may be tired from overwork.”
Klee thrust forward his wrist. “Is that a dream, father?”
Around his wrist was a string of beads, much like the traders from China had brought in Boman’s father’s generation. They were cherry-red rocailles, poorly manufactured. They still had razor edged mold-lines . He clucked his tongue. “Traders?”
Boman grunted. “I should think not, with material quality like this. Do they require photographs?”
Klee dug into his chin as a sign of disagreement.
“Well,” Boman said, “what did we do to warrant attention?”
“They were headed for god’s hill, father. I saw them.”
Boman swept up a handful of bones from his last meal, cracked them in hand, and threw them into the lamp beside himself. The flames turned red, and he nodded in satisfaction.
Boman stood and patted Klee. “You are good to tell me this. Go home and worry not.”
Klee fled again along the messenger’s path and Boman was served dinner by Boul, his man-wife.
The next morning he lounged beside the chicken coop, scratching the flies from his skin and pondering philosophical questions, such as whether a man who imagined up children could be held accountable for not providing adequate lands for his dream-brood. He wondered whether god would side with the man, or his dream-wives.
A boom reverberated throughout the jungle, felt more than heard, displacing birds from the trees. Boman did not stir.
Later that afternoon, he tried summoning god again. He caught a primate from the trees and strangled its screaming throat with his bare hands. He slit the abdomen and in it he crammed squash seeds, sulfur, and a human tooth. The corpse kicked for a while, and the sacred words he had written on the ground beneath it glowed faint blue in the sun, but nothing else was forthcoming. Boman wiped a quantity of snot from his nose with his forearm and dawdled his heels in the heat. The new widow crossed his yard on her way to the well, still dressed in purple mourning clothes. He grinned and offered her his maleness. Good things lay in the future.
That night his wives went to the community hut to weave their festival skirts. Boman lured a bright jungle fowl from the trees with sweet words and then cooked it with his breath. The supper was good, but could have used salt. As he sucked the last drippings from his fingers, a man whiter than flint stone burst into the clearing.
He was tall, with hair of bright yellow and eyes like the summer sky. He was dressed inappropriately for the region, in a tan suit of short sleeves and pants that only exposed his skin to the insects. His white flesh had been bitten to pinkness already.
The man spotted Boman and stumbled toward him. “g’d,” he gasped, “gee-zus, g’d. Halp.”
He tripped and fell prone before the shaman, a dreadful social faux pas, but Boman supposed outsiders weren’t used to the niceties of civilized company.
“May I be of assistance?” he asked politely.
The man babbled nonsense syllables. “Anth-row-pollo-jist, dock-tor. Eydol. Ecks-sped-isshun. Kawl halp.”
Boman wondered if he understood the people’s language. Maybe he didn’t even speak a language, and tossed out imitative chirps like a monkey. The white man suddenly sat up unnaturally straight, eyes and mouth drawn open to the spilling point. Boman watched with mild interest as the man suddenly jackknifed into a series of convulsions, spitting froth and sounds that sounded very much like words but weren’t. the man sprawled out full length and was suddenly still. Boman passed gas and scratched himself again.
The man sat up again, body oddly limp as if hanging from something invisible. Blue aether spilled from his orifices, and his movements were jerky, unnatural.
“Now,” he said, “what is this about a widow?”