Grandma stood to the left of the dried cornfield with an endearing look on her wrinkled face. “Let me in Prima. Let me show you the way”. The serenading wind accompanied her voice like hush whispers in the air. She pointed towards their direction in the field. First it was one scarecrow on that dry land, then they were two, three and dozens of them five feet apart, along the way up the hill to Iyanla.
It was the third time that week I had seen my grandmother in the exact dream over and over again. I had awakened rudely from my evening nap. It always felt so soothing to drift away in the coolness of the evening. But lately, the disturbing dreams made it worrisome.
I had good memories of my grandmother. She never believed in the old ways and she called herself the ‘last of the descendants’ but I never understood what that meant. She would always tap my face fondly in a soft and repetitive pattern. She was the sweetest soul and taught me how to be myself. Away from any influence.
Despite the sad look and grieving appearance of the sky, it felt as though they were holding the tears back.
“When would the god of rain bless this land once again. They whet our appetite everyday yet the clouds refuses to release its sorrows. It refuses to pour down its tears upon us. Only after that will the sky be happy again. Only after will the sun smile upon us”. Mama looked at the sky with so much heaviness in her heart. She sighed deeply and handed me the tray of beans she was picking out. “Set the fire. We shall begin dinner soon before your father and brother return from the farm. There is nothing left to turn in that soil anyway”.
I took the tray from her and set it in the kitchen shed by the far side of our compound. I was equally worried about our situation but the depth in mama’s eye kept me uneasy. Mother wasn't a woman of many words but she had wisdom beyond her years.
That night during dinner, we sat around a fire in the middle of the compound as we ate in silence-all four of us. Father was right there yet he seemed so faraway. Mother cleared her throat in a bid to call his attention. He adjusted his gaze realizing how far gone he was.
“What about out there in the hills above the plains? Maybe there we can find answers”. I broke the silence in a meek voice while looking down at my food.
“Shut up Prima. I've told you countless times. We are never to speak about the Iyanla. It is cursed and faraway for a reason.
“Mother, we don't know what's out there. All I am saying is that we should explore more options. How can we find the tree of life if we stay here?”
“Prima aren’t you just so amazing? You think because the Iyanla is mysteriously shaped like a tree that it holds the answers we need? You are even dumber than I thought”. My brother teased and laughed at me as though his ribs will break. He would look at me and laugh even harder. I had grown a tough skin to his taunts but this one was particularly annoying.
I threw a spoon of beans at him. “Enough! The both of you”. My father thundered. “Do you wish to waste what little we've got? Listen, Prima. Iyanla is only a stone carved out of the souls of all the radicals of the old generation. There is a reason it is called the tree of knowledge- to ridicule the radicals.
“During the old generation. A group of revolutionaries thought that their knowledge of life was better than the gods. They didn't want to live by the rules laid down for us for generations. They began living by their own rules. Some say they constituted nuisance to society. The gods wouldn't have that. So they gathered their soul and carved them into a rock. The tree of knowledge”. My father adjusted his gaze. He was staring at the burning fire as though the words he spoke were flames.
“Yet, before they were turned into stones, these people cursed the land,Amena with great suffering, drought and famine. ‘As you have named us forbidden, until one of your children’s children revolt against you and does a forbidden act, you will never be free of this curse’. As you see my dear, we are the cursed ones”. My father stood up and made for his bedroom.
My mother gave me one more cautioning look while my brother giggled. I stood up, dusted my clothes, and went to bed without speaking to anyone again. Four hours into the dead of night, I heard a knock at my window. It was Makai, my best friend. Many nights in a row, we would escape into the night just to be alone from the rest of the people.
We had many things in common and shared the same opinions. The village had suffered the Iyanla curse for decades unending. There was not enough food and much less water every day. The streams and rivers were drying up and the deceiving clouds wouldn't rain down. What little vegetation was left, the villagers cut down trying to find life, water, food, anything, and any hope. Some tried to run but didn't make it out there either.
The gods had revealed that there was a special tree that would bear fruits and it's branches water. It's seeds would be dispersed and the vegetation would flourish again. The tree that would end hunger and starvation in the land. Amena was yet to see that day.
On our nights of escapades, we would walk the path close to the Iyanla stones but we never dared to go closer. That night, we settled on a little rock and I told Makai about my recurrent dreams.
“What if your grandma is trying to tell you something? Maybe give you some sort of guidance? Remember, she didn’t believe in the old ways and old tradition”. Makai took my hands in his trying to make sense to me.
I searched his eyes. They were true and sincere. “Let’s go up there”. I said impulsively with a new spirit and conviction. I guess all I needed was a nudge to do what had always been at the edge of my heart. I started running up the mountain. I knew Makai would follow.
My heart raced as we sprinted up. The little distance from where we sat felt like the journey of a thousand miles. My blood pumped to my brain. We stopped for a second, looked each other in the eyes and went at it again. It was a feeling of excitement mixed with fear of the unknown. The rush of adrenaline was insane.
When we got to the top. We stopped to catch our breath and everything went silent. Even our thumping hearts.
“Now what?” Makai said between breaths. He put his hands on his waist. “It's just an old rock. Buhh! No magic”. He said blowing air out of his mouth.
“Look! You dummy. There's water seeping between these cracks. We both moved closer to the rook. “Look closely Makai.” I froze. The pieces of the rock shaped like a tree began to glimmer.
“Okay. So now it isn't just a magic-less rock, it is mysterious too”. Makai plastered a wicked grin on his face.
“Quit making jokes Makai”. The rocked looked intimidating to touch. I rubbed my fingers across it slowly. Then I leaned into it and closed my eyes. There was a warm and comforting peace. The kind I always felt around my grandmother. I began to recall her smile, her voice and her gestures.
Mesmerized by her memories, I tapped the rocks in the same repetitive pattern as she always did my face. The rock trembled transferring it's tremors from my hands to my entire body. Soon, the cracks began to split before our eyes. Makai came closer and held me.
What followed was the sound of gushing water, chirping birds, and crickets. The air smelled fresh and rejuvenating. The rock split open completely to reveal a huge waterfall surrounded by the thickest and most evergreen vegetation I had ever seen. We saw all kinds of animals and flowers of different colors. It was everything. The special tree was the tree of knowledge.
Standing there with goosebumps all over our skins, “ Prima, we have found Eden”. Makai squeezed my shoulder.
“Welcome to Eden, Adam”. We both giggled and I knew from then that we would become more than friends.