Author: Alzo David-West

In the age before Adam, somewhere between the branching of hominina from panina, there was a small tribe that found a tree.

They were a shortish nation of forty—large browed, flat faced, wide nosed, and slate skinned—with three infants and five young. Constantly hungry and thirsty, the tribe lived a life of perpetual foraging and perpetual fleeing, eating seeds, plants, insects, and carcasses and evading large predatory animals as often as inclement weather.

On one of their wanderings, they followed the contours of a new land, which took them to a rank of green wooded mountains. They trudged up the ribs of the elevation, through coarse foliage and deep thickets, and under arching boughs, wary of the possible carnivores.

Drifting single-mindedly into the wilderness, they came upon a clearing where they saw a solitary, gargantuan tree abounding with yellowish-red globes amid shining leaves. The tribe’s little eyes widened, and they stood in speechless silence. A shared association formed in their minds, and collectively, a uniform muttering rose among them. They marched to the tree. Beneath it, they stared and pointed at the globes that dangled high above them.

The tribe attempted to climb the tree, but they, like the generations that preceded them, had wandered for so long, they had forgotten how to climb trees. They gathered pebbles and threw them upward, but the tribe’s throwing strength was weak, and their aim was poor. Exhausted, they sat under the tree and, out of past habit, resigned themselves to it as a shelter from the heat and the expected rains. The sky dimmed, and with no predators about, the tribe fell asleep.

One morning after a meager forage in the woods, they returned to find piles of the globes scattered at the foot of the tree. They shouted and chirped in excitement, ran to the fruit, and engorged themselves, satiating their hunger on the pulp and quenching their thirst on the juice. And they continued to do so every dawn and dusk over seven passings of the sun.

That night, the tribe felt the beating in their chests quicken irregularly, and then in the next few days, there came a heavy malaise, followed by a nauseous agony of vomiting and inflamed faces, torsos, and limbs.

Many of the tribe turned rabid from the torment and began to devour their enfeebled kin, infants, and young; whereas others few, who were still sane, found and ate white flowers with yellow stamens, which previous wanderings had taught them relieved stomach pains. Helplessly, the tribe laid beside the tree, subdued by unsteady pulses, strange flutterings, and feverous dreams. Uncounted days passed.

* * *

Under the blue arch and the round sun, the tribe awoke, their affliction finally lifted yet their number greatly reduced. The remaining five females and four males assembled and buried the dead. Soft wind wafted over the survivors. They looked up at the tree, and they looked down at the graves strewn with mossy rocks. Shuddering, the nine trod down the mountain, hunger and thirst compelling them to relinquish their calamity and their sadness. The tribe wandered, foraged, and fled, and gradually, they multiplied.

As the ages glided away, time claimed the nation and its memory, and new tribes came. A lone pair, whose form and gait had slightly changed, plodded into the wilderness and happened upon the mountain, the clearing, and the tree.