The Long Road Home
A fiery sun sinks lower on the horizon as a pale moon rises, casting a silvery glow on lush green foliage. Hunter tenses, taut muscles flexing under sleek black skin. Darkness envelops the land like a soft blanket. Night sounds begin. Coal black eyes narrow as Hunter sights his prey, raises his bow and waits. Tall Tree, named because of his extraordinary height, edges nearer to the river to fish. A skilfully fired arrow meets its target and Tall Tree lunges forward. The moon glints silver on the rippling current that carries him away.
Hunter feels no remorse. His heart is as black as the darkness and he has issued a warning. For three nights he waits in the undergrowth, bow held taught, arrow poised, but no-one comes to fish in the river. By the fourth night his thoughts have turned to Tall Tree, his hunting companion. He had fallen under the spell of the white men and his black eyes had begun to glow with an unfamiliar light.
Stealthily and swiftly Hunter moved relentlessly through the undergrowth, pausing only for observation. From a low hill he could see down into Tall Tree’s village, where the villagers sat in close fellowship. Though invisible to his eye he knew the light was there. His dark heart almost beat through his ribcage, hatred pounding in every thud.
A gasp suddenly rose in his throat, escaping in an unfamiliar sob. There were three white men in the midst of the villagers. Hunter’s keen well trained eyes recognised the one with the hair as gold as a noonday sun and eyes like a clear sky, as the one who had been carried, like Tall Tree, on the river’s swiftly flowing current, an arrow in his back. Many fiery red suns had set and many pale moons had risen in cloudless skies, since he had last set eyes on the man who had left the light in Tall Trees’ village.
Luke raised his head and scanned the undergrowth on the hill. His senses told him they were being watched, but his eyes revealed nothing. Hands pressed together in prayer, he rose and made his way through dense foliage towards the river. Hunter was waiting, bow in position, arrow loaded ready for flight.
“I killed you” he said. “I saw you sink into the river. And you have returned with your magic.”
Luke replied in Hunter‘s own language,
“There is no magic Hunter. You killed my father and I forgive you.”
Hunter had no concept of forgiveness, yet something stirred in his spirit. The bow slipped from his grasp, the arrow dropped to the ground as he turned and fled, his steps as fleet as a deer on the mountain. Breath coming in gasps Hunter ran, sure -footed as a wild animal, until he caught sight of the glimmer in the distance.
Confused he retraced his steps. Faster, stumbling, gasping, out of control. Whichever way he ran the faint glimmer rose ahead of him. Hatred leaked from his heart and soul, spilling out in beads of sweat. Exhausted limbs crumpled to the ground and a sleep punctuated with visions of an unfamiliar face overwhelmed him. Though featureless, the face held expressions of love, pity, compassion and tenderness. He had seen those expressions flash many times across the face of Tall Tree, but they held no familiarity in his own heart.
The sun was lazily rising, peeping over the horizon like fire in the sky when Hunter woke. Darting in and out of lush green undergrowth he was drawn to the river like a moth to a flame. Breathlessly rounding the bend he stopped dead in his tracks. It seemed that the whole of Tall Tree’s village stood waist deep in the river. Joyful sounds permeated the air and a red haze, like blood running from a wound, reflected on the ripples of the swiftly running current.
Hunter lurched down the gentle slope, plunging his body into the sullied water. The river closed over him as strong arms held him just below the surface, where he lay, unmoving. He had reached the end and the light obliterated the darkness. The deep peace of surrender filled his soul. By his side a man with hair the colour of the noonday sun and eyes like a clear sky, looked down at him. His eyes echoing the expressions of his old friend Tall Tree.
“Jesus loves and forgives you”, he said.
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