A Story by Peter Rogerson

I guess you'd call this a nightmare....


Owongo was a character, and no mistake. He lived his life on the edge, and because of that everyone loved him or pretended that they loved him. He rose through the ranks of his tribe to become the head or leader or chieftain, whatever you wanted to call him, and people still loved him. He collected things that others didn’t, like stories from the oldsters before they died, like legends telling tales of mighty deeds from a distant past, like explanations of where and why and how everything was. And all this collecting, you must understand, happened when the world was young and people just hadn’t had time to invent wheels or light fires or do any of the truly interesting things they’ve done since.

As far as Owongo was concerned the one really important thing happened a long time ago. And a long time ago was certainly before he was born, though he wasn’t sure about what might have happened before his parents were born, or their parents who’d died so long ago he’d never met them.

But a long time ago someone most unusual had come and started rumours amongst the ancients. Someone, they said, who’d been dreadfully naked and with none of the usual bits and pieces of gender.

And he or she or whatever the figure was had told fanciful tales about another life after the ones the people were living. Apparently, and Owongo found this very hard to believe, apparently the lives they lived were little more than a preparation for the real thing, where there were all sorts of wonders to occupy the minds and lives of the dead. And everything was so different it was like another world, which he supposed it was seeing as he’d never bumped into an ancestor or any dead person on this one.

If he had it would have scared him rigid.

Of course the stories underwent the modifications provided by time and retelling and the growing cobwebs of superstition until the words of the someone most unusual had undergone so radical a change that what had started out as black, say, became white, and vice versa.

So when he died Owongo didn’t recognise what confronted him when he looked, not through his eyes but using some strange inner sense he’d never suspected existed back in his jungle home when he had leapt joyfully across the high canopy from insecure platform to insecure platform until he’d fallen to his death.

Fallen a long way too, crashing past the sharpest of cruel spiky objects until he was a mass of blood and broken bones and death.

And arrived here.

In front of the weirdest man he’d ever seen because this man, if man he was or ever had been, shone like a reflection of moonlight in a rippling pool when it was night and he’d spent the last hour being really naughty with Angeletta, the nubile daughter of his cave-land neighbour.

He and Angeletta were really naughty quite often because they both thought it was fun, though of recent days she had been putting on the sort of weight that made her look less divine and neither of them had the least idea why. But that was by-the-by. Angeletta wasn’t here and the rippling man was.

But was it a man?

Come to think of it, if he was a man there were bits missing, intimate bits that Owongo was shocked to see weren’t there. And hair. The rippling man/woman/person had not a single strand of hair as far as Owongo could see, and Owongo could see all of him quite clearly because he was, shock horror, naked.

Owongo never went anywhere actually naked. It would have been too revealing and there are some things he knew should never be revealed. At least, not to Angeletta’s parents when he was feeling warmth towards their daughter. Which was quite often. But that, too, was by-the-by.

Then the being (best to call him a being when the gender was so … indeterminate) smiling an oily smile and greeting him was, as Owongo’s mind put it, stark naked like a new-born infant without being a newborn infant, spoke.

About time too.”

Well, thought Owongo, that doesn’t make much sense.

I was expecting you last Michaelmas,” went on the voice, and it must have come from the naked whatsit because the whatsit’s lips moved in prefect synchronicity with the sound.

Owongo wanted to ask what a Michaelmas was but the word had far too many syllables for him to get his tongue round, and anyway he wasn’t sure whether he was dreaming and the last thing he wanted to do was start talking to the weirdos in his dreams. They were usually weirdos. Often female weirdos in search of new experiences. Welcome, but you didn’t talk to them.

It’s a word we picked up last time we called on you,” said the figure, conversationally as if he had known exactly what was lying unspoken in Owongo’s mind.

A clever trick that, if it’s real, thought Owongo.

Oh, it’s real enough,” smiled the other, suavely. Yes, smiled, as if everything was one huge joke. “But come on,” he continued, no longer smiling, “let’s get you sorted out. This, if you didn’t know it, is the Afterlife, and there’s work for you to do.”

Work? What in the name of Angeletta’s t*****s is work, and why do I have to do it? And am I really dead? I seem to remember falling, and it was a very high tree. Careless, that was, very careless.

Your time was up,” the genderless individual assured him, “and we needed you. We’re running short of slaves. You know, you strange little primitive man, you might think that, being dead, that’s the end of your story, but it isn’t. Far from it.”

I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort…

No, my little friend, you can always die again. We make sure of that, we Creators, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ll learn. We don’t like raising a finger to work if we don’t have to. It’s so utterly demeaning, and a regular supply of eager slaves fills the bill. So come along and see what’s in store for you...”

What’s a bill…?

It’s just a saying. Don’t worry your primitive little head about it. Your job will be keeping the fires burning. You’ll take to it like a duck to water…”

What’s a duck?

Stop asking such silly questions! It doesn’t matter what a duck is. Now come along, look sharp, there’s work to be done...”

I want to go home! Back to my jungle forest home, back to Angeletta even if it means being beaten up by her father for playing too many fascinating games with her, and I most certainly don’t want to stay here with naked weirdos and work!

This way!” And there was a hitherto unsuspected boom of authority to the voice and a leather-thonged whip appeared from nowhere.

I don’t like the look of this...

Suddenly, and where it came from he had no idea, a gigantic fire roared into being before Owongo. He’d seen fires before, of course he had, when the summer storms lit them and the pastures burned, but not like this. This was a real beast and it seemed to consume everything in sight in the twinkling of an eyelid. And the heat: it was ferocious. He didn’t like heat, and fire scared the living daylights out of him. He knew that because he found himself unaccountably vomiting his fear onto the flames all around him.

And the flames were fed by that vomit. They grew and crashed and burned and swallowed everything up. They even swallowed Owongo up. His eyesight faded, the suave naked figure rippled away, and he opened his eyes.

About time too,” said a voice, I was expecting you last Michaelmas...”

© Peter Rogerson 26.10.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on October 26, 2017
Last Updated on October 26, 2017
Tags: Owongo, tree, fall, afterlife, fires, burning


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 74 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..


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