Gyasi had fought bravely for his people, and believed that it was now a time for rest. When he was small, he had labored in the fields for his father, and when he grew old enough he had labored in the jungles against the enemy. The battle had lasted for many years and would never end. Gyasi went to the home of his wife.
“Adowa, I have returned.”
“Is the fighting done?”
“The fighting will never be done. Let us make a child, and live a peaceful life.”
Gyasi returned to working in the fields, pouring out an offering to his father and the earth in the morning as the sun rose over the vast jungle. He heard stories through the trees of the victories and losses of the war. He kept working.
Adowa became pregnant, and gave birth to a son. On the eighth day they named him Kojo, because he was born on a Monday. Kojo grew quickly, and suckled so much that Adowa began calling him Kese Yemu, meaning Big Stomach. As soon as he could walk, he began to help his mother with the cooking, and Gyasi and Adowa began working to have another child. Their second child was a girl, but the delivery was hard, and she died before she was given a name. Gyasi added an offering for his baby girl to his morning ritual.
Kojo grew up strong, although after long days of work he would sometimes have terrifying spasms, flopping on the ground as if he had been bitten by a brown viper. These fits would last for several seconds, and then he would sleep for a long time. The priests advised Adowa, Gyasi and Kojo to pray harder, and make all the proper offerings. The spasms came just as often.
One morning Gyasi heard a noise that sounded like the earth tearing open. The colorful birds all flew from the trees, shrieking warnings and confusion. Adowa ran from the house.
“Gyasi, what has happened? What was that noise?”
Before Gyasi could answer, a flood of his kinsman poured out of the jungle, their faces as white as yam meat. A man Gyasi knew as Adofo, or Brave Warrior, stopped at the edge of Gyasi’s farm and panted, shaking.
“Adofo,” Gyasi called. “Tell me what that sound was.”
Adofo looked around, confused. Gyasi noticed a small trickle of blood coming from his right ear. He stepped forward.
“Adofo,” he said again, more loudly. “Tell me what you saw in the jungle.”
Adofo squinted at Gyasi as if seeing him for the first time.
“They have put lightning into the ends of sticks. They have made an exchange with Kwaku Ananse, to snatch us up as he snatched up Onini the Python.”
Three more impossibly loud sounds came from the forest, each feeling like a heavy blow to the back of the head. Adofo tumbled into Gyasi’s arms, and Gyasi was able to see a perfectly round hole in his back. He lowered the man to the ground and looked around to see that the area around his home had been deserted.
“Adowa!” he shouted, running towards the house. “Adowa! Kojo! Are you there? Kojo!”
Just as Gyasi reached the door of his home, he heard a scream from down the road.
“Gyasi!” Adowa cried. Her hands were shackled behind her, and she was being dragged down the path by two men. Gyasi sprinted after her, bellowing a war cry, but was soon intercepted by a group of a dozen men, all brandishing metal sticks. Two of them held Gyasi down while another tied thick rope around his wrists. Gyasi screamed his rage.
Kojo awoke as the sun was setting. His head pounded, and as he struggled up from the dirt he felt his eyes throb against his skull. He tried to put together the images he half-remembered from that morning. He had seen his father out in the fields, and then heard a terrible noise. His memory ended abruptly after that.
Kojo searched his family’s small home but did not find his parents. He ventured down the road, towards the setting sun.
“Is that you, Kojo?”
Kojo turned towards the voice to see Baako, an old woman who lived near his family. She emerged from her hut and stood at the side of the road.
“Have you seen my father, Baako? I heard a terrible noise this morning, but that is the last that I remember.”
Baako shook her head sadly. “Your mother and father were taken to the coast by the raiding party hours ago, boy. They’ve been sold by now, for sure.”
The blood drained from Kojo’s face, and he broke into a full run towards the ocean. As he ran, he tried to determine how long he was unconscious, how far behind his parents he was. The attack had occurred in the mid-morning. The bright orange sun was telling him that he was too late. He churned his legs against the mocking ball in the sky.
When he burst through the last of the rain forest, he came upon a clear, empty blue ocean.