CHAPTER TWO – THE DEPOSITORY
“And I want to travel,” said Hermano eagerly now, “I want to travel all over the world, Grandpapa, and to see everything there is in it, Yage. I want to hear all the stories, good and sad, and bad and mad, and go to America too.”
“In time, Hermano,” whispered Raoul wisely among the leaves, “in time. You’re still only little.”
“No, Hermano,” said Yage disapprovingly though, “you should stay safe and secret deep in the deepest rainforest, little brother. Here, with us.”
“But why, Yage?”
“Because it’s dangerous out there in the Human world, Hermano,” answered the tree frog, “very dangerous indeed sometimes, even more dangerous than the jungle floor. It is in fact gruzzly. Sometimes nowadays it is filled with Terror too. Terror! But here the animals are free and safe and secret. Besides, they wouldn’t let you in now, into America.”
“Wouldn’t let me in?” said Hermano indignantly, wondering what Terror was, “but why not Yage?”
“Because then you’d be an Immigrant, Hermano,” answered Yage gravely, “A Foreigner. Not having been born there. And I hear now that, since they like building things like the depository, and making their money doing it, in America they are even putting up an enormous Wall, to keep little rats out, and humans too.”
“A Wall?” whispered Hermano in horror, his eyes opening wide, because he had seen walls around those vanished cities.
“It’s true,” said Grandpa Raoul gravely, looking even more depressed, “the humans seem to fear each other more and more nowadays, Hermano, and it would be hard to get into America, perhaps even impossible.”
Hermano was appalled, as his grandfather sighed, and he thought it very unfair that people should come to his rainforest, cut down his trees, and murder his family, then build a horrid wall to stop him going where he wanted in life. Wasn’t it a free World after all, like it was in the Amazon?
“But there’s another way of travelling,” said his Grandpa, to reassure the spiny tree rat.
“Another way?” said Hermano hopefully.
“Oh yes, Hermano. Through stories, so in your own imagination, like the dreams you have at night. Because no matter what they do to you in life, what life does to you too, Hermano, no-one can ever stop you dreaming.”
Hermano smiled and a tear dried on his cheek.
“Just like how your great, great grandfather, my father’s father, met and made friends with that human writer in America,” said Raoul softly, “whose name was Hermano too, or sort of. Herman, it was. Your namesake.”
“Yes. Though this Human collected money all day long, working at Gansevoort Pier on the Hudson River in New York City, pier 54 I think it was, he travelled as well. Both in life and in his mind, he travelled on the wide ocean, and then in time too, through something called History. So he wrote a famous story of a great white whale, that a man with a wooden leg was hunting for. A whale his hero came to believe was perhaps God himself, or the Devil.”
Hermano thought this sounded amazing and wondered if God was really a great white whale and what it looked like. But it was all so long ago it sounded too like those lost human civilizations in the heart of the forest.
“I don’t believe it Raoul,” said Yage the tree frog though. “To make friends with a human? It’s impossible, Raoul. Besides, only Shaman animals can see God, in everything there is.”
“But this Herman human helped to change the world, Hermano,” insisted Raoul nonetheless, “by simply sitting still and thinking and writing. It is great stories you can really rely on in life, you see. While a very famous tree-rat writer once said that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. And so we must all aspire to be like that Hermano, to make something really big happen in life and be a hero, be a real rainmaker.”
“A rainmaker?” said Hermano, as they sat there together in the seething, dripping rainforest and the shaman frog looked rather embarrassed, since he couldn’t think of a Shaman story himself, and the building went on and on.
So Hermano did begin trying to tell his stories, in his plan to be a writer and an artist, making up tales about everything that happened in the Amazon, and those temples in the forest too, playing with his crooked tail as he did so. His were stories about all the creatures and plants there, as some of the other animals came to listen to him. Though, being rather nervous, Hermano would sometimes trip over his stories and lose his way and somehow Hermano didn’t quite feel big enough to be a true Shaman storyteller yet.
But then, one day, something terrible happened, or something very sad indeed, that wasn’t a story at all, but the end of one. Hermano woke up one bright Amazonian morning to the strange, exotic noises and ran to his grandfather to ask him something. But he found Raoul as still as stone and when the little tree rat touched him with his nose he was colder than that temple.
“He’s gone, Hermano,” whispered his grandmother mournfully, coming sadly along the branch of the Soursop plant, “my darling Raoul has gone to sleep forever.”
“Death, Hermano,” said Yage gravely, hopping up beside them with a tear in his viscous frog eye, “it’s just called Death, Hermano. It comes to us all in the end, quite naturally. Like those great human civilizations that just passed away.”
Hermano was very sad indeed as he looked at his dear grandfather and felt even more alone, as the tears began to come again, like a little river.
“Death,” he gulped, “Then we aren’t immortal at all?”
As Hermano stared at poor Raoul’s old body he suddenly noticed a trail of soldier ants marching towards his grandfather and nosing at him, as if they would pick him up and carry him away.
“And where is he going?” asked Hermano. “What will happen to him now?”
Yage looked at Hermano’s grandmother significantly, and she looked at Yage and they both looked at Hermano, but they said nothing, as the little tree rat went on crying.
To be continued…