Song of Slaves in the Desert
An Excerpt from Alan's forthcoming novel (March, 2011)
An Eruption, the Stone
The shock wave jarred them from sleep and sent them stumbling to their feet. Next came the roar of exploding earth and a sky in flames. From that maelstrom in the heavens did a voice call out to them? Go! Hurry! The three of them, the man first, the woman following slightly behind, the child trailing off to one side, hurried away across the steaming plain, making their first marks, footprints, in the yielding layer of ash. Light shifted behind the veil of smoky sky. The rumbling went on and on. The man shouted at the gathering mist, coughing as he breathed. The girl slowed up, listed toward the plain, reached down and plucked at the ash. They walked, they walked. Light turned over, revealing a blue sky streaked with a long tail of smoke and ash. The girl pulled away from her mother, clutching something in her hand. This stone, relatively cool to the touch, born of an earlier eruption...this small, egg-shaped stone-black bluish purple mahogany cocoa dark fire within, three horizontal lines, one vertical, the same pattern carved into your high cheeks-take it and hold it to your lips. Taste earth and sky, the inside of a mouth, the lining of a birth canal, the faintest fleck of something darker even than the blackness through which it has passed. You have now kissed wherever this stone has been, and it has traveled far. She said this to her child, as her mother had said to her, and her mother's mother before that, and mothers and mothers and mothers, a line stretching all the way back to the first darkness and the first light, from where the stone had spurted up from the heart of the rift, in fire and smoke and steam, blurring the line where light of earth met light of sun, though at night the line showed starkly again. Who first carved those lines on its face, three horizontal, one vertical? Three horizontal-the trek across the land. The one vertical-the ascent into the heavens. What hand and eye had kept them straight, in both directions, across and up and down? What hands had passed it along from time through time, until it lay in the palm of a man sprawled on his back on the desert floor between the town and the river?