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stargate, DanielJackson

Week 4, Title: Not a thing to grasp

Posted on 2016.01.08 at 22:38
Tags: ,
Ato’s hands and arms have been full for as long as she can remember. Her earliest memories are of her small arms clasping a neck, body against the back of her mother as they walked, and her legs held tight. Warm, connected, loved. When she was old enough for a day of walking and no longer needed to be carried, she had her own skein to carry in turn; some of their food stock in one hand, her brother’s hand held in the other.

On the rare occasion a hand was free while walking, she would rest it upon one of their buffaloes as her brother told her tales of the majestic beasts.


Older still, she holds a babe, not her own, wrapped against her chest and a small child on her back, clasps another child’s hand in each of her own. She tells them stories of the buffaloes. Of how the Buffalo God saw their plight, their tribe walking endlessly across the plains, little food or shelter to be had, and gave to them his own flesh, these buffaloes who walk with them; to feed them when they are hungry, to clothe them against the harsh cold nights, to carry those who cannot walk. These Gods made flesh, so they can revere them and worship of them, consume them, and take in their spirit. She encourages them to touch the buffalo, feel how it moves along with them.

They say she tells the stories best. Far better than the holy men who tell it like a lecture; like an accusation. Children flock to her, those with parents too weary or sick, those orphaned or feeling alone. She has a throng of them around constantly, and they sing and dance and run, breaking up the endless days of moving forward.

She shows the younglings how to stretch a buffalo hide into a drum skin and they make music against the anger of the rain.

At night, her hands turn their sacred meat on the fire and pick it apart carefully. She whittles spears in the mornings before they set off. She considers these limbs, calloused and worn, well-used, not only hers alone. There to be held by any who has need. These hands extend her, out into the tribe, until she is theirs and they are hers.

They are brittle, broken things and she worships her hands as she worships the buffalo.

The tribe wants to make her a holy woman, but she refuses. She won’t abandon her young flock.


Ato has Isa’s right hand in her left and Naia’s left in her right. Tobe and Ani are a small length in front playing a clapping game. She’s telling them about the only time she’s ridden a buffalo (she was suffering from the swelling sickness and unable to walk) when they first hear the murmurs. The scouts have found a place they could settle. Not just for the night. A place they could stay.

Those older than her hold a quiet hope they expect to be destroyed, loud grumblings pass through on how they have been moving too long. They are all too tired.

She is suddenly afraid. The journey is all she has ever known. She wonders whether, when there is no need to stay close, they will all drift apart. She wonders how she will fill her days. But the children’s’ excitement is infectious. And she squeezes their hands to fight the fear.


The children keep running forwards and back to her, giving piece-meal descriptions of the place. There is a lot of green. There are caves. There is a wide, incredible, magical, expanse of water.

Naia, bouncing on the balls of her feet, asks what the last settlement was like. Ato explains that she was alive but too young to remember it.

She is approaching when it happens. A lion’s jaws wide, rending a buffalo. Her brother throws his spear and it fells the predator. The chieftain raises his arms, proclaims loudly that this is a sign, this buffalo is a gift given to them, to see that they will find this place a good new home. And thus they settle.

They put up their temporary shelters and eat. There will be time to extend permanence to them later. Ato looks to her brother, and looks to the piece of buffalo between her fingers, more careful with it than ever before. She watches as the fat stains her palm, hoping it will explain this new immobile home to her.


She’s helping to put together their new huts when she notices her brother’s absence. It’s a notion she dismisses. He’s likely out with a hunting party. As the day drags on her fists hold the sticks too tight, hands moving quick and harsh as they add to the structure. And eventually she steps away to search.

Her footsteps still at the scent of blood. She steps towards it. For several moments her eyes don’t understand. There are pieces of an animal strewn about, innards and sinew and blood. She drops to her knees for some reason. Then she knows it’s human. Then she knows it’s her brother.

She screams.

The others find her trying to put the pieces back together, trying to hold them together; they should fit beneath her hands.


There are other people here; feral, wild people. They fed her brother to the lions. She doesn’t ask how the others found this out. She has no patience for it. Her fingers and palms and wrists stretch, carving weaponry from buffalo bone.

The chieftain says they are staying. They have searched too long and most lack the energy to leave. They must make a stand, return the debt.

Many of the women of their tribe are fighters. She is not one. She stares blankly and chisels bone because the children still need her. Maybe now more than ever. Everyone is scared.


Each one of the fighters takes one of her weapons, blessing it under her brother’s name.

She watches them leave. And watches them return. They hold the heads of their slain.

Her hands begin shaking. There is so much red on them.


She wakes to quiet. Her heart thumps in her ears. She runs outside. It’s too quiet.

Then the calls begin. Names cried out into the wind, waiting; urgent; panicked; desperate.

The children are gone. Many of the women too. Her fingers reach out, wanting to tousle hair, count heads. Names are silent on her lips. Ani. Naia. Tobe. Isa. Ras. Abio. Yewan. Cao. Odowe.

All her children are gone.

Her hands are now empty. She is alone.


alycewilson at 2016-01-10 22:34 (UTC) (Link)
Stark tale that manages to capture the humanity behind the violence.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 17:45 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)
dmousey at 2016-01-11 14:41 (UTC) (Link)
How sad. Kept me riveted to the last word. Thanks for penning! Peace~~~D
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 17:45 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad it kept you riveted :)
bleodswean at 2016-01-11 15:41 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, yes, yes. Fantastic job here. Again, you do such a great job with this style, each section is part of the whole, and yet complete as a small stanza.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 17:49 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, so glad you found it fantastic :)
aresrising05 at 2016-01-11 16:43 (UTC) (Link)
"One of ours is worth two of theirs"
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 17:49 (UTC) (Link)
rayaso at 2016-01-11 17:16 (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoined this. It was so well written! This is a wonderful world you created.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 17:49 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you enjoyed :).
adoptedwriter at 2016-01-11 18:38 (UTC) (Link)
Very captivating! I was hooked right through. AW
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-11 19:15 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, so glad you found it captivating :).
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
halfshellvenus at 2016-01-11 20:31 (UTC) (Link)
This is so vivid that you feel the same loss as Ato does, all of the people killed or stolen or simply having run away to somewhere safer after all. But all over land where the first step to declaring ownership was not to convey that someone was already there but instead to kill someone as a "warning" to the rest.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-12 17:40 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, glad you felt for Ato :)
idekmybffjill at 2016-01-11 23:24 (UTC) (Link)

This is amazing.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-12 17:40 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, so glad you found this amazing :)
muchtooarrogant at 2016-01-12 01:44 (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed the progression you used to frame this story, from traveling, to a new home found, from the loss of her brother, to a battle fought, and finally to the loss of their children. Sad, and beautiful, and very well told!

swirlsofblue at 2016-01-12 17:40 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you enjoyed :).
millysdaughter at 2016-01-12 18:01 (UTC) (Link)
So heartbreaking
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-12 18:05 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :) *Hands over tissues*
murielle at 2016-01-12 23:38 (UTC) (Link)
Wow! Simply told, but so richly woven. Beautiful, so very beautiful.
swirlsofblue at 2016-01-13 17:25 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you found it beautiful :)
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