Anachronism

by Sally K. Lehman


anachronism — noun

  1. something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, esp. a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time
  2. an error in chronology in which a person, object, event, etc., is assigned a date or period other than the correct one

* * *

It was an odd, cold morning when Coatlcalli walked from the forest and into the twenty-first century. He’d lived a long life in the forest, with animals and trees for company. Looking still like a young warrior, he had no idea the time he had lived had lasted so long.

When Coatlcalli was first born, white men had come across the water in their boats and had taken the land of the gods, claiming it as their own. When Coatlcalli was seven Summers, his father was struck dead for not bowing to the gods of white men.

Mother and grandmother took Coatlcalli, the only son, into the forest, leaving the Meshica behind. Years passed: grandmother died; mother died. One day faded into another day, one year into another year.

He remembered stories grandmother told him about the five suns that had once blessed the land.

"The first was lost to Wolf and Bear, who after eating went on to colder places to cool their tongues," grandmother would say. "Second sun was taken by the Rain of Fire, scorching the land, killing the people."

"And what of the third sun, grandmother?" Coatlcalli asked.

"Rain and Wind took the third sun; the Vast Waters, the fourth. The people," grandmother said, "continued with the help of the gods. The people lived happily under the light of the fifth sun until the white men came."

Coatlcalli came out from the dim light of the forest trees; he didn’t know which sun was above his head. He didn’t know if the people were still alive, still prospered under this unknown sun.

A great, shiny bird flew above his head, leaving streams of white feathers behind it. The birds in the forest seemed to not notice this bird; perhaps it was a common one he had not seen from the forest.

He walked toward the Meshica village, the land black and hard beneath his feet. The pelt covering his feet became hot and uncomfortable. The people he saw looked like those he once knew, but now they had torn down trees, built small walls across the land of the gods. They had animals that breathed sour-smelling air tamed for work. They wore the clothing of the white men.

Coatlcalli came to a woman who looked like mother and spoke to her in the language of the people. "Are you of the people?" Coatlcalli said.

When he spoke, the woman was confused; when she spoke it was in a language he could not understand.

Again, he asked, "Are you one of the people? Are you Meshica?"

A smile came across the woman's face. She took his hand, led him toward the small shelter behind her. Behind the shelter, in the shadow of the trees, sat an old man with deep wrinkles lining his cheeks and glossy white hair; his eyes deep, wise, black.

When Coatlcalli asked the woman why she had taken him to this man, the man looked surprised but happy. The woman smiled again, going back to her work.

"You know the language of the people," the old man said, and Coatlcalli understood him.

The old man told the younger man that the white men had not left but had taken over the land of the gods. He said, "The others who called themselves Meshica are nearly gone. There are only me and a few others to remember old ways, old words. Those few are dying. The language of the people is dying."

Coatlcalli sat on his heels in front of the old man and looked at the ground.

“Where have you come from?” asked the old man.

“The forest,” said Coatlcalli.

“When did you go there?”

“When the white man first came. To save my father’s line.”

“That was long ago.”

Coatlcalli looked into the old man's eyes. “How many Summers?”

“Too many to count.”

Coatlcalli looked around himself, stood.

“Where will you go now?”

“Back.”

“Perhaps I will go, too.”

The old man went into the shelter, coming out with hat, walking stick, food. The two men walked back along the burnt black ground toward the forest. The old man kissed the woman – his granddaughter – goodbye. The new land of the gods was no longer for either of them.


Copyright © 2009 by Sally K. Lehman

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