|"Secret Names" |
Set in the Future
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Nationality:||Tribe in Eestexas|
Madyu was a shaman of a tribe of hunter-gathers in Eestexas some two hundred years after the Big Oops. He was a scrawny, clumsy and nearsighted man who made a poor hunter. Fortunately he was a good shaman so he did not need to hunt.
However, as all shaman knew, magic was a chancy business which did not always work. A few years earlier, the gods got angry at him and caused a famine. The tribe was forced to subsist on grasshopper stew, a most vile dish. Chief Ralf was about to run him out of the tribe for weak magic when the famine finally broke. Madyu never could figure out why the gods were so angry at him or why they finally decided to relent.
One thing that Madyu knew that would make magic stronger was using the person's, animal's or thing's secret or true name. This was possible to learn for a person because this secret name was given to the baby by its parents at birth and learned by the child as it grew up. But what was the true name of an animal? When tribes met to swap goods and women, the shamans went off by themselves to swap names. Who knew what language the gods used, so it was best to use as many names as possible when making magic.
For example, one day Jorj Rainbowstar, the tribe's chief hunter, stuck his head into Madyu's tent to ask him to perform some magic to bring forth beasts while his hunting party was out. Madyu was cross since Jorj interrupted his incantations in the middle of brewing up a batch of willow bark tea for pain relief but agreed since there was no pain relief for the ache of an empty belly.
After Jorj left, Madyu put on his raiment for hunting magic including a necklace of Old Time coins. He then bowed to north and south, east and west. He patted the ground to show reverence to the earth powers and then waved his hands in the air to draw the attention of the sky gods.
Only then did he began the ritual prayers for a successful hunt. He started with the prayer to make keen the noses of the hunting hounds. Not only did he call them dawgs after the fashion of his own and neighboring tribes but also sheeyas as did the KayJun clans to the east and perros as did the Makykanoes to the west and south. He then blessed the hunters' boots and their bows and arrows, again using the names in all three languages along with other names he had swapped for.
He then started casting spells on the beasts they hunted. In addition to the names, he had at hand tokens of the various animals. He had a cup made from the tip of the horn of the wild bull, a turkey feather, the white haired deer tail, the rabbit's foot, and the squirrel skin. He picked up and held each as he chanted them by all the names he knew.
After Madyu finished, all he could do was wait. That evening the hunters returned happy. It was a successful hunt with each hunter bringing several ducks. Jorj loudly praised him as a fine wizard while displaying his four. Madyu quacked in surprise "Ducks?" since he had not magicked ducks but if the gods sent ducks, then he would remain quiet and take the credit. Magic was chancy that way.
That night, after the tribe had gorged on roast duck, Madyu and Jorj shared a skin of wine. Jorj remembered and told Madyu that he had spotted the ruins of an Old Time building he had not seen before. It was in the middle of a clump of trees and one must have been blown down during the last storm to allow him to see it. Madyu asked to be taken there the next day and Jorj agreed to do so.
After breakfast of duck soup and porridge, the two set out. Madyu examined the ruins from a distance and was reassured that things of value might remain since the roof was mostly intact. He tried a door and found it locked so he approached the nearest window. He checked for the spoor of cougar (also known as puma, catamount or mountain lion) and found none. He then cautiously stuck his spear into the building but didn't disturb any wildcats or snakes so he scrambled in.
After his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Madyu looked around. He saw an internal door with an intact window in it. Another indication that no one had disturbed it. He then grew even more excited because the window had writing on it that said "Veterinarian's Office". He knew these were Old Time shaman charged with the healing of animals and so the building could contain many useful things.
Madyu tried the door and found it too was locked so he broke the window with his spear and reached in and opened the door from the inside. He ransacked the office and found a cabinet that contained many different sharp little knives and glass cylinders with hollow needles attached. These he stowed in a stout leather sack he had brought for that purpose. There were also unidentifiable objects in the cabinet but since they were made of metal and glass, he stowed them too.
He then turned to the bookcase beside the cabinet. The books on the lower shelves had been chewed up by mice but those at the higher level appeared whole. Madyu took down an interesting looking book called Collected Numbers of the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine but when he opened it, the pages flaked apart into dust. Too many Old Time books were in a similar condition. He tried again with another Collected Numbers and smiled. Inside was a collection of magazines with a shiny, coated paper that survived better. In addition to pictures displaying incomprehensible artifacts like cameras, CD players and Toyotas, it had comprehensible pictures of pretty Old Time girls in interesting states of undress. Apart from his own use, they would make valuable trade goods with the other men of the tribe. He also found a couple of other books with the coated paper but no pictures. These too, he put in his sack.
He was surprised how late it had gotten so he left the office, closing the door behind him and exited the building through the window he had entered. He then hallooed for Jorj who had agreed to stay nearby and who suddenly appeared. Jorj had spent his time setting traps and had had some success too. Madyu described what he had found as they walked back to the encampment. Jorj scorned the books until Madyu made curving motions with his hands in the air. Both were satisfied with their day's work.
That evening, after supper but before sunset made it impossible, Madyu took out the two books he had discovered and tried to read them. The title page of one proclaimed it was about diseases of cats but proved to be filled with incomprehensible words that he could not figure out from the context. Madyu wondered if words such as "distal" and "pancreatic function" were Spanyol. If so, he would try to trade it to a Makykano when he had a chance.
After this disappointment, he turned to the other book with trepidation. The title Taxonomy was not encouraging. He knew tax was a name for tribute paid to the chief or tribute a weak tribe paid to a strong one. Why would an Old Time veterinarian need a book on taxes? Besides the folk of the Old Time would not need to worry about anything so mundane as taxes.
Out of stubbornness, he decided he would read enough to find out what the title meant. To his surprise, the preface explained very clearly that taxonomy was a way of organizing living creatures by the way they related to one another, much like the way some shaman drew genealogical charts for their tribe. But how did the Old Time people keep track? Two paragraphs further he learned it was by binomial nomenclature. This meant giving animals two names, a generic to tell what type of creature it was and a specific to indicate exactly what sort it was.
The next paragraph made him grow in excitement. It indicated that the "scientific" name would allow researchers to communicate effectively and accurately regardless of their native language. He stared at it until it became too dark to read. If he understood this correctly, the book was a catalog of secret names.
The next morning, when Madyu awoke, he checked and confirmed that the book said what he though it said last night. He also found that the book listed many "scientific" names along with the animal's more familiar name but in smaller print and in brackets as though to show those names were not as good. After some difficulties in navigating through the classes, orders, families and genera, he found that the white tail deer's scientific name was Odocoileus virginianus while the wild turkey was called Meleagris gallopavo.
At this point, hunger and a full bladder forced Madyu from his tent. After an unsatisfying breakfast of duck hash made from stale duck, he sought out Jorj. He found him sitting fletching arrows. Jorj indicated he hadn't planned on going hunting but Madyu convinced him to do so. Unfortunately, he did it by promising Jorj that he would find both turkey and deer. Madyu had never done that before but in his excitement, he made claims that he almost immediately regretted. Jorj was skeptical since he had seen in the past magic fail and so only reluctantly agreed to form a hunting party. He also indicated with his fist what the consequences would be if the party found nothing.
As Madyu prepared to perform his hunting magic, he sadly reflected that brute force, unlike magic, never failed. He then performed his usual rituals using the new scientific names. After he had finished, he remained in his tent unwilling to lose dignity by pacing outside. Unfortunately, Hozay and some of the other young boys of the tribe started chanting "Madyu don't dare show his face, show his face, show his face, ...!" until Madyu exploded from his tent and gave chase.
He didn't catch Hozay, despite his best efforts. Finally, he gave up and stopped running. Almost immediately, Hozay did the same. After a moment, Madyu heard the hunting party returning. He stood in the middle of the clearing as Jorj entered, pointed and shouted "Here he is!" By the sound, Madyu expected the worst. The other hunters entered and gave a great shout too. After a moment, Madyu realized it was a cheer. The first hunters in were carrying turkeys. The later ones were carrying gutted deer, tied onto spear shafts, two men to a spear. Jorj hurried to his tent and retrieved his necklace of Old Time coins. He put it around Madyu's neck and declared that he had performed the best magic since Old Time.
The hunt was a great success. No one in the tribe remembered ever having so much meat at one time. Jorj declared they had enough to smoke some and trade it to other tribes. Neena cheered as loudly as anyone and then threw herself into his arms and gave him a kiss. Hozay looked sick but Madyu didn't care, he was too busy kissing back.