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Mysterious Water

People and their environment are in danger in a village called Goto located in the heart of a greenish forest. Several years ago, the inhabitants were picking off a chain of disasters. The Gotoleses used to interpret life through superstitions. But Wali, a young science teacher, views about natural disasters and their calamities clashed with Alfa’s, an elderly conservative man. When the mysterious water attacked Goto, it left the village in complete desolation.

Before the mysterious water flooded Goto, the sun fervently shone and was sided with a dry air. The forest was suffocating, and the villagers spent their day under trees talking and talking. Wali had a long discussion with Alfa, one of the oldest people in the village. They talked about the new lifestyles of the younger generations, and they argued about the effects of global warming. The old man tried to establish a relationship between the behavior of the youth and the changing climate. But the young teacher, Wali, did not agree with this aberration at all. Here is how their discussion went on that sunny afternoon.

“You young generation!” Alfa yelled. “You are adopting very bad attitudes today and this is likely to cause dangers for our village. How? You guys ostensibly let your buttocks out of your pants and go into public half naked; just your pants or short and the ladies’ thigh-high skirt drawing their forms! Moreover, how can a girl get married to a girl or a boy to a boy? How? Tell me. Is that the modern civilization?” Peeeeh…the old man spat on the floor and lectured, “Listen, all those practices are abominations! Our consequence! We’re facing the anger of our gods and our ancestors. Ten years ago, Goto was consecutively victims of natural disasters, such as flood, dry season and drier seasons. These never happened in old time. You see . . . where your perverted attitudes are leading our lives!”

Wali couldn’t help himself. He replied to Alfa’s accusations by explaining, scientifically, the causes of global warming and climate change.

“Grandfather,” he said, “I am so sorry! What’s happening today regarding natural disasters and all of the calamities have nothing to do with the life’s styles of the youth. The change in the climate comes from very different human causes. People think, climate change is caused by the sun getting hotter or volcanic eruptions and some people say it is the greenhouse effect, and it is all so natural. But climate change can’t be explained by natural causes alone. Think of the scientific research. The soaring temperatures and irregularity of rain are caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the chopping down the forests. That’s what the gods and ancestors should be angry about. Remember our government sold our forest to Chinese companies. And the whole village is happy to find jobs. Every day we cut down thousands of trees in exchange for money. Even many old people sold their farmlands. In this condition, we are consequently the victim of our ignorance. When we are killing our forests, we are killing ourselves. Let’s leave our ancestors and gods or the great God alone. Let’s all be responsible for what is happening now. The young as well as the old. It’s wrong to link natural disasters to the lifestyle choices of the younger generations! That has nothing to do with the climate.”

Later, in the bottom of the night, the atmosphere became threatening. A terrible wind wailed, whistled, and howled through the village. Wali felt like going to pee but he was very afraid. He could feel water gradually coming into his room. The water pushed open the door, overran the bed, and moved the furniture. Wali thought, “Am I having a dream?” He swiped his hand on his face. The sad reality of the flood was true. It was the devastating water without a doubt. The river was flooding the whole village. Wali was so confused and upset that he forgot to make his own water.

Wali could see nothing. His oil lamp on the dirt floor was off.  He could not find a box of matches to turn it on. Even if he had found it, he thought there was no way because it would be wet. He quickly thought he had better pick up some of his important belongings. He grabbed his folder containing his documents, especially his diplomas. He could not stay inside.

He left and could not believe what he saw. The compound was surrounded by a rushing river. The water was picking up everything it touched. His neighbors were busy getting rescued. Some were carrying their important belongings too. Other people were holding up their family members or relatives. Some people were carrying children. They were calling out for help. It was like a war.

Was the mysterious water an arrow of a God?  Wooden statues that Gotolese used to worship since their great-grandparents were floating on the surface of the horrible water. Some of them were powerlessly and completely under the waves. Specifically, the biggest argillic statue that had been erected at the entrance of the village in order “to protect” it against any evil was the first to collapse and to be swept away. Nothing and nobody could stand against such ravaging water.

The water caused total destruction. The wrinkles of the waves were moving, running, and rushing. It crept, ran, and picked up everything on its way. The wind blew, yelled, and shouted. Some walls cracked, broke, and collapsed. Roofs of some homes flew off as the walls of their rooms fell apart and trees were uprooted. It was a great calamity!

Wali was a young science teacher assigned to his hometown in the performance of his duties. He started wondering instead of acting. He asked, “How can the water attack my village without any rain? Where does all this water come from? Why is the water flooding my village? Where did it all come from, and so suddenly? No, I need to understand this phenomenon, and I need to know the origin of this attacking water. Why did the meteorologist not predict neither a heavy rain nor flood in the village? His questions remained. He quickly realized it’s hard time he stopped his meditation and philosophy.

The disaster made him aware that the situation was not favorable for a passive meditation but for positive actions. He prayed and called down God’s mercy upon his village. It was useless! In vain, he crossed the disastrous water to save his life, and help people save theirs. He took an old man on his back to get far from the calamity. So, he was a brave young man during this the dangerous situation.

The moon was a luminous ball in the sky when he took the way to his mother-in-law’s. He wanted to make sure everybody was safe and mostly his pregnant wife. She spent her last days of pregnancy with her mom because of security. For Wali scarcely stayed at home. He spent most of his time talking to his fellow villagers about climate change, and its effects upon the environment, animals, and people.

His heart was pounding so hard that he could not move fast. He wondered how his wife was getting by in such a horrible situation. If he could fly, he would have done it. But no way. He ran as fast as he could in the moony night.

On the way to his family-in-law’s home, what he witnessed was miserable and unbelievable. People were leaving their beautiful houses, cars, and motorcycles. Some villagers just took their important stuff, but some people were confused and did not know what to do. He heard a woman cried “Help! Help! We are drowning!” Until neighbors reached her home, one of her kids slid into a hole and was not found. It was hard for Wali to go ahead. But he had to continue his way.

The more he ran the more the water multiplied the drama. He saw a man carrying his dog and cat in the middle of water at his chest level. There was another dog swimming hard. There were domestic animals – goats, cocks, and hens. They were floating on water dead. Watching the devastating water, a man who bred animals stood like a statue. He threw up his arms in despair, “All my animals are dead! I have no more hope for life!”

He did not observe the intervention of any emergency workers to save these confused and shocked people. To be honest, He felt a little bit responsible for the drowned kid because he did not know how to swim. If he knew how to swim he could have saved the boy. He regretted having spent most of his time in the world of words and reflection. He should have prepared for a disaster. He wished he was trained to help people in an event such as this. Wali blamed himself for being too theatrical rather than pragmatically learning survival and rescue skills. So each Gotolese helped rescue one another in their own way and not always successfully.

The next day, when the sun was in the middle of the sky, the military arrived. Soldiers ridiculously came with their machine guns. He was shocked and in disbelief because his government had no professional swimming corps for such situation. Instead of saving or helping disaster victims, they came and fixed their machine guns on water shooting thousands of bullets at the water! He could see they were trained to react like robots. The problem was the flood. They had no solutions.

Was there a war? In what country was he living in?  Was their country on planet Earth? Everything was dramatic and tragic. He saw a dead body on the ground beside the small bridge between the next district and their village. It was ironically – AGOSOU – the honorable and venerated voodoo priest. A wall had collapsed on a woman. And many people were injured. No emergency service came on time. There were only flood victims and soldiers with guns. What a miserable population!

As usual, Wali continue asking a lot of question: When will my fellow villagers understand the dangers of their deforestation? Should they continue deleting the green from the village to fasten their own end? How can I convince them to realize they are responsible for the series of disasters we were experiencing? How …? I can’t understand those people. They tend to explain everything which is occurring in the village with either their sense or their faiths or practices. He had no answer to his questions. But he knew that the calamities in the village were not arrows from a God.

The disaster victims could see high above some officials in helicopters. The government officials were watching them shamelessly. The helicopters hovered above like they were chasing some gunmen. The only gunmen here were the soldiers they sent. What kind of government was ruling Goto? Were the officials of this village serious?

On his way to his family-in-law’s home, Wali couldn’t help crying because of what he saw and heard.  He had met a woman with her little daughter walking desperately along the main road. The daughter asked her mom where they were going to sleep. Her mother replied with tears running down from her eyes, “I don’t know.” The daughter asked her mom if she would be able to go back to her school. The mom replied wiping the tears from her face, “The school is gone.”

While he was heading to his family-in-law’s home, his wife finally called him on his cellphone and told him that they were all safe. They abandoned their home and had gone to their uncle’s place. Wali decided to see how things will end up here in the village and who would profit off the disaster. He was sure the governors were going to take advantage of the storm’s destruction. He was sure they would try to convince the people to sell more forests to the lumber companies. The desolation confirmed that their government was not competent, and they did not care about the people in the village at all. They just lead for their own interests. They wanted to make money.

He was not only impacted by all of this but powerless. To relieve his responsibility, he helped some disaster victims as best as he could. He carried an old lady’s bags and took her out of the water. A woman without legs sat in a wheelchair. She was stuck in the water. He pulled her and the wheelchair out. Many people were in need, but he could not do any more than what he did. He didn’t want to feel guilty throughout history.

He saw a nice car followed by other brand-new cars. They drove into the village at sunset. No surprise! The minister of social actions and issues and the fellows of her department got out of their new brand cars. They looked saddened by the situation when the poor approached them.

Did the minister and her department really care? Wali didn’t think so. For there was something the writer Plaute said. It was: Facts talk about themselves and those who witnessed the event could say something. These ministers should say nothing. The “so-called” minister suggested that the people should leave and get shelter in a nearby city. The minister said there was a public school not too far from the disaster area. And there was food for disaster victims. But Wali knew the public school in which the minister talked about. It had been destroyed in the flood. There was no place for the villagers to go. There was no food to eat. Wali knew what he should do. He jumped at the opportunity and called a meeting of all the villagers. They encircled him. This was the opportunity for him to deliver an eloquent speech. Wali called it, “The declaration of the rights of the ecosystem.” In order to make his fellow villagers change their mentalities and behaviors to save Goto, he told them how they had to change. He told them the importance of the forests and the consequences of stripping the land of the trees.


Cherif Fofana

Originally from Togo in West Africa, Cherif Fofana is a former French and English instructor at the junior secondary school of “ le Nouveau Monde.” He is a holder of Arts bachelor‘s degree from the English department of the University of Lomé. As a fan of literature and politics, he is usually glued to the computer screen, newspapers, and books. He is majoring in International relations and is currently working on a short story entitled, “A Trip to the 103rd Floor” as well as a collection of poems: “The Smile of Africa.”