“Oh, my son – what have you done?”
“But I did it for you, mother – I did it for you…”
FROM OUT OF THE DARKNESS
A story of the first cosmic change as passed down through the Maori generations since the beginning of time
By Tanika Smith Wheatley
There was hardly a sound, or movement, as they swirled through the darkness…
Entwined in a lover’s embrace; they twirled the infinite nothingness for as long as they could remember – across the dark void of nothingness – going nowhere, and from nowhere – it had always been so, and they were content that it was so – for they knew nothing else, and they had all that they needed – each other, and their children between them, safe, and secure, in their everlasting, all-consuming love…
Ranginui shone brightly in the darkness - the father, the protector, the epitome of strength, he held his family together, his sole duty, his only role, his driving force for existence – never faltering, never wondering if there was any other way to be, and never caring if there was – lost in his love and adoration for his female companion and their children – the embodiment of devotion, his whole reason for existing, for being…and he was proud, that he had never lost a child as they effortlessly glided through the endless sky, forever going, nowhere…just drifting, just being…content…and together…
Papatuanuku was beautiful – she had a softer, gentler glow, – and she was soft, soft and yielding - not muscular like him, but with a different kind of inner strength – Ranginui knew Papatuanuku suffered when she gave birth to their children, he knew that she weakened after every child, and it was always then, when she gave birth, that a fleeting thought would cross his mind – would she eventually and fatefully succumb to this labour of love? But it was always just a fleeting thought, for they instinctively did what they had to do, he, the planter, and she, the incubator – and he had to instinctively protect them all, and she had to nourish and care for them – the reason for their very existence, the only reason for their being – and so they would ignore any signs of weakness, and continue their purpose – wrapped in each other’s arms – wrapped in their eternal love…
The twilight zone continually murmured, as their children moved between them, stretching and shifting as much as they could, whenever they could, for their father held their mother close, and although at times it was not all that comfortable, they never complained, content to feel loved, content to feel secure, content to be forever cuddled in the safe embrace of their parents…
Tanemahuta looked at his siblings all around him, in between their parents, in their twilight zone – not really dark, because their father shone, and their mother glowed, but not very light either, forever stuck in their shadow world between their mother and father. There were so many, that he could not possibly remember all their names. And they were all different. There were plants, a variety of leafy beauty in varying shapes and sizes, and hues mostly of light and dark green shades, radiant and bright, even in this twilight place – some were creepers, which crawled along their mother’s belly like clothing - but others were trying to reach out, to grow tall, but they could not, wrapped up in their parent’s tight embrace – he also noticed the animals, so similar and yet so different in sizes and colors, most of which were content to lie among the foliage, content to be forever cuddled between their parents – but he also noticed some, especially the birds, wanting to stretch their wings and fly, and they would hopelessly attempt flying whenever a small gap appeared between their parents whenever they ever so slightly shifted, flapping around only to be forced back to the ground, the gentle, soft ground, that was their mother…
Tanemahuta knew that he was the first human male that their parents had created – he had younger human siblings, but he was the first, and he wondered if that was why he was more curious than all the other species he shared his world between their parents with. He found himself wondering what else was out there, in the vast darkness, beyond their parents - sometimes his parents would shift a little, and he’d catch glimpses of the darkness that seemed to go on forever, all around them – between their father’s shine, and their mother’s glow, their own little world was not without light – so Tanemahuta wondered if the darkness was something to be afraid of, or perhaps something to explore? Tanemahuta wondered if he could also, like his parents, seemingly fly around the darkness as they did? He also wondered about the little lights in the darkness; were they, other families, like his?
“Father!” he’d call out every now and then, “what’s out there, in the darkness?”
“Nothing!” was always Ranginui’s reply, “I’ve been around forever, and there’s absolutely nothing out there besides us, nothing…”
“But father, what are the little lights out there?”
“Just little lights, Tanemahuta – they are just little lights…”
“You must know more than that,” Tanemahuta persisted, “after all, you’ve been around forever…”
“No!” Ranginui would always get impatient with the youth’s nagging, “I used to try getting to them, but they are much too far away…”
Tanemahuta would wonder if his father kept them away from the little lights on purpose, protecting them from danger, he doubted that his infinite parents had no knowledge of their dark domain of little lights – could they be other families, just like us, with distances between us all so vast, that we only see the shine of the parents?
“Don’t be so curious, our son,” Papatuanuku would interrupt, “knowledge is power, which can be dangerous, if you don’t know how to use it…”
Tanemahuta also knew that he was their mother’s favorite, she loved all her children, but her voice always softened when she spoke to her first human son - so he would feel guilty, when wondering if there was more out there, beyond their existence, beyond their nice, cozy little family world.
But Tanemahuta also noticed his mother’s suffering when she gave birth, and showed concern for her – “but that is the sacrifice, my son,” she’d try to appease his fears, “there is always a price, nothing of value is easy, or comes free…” But although he never said it, he wondered if she would be the ultimate price, and he found that thought more terrifying than the uncertainty of the vast darkness beyond their own family existence.
But Tanemahuta also noticed that their own family world was becoming over-crowded – how long could their parents keep creating, and feeding, all these children? There was now hardly any room to move, some of the tree branches were hanging out into the darkness, some of the animals and birds hanging onto those branches for dear life…but all these other siblings showed no concern for what was happening to their mother, or to their world – he tried pointing out these concerns to the others, but it was as if they did not care, or even comprehend their predicament…
“What about you, little bird,” Tanemahuta turned to the Kiwi, “don’t you want to use those wings to fly around?”
But the Kiwi shook his head. “No, and why would I? I have everything that I need right here, in the safe embrace of our parents…”
Tanemahuta looked at the reptile, but before he could ask, the Tuatara also shook his head. “No, human brother, I have all that I need right here, in the safe embrace of our parents…don’t you feel safe and secure here Tanemahuta?”
Tanemahuta sighed with frustration, it was up to him, to do something about saving his mother, and preventing even more siblings from being born…
He knew he was strong, but his father was larger, and stronger – so he had to use cunning, not strength…
He decided to teach his siblings a new game – when he called out ‘right’, they all had to race to the right, and when he called out ‘left’, they all had to race to the left – to his surprise, the lazy siblings agreed – so the complacent still possessed instincts to ‘win’, Tanemahuta covered his face with a hand, to hide his devious grin…
“Be ready,” he instructed them, then he called out to Ranginui, “FATHER, LOOK OUT!”
Surprised, Ranginui looked up, as if expecting a collision finally, with one of those little lights…
At the same time, Tanemahuta called out “RIGHT!” And all his siblings ran to the right of their mother – with Ranginui’s inattention, the weight on their mother’s right caused her to sway in that direction – then Tanemahuta called out “LEFT!” and all his siblings ran to their mother’s left side, causing the gap between their parents to widen – but they weren’t separated far enough, they could still, and will, embrace each other again – so again, Tanemahuta called out “Right!” The siblings were enjoying the game so much, with delighted yells of “I win,” and arguments of “no, I win,” that they hadn’t realized what was happening. The gap widened, but just to be sure, Tanemahuta decided to jump and with all his might, push his father as far away from his mother as possible…
It worked. The parents had been taken by surprise; and were too separated to reach each other again. Their children all blinked, huddled together and looked around at their new surroundings with a mixture of both awe and fear – what had been their little cozy twilight zone now seemed to be bright, and hot, and the gap between their parents large, scaringly so, as if they had no place to hide – winds now blew around them, stirring leaves, fur and feathers, blowing dust into their eyes and noses, and they blinked, coughed and choked in dismay – and as their parents tried to grab hold of each other again, with the turmoil of the outside wind now between them, these movements caused their father and mother to circle each other, so that some of the time between them would be in brightness, and some of the time would be dark – the children hated their new environment, and pleaded Tanemahuta to bring their father’s presence back, to make their existence normal again, and safe and secure – but in the roar of the winds, Tanemahuta could not hear them, but he could see them, crying in despair, and clutching onto each other, for fear of being blown away into that infinite void of nothingness that they could all see now, all too clearly...
Tanemahuta also, felt bewildered at their new surroundings - he had hoped to end his mother’s pain, he had hoped to stop more children being born, how could he possibly have known that their twilight zone would change so much, he could not even look at his father now, from far below, their father seemed to shine even brighter, now that he was way up above them in the sky, too bright for their eyes to behold - and their parents reaching for each other sent them reeling, causing tumultuous winds, and bright hot days, and dark cold nights.
“I’m sorry,” he called to his siblings, but he knew that they could not hear his voice in the winds. He knew that he couldn’t go to them, all huddled in the center of their mother and holding onto each other lest they be blown into the dark void that now seemed closer with their father so high up above them, he knew that he would not be welcome. He felt miserable. He fell to his knees, and tried to clutch onto his mother’s flesh, to hold on, in case he was blown out to that dark nothingness of space. If any of them did get blown out, would they be able to return? Now, he hated his curiosity, which also led to this hot, cold, windy environment. He was so wretched at first, and for so long, that it took some time for him to realize that the daylight was not always hot, that the nights were not always cold, and that it was not always windy. A tear of relief slipped from an eye and onto the ground that was their mother. To his surprise, a leaf sprang up from the earth – tears flowed continuously now, which watered the plant, and it responded – Tanemahuta felt a shadow fall over him, and he looked above, to see a Pahutekawa tree lifting her branches over him, to shade him from their bright, hot, father above them, and for the first time, under, and because of the light of their father shining above them, the tree proudly showed off her beautiful red flowers, and to this day, that tree has always been remembered as Tanemahuta’s Blossoming Sunshade.
“Your tears have watered my seed, Tanemahuta,” the beautiful Pahutekawa tree whispered to him, “now, I know, we shall survive in this new environment, “and I am happy, my brother…”
The Tuatara lizard and Kiwi bird though were not impressed, and clung tightly to their mother. “But look,” Tanemahuta felt more confident, after hearing the Pahutekawa’s words of encouragement, “our mother lies beneath us, our father shines above us, and we can stand tall and see all around us…” But the Kiwi argued, “see what?” “Other birds are flying now, Kiwi – see the Eagle flying free? Join him!” But the Kiwi clung even closer to their mother. “I don’t like what you’ve done, Tanemahuta, I no longer feel safe and secure…” Others agreed. It would take awhile for everyone to appreciate their new world, for now, he would have to be content to see the Eagle fly and the Pahutekawa blossom.
It took a moment for Ranginui to realise what had happened. “Papatuanuku,” he reached for his wife, and she for him, but they could no longer reach each other, hold each other…
For the first time, Papatuanuku felt anger towards her favorite son. “Oh, my son - what have you done?”
“But I did it for you, mother – I did it for you…” Tanemahuta fell to his knees and cried – he no longer felt the softness that she had always had for him. “How long can you suffer mother,” he cried to her, “how long can you feed us?”
“That was not your decision to make, Tanemahuta! I warned you about curiosity and knowledge! Now that your father cannot reach me, rain upon me, make me fertile, I cannot feed you all – now, we can no longer be a family! You can no longer be loving brothers and sisters, because it would be impossible to eat something that you love. For now, because of you, Tanemahuta, you must all eat each other! And because you will be killing each other to survive, you will all die!”
“Mother…I did it for you…”
“Nothing lasts forever, my son – oh, I know that I shall be worn down by my offspring eventually, but I will be around for a very long time yet…”
“And I also told you about sacrifice – pain is a mother’s small price for her children. Now you will have to make your own children, Tanemahuta – from this moment on, you will all have to make your own children, and feed them, try to protect them, and die – and because there aren’t many of your own kind yet, at times, and this is one of those times, brothers and sisters must procreate…”
Tanemahuta dried his eyes and looked at his younger human siblings. One of the girls was pretty. Perhaps things weren’t that bad. Then he looked at his other siblings, the other species, and saw a snake looking at him and licking his fangs with its forked tongue as if hungry. He shook his head and pleaded with his mother. “How do I change it all back?”
Papatuanuku was already feeling dry and thirsty. “Can you bring your father closer again?”
Tanemahuta shook his head.
“Neither can I, my son,” she sounded so sad and weary, “neither can I…”
Ranginui looked down upon his wife and family. The distance between them was great, but he hoped that she would hear him. “I will never stop trying to reach you, my love – from here, I will have to try harder, use all my strength and work up a thunderous storm, sometimes it will feel more painful than loving, in an effort to cover you with enough rain to replenish you, and provide some substance for our children. But that will tire me, so there will also be longer periods of drought. But forgive our son, Papatuanuku, .for one of our children would have made this change eventually – and like all changes we must get used to, there will be difficulties, many – but our children will be forced to learn to look after themselves, now…I hope that they appreciate their newfound independence…”
Tanemahuta felt miserable. He knew that he couldn’t unchange what he had done. He sadly sat in the shade of the beautiful blossoming Pahutekawa tree. “I’m glad you changed us,” it whispered to him in the wind, so softly that he wasn’t sure that he’d heard correctly, “I’m glad…”
To this day, the Pahutekawa still remains the first tree to blossom when the sun shines after winter, and the Kiwi bird still prefers to hide amongst the foliage clothing of Papatuanuku’s belly.
About the Creator
When I was a child, I would wake up in the night because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. Now, I write them, among other stories as well.....