Caroline Giammanco: A Time of Peace

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A Time of Peace

Caroline Giammanco 

Sweat trickled down his back as the sweltering equatorial sun blazed in the clear blue sky. So much destruction. So much bloodshed. A smile crept across Sharo’s face. 

From his vantage point, he pictured it all. Memories flowed through his mind, breathing in and out of his consciousness as easily as the heated air came and went through his nostrils. Sharo closed his eyes and drifted back to the beginning. He could nearly taste the anticipation of those early, carefree times. The sound of laughter and the excited chatter of the village tinkled like a bell in his mind. He was made for this day. His whole life existed for no other reason. 

Had the cost been high? Yes, it always was. But, oh… Victory was sweet. Looking at his hands, he carefully studied the blood smears of his enemies and friends alike. 

Loss of life is nothing compared to the joy of winning. 

***

“My son, you understand the dangers ahead. Are you sure you want to lead? As the chief’s son, you have the right and ability to cast this burden onto another.”

Sharo stood to face his father. “Because I am your son, I am the only one suited for this battle. Do not try to dissuade me from my birthright.”

Sharo knew the dangers. His father expected nothing less, but the questions must still be asked for the ritualized preparations to be complete. 

He’d heard the stories of his people as they had been passed down from generation to generation. As a child, he and his playmates pretended to play Haru. Dividing into eight teams, they strategized their moves in the dense forest undergrowth as they launched their attacks from the rainforest canopy. 

Sharo’s best friend, Manu, nearly died playing an intense version one sweltering day. The jungle, always full of hazards, reminded the village children to never mistake youth for safety. Sharo would never forget the accident.

While attempting to outdo one another, Manu climbed to the top of the highest Mandolou tree he could find. Lean and stealthy, Manu clutched his knife in his teeth as he climbed the mighty tree. Sharo watched as his friend slid across the branches, planning an ambush on a rival tribe member. All boys trained for the right to represent their tribe one day, and they took turns roleplaying as warriors from different tribes. Mardi, Sharo’s cousin, crept below as Manu prepared to drop a net on his foe.

The crunching sound the limb made as it fell was horrifying. Manu screamed down, down to the forest floor where his fall was so great that he bounced upon hitting the packed dirt below. The cracking sound of bones upon the forest floor brought all play to an end for that afternoon. 

Manu would never be right again. His once-strapping legs were reduced to shriveled sticks. Manu, a prime candidate to be a warrior, now made his living stringing beads in the village—a job normally reserved for women. His family lived in shame from that point on. True, he was injured during child’s play, but Haru was serious business with no room allowed for error. Loss came with a heavy toll, and a mangled Manu would never bring pride and power to his people. 

Manu’s injuries did not stop the pretend Haru games, however. In fact, they drove the children to try harder. All young men knew their generation carried the burden and honor of participating in the real competition. For nearly four hundred years, their people reaped the benefits of winning the last two Harus. 

Day in and day out, the villagers worked with the children, coaching, nourishing, and pushing those who bore the responsibility of keeping their people free. Yes, the children laughed and enjoyed their childhood games, but all knew they prepared for the challenge of their lives. 

Haru, the real one—not the childish game played by Sharo and his friends—was a real life competition. Occurring every two hundred years, the stakes were all or nothing. The winner laid claim to all the lands. The losers died and their people were enslaved by the victor’s tribe for the next two hundred years. 

The young men of the seven other tribes also practiced from the time they could walk to overthrow Sharo’s tribe during the next Haru. Enslavement is a bitter state, and it’s not one men are content to endure. Little drives a man to succeed more than the need to cast off the shackles of oppression for the tantalizing right to oppress another. 

Years passed and Sharo’s tribesmen and their adversaries arrived at the anticipated moment when bloodshed determined the victor. 

Each tribe’s warriors traveled through the sacred blackened tunnels where time itself melded into nothingness, arriving in the arena specially chosen for this Haru. Excitement rippled through each group as they planted their feet for the first time on the lush green equatorial battleground. 

The next two weeks brought not only vicious combat but a mind game of strategy. Tribes aligned with one another to take advantage of a weaker foe. Each time an alliance formed, those who poorly chose their steps paid the ultimate price. The players knew alliances were temporary, and no one lost sight of the stakes of the game: Total domination or total destruction. 

Sharo was young, but ruthless. In another time and place, he would have been a consummate politician or business executive. In his universe, however, he was a calculating killer. It suited him best. 

That is how Sharo remained atop the once verdant hilltop now laid waste in the scorching heat. No method of destruction was unused as he sacrificed his own tribesmen to secure the bloody win against his rivals—and any others who came between him and his goal. Sharo felt no remorse. 

Sitting in the blazing sun on the pinnacle of the coveted hill of victory, he heard the whirring motor of the transport pod arriving to pick him up. He would return to his planet the victor. 

Safely inside the vessel, he stared out the window of the accelerating ship. The decimated blue orb the tribal leaders chose for this satisfying bloodbath faded into the distance. Yes, Earth had been a wise choice for this Haru. 

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Please visit Caroline on her blog: https://carolinegiammancowrites.home.blog/.