Favorable trade winds came to assist the breath of the whale with the luff of the sail blowing Ativa into the rush of the morning fleets, slipping further and further from the slope of the shore and the bustle of the main street. Plastered walls, artfully carved wooden doors, and the towering minaret were the last of the city’s watchful eyes to measure Ativa shrinking into the distance.
Holding tight to the privacy of their favorite grounds, fishermen heading back out to sea. Day excursion operators seeking a calm spot to snorkel in the lee of live reefs. The islands, Kiniyka and Manda Toto teaming with colorful flashes of marine-life against a background of white-sand beaches and the peace and solitude of crystal clear breezes.
Ativa was only vaguely aware of a crease at the point of the arc of the earth where the sea met the sky and what lay beyond. Things to the north mapped out only in stories read or overheard. Laying flat on her back, admiring the textured brush-strokes of the hand-painted sail, laughing to herself now about the illusions and strength of imaginings. Daydreaming.
And as Ativa lolled with the rhythm and heartbeat of the ocean, the ocean played against the rugged corals of the reef. Punda gave up his navigating and was now napping in a pocket of shade cast from the full broadness of the lateen. To the east, Shakwe assessed fair-skinned snorkelers turning bright pink as they roasted, and the sleekness and dark skin of skilled spear-fishermen, catch netted and tied to their waist. All under a full sun.
From a tin pot near the base of the teak mast of a nearby tour boat, the sweet waft of coconut rice was teasing Ativa as she was considering such untouched slices of beach that reflected the sun. She let the joyful splashes of laughter and unbound banter of the swimmers find a place to rest in the shell of her ear.
It came as lucid images of flocking birds that whistled and chirped and the brash crashing of a brass band that reached a crescendo of split-crack blue and cloudless day thunder. Disrupting fogged thoughts about her aunt and braiding her cousin’s hair and that she would be missing school and the evening’s madrasa …that is when the first fish fell from the sky.
Only after the tuna’s dead weight registered with a wet slap across her lap did Ativa reclaim focus; with Punda’s hooves scrabbling against the formed curve and smooth wooden ribs of the hull of the dhow and Shakwe’s alarmed cries piercing above rapid pops and propellers. What had been a dot in the distance not a far way to the north, a bird skimming the herring shimmer just below the surface, was now becoming something else.
Shifting facets of light surface chop …a helicopter rotating …a seaplane that would soon be landing …getting closer …getting louder …traveling across the surface of fish bubbling up from the sea. More and more fish appeared, but these were not from the sky. Faces of stunned expression, eyes rounded and now lifeless buoyed up from their home in the sea.
Still early noon hour with the sun making its impression, challenging those things that would otherwise be hidden in dark places. A skiff powered by two outboard engines and the occupants too, lobbing grenades into the waves and firing AK-47s blindly into the air.
Burcad badeed …from the north Puntlands …become pirates!
Now coming up on their port quarter.