Foreword by Brant Cooley – A trusted and reliable source definitely known for some history stuff, and not the authors alter ego. (The publisher of this article has fact-checked all of this, we promise.)
While we can neither confirm nor deny whether the events contained within this entry are actual or fictitious, it is an obligation to show that the following narrative bares evidence of truth. In 2004, archeologists found a journal of sorts in New Zealand in a tunnel containing an opening 63 feet below the surface of an old well. Archeologists suggest that it was probably closer to 50 feet at the time these events may have occurred. Now, in 2017, a leading authority on cultural folklore and linguistics outside of western convention, Matthew Harrison, has provided a translation. While it is entirely plausible that the story is a work of imaginative fiction, it should be stated that the surrounding areas seem to support the text on a geographical basis. Harrison has admittedly taken liberties in translating the text to provide a more authentic representation of the following diary:
If anyone should find me, you may wonder how a scoundrel like myself came to live down here. How my bones are so fat? And how an old man like me lived so long. I will tell you.
They once called me Ajani. A name I was told meant he who wins the struggle. Perhaps it is true, though the name implies a struggle from the moment it’s attached to you.
When the boat crashed into the shore long ago, it was only my father and me who survived. We walked for many days through unfamiliar wilderness. Filled with hills that looked like my sister or maybe brother still trapped in my mother’s womb, trapped in the sea. The plants scratched and stung our skin as we traveled. We grew weak without water, and finally, … my father cried. He bawled as I have never seen a man do.
“My son, I am deeply sorry. I thought we were heading to better lands, to safety. I should never have lied. We could have stayed. I have brought our family death. I have brought you death.” He cupped his hands under his wet chin, and his eyes produced a small puddle for them. “Take my eye water and drink it up Ajani.” I resisted at first but he insisted, growing stern. “You are the winner of struggles. You will survive. Now drink.” His hands were shaking as I steadied them with mine. Grabbing his wrist. I bent my head, and awkwardly sipped from the small puddle.
I could not resist the thought of what would I be without a father? Without a mother? Without a sister? How would I be? I went to kiss his face. Not to say goodbye, but to say I care for you.
As I did this, my lips grew damp. “Take it all Ajani, you will need it.“ Terrified, but respectful of his wishes, I wet my dry tongue, on his cheek. Then water began to pour from my eyes as well. I couldn’t do it. I sank to the ground, hugging my father’s leg when the Great Spirit must have started crying too!
Gradually we were both getting wet in what must have been eye water from the sky. It was not like rain, because I could feel my body perk up with every swallow. I knew from the priest back home it was liquid mana.
We both opened our mouths toward the skies cheeks, catching the mana. I knew then how sad eye water could turn into happy eye water in a moment. I could not stop producing it!
So much eye water mana came down, that eventually, it turned into rain. Tiny streams started to form, and my father tried to follow them, hoping to eventually find a large stream.
Before we found it, we became cold. The plants still scratching us all the way, but not as bad as before. We saw an opening in the side of a rock face where much of the water seemed to lead. The opening was narrow, but my father ducked in anyway. After I followed my father in, it opened up enough for us to take shelter on a dimly visible dry bed of rock.
Hunger still clawed at our fronts from our backs, but we were happy to know that we might survive together.
The cave was deep. At first we stayed near the front, my father tangled some reeds together to trap maybe trap an animal. With some sharp rocks he taught me how to make a spear from a branch. Then, my father accidentally found out that some of the rocks would make bright sparks when they crashed against each other. He used the sparks to set some dry grass on fire. Then the dried grass to set a few reeds, then some twigs, and from the twigs a bigger branch he had found.
We gathered wood for a long time and eventually had a full fire with plenty of ammunition. My father was able to spear a rabbit type looking animal, though it was not a rabbit. Perhaps his name should be Ajani?
The next day we both heard a noise echoing through the dark space: laughter? My father took one of the burning sticks, and I followed behind him as we went into the darkness toward the sound.
The cave opened up again! This time there was a tiny pond at its bottom, and we could see cracks of light coming through above. The sound was definitely coming from above, but there was no way to reach it. Hanging there from a rope, was a basin carved from wood.
“People Ajani! Maybe they will help us?” He cupped his hand around his mouth to make his cracked voice as loud as he could and shouted “Help!! Help!! Please!! Somebody!” As I joined in, we could hear faint stirrings come near the place where the light was shining through. Then we heard the frightened burst of children wailing disappear into the distance.
Father was dismayed, but still, he had a glimmer of joy in the dimming light of the stick. “They are up there. We have to find them Ajani.”
It was night as we approached, the people were all gathered around a fire in a wide circle of trees. One of the older men seemed to be telling a story, just like back home. Though, I couldn’t understand his words. The language was strange and seemed dark. “Te kai me te mate” the older man seemed to say. Followed by “Inu ranei toto!”
Father and I gave an each other a look, but he seemed to think the time to go was now or not at all.
Harrison says that the conjugation of Malai language, which this relic was written in does not provide for tense. The same word being used for did as does and done. He has tried his best to keep the text accurate, though acknowledges the awkward shift in tenses from this point forward, which can be inconvenient to western readers. The language here seems to lean toward a more immediate presence, Harrison has adjusted the text to reflect this.
As we step out, we greatly startle them, or else they think we are food. I know this because I hear my father yell as I turn my head away from him, and a sharp needle grazes through my cheek skin.
When I look back to my father to guide us, he is still here. A spear quivering out his backside. I cannot help but rush towards him. The spear cracks as he falls back, and he screams in pain.
I am not sure what the people are doing during this time. I lay my body on top of his to guard him. I catch my father’s eyes in the firelight, and they are both panicking and calm at once. It is the same look my mother had when she finally, giving up an effort to break free from the ships sinking wreckage, found her place with the sea.
I am crying, and I try to fight reality. I cup my hands beneath my chin to try to catch the eye water. Wanting to offer it to him. Hoping that he will drink from it, and that we both might live. But my tears are filled with blood, and I’m not fast enough.
His eyes cease to panic, and he is gone.
I lay there, covering his tall body with my short body, hoping that my eye water might seep in and bring him back, but knowing that it won’t.
A woman comes up and calmly places a large leaf on my face. Another offers me a burned piece of meat on a stick, and I am so hungry, eventually, I take it.
The tribe was unlike the people back home, but they were human none the less, and they took me in. At first, I thought I was a captive. The tribe had sealed my cheeks wound with fire that night, and I suspected they kept me to torture or enslave.
As time passed over years, I eventually became one with the people that took my father. Acclimating to and accepting my new culture. Learning the language. Learning the stories.
The stories were different from those I was accustom to. Both were filled with magic, but the Maori considered the outlay of existence differently. For them the world consisted as two driving powers. The Rangi, a sky father and the Papa, the mother of earth. Both were connected, and both on occasion needed to sacrifice. Like my father, who was now with Rangi, and like my mother who fed Papa. In time I grew to understand this.
The chiefs daughter seemed to like me. Always smiling at me, and giving me curious glances. It was with her companionship that that I grew to speak like a native Maori. She showed me which plants her mother told her to bring back for dinner, and which ones to stay away from.
There were often stories told at night. We would circle around a fire, to cook food and eventually I felt more comfortable in their company.
On the darkest nights. The nights with the most haunt. Nights when the moon refused to rise. The elders always told a story about the Nookotou. Evil wairua, their word for spirits, that years ago reaped great distress among the people. “Te kai me te mate” they would screech. (Food or death)”Inu ranei toto.“ (Drink or blood)
The Nookotou lived in a nearby well, a place which opened itself to hungry evils beneath land. They were treacherous and demanded food and drinks. Once taking 13 children when their demands had not been met, and leaving the mangled bodies of 12 children surrounding the well. No one knew where the last had gone, but his name sounded a lot like mine.
After this day in their history, the villagers had cut trees and fastened them to the top of the well to keep the spirits in, but the elders warned us that if the wells’ covering was ever disrupted, they might return.
The parents all warned about this well, but testing danger is a universal trait among youth. We had all seen this well while playing or exploring, and I knew it must be the same one my father and I had stayed in, but I never said anything. I liked the power of the secret.
One day I slipped though, I lead the daughter of the chief to the well. Disbelieving that there was any danger. Picking her up thinking only to flirt with her I say. “Do you trust me?”
“I guess so.”
“Close your eyes.”
When she did I carried her towards the wells edge and placed her on top of the boards, which were so weak from bugs at this point they began to crack.
I wouldn’t let her fall in. The boards had only cracked a little, and I gathered her weight and put her back on the ground.
“There is nothing to fear.” I try to calm her, but I am too late. She is terrified, and begins to make eye water all over the place. She runs away screaming with her eye water going all the way home.
When I get back, the chief is angrier than I have ever seen anyone. He demands that I leave the village, or they will send my hapu to my father, and my body to my mother.
I was barely strong enough by then to fend for myself, and after that, I wanted nothing to do with them. I took a knife, a spear, and some reed rope as I made my exodus, traveling far away to distance myself. Not wanting to see them for any reason. I lived the life of a vagabond in the wilderness.
Eventually, I began to grow old. My spear was not quick enough to kill a good dinner as often. I found myself near the same rock the water had lead my father and I to accidentally, and went in to remember my life. There was still a dark spot on the ground where we had built the fire, and a few of the spark rocks. I became both sad and happy.
I got stuck remembering, and I decided to live in the cave again, at least for a while. There, especially if I could hear them, I began to dwell about how wrong it was for them to cast me out. There was nothing down here. Nothing but me! Melancholy and resentment often shared the light of my fire.
The people had let their silly superstitions run their imaginations wild. And as the moon grew thin, just as I had begun to do, I began to think. I am Ajani, I am the one who wins the struggle. I began to plot. I began to tell my own story about the Nakootou. I remembered the words of the Nakootou, and chanted them so I wouldn’t forget them at night. Te kai me te mate. Speaking the words in various voices. ..Practicing.
I collected the blood of any animal I could catch and drained it on the edges of the well when no one was around. Breaking one piece of the wood with every trip, and turning the crack toward the sky. I made bigger and bigger fires at night, scraping the rocks together as loud as I could every night to light them. Making the rocks mimic their words. A long scrape down, a downward stroke coupled with a quick upward stroke, then two hits on the ground. “Inu ranei toto.” I would sing along in cracked howls.
Watching every night, waiting for the moon not to rise.
Watching every night, waiting for the moon not to rise.