Chapter 2: Long Odds
Welcome to the second chapter of the novella titled "Manu of the River", which tells a tale of a humble fisherman's relationship with the Great River that covers his entire world, and surrounds his island home of Janua. Januian legend is filled with tales of adventurers who had achieved godlike powers after exploring of the unknowable expanse beyond their island home. However in modern times, the Great River has been a deliverer not of adventure, but of crippling fear. With its swift currents and turbulent storms, many have been swept away. None have returned.
Manu, the proud fisherman, awakens on a rock just barely big enough to support his body lying on his side in a fetal position.
Manu feels pain coursing through his body.
Through physical struggle and heavy breathing, he props himself up on his forearm to survey his situation. His heavily bruised and bloodied body is completely bare.
Miraculously he did not have any broken bones. Even more miraculous, Manu survived his violent trip down river.
Having sufficiently measured himself up, his eyes looked beyond his enfeebled body to the world that surrounded him. Just as he'd suspected, Manu was stranded in the middle of the bankless Great River with no one and nothing in sight.
Strangely undeterred by his long odds of survival, he looked up to the sky which was dressed in its most joyous color of blue. It seemed to be dancing wonderfully in tandem with the captivating undulation of the deep blue river.
Manu was feeling completely tuned into the same melody.
Beyond his objectively dismal position, Manu was feeling harmonious for the first time in his life. His outlook is powered by an unbreakable knowing that he's right where he's supposed to be.
Supported by an absence of evidence, Manu possesses an unwavering faith that he will be rescued when the time is right. In his mind, there's simply no need to worry about such a thing. After all, what were the chances that he would have survived such a menacing storm all alone on the wild river in a tiny boat?
Here he stayed. But not for long. Within an hour, Manu heard an unfamiliar hum coming from downstream. It sounded a bit like a buzz of a bee.
Much to his surprise, Manu noticed his body resisted its life-long habit of tensing up in anticipation of an unknown threat. Despite having no way to determine whether this alien sound was friend or foe, he was feeling relaxed.
Within moments, he saw a very large boat approaching that was unlike any he had ever seen. The chunky wood plank boats in Janua seemed markedly less advanced than this this streamlined white craft.
This boat was headed very quickly against the current despite the absence of an oarsman. Manu, who was, by far, the most skilled oarsman in Janua, did not possess the strength to paddle up stream for more than a couple minutes. Even then, any progress would be slow and exhausting.
This boat was headed directly towards him. The captain somehow possessed the power to detect Manu's remote presence. This of course, didn't make any sense to Manu who had exactly zero idea where he was.
When the boat was nearly upon its destination, its humming began to quiet as the boat coasted smoothly against the rock that Manu had called home for a period of time that he could not remember.
As the captain secured his boat to the rock with rope, he said "Hi there. I'm Sid." Manu didn't know what to expect, but was surprised when this man spoke in the native tongue of the Janua people.
Sid didn't look anything like anyone Manu had ever seen before. He wore well fitted clothing from head to toe, compared to the simple loincloths of Janua. He had a shaved head and a thick bushy beard, which was in stark contrast to the male fashion of Janua of long well-groomed hair and a clean shaved face. A fashion that Manu exemplified perfectly on days that he wasn't lying battered on a rock in the middle of nowhere.
Most intriguing to Manu though was the color of Sid's skin. Compared to the bronze-like complexion of the Januian people, Sid was markedly darker, like the color of the ancient walnut altar of the Janua temple. According to legend, the altar was said to have been a gift from God. Until now, Manu had always struggled to believe this.
"Are you a god?" Manu asked in complete amazement of his unexpected hero.
Sid erupted with laughter. "I'm afraid not my friend. I'm an ordinary man, just like you." Sid's face hardened and his laughter ended abruptly at the realization of Manu's bloody condition. "Look, I'd love to talk, I really would. But, you're in really bad shape. Let's get you back to Fallum and patched up as quickly as possible."
"Fallum? What's that?" Manu didn't know what to make of any of this.
"I'm sure you have a ton of questions my friend." Sid replied kindly as he labored to help Manu, who was mostly dead weight, into the boat. "But, its important that we save as much of your energy as possible. Please try to lay back and try to relax...But, really quickly before we go, what is your name?"
"I'm Manu, Master Fisherman of the Janua tribe." Manu responded proudly.
"Hi Manu, Master Fisherman of the Janua tribe, its nice to meet you." Sid smiled with amusement.
Laying down on a makeshift bed that Sid had prepared, Manu watched as the boat's captain went to the wheel and turned what looked like a metal key. The box near his feet roared and vibrated. Shocked by the sudden jolt, he shouted with excitement.
Sid looked back and smiled. "Oh, I forgot that you don't have these where you're from. We call it a motor. It helps us navigate up and down the river without much trouble."
The boat sped down the river at a pace that Manu didn't know was possible. The gentle hum of the motor and the smooth ride felt strangely comforting.
"When I get back home to Janua, I'm going to be a God." Manu thought to himself.