Manna the power,
manna the food,
manna the drink,
manna the entity and Manna the Entity,
manna the authority,
manna the respect,
manna in the far past,
Manna the person.
Who is Manna?
In a small room, darkened, filled with dirt and the smell of decay, there was a little boy.
This little boy was hungry. He had always been hungry, so his very need for food was usually overridden by his need to escape the monsters. However, this was the hunger of those who can't think of anything else but the burning heft in their stomach, draining their sanity and what little strength they had until only an animal was left where a person was, and then draining the animal until-
But no, this is not yet the time.
What is Manna?
What is Manna?
What WAS Manna?
But then, what is Manna?
It is the proper time to talk of the child.
The hungry, lost child.
"You okay there, little kid?"
The woman was a short, stocky person hidden under a mass of hair, turning and wriggling in ways the boy had never seen. She offered him a hand. "Come with us, kid!"
The child was desperate, and so he reached for her hand…
… the child was now a youngster who had learned to trust. The woman was now a friend, and a master, and he was just a trainee that wanted to help with an orchard that had emerged from the solid, darkened grounds of a wasteland.
He bit the fruit, thinking of its sweet taste, its weaving meat bleeding an acid juice that conquered his tongue and made him smile, eyes half closed. And, for a short second, he looked at the Work Group and realized he didn't just trust them; he would go to the ends of the Earth for them.
They were more than family. They were equals. They were kin.
He turned back to watch the poor, hungry refugees behind the fence, who were being given the food, and the seed, and the water and the land. They were kin, too, his people. They knew they could trust the Work Group, for they had earned their trust.
And so they should do everywhere else, the boy thought, for weren't they all Humanity? Were they not the good, generous brethren roaming the Earth and feasting upon her generously ceded fruit?
He looked at the fruit, half eaten, and laughed. "Hey, guys! Anyone wants half an orange?"
What could it be?
… the child was now a grown man and had learned conviction. He was strong, he was brave, he knew bravery had to come every day in an unending battle against hunger, disease and hatred.
He covered a closed wound in bandages; then he cleaned another one with quick expertise, stitched it up and covered it in bandages; then he cleaned another one, rapidly taking out dead flesh and dirt and splinters of wood and metal and rock, and closed it.
And then he raised his sight and saw the next wound had bled until the next one had bled through it.
The old man stared at the dead woman. For the first time in his life, he did not feel anger, frustration or sadness when loosing a life.
He felt pure desperation.
… the man was dead.
Opal glanced down to the naked body. Then looked up, a grin in her face.
"You know, I met him the very day he joined. Thirty years ago. I was just a newcomer. I was as innocent as they come, and so was he. I knew he was gonna have a goddamned hard time when we took him with us, but the thing is… he lived!"
Tears went down, rolling down her smiling face.
"He gave me his trust. He lent all his strength to our beneficiaries. He went on, forward, forward, forward. He never stopped," she laughed and sobbed almost at the same time, "-he never stopped loving life and loving us, his family, and he never, ever gave up on us, on anybody. And he never ever found that to be a sacrifice or a weight or a hurtful thing."
She raised her sight again, still crying, still smiling, and fiercely stared at them all.
"He was like us."
They all nodded in silent understanding. They were all different, they were all imperfect, and yet they were all alike. Opal nodded and silently took the bowl, filled to the edge with crystal-clear water.
"You know how this goes, people. Let's give him the life he wanted."
And so those of the Children who did not hate, who turned their backs on suspicion, who would not forget, covered the body on leaves and seeds and then threw fertile soil on both until a mound was erected and surrounded with vertical stones. Then, Opal dropped its contents on it.
Some of them cried; those were youngest. Some of them looked distant and pensive, one or two silent and lost in their memories of the departed. A few prayed whatever their minds had learnt to pray over their lives.
Most of them smiled. They had known him.
But Opal, who went on embracing and caressing and kissing cheeks and whispering comforting thoughts and giggling with her nose drenched in snot, knew. She knew the truth. Not the truth of a sect, or a law, or a vision. Nor the truth of a mad woman, or a fanatic, or a self-imposed belief. In a dozen different ways, with a dozen different beats, their hearts were all doing the same thing.
They were all silently remembering Manna, the Charitable.
"Come on, boys and girls!," Opal shouted. "It's time to leave Niger, we're needed in Somalia!"
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