EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK:
THE BOY WHO SAILED TO SPAIN
Chapter one, The Chosen one
That night, late, they came again, many of them. When I heard voices raised in argument, I pulled on my robe and ran to the front of the house. As I peered from the balcony, I saw them around my father, striking him, and he was punching and knocking them down. There were so many, like a pack of hungry wolves worrying a buffalo. Screaming, I leapt from the house and threw myself at one and then another, flailing wildly with my fists, striking flesh and bone, but there was a blinding flash. Later my mother woke me with wails and kisses, followed by exclamations of relief when she saw I was alive. They told me he had fought like a tiger, but they’d left him for dead. The house was filled with men, cousins, uncles, and brothers. When I awoke, I screamed at them, ‘Cowards, bastards, where were you when the killers came?’
They said he was dying. They had come, the Amazigh, our people, but they were too late. I ran crazily through the house, saying he was not dying; they wanted him dead, but he was not dying. I reached the bedroom where he lay, and they took me into him. He spoke to me as I kissed him, asking him not to go.
‘Masuhun, find the place on the stone where the blessed mother comes.’
I fought against the tears. I didn’t want him to die; I wanted to walk with him, fish together, ride, sail; I just wanted to be with my father. I swiped angrily at my face—at the tears—but they were flowing fast and free now, blinding me.
‘No papa, don’t go; please, papa, papa, papa.’
‘Masuhun, ask her to protect us again as before. She will listen to you; you are named for her son.’
That night, I swore on the sacred grave of my sainted murdered father that I, Masuhun al-Rasheed ibn Afra ibn Youssuf al Imazighen, would not rest until I had found the holy rock, and knelt at the feet of the blessed mother. I was just fifteen years of age, but fate had ordained that I should become a man.
Chapter three, El Coto Doñana
So he led me along the road to a makeshift wooden shed. I carried my bag and things, even the sandwiches Jimmy had made for me. Inside the room was a bed with a blanket, so I would be OK for the night, I mused.
And then Paco closed the door behind him. I could hear that his breathing was louder and faster. Through the window, the moonlight flooding in illuminated his face, which had taken on an evil, lascivious leer. He extended an arm to touch me. ‘You are so beautiful.’
I had never contemplated whether I was attractive to look at or not; after all, I was a boy and not a girl. In our world, boys became men, and their worth was based on how they lived and behaved. What was happening was not good, so I dodged and arm-blocked his arm with mine, then I kicked right towards where I knew it would hurt. He just collapsed in a heap, squealing.
‘Why, why?’ he screeched.
I grabbed my things and made for the door, grasping the blanket I had pulled off the bed. ‘Because I amfifteen and must decide my own paradigms in life, as also my own nature. And I don’t really understand, but think you wanted to abuse your power over a helpless rabbit, who, sadly for you, has teeth.’
I ran from the shed down towards where I knew the beach would be after having locked the man into his own hut. It was about a kilometre or so to where I could see the Amador silhouetted in the moonlight. The boat was
covered with makeshift canvas awnings that I pulled back so I could climb in. It smelled of old fish, hemp rope, old canvas, and boat oil. It was an incredibly clean odour, honest and sane. I pulled the canvas sheets back over the boat and covered myself with the blanket against the night cold blowing off the sea. I unwrapped the sandwiches and ate them hungrily, then fell asleep, a slumber full of knights in white tunics and something evil and slithery insinuating itself into the dream only to have its head lopped off. There was also a beautiful woman with a child.
Chapter four, Sanctuary
It was evening time, and the sky was darkening quickly as we entered the sanctuary gates. There was singing, and the little chapel was filled with the devout, women with their heads covered by veils, old men, and
children. I walked right up to the altar and saw the statue of a woman holding a baby. The scent of recently collected flowers and incense filled the shrine as I slowly knelt down and asked her to help my father, but deep inside, I knew my quest was not over and that I needed to go to the shrine, the rock or stone, and then she would answer me. The village women just left me there, as they knew I was thinking of her. Then I stood up and walked out.
I awoke in front of the sanctuary, holding myself, rolled in a ball as if such actions would fend off the cool of the night. Something had disturbed me. It was still dark, and apart from the night noises, there was a rustling
accompanied by the sound of heavy steps and dragging. I curled up tightly and tried to blend more effectively into the shadow of the fence against which I was sheltering. I must have been in that position for ages when at last I noticed, as if in a dream, the faintest suggestion of dawn in the pitch black surrounding me. Then I heard a cock crow, again, and again, and the words, uninvited and unthought of, flitted across my mental vision, ‘I would never betray you.’ In the slowly rising dawn, I was able to discern a figure hooded in the Arab way and wrapped in what
appeared to be heavy robes—a chilaba, maybe, or some sort of cassock. It stopped, facing me in the darkness, then sat slowly down as if with great difficulty or pain on the bench.
‘Puedes salir ya.’ (You can come out now.) It was the voice of a woman, probably very aged. It brought to mind the old Berber women of the desert who lived in tents and had great wisdom. I had often gone there with my father to visit them. In my reduced condition, my earlier apprehension had gone, so resigned, I emerged slowly, shivering and in a trance-like state induced by the cold and lack of sleep.
‘Here sit with me.’ She leaned forward to loosen a blanket that was slung over her shoulder and handed it to me. I wrapped its thick folds around my body, and slowly, the shivering spasms decreased. She raised her hand to put me at ease, and in the oblique twilight, I thought I could make out a smile. Her face seemed to be wrinkled in every way; her eyes, forehead, cheeks were all creased to the extreme, her features coloured light but intense Bedouin brown. When she smiled, all her stern demeanour seemed to lift as if it had been a veil. The first furtive
rays of sunlight showed me her eyes, which were vivid green and shone so that I just stared, drawn in by her ancient
‘Are you an angel? How did you know I was there?’
‘No, bless you. Just a very old woman. I knew because your fear was speaking to me. Human beings are equipped with great telepathic powers; sadly, they will disappear over the millennia if not used vigorously. You are different, as are so many of the children of the so-called third world. You have been kept apart from all the technological instrumentation of today so that your body is aware of its wakening powers, although only subconsciously. Of course, the powers that be are rapidly ensuring that the whole of humanity, even those made less
fortunate by the geography of their nations, falls prey to their telephones, computers, and as much of their technological poison as they can muster. Poison that, administered in limited doses with proper controls, would be a blessing.
Chapter five, Caños de Mecca
‘Que olas, tío, que olas.’ (What waves, man, what waves.) Ruben pushed a small board and a wetsuit at me, which I hastily put on. Everyone leapt from the van as it came to a standstill. Boards under our arms, we rushed
towards the sea. Plunging into the water, we swam, paddling towards the breakers and cutting through or going around them. The water felt cold, but you hardly noticed it with the exhilaration that had invaded us. We waited in groups, floating in the calmer area where the breakers passed and grew, looking out for our waves to come. Then a big one built up, too far off for me, but Toñi, Lanzarote, and some others went with it. Someone was riding standing and going into the tunnel—it was big. Whoever it was, it was too far and too bright to know, moved around, finding the best positions in the heart of the wave and stayed with it all the way to the beach.
Ruben shouted, ‘That was Toñi! Man, she can surf!’
Then a big one came right where we were, and I paddled vigorously to stay with it till I got to just beyond the crest so that I was no longer powering, it was the wave that was carrying me forward. I got the feel of it at once; it was all a question of riding in just the exact spot, not too far ahead nor too far back. I could feel the need for maintaining the right balance as the wave was holding me up and driving me forward; adrenaline rushed through me, and I felt incredible. So with my instant confidence, I tried gingerly getting to my feet, kneeling first, then
falteringly standing on wobbling legs. Suddenly, whoomph! The whole thing went, and I was caught up in the wave, my board was wrenched from me. I was tumbling, seawater going up my nostrils; the sea was holding me down. I felt a spasm of panic; I couldn’t get to the surface and breathe, then just as suddenly, my unexpected ride was over. I
found my feet, stood, and drank in the delicious fresh air. I looked around for my board and saw a bearded guy smiling my way. A guy with a face like, well, the archangel Gabriel. I mean, he just looked sort of ultra-biblical. He wasn’t that big, but his shoulders were broad and his face sort of radiated goodness, so I smiled back.
‘I’m sorry, do I know you?’
He rumbled back, ‘No,’ and as a sort of afterthought, added, ‘but you have met my family, poet.’
I knew who he was at once, he was our driver and probably Maria’s brother.
‘Maria is your sister? And you are the child from the Guardia Civil barracks?’
He smiled and sat down, shielding his eyes as he looked out to sea.
‘Look, there she is, my little sister, another child of the waves. The only contact I have ever had with the Guardia Civil is being stopped for speeding. But I have the badge and look the part. And anyway, they weren’t for real.
‘My mother said to me, “Look out for her, Mahatma,” so I am a camp follower, a groupie. With them, it’s a sort of religion; they follow waves. I know guys, and girls, but mainly guys who do only that. It’s not as if the waves here are like in Hawaii, but these guys abandon everything, career and even family. It’s true they seem really happy. Perhaps they know best, but when they get ill or old, it’s mother or father or brother who must help. I, myself, am a catamaran type.’
‘So am I. That’s how I got here from Africa.’
‘A big boat?’
‘You’re a crazy kid.’