Nanima: Alter of Sacrifice

Here is the next part of Nanima.

Part 2: Spirits Without Bodies

Alter of Sacrifice

Chapter 23: Dibbil-Dibbil

“This is scary,” whispered Luna.

Maliyan laughed but had to agree.

“What if dibbil-dibbil comes out of the cave?” said Luna.

Dibbil-dibbil was an Aboriginal word for evil spirit. The indigenous people were never cave dwellers (probably because of dibbil-dibbil) but they did use them for male initiation ceremonies (also probably because of dibbil-dibbil).

“We’ll run,” said Maliyan.

Luna rolled his eyes. At least, Maliyan assumed that’s what he was doing, but it was too dark to tell. 

“I think this is a bad idea,” said Luna. “I’m hardly a stickler for rules but we are not allowed at the Caves when they’re closed. If the white security don’t get us, the black ghosts will.”

“You worry about the spirits with bodies,” said Maliyan, “and I’ll take care of the ones without.”

Tripping in the dark, it felt like the sort of thing that children do when they can’t help giggling out of nerves and fun.

“Can you please point the torch ahead of us so I can find the spot?” asked Maliyan.

Luna mumbled to himself but did as he was asked.

“Luna!” scolded Maliyan. “Shine the light in front of me. I almost fell into one of the cave holes.”

“Use your own f***in’ torch,” retorted Luna. “The light doesn’t just shine out of my arse, you know. You do have one too.”

“Oh, right,” replied Maliyan as she turned on her own phone torch. 

know. You do have one too.”

“Oh, right,” replied Maliyan as she turned on her own phone torch. 

Chapter 24: Wandaang

Yesterday evening, at Nanima Caves:

Maliyan had arrived considerably too early for the night tour, yesterday evening, as she had read the time incorrectly. That was how she came to meet Wandaang. As no one was around when she got there, she climbed the hill and waited patiently next to the cave entrance. After a while, she lay back under an old gum tree. It seemed to respond to her presence by waiving one of its branches. She looked past the branch into the show of night sky; more fascinating and elaborate than any cave tour could ever be. 

Seeing a figure, out of the corner of her eye, Maliyan assumed it was the cave guide. As it disappeared when she looked at it, she realised that it was not a living person, but a deceased person. Not a spirit with a body, but a spirit without a body. In that isolated, dark environment, she was strangely not afraid. 

“I am Wandaang,” said the spirit in the way that spirits talk. (They don’t use words. They talk telepathically).

Turning towards a noise down the hill, Maliyan saw the tour guide approaching and Wandaang disappeared. 

Inside the cave:

The main Nanima cave had a large limestone and crystal formation with an outcrop that looked like an altar. The local Catholic priests had used it as such for decades until the wear and tear on the formation, very sensibly, brought about the closure of the caves to all but guided tours. The Bible that was used in the last Mass was ceremoniously left on the alter, sixty years ago. Gradually, it crystalised. As it was not visible from the cave floor and no one was allowed to climb the crystal structure, it had become a thing of folk law. 

The guide told Maliyan that the bible was indeed real. He recently had to climb the structure to clean off some of the green residue that forms on the crystals from visitors breathing in the space. He saw the Bible and had photo evidence, but did not go so far as to show that to her.

Chapter 25: Skeletons, Skins and Skulls

Back to this evening:

When they found the spot, next to the main cave, Maliyan made Luna sit about thirty metres away because she was fairly sure that the spirit would only appear if she was alone. She was a little afraid to come alone at night—not because of the disembodied spirits but because of the bodied ones. That’s why Luna was there. Thirty metres would have to be alone enough for Wandaang. 

•••

“What does he want?” asked Luna as they headed back down the hill towards the car.

“He wants his bones back,” said Maliyan.

“Isn’t it a bit too late for that,” joked Luna somewhat sacrilegiously. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”

“No, not his bones, silly. His ancestor’s bones.”

“Did he say they are in the cave?”

“He said that they were taken from the cave, a hundred years ago, and sold for museum and private collection specimens. He said that the ancestors won’t rest until they are back in Country and that the land will also suffer.”

“One of my customers is always bangin’ on about the Repatriation Program,” said Luna. “He said it’s the quest to bring all the bones back to their rightful resting places so that their spirits stop wandering. I guess most people want to be buried on the land they come from. It’s probably instinct.”

“Yes,” said Maliyan, “It’s instinctive because it has an energetic importance. Aboriginal people got their spiritual bearings by knowing their ancestors were in certain places. It was like an energetic navigational system. I’m sure, for many, it still is. And white people would do the same if they were connected enough to the land and their own body. Anyone who is aware that from soil they come and to soil they will return remains deeply connected with their roots.”

After a pause, she continued solemnly, “It is on record that one bygone collector made a request (which was granted) that an Aboriginal child be shot to complete his private exhibit of skeletons, skins and skulls.”

“That’s horrific,” said Luna.

“I remember the old Aboriginal worker on my uncle’s farm,” said Maliyan, “telling me about white men driving around with Aboriginal bones and skulls on their cars’ dashboards. And one farmer had a swimming pool decorated with them.”

Finding the conversation too morose and painful, and feeling that he couldn’t do anything about it, Luna grabbed Maliyan’s hand, started running, and said, “Race you to the car.”

Not much of a race if you are holding my hand, thought Maliyan who was happier than she would have expected to have her hand be held—race or not. 

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