Author Topic: Esme 2  (Read 6945 times)

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Offline Daen

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Esme 2
« on: October 10, 2022, 04:59:19 AM »
Some hours later, I was in complete darkness. Jack was with me, still unconscious, but according to our host, he would recover soon. He’d been dehydrated, malnourished, and suffering from a scorpion sting on his leg, too. I had a balm for it, which I would have used had he told me. I shook my head in the blackness. Were all men this stubborn, even at a young age? Rust certainly was.

My lover and I had had words, before Sarah had asked me to help with Jack. Well, words was the bare minimum of what we’d had. The bruises on both of us would fade in time, I was sure, but they would no doubt get some attention from Sarah first.

I’d insisted that Rust tell me how he could so casually endanger my dreams, and he’d simply shrugged in response. “This whole trip was Jack’s responsibility, right from the start,” he’d said in that hatefully calm voice he liked to use. “I was glad that he allowed us to help, and I would have followed him even if he didn’t want me to, but the decision of whether or not to deliver those jars was his. We had no right to put our own wishes over his, and we still don’t. Kid or not, he deserves that much respect, don’t you think?”

“What if he’d gone through with it, though?” I remembered demanding. “Sarah could have left us outside to die, or just killed us herself, with some device of the ancestors.”

“Then we would have died. Sometimes you forget that I’ve been risking my life for a lot longer than you have. I made my peace with death a long time ago, and I thought that you had done the same when you agreed to come out here with me. It wasn’t fun doing something that might anger you, believe me. I didn’t enjoy it, but it was the right thing to do.”

He seemed to think that was all that needed to be said, and had gone silent after that. In a way I could see his point of view, but it was still maddening. Putting our fate in the hands of a child? Brave and smart though he was, Jack didn’t know everything!

Later, in the darkness, I could hear Jack’s shallow breathing. Sarah had given him… an injection. Yes, that was the word. I’d done even more gaping at seeing what they could do. Liquids, put straight into the body using a hollow needle? What else had the ancestors come up with??

“Where is Hern?” Sarah had asked casually, as she’d set up a bag next to Jack’s unconscious body. An IV, she called it, though I had no idea what she meant. She explained that it would filter water into his body, helping him recover faster.

Hern had been her companion- the one we’d found dead out in the desert. I regretfully explained the situation to her, but she hadn’t been surprised. “He knew the risks- we all do. I suppose it’s a minor miracle you three got here alive, with the cargo intact.”

“What is the cargo?” I’d finally asked the most important question. Or at least the most important one I’d had before seeing all the weird and wondrous machines the ancestors had built here.

“It’s part of the medicine I just gave him,” Sarah had explained. “It’s very, very important to us, and to the rest of the world as well. You can tell Jack all about it when he wakes up.”

So much had happened since I’d first landed on the northern shore of this land. At first I’d gotten used to the language, and then I’d tracked down Rust. We’d fallen in love, and fought side by side, and then found Jack. So many things had shifted my world around, that I felt like I was back out on the ocean, with no land in sight, just hoping there was another island to my south somewhere. This Sanctuary was my island. It was the island, it seemed, and the last place I needed to find.

Jack’s breathing changed; I could hear. He made a small noise, and then spoke. “Mama?”

“It’s Esme,” I corrected, in the pitch blackness. I fumbled around for his hand, and then took it. “How do you feel?”

“Better,” he said slowly. “Cooler. Where are we?”

“Inside the Sanctuary. Sarah brought you here, and tended to you. She gave you a… tonic, I guess, to make you feel better.” Telling him about the injection was beyond both his ability to understand, and mine to explain, so I didn’t even try.

“Where’s Rust?”

“He’s fine. He’s out there with Sarah right now. I just wanted to stay here with you, to make sure you’re all right.”

He squeezed my hands. “I was dreaming that I heard mama’s voice. You and Rust were there, too.”

“It was no dream, kiddo. You did. Do you remember the radio?”

“I think so.” He sat up, slowly. “Can I go home now?”

“Soon,” I reached out with my left hand, “but first there’s something you need to… experience.”

Sarah had shown me how to use matches before, but it took a little effort to do it again. I struck a match and held it, and Jack gasped, shrinking away from the sudden light. “It’s all right,” I assured him, as I touched the match to a candle, and then blew out the smaller flame. “I realize this is incredible, but what you’re seeing is fire. Your eyes work now, for the first time ever. This… is sight.”

His eyes were as wide as an owl’s, just staring at the flickering flame, and then darting back and forth between it and my face. I could only imagine what he was thinking at this point, or if he was even thinking at all! Thirteen years spent in darkness, and then suddenly, light! He raised his hands, slowly, and then turned them. “Fingers. Fingernails.” He glanced at me again. “Hair, right? That’s what mama’s hair feels like!”

“This is what your mother’s hair looks like,” I corrected, smiling. “How are you feeling now?”

He shut his eyes, tight, and then his features relaxed somewhat. “I don’t know. How did this happen? Did the Great Spirit do this? Am I blessed again? What about Rust- can he see again?”

He was overwhelmed, naturally, and keeping his eyes shut made things easier for now. I tried to stem the flow of questions as best I could. “This is the whole purpose of the Sanctuary, Jack. The ancestors built it to give people sight. Or actually, they wanted to teach people how to give themselves sight, but it’s basically the same thing. The tonic that Sarah gave you, it cleared the, uh, substance in your eyes. It lets you see for the first time. The tonic is made from that plant that your mother was stockpiling. It’s vitally important to them, and you brought it all the way here!”

“We brought it here,” he said faintly, opening his eyes just a crack and then staring at the candle. “It feels sharp; the fire does I mean. Like a twig poking me, but it doesn’t hurt.”

“It’s called bright,” I said with a smile. “Isn’t it great, though? You won’t need to feel around with a cane anymore, at least not for a few days.”

His eyes snapped to mine again. “What?”

I shook my head. “The tonic only lasts for a few days- a week at most. People have to keep taking it to keep being able to see. Sarah’s taken it many, many times. Like you, she was born without sight.”

In a way, finding out that she had been born blind was a letdown, because it meant that I was alone again. Still, it was completely overshadowed by the wonder of this place! A medicine that let people see? Incredible! Machines of the ancestors, that let people talk over long distances? Unimaginable! I could take one back home, maybe, and use it to keep in contact with people here! And I was sure I’d barely scratched the surface here. There were probably countless wonders in this place, and I’d just been too busy looking after Jack to really take them all in!

“Oh,” he said after a moment, looking out into the darkness. “If it’s ok, I’m going to keep my eyes closed for now.”

I nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. Here, let me help you.”

I took a strip of cloth, and carefully bound it around his head, covering his eyes. “This is called a blindfold. I used to wear one when I was little, just so that I could pretend to be like everyone else. You can keep it on as long as you want, or take it off whenever. Just put it back on if you start feeling overwhelmed, all right?”

He chuckled. “Do you need one, too? I can hear your voice.”

“Saucy,” I taunted, poking him on the shoulder. “Come on. If you’re feeling up to it, I’d like to see more of this place, and catch up to Rust.”
« Last Edit: October 10, 2022, 05:07:41 AM by Daen »