Author Topic: Esme 1  (Read 9609 times)

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Offline Daen

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Esme 1
« on: October 10, 2022, 04:59:43 AM »
Part 3: Esme

I just stared at the woman for another few seconds, at her eyes.

All my life I had been alone, or near to it. Back in the Pinos, I had been the fastest- the bravest youth by far. I’d been able to track not just with my ears and nose, but by sight as well. I’d had a literal line of boys at my door, once I’d come of age and my parents said I could be with others in that way. I’d been the best- the envy of all women, and the object of all men’s desires.

But I’d been alone.

Finding Rust had been the closest I’d come to ending that loneliness. He could understand, at least a little, what I was going through, because he remembered being sighted as a child. He’d taught me the words he’d used back then, and what his father had taught him from before the Great Fall. I remembered just how brave he’d been, facing off against the whole Torgan Republic, all on his own. That had been when I’d fallen in love with him.

Still, I’d wandered the known world for decades. I’d crossed the sea in ways that only a sighted person could, jumping from island to island before finally making it here, to this hugely peopled land. And in all that time- in every village I’d been to, in every land I’d been to, I’d never seen anyone else like me. Every set of eyes I’d looked into had been cloudy and dim.

Until now.

I didn’t have time to ponder it now, though. Jack spoke up, his voice hesitant and trembling. “Sarah?”

That was the name he’d given to his spirit guide. I wasn’t sure how, but he apparently recognized this woman’s voice. For her part, she leaned forward, squinting. “Jack?? It is you! What in the world are you doing here? You should be back home by now!”

Jack stumbled backwards, clearly stunned. He nearly slipped off the narrow path cut into the side of the mesa, but caught himself in time. Poor kid; he was already malnourished and we’d been walking in the desert for most of a day now without water. And now he’d come face to face with one of his gods. He must have been overwhelmed.

“You lied!” He said faintly, still holding onto the cart. “You’re no spirit! Esme said she could see you, so that means you’re alive!”

Sarah took a step forward, and on instinct I raised my bow. The last thing I wanted to do was shoot another sighted person, but I’d sworn to protect Jack. At least I had in my mind. For her part, Sarah didn’t seem to notice. “I can explain everything, Jack. You don’t need to be afraid of me.”

“I’m not scared,” he insisted, and then slipped behind the cart entirely. “I’m angry! You pretended to be a spirit, somehow, and then pretended to heal my mother. But if you’re not a spirit, you couldn’t have helped her. Is she even still alive? Did I come all the way out here for nothing, based on the lies of an ordinary human??”

His face was contorted with rage, and I could hardly blame him. Sarah spread her hands. “Your mother is alive and well. I swear it. I can even prove it, if you come with me. Come on inside. We have food and water, and it’s much cooler in there.”

No!” Jack shouted, suddenly. “You’re lying again! Tell me the truth- all of the truth, or you won’t get what you wanted.” He reached out to the back of the cart. “If I pull this latch, all of the pots will roll downhill and smash. All of this stuff, whatever it is, will be wasted.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. He wasn’t kidding around- his hand was on the latch and ready to open the cart. From the angle of the ramp, it didn’t matter how many pots there were in the cart; they would all break. I held a hand out, warning Sarah away, and then looked over at Jack. Rust was nearby, slowly inching his way past the other end of the cart. He might be able to rush the kid and stop him, but it still wasn’t a sure thing.

Before I could speak, though, Rust beat me to it. “I know what it feels like to be betrayed, kid, believe me. Like everything that you thought was on your side was suddenly against you. I had childhood friends, very close ones, who ended up joining the Torgan army. Some of them are probably out there in the desert right now! But you don’t have to face this alone.”

He turned towards Sarah. “I’m on the kid’s side, lady. You say you can prove his mom’s alive? Well then, prove it, and quickly.”

I opened my mouth to object, but Sarah was already backing up. “Please don’t do anything reckless, Jack. I’ll be right back, ok?”

What was Rust thinking? Didn’t he know how important this was to me? I’d told him, many times, how much I wished I could find other sighted people in the world, and how grateful I was to have found him. Why was he risking my hopes and dreams, just for curiosity’s sake? If he went through with this, Sarah might lock that door again, and leave us out here to die! Even more importantly, she wouldn’t tell me how many sighted people she’d found!

Now wasn’t the time to lay into him, though. He was right next to Jack, who looked vindicated at the sudden support. Horribly, I considered the unthinkable. I could put an arrow in one of them, knocking them away from the cart, but then the other would open the latch. I was stuck.

Mercifully, Sarah came back quickly, with a strange-looking black device in her hands. It was made of metal, at least partially, and emitting a strange hissing noise. “Jack, I’m holding a device of the ancestors. It’s called a radio. It lets people talk to each other, over great distances. Your mother has another one, all the way over in Tennant, and she’s listening. Jabiru, your son is here.”

“Jack?” Another voice spoke through the hissing noise, and I twitched in surprise. Hearing Sarah describe it, and hearing the voice coming from it, were two very different things. “Dear one, are you there?”

“Mama?” Jack said faintly, and swayed a bit. “You’re alive?”

“I’m fine, baby. I’m just a little sore, that’s all. I’m here in the shrine, in Tennant. Are you hurt?”

He swayed again. “I’m tired. I wanna go home now.”

“And you will. For now I need you to trust Sarah, ok? I’ve known her for years, though we’ve never actually been near each other. She’s a good woman.”

“She lied.”

His protest was weak, though, and I tried to put myself in his shoes. To spend so long, not knowing if my mother was alive or dead, and then suddenly find out for sure. In his place, my relief would be far more powerful than my indignation.

“I know; she told me why she did that. Can you forgive her? She did help me, in a way. That medicine you sprinkled on me is helping me heal faster.”

For a second, I thought he was nodding reflexively, but he just collapsed! Rust caught him before he could hit the ground, and then lifted him up. “I think that’s as much as he can handle for now,” he said decisively. “We’re ready to come inside now.” With both his hands full, he deliberately stepped away from the cart, and I lowered the bow. I realized I’d almost drawn and aimed it, with some shame.

Sarah let out a breath of relief. “Thank you, Jabiru. If you come back to the radio in the shrine inside an hour, I’ll give you an update, but I think he’s just exhausted and dehydrated. We’ll take care of him here.”

The woman on the… other end responded with similar relief, and then Sarah turned a button on the machine, and the hissing noise ended. “Come on in, quickly. I’ll help you with the cart, but we need to have a look at Jack right away. Sunstroke is nothing to mess around with.”

Fortunately the passage leading into the mesa was amazingly straight and level, and the door was wide enough for the cart. On Sarah’s instruction, Rust felt around for a switch on the inside and pressed it, and the door hissed shut after we had passed. I’d never even seen a metal door before, much less one that closed itself!

That was just the beginning of my astonishment, though. Immediately after the door closed, the sun itself appeared inside the passageway! Or not the sun exactly, but two long, thin rods emitting light that was nearly as bright! I gaped at them, and was peripherally aware of Sarah grinning. “Wonderful, aren’t they?”

I reached out tentatively, but she lifted a hand to stop me. “Careful. They don’t burn very hot, but you can get blisters if you hold onto them. They’re called fluorescent bulbs. They’re how our ancestors lit up the night, or facilities like this one.”

“I… never imagined,” I said faintly.

Sarah chuckled. “I think I know how you feel. I never thought I’d find a naturally sighted person anywhere, much less on my very doorstep!” She put a hand on my shoulder. “I think you and I have much to learn from each other.”
« Last Edit: October 10, 2022, 05:07:33 AM by Daen »