Author Topic: Rust 5  (Read 5531 times)

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Offline Daen

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Rust 5
« on: October 10, 2022, 05:01:53 AM »
The next morning, Jack peppered Esme with questions about being sighted, just as I had when I’d first found out. It warmed my heart a bit, as I could hear his spirits lifting. He’d been alone for days, in danger, cold, and hungry. Now he wasn’t anymore, and as a result was bouncing back. He was a resilient little guy, to be sure. He listened with rapt attention to Esme’s tales of the sea, and the various islands she’d stopped at to replenish supplies and repair her boat.

I’d found her story fascinating too, but more because of the practicalities. I’d been born in Darwin, a large town to the north, named for some kind of god from the old world. I’d been raised there, on the sea, and had been on a boat almost before I could walk. Fishing was the main source of food up there, but all boats had to be guided to and from their fisheries. Enormous cables had been strung over long distances, to ensure that the paddlers and polepushers didn’t get lost.

From what Esme said, both before and now, she’d used something called a ‘sail’, which was a length of fabric which could use the wind to push the boat. The very idea had terrified me, far more than dying on the end of a Torgan sword. Being pushed out into the unknown, with no idea if you would ever reach land again? There had been brave fishermen who had gone off of the cable guidelines, back home, but they risked being lost each time. It seemed that sight, at least in Esme’s case, granted great courage as well.

As for his own story, Jack refused to tell us anything about his task; only that he was supposed to take the jars to a specific location where someone would be waiting for him. I got the impression that even he didn’t know much more about it. He really was a Munga, and his village had been one of those attacked. Apparently his mother had been injured, but he wasn’t sure if she was alive or dead. At least I could be sure about mine. Esme especially, seemed sympathetic when he talked about that. She had no way of sending a message to her own parents, either.

It took us several days to get to the edge of the waste from where we were, but Jack made better time, now that he could ride in the cart when he was tired. At night, he would stay up as late as Esme let him, asking us both what our lives had been like. It was then, that I told him what Esme had hesitated to tell him earlier.

“I wasn’t always Rust, you know,” I said slowly, into the night, more to myself than to him. “I was born Timothy, son of Reginald. My father was a commander in the Torgan army: a man of influence and power in Darwin. If he hadn’t been, I would have been in a lot more trouble.

“I was born with sight, just like Esme, you understand. But unlike her, my sight faded. It started when I was about six, and within a few months, I was just like everyone else. Still, I remember what it was like to see. I remember seeing the waves, and the sun, and the stars. I remember being able to run faster than anyone I knew; climb higher than even some adults were willing to go. I was fearless, because I had an advantage.”

“Whoa…” Jack said, entranced.

“My parents knew I was different, as soon as I started to speak. They taught me to hide what I was, for fear people would know I was different. But even as they did so, they knew how special I was. Father dug up every scrap of surviving knowledge from before the Great Fall. Anything that had to do with sight, he found for me. That is where I learned so many words. You know some of them too, I’m sure. Tell me, Jack. What does ‘bright’ mean to you?”

“Uh, smart.”

“Exactly. But it’s also a sighted word. It means brilliant, or piercing, or blinding. All words that mean other things, also mean something to a sighted person. Did you know that the ocean is blue? I mean so, so blue! I looked in a still pool of water once, and found that my eyes are not that color. Mine are brown, like the dirt. Or they were, once. Esme tells me my eyes are cloudy now. Like the color of milk.”

“What is color?”

I laughed to myself. How could I explain it? Even my own memories had faded somewhat, but at least I could be a bridge between someone like Jack, and someone like Esme. “There’s no way to describe it, Jack. It’s just something that is. Blood is blue when it’s underneath the skin, and red when it leaves the body. Coal is black as night. The gas that the Torgans burn to heat their homes and fuel their flamers has no color. It looks just like air. I can say these things to you, but they don’t mean anything.”

“They mean something,” Jack insisted. “I don’t know what, exactly, but they mean it. I mean it.”

I chuckled again. “Have you ever eaten fish?”

“Once, when I was little. Papa brought some in from the Springs. It was really salty.”

“Did you know that when you pull a fish out of the water, sometimes its scales glitter in the light? Glittering is what it looks like. I didn’t know that word at first. I had no way of describing it to my parents. They taught me so much- sacrificed so much for me.”

“I didn’t know that word either, until you told me,” Esme admitted. “It wasn’t in the songs my people sang. I used to call it ‘prickling’. It was like you’d opened my eyes for a second time when you started talking about this. I used to call a rainbow a skysong, because it had so many different tunes.”

“I remember. Come to think of it, it’s amazing you and I spoke the same language at all, isn’t it? I mean you come from so far away. Your accent is strange to us, just like mine is probably strange to Jack, but we can understand each other. The ancestors must have spread this language to many, many places.”

“They had so much power, and they destroyed everything with it,” she said sadly.

“Not everything,” I reassured her. “You were born with sight, as was I. Not everyone will end up like me, I think. Over time, more and more children will be sighted, until we can start again. Our people can rebuild what was lost, and do it better this time. Knowing what our ancestors did wrong, we can avoid it.”

Maybe Esme felt bad about bringing down the mood a bit, but she took my statements as an opportunity to go to sleep on a good note. “Come on, Jack. We should be at the wastes tomorrow, and you need your sleep. Bedtime, my friend.”

He groaned a bit, but didn’t complain after that. Once he was breathing more slowly, I settled in with Esme. We kissed a few times, but did no more. It was a mild burden being restricted in this way, but it was worth it to hear the change and joy in Jack’s voice. Children had such a great capacity for hope, that I felt myself catching some of the overflow. Maybe I did stand a chance in my personal quest, after all.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2022, 05:07:03 AM by Daen »