Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #2.1

2. The Empty Island

The wind is light and the sky is hot. A sweat of raw gratitude springs across my back as I finally clamber over the cliff's lip and crawl into the shade of the closest trees.
My exhaustion competes with my thirst. It has taken me far longer to reach the safety of the land than I ever remember. The need to close my eyes and submit to the thrall of my tiredness dominates my inner voice, a seductive lullaby that repeats its phrases: rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye baby, rock-a-billy-bye baby.
My muscles know better: they haven't finished with me yet. Somehow I struggle onto my knees and, with the help of a tree stump, my feet. Clutching at low branches, I press further inland, step by sore step.
Above me a seagull floats; I catch the white of its wing at the edge of my sight. 'Bring Jiar, Leic!'  calls out my real voice, a crust of whispers. 'Bring Geit!'
It offers me no response, or regard. I stumble and fall on my hands as it glides over the edge of the cliff and heads out to sea.
I am so tired. My hairless hide burns where the sac's membranes have rubbed it; my thigh aches from the gouge of the healing pool's knife. Cuts from the journey across barnacle mats tatter my hands and feet.
I cannot permit myself to escape my flesh yet; to return to the pools so soon would be shameful.
I need water.
I find berries.
They cluster around the thorny stems of a small bush, close to where I fell. It takes a supreme effort to lever my limbs across that short distance, and when I lie on my side to stretch out to them, the thorns add new scratches to my bloodied fingers.
The first berry is hard, though I have to press it against my lip to confirm that it has lost its juices – my fingertips have forgotten their ability to feel firm from soft. I reach out again and pluck at its neighbours, ignoring thorn-pricks to jostle them free of their branch.
They taste vile.
I refuse to spit them out. I force my teeth to bite into the flesh of each one, let their dampness burst free to scorch my gums with tart saps.
The sensation re-gathers my wits to me. As I swallow, my throat scalds and my stomach contracts: it confirms my continued existence.

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