Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #8.3

'Not that one. It's far too hard! Am I wasting my words on a deaf man? Poke it!'
The glistening brelfruits lay scattered around my feet, there in the woods high above the bay. Luntas, who had led me to the fruiting grounds, was scowling at me. I was keen not to disappoint him – he was the only man in the gang who had bothered to take an interest in me since I had been pulled from the healing pool. He had promised me that, if I learned quickly, he would persuade the others to carve my skin with tattoo marks, not knives.
The fruit in my hand seemed fine to me; its skin had flexed when I pushed my thumb on it, and bounced back to the round when I let go. But when I had plucked it up from the ground, it had pulled a rope of stiff white root behind it.
'Shall I push it back in?'
'No!' The man took a moment to glance at the sky and curse any guardian that might have been nearby. 'Sheesh, they must have tortured you for a thousand sleeps before sending you to our pools. Can you honestly remember nothing from when you last breathed?'
I shook my head. 'All I remember is coldness. A coldness like to crack bones.'
'They say the caldera reaches beyond the clouds, with winds that carry white rain. The women must have kept you in a high cave while they tortured you. Tie the root to that branch over there: if you put it back on the ground now it will spread a rot through the whole patch.'
As I followed his orders, I took a moment to feel the whole fruit with my fingers. The base of the globe, close to the root, was much harder than the rest of the shiny red flesh.
'It needs to be soft at the bottom, yes?'
'Firm, not mushy. And you must twist before you lift it. See the cluster of buds close to where the root joins it? In a dozen sleeps, one of those buds would have grown big to replace the fruit you've just plucked.'
His words made sense to me. Soon enough my mistake was tied securely to the branch and I was on my knees poking at another brelfruit, and another, until I found one softer than the others. Carefully I twisted it around its base until I heard a soft crack as it broke from its root.
'Good,' said Luntas. 'You do know how to learn.' It was with some pride that I placed my prize into the net tied around my naked waist. His net was already half-full, I noticed. 'But stay off your knees, huh? Bend to the fruit, don't kneel to it.'
'Because that's quicker?'
'Because once a man is on his knees, he never gets up again.'

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