Saturday, July 13, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #9.5

The long house has seen some changes since I left it by the wrong door. There's holes in the roof, for a start; a scattering of blackened thatch around the hearth stone suggests that Sam has been using the great dried leaves to keep the fire burning – for a while at least. The stone has not hosted a flame for a good while, and the ashes are cold. Some of the soot has been used to mark words across the floor of the house: I watched Maak-em-ay-are-see's face become worried as his inner Voice turned them back into sounds.
'Shouting won't work,' I say. 'We should have hunted him.'
'He's got to be somewhere near!'
'He watched you die, remember? He was going to bury your flesh in the sands; I had to persuade him to carry it up the cliffs so we could burn it.'
'And eat it?'
I don't understand why these men are so disgusted by the consumption of old flesh. I still haven't told him where the leather for our bags came from.
'Women eat man-flesh. He will remember burning you; he was adamant that you would never return.'
'Maybe he saw us coming down that track ...'
'... or heard you. I told you not to scream his name. Names are too important to be uttered so carelessly ...'
'Hah. So that's why you told me to call you "savage". Makes sense now. And you're sure he's alive ... you're not just saying that?'
I point over to the corner furthest from the ladder and closest to the hillside. 'That daffask root has fresh tooth marks in it, he was here no more than 500 breaths past.'
The man looks inwards as he counts: 'Half an hour ago, maybe 45 minutes. Is that thing safe to eat?'
'It's bitter, but it fills the belly. He should have boiled it to a mush and drunk the broth, maybe with poached fish and ...'
'It won't have sent him to the healing pools.'
'No,' I agree. 'Though you need to be desperate to try and eat such a thing raw.'
Maak-em-ay-are-see offers me a queer look as he returns to the ladder.
'What do the words say?'
'He was trying to keep a diary, but he didn't keep it up for very long.'
The explanation doesn't help me. Diary – the word sounds a bit like "die" which, I've come to understand, is a form of "kill". I walk over to the seaward side of the long house (avoiding the space where Sam and I had fought) and scan the small bay and the littoral across the water.
'He thinks he murdered you.'
'Is that a bad thing?' I can see movements along the shore: birds mainly, but possibly rabbits too? It will not take me long to gather the materials to make a snare ...
'It's bad for him. Some of the rougher writing seems to be about demons ... I never knew he could write shorthand.'
'Bad enough to make him eat daffask root?'
The man takes a moment to stare at me over his shoulder. 'Bad in his head ... I'm really worried for him.'
'We should have hunted him,' I say. 'The healing pools can fix more than a man's flesh.'

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