Monday, July 15, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #10.2

'How did you stop your brother's shouts?'
Four rabbits lie to one side of us in a bloody pile; for my own safety, I've told Maak-em-ay-are-see to stay on the other side of the hearth stone. He carries a stunned look in his face, as if it was I who had punched him.
He shrugs at my question. 'He'll start again when he sees me.'
'We should have hunted him.'
'... kill him?'
'Release him back to the healing pool.'
The man shakes his head: 'I can't ... this isn't the way it's supposed to be!'
I have no time for worries. I reach into my net and pull out the fire pot – all women kept a stash of these magic contraptions hidden in their glades, sealed from dampness and rain by clay and beeswax. I have no idea why they work, just how: drag the stick across the rough clay and a flame erupts from it. This fire box is almost done – only two sticks remain.
It is a moment's work to set a flame within the tinder stacked on the hearth stone. 'You cannot let this fire die,' I tell the man. 'I don't know when I shall return.'
'Why do you have to go?'
'There are things I have to do. You've watched me hunt and gather – you've near captured me in your bark work. You probably won't starve.'
'What things?'
I sigh. I have no desire to share the guardian's news with him. 'You have what you want. Deal with it.'
'I don't want Sam like ... like this!'
'Then pull a knife across his throat. Or smother his face with your hand. Or take a rock to his skull. Or drag him to the cliffs and drop him over. Burn him. Give him fruit laden with fretworms. Crush dagger berries between his teeth. Go look for a spear snail and set it on his skin. Or ... or just wait for the crabs to tire of his screams and let them snip him to shreds! Once he returns, his senses will be secure in his head again, and doubt will have been banished by experience.'
I don't realise how angry I am until I see it set in the shock of his eyes. I turn away to feed twigs to the new fire. 'There are things I need to do.'
I take the man's silence as consent. Already I've slipped the fire pot back into the net tied around my waist.

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