Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #2.4

A great noise awakens me. The word that enters my head is "bears": I do not waste even a breath-stroke worrying why my head fixes on that particular nonsense sound. Quickly I mark my surroundings with my eyes, checking for directions and distances. The still leaves around me show that no gales blow at this time; broad mauve spirals in the lavender sky above hint at rain to come, but not for a good while yet.
A woman would never make such a noise: they have a justified pride in their hunting skills. Perhaps a cliff slips somewhere, or a boulder rolls towards the grove?
I am tempted to stand my ground, risk an injury to prove myself equal to the trial, but my limbs shake from hunger and my eyes are dry. As the noises draw near, I take to the base of the surrounding hedge where the ferns grow high.
The noise resolves into the form of a man.
He walks like a japester on a floating log, his arm swirling in wide arcs around him as he beats branches and grasses out of his path. His other hand easily cups his tackle, tucked small within his angular hips.
He bellows: 'Sam! Sam!' I cannot help but let my jaw drop wide at his stupidity. His bald skin, latticed in cuts, talk of a recent escape from the healing pools. If I had a knife on me I would quickly return him there: such wailing will bring more than women to this place, and I have no wish to cease breathing just yet.
He moves awkwardly, with no balance. At each new step he winces, as if the soil burns him. Even though he hunches his shoulders down and keeps his knees bent, I can tell he is tall – he has at least three hands on me. I hold still as his brown eyes sweep around the glade.
He approaches the hearth stone. Like a fool I have forgotten to roughen the leaves, to wipe the dents of my sleeping form from their surface – as soon as he spots them, feels for their warmth, he will know I have been here. I have no recognition of him and I have not had time to mark my skin with gang patterns: he may well attack me as soon as he sees me.
He seems – possessed – by distractions; when he trips over the hearth stone, clattering down on the stack of empty pots, I use his screams and sobs as camouflage to mask the sound of my own hasty departure.

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