Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Worlds within Worlds #8.1

8. Marc

It took me less than a dozen heart thumps to grow used to breathing air again. By the way this man is choking and whooping, curled in limbs on the sharp rocks, it will be days before he recovers his strength.
Not that this world of Fol Huun has ever experienced days, or nights.
Not that I remember what a day, or a night is. I have no memory of living in a world with alternating blue-black-blue skies. But somewhere, deep within me, I know what 'day' means.
The healing pool seems to have fixed more than my flesh, this time around.
The man at my feet is taller than me. Or he would be, if he could find it within him to control his jerking legs long enough to stand.
'I told you not to breathe the water.'
If he can hear me, he makes no effort to show it.
I want to walk away from this man. The sky shines brightly at the moment, and the rocks have embraced the brightness and responded with a strong heat. The wind, too, blows more warmly than it should. Soon I will need water – proper water, not the sea's brine – and it has been a long while – weeks, maybe – since I last chewed and swallowed real food.
I cannot walk away. The guardian made it clear that this man is my responsibility. I am to be his brother, whatever his thoughts on the matter may be.
Reluctantly I crouch down by his head and place my hands on his shaking shoulder. I can spot blood on the rocks. I need to move him to safety soon, I realise. The smell of blood will attract the attention of the crabs – proper crabs, not like the little hermit in my healing pool, with pincers capable of snipping through a man's wrist.
'Can you hear me? If you can hear me, open your eyes.'
His eyes are a mix of brown and grey, larger than mine perhaps – or maybe his face is narrower, longer. He holds my gaze for a moment, no more, before returning to the comforts of his own agonies.
'Good. Your name is Maak, yes? I remember you. I saw you on the beach. Do you remember the beach?'
He offers me a definite nod, before embarking on another series of body-shaking coughs.
'This is good, too. Do you remember the rappoe fish? You caught it on your spear, and then it caught your face on its spines. Tell me if you remember the fish.'
The man springs his eyes open so wide as to show a full ring of white about them. His hand clasps at my arm.
'You remember the fish, then. This is good.'
I consider my words. 'Well, maybe not so much good as useful. But it is not a pain that we should try and remember too well, yes?'
He squeezes his face shut in a grimace. Gently I take his hand and lead it up to lay flat on his cheek.
'Can you feel through your fingers? Feel your face – see, it is whole again. The only pain there is the pain you remember. It is not a real pain, a now pain.'
He tries to speak: 'Ssss. Ssss ... mm ...'
'Hush, now. There are things we need to do. You need to do. You must stand up, yes? We cannot stay here. This is where that fish lives, and we do not want to attract its attention again, nor that of its friends. You need to stand up!'

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