Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
If overwhelmed, take a step back. Take a moment to focus on the most important task.
With four people to feed, hunting was no longer enough to accumulate food in the freezer; game was scarcer and Agra had to range farther to hunt. She used the bow they had taken from Uweps to hunt while Trion made copies. The bow was good. It could down an antelope at fifty meters but now antelopes were nowhere near the camp.
Trion had worked on an electric stove so they would not have to use so much wood for cooking, and would save time not having to make a fire each meal. It was early morning still and Vaega was in the garden, ankle-deep in the water of the wild rice patch inspecting the rice seeds on the long green stems that rose from the murky waters.
Trion walked past her carrying metal rods and wiring. “How is the rice?”
Vaega stood straight and lifted her left forearm to her forehead, shielding her eyes from sunlight. Water droplets from her hand raced down to her elbow and fell, sparkling in the sunlight.
“Next week we will have rice. The week after, potatoes, enough for several months.”
Trion smiled. “Wow, this is amazing!”
Vaega smiled too. “Thank you. It will make a big difference for our survival.”
“I can’t wait to taste what fancy meals you will cook on the electric stove.”
“Is it built already?”
“Not yet. I need to go to the crashed ship in the mountains for more parts.”
“I’ll need to go with Agra. I’ll need help carrying them back.”
Trion glanced at the jail. “Will you be okay with the prisoner?”
“Yigars.” She corrected him. “Yes, I’ll be fine.”
“Okay. I’ll go then.”
An hour later, Trion and Agra were climbing away from the camp and toward the ridge-line from which they would enter the valley with the ship. They had not explored the area near the lake and stayed warily away, taking a meandering path in the hills.
As they neared the ship, Agra saw a rabbit and readied her bow, notching an arrow. She paused, then returned the arrow to her quiver. “To the ship!”
“We could use the food,” Trion said.
“We need the electric stove. One thing at a time.”
Trion nodded but said nothing further.
Agra knew the ship well. The cockpit and bridge were gone but the rest was mostly intact.
“It’s a Class 9 from Kurelia. There should be a storage bay above the engines.” Trion pointed at a dark hole above the remnants of a ladder. “Let’s take a look.”
They climbed the rickety rungs, lifting themselves the rest of the way. Inside, darkness hid all but a small halo around their feet. Trion withdrew a resin torch from his pack and lit it. Yellow flames danced in the darkness, glinting in their eyes.
Around them were dozens of plestafer containers, sealed and anchored to the metal floor. Trion opened the nearest one and started rummaging.
After searching through several containers, he had amassed a tidy pile near the opening that led below and out. Agra held the torch for him while he dug through the bric-à-brac.
When he straightened and looked around, Agra asked, “are you searching for something in particular?”
Trion turned to face her. He held his hands apart, making a space between them. “A heating plate, or coil.”
“For the stove?”
“Should we try the kitchen?”
“You found the kitchen?”
“Yes, the first time I explored the ship.”
“That would be great.”
“I’ll show you where it is.”
Trion followed Agra down the hole and back into the engine compartment, carrying what he had collected in a large bag. They navigated through the dark corridors, paneling shattered or missing, exposing wiring and tubing fastened to the hull or inner frames of the ship.
The kitchen was dark, every surface covered in a thin layer of decomposing flour, moldy and wet in places, dry and brown in others. The air was thick with particles that swirled in the rising heat of the resin torch.
Trion coughed. They had no cloth to cover their faces. Agra sneezed and coughed too.
Somewhere in the darkness of the ship claws clattered against metal.
Agra readied her spear. The animal noise echoed, seeming to come from all directions.
Agra whispered, “Did you find the coil?”
Trion was bent over the stove against the far wall. With a twist of the wrist he unsnapped a flat, round disc and shoved it in his bag.
“I’ve got it,” he said.
The clicking sound changed. It turned into a cricket-like chittering, as if bone was tapping against bone. Agra led Trion through more corridors and passages she remembered. Soon they saw light from a gash in the hull and jumped through, then ran a little distance to be clear of the ship.
She turned around and looked back at the gash in the metal. For an instant she thought she saw a pair of glistening black eyes within a pale tan and gray frame, some scarab shape of monstrous size.
They ran again and didn’t stop until the ship was out of view beyond the ridge. They had not been followed, it seemed, and they began to walk slower.
“I’m not going back to the ship,” Agra said.
Trion kept walking without saying anything. They reached the camp and did not speak until dinner time.
When Vaega was cooking, she asked Agra, “Will you ask Yigars to join us?”
“To eat with us at the campfire?”
“To stay with us.”
Agra turned her head toward Trion, who was sitting on his bench, drinking herbal tea. “Would that be okay with you?”
Trion looked up slowly, as though his eyes were lost. “It doesn’t matter to me. If you’re okay with it, I am too.”
Agra looked back at Vaega, who nodded and waved her on.
“Then,” Agra said, “I will go ask Yigars to join us.”
Trion set the cup of tea down and stood. “I have to get something.”
Vaega looked up from the meat on the fire and smiled faintly. Trion left toward his workshop and Agra went to the little jail.
At the door, she stopped and listened. The room was silent. Perhaps Yigars was sleeping. She knocked on the wood of the door and waited.
“Come in,” Yigars said from inside.
Agra placed her palm on the lock and it opened with a soft click. She pushed the door open. “Am I intruding?”
Yigars was standing in a corner, looking at the wall as though he could see through it. He turned to look at Agra and smiled. “Of course not.”
He maintained his gaze right into hers, the darkness of his eyes pools of wisdom she suddenly wished to explore and lose herself in.
He remained still at the other end of the room, calm and composed.
Agra closed her eyes then opened them again. “Would you like to leave?”
“To not be a prisoner? Yes.”
“Would you stay?”
“Yes, with us; to live with us.”
“You don’t want me to leave?”
Agra was not ready for that question. She lifted her chin and smiled, hoping her expression would be answer enough.
Yigars took a step closer, then another.
“If you don’t want me to stay I cannot stay.”
“Vaega sent me to ask you to join us.”
Yigars took another step. He was close enough to touch her.
“What about you?”
Agra took a step back and stood very straight. She had no intention of falling to a spell of charm and seduction. The face of the strange creature at the ship flashed before her eyes and the memory snapped her out of this room with the man and brought back the desperate run from the monster.
Yigars saw the change in her face—the slight clenching of the jaws, the wilderness in her eyes. He decided on a different approach. “What about Trion?”
“He’s okay with it,” she replied.
“And you? Are you not okay with it?”
Agra sat on the bed. She folded her hands together between her knees and looked down at her fingers.
Yigars sat with her, at first looking at her, and then staring straight ahead at the wall.
“I want nothing more than to leave this planet, to return to my research, to my friends, to my life.”
Yigars said nothing and kept motionless.
Agra continued. “Every moment I work to find a way to get Vaega and Trion back to their lives in space.”
Yigars took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So that’s your hesitation…. You don’t want to commit to taking more people off planet.”
Agra turned her face to him, her eyes searching for his. “I’m sorry.”
Yigars held her gaze and smiled. “I don’t want to leave. I like living here.”
Agra’s eyes questioned his. Her gaze jumping from one to the other.
“I was a colony child, from a poor planet. I had nothing there. Here I am free.” He looked at Agra. “Even if it’s hard, I love it.”
Agra unfolded her hands then took his left hand with her right.
He held her hand delicately, his face near hers. “Do you want me to stay?”
Agra squeezed his hand. “Yes, I do.”
“Then I will stay.”
When they arrived, still holding hands, at the campfire, Vaega stood and with a big smile gave Yigars a hug and a kiss. “Welcome Yigars, I am so happy you decided to stay with us.”
“It was a simple choice,” he replied, glancing at Agra, smiling.
“Sit, let’s eat!” Vaega said.
At that moment, Trion came back with a bundle wrapped in leather. He saw Yigars. “Welcome Yigars.”
Yigars stood and helped him set the bundle down. “Thank you Trion.”
Agra had picked up a piece of grilled meat. She pointed at the bundle. “What’s in there?”
Trion smiled. “Let me show you.”
He kneeled by the bundle and untied the leather strap holding it closed. Then he unfolded the leather, revealing three new bows and three leather quivers with five arrows each.
They watched Trion work silently, the only sound the crackling of the fire. He lifted one bow and quiver and set them behind his seat on the ground. He then picked up the second bow and quiver, stood, and walked to Vaega. “May you hunt well.”
Vaega seemed overwhelmed. Her naked skin glowed bronze in the fire’s light, and she said nothing and sat back down, holding her new bow, admiring the exquisite craftsmanship.
Trion picked up the last bow and turned to Yigars. At that moment, Agra stood. “Wait.”
They all turned toward her. “Wait one moment.”
She ran to the cabin, then returned with her bow. She stood in front of Yigars. Her eyes raised to his serene face surrounded by the nearly dark night which stars already sparkled wantonly. She spoke with a calmness she did not feel. “This bow belonged to your friend, Uweps. It is right you should have it.”
Holding the bow horizontally in front of her, she thrust it into his hands.
He took it, looked at it for a moment, his hands around the curved wooden shaft, and handed it back to Agra. “Too many memories. You keep it.”
“Are you sure?”
Trion stepped forward and handed the last of the new bows to Yigars. “May you hunt well.”
Yigars smiled and nodded. “Thank you.”
They ate under the stars, then went to bed.
Next chapter: Wild Cotton
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