Cran Palto | Books | Raheem




Chapter 23

The head archivist at the Imperial Academy at Pelu on Gaia-12, when asked about the Second Dark Age, replied: “Like Earth’s first Dark Age, the second was characterized not by loss of social dynamics, but by our inability to peer into the period because its data records were lost.”

—How Earth Lost Its Cultural Heritage, a semi-historical account by Danielle Polachek.

Two days later, the animal enclosure was built. Trion, Agra, and Yigars had worked tirelessly from before dawn until complete darkness felling trees, planing planks, digging post holes, to build a stout fence that would keep the herd in and large predators out.

On the morning of the third day, they led the animals into the new pen. Agra, Trion, and Yigars stood by the fence, watching the two bison and the donkey explore their new surroundings.

“They seem to like it,” Trion said.

“It looks that way,” Yigars responded.

“Will they be okay while we go hunting?” Agra asked.

Vaega was waiting by the camp gate.

“I think she has something else in mind,” Trion said.

Agra and Yigars looked back at Vaega.

“Come!” Vaega shouted, raising her arm.

They walked back to the gate where Vaega was waiting. The sun had yet to rise above the tree line, and the air was crisp with the chill of the night. Vaega held her arms close to her body to keep warm.

Almost as an afterthought, Yigars turned his face to Agra. “Yes, we can go hunt without worry. They can fend for themselves.”

Vaega turned and led them to the garden. Standing proudly at the edge of the neat rows of plants, she swept the air with her right arm, palm up. “The potatoes are ready to be harvested!”

“That’s great,” Trion said. “Show us how!”

Vaega kneeled and dug into the soft earth with a trowel Trion had made for her. She lifted the earth open and round potatoes spilled out. Dozens of them.

Trion left and came back with two more trowels and a cultivator, the kind with a hoe on the opposite side.

Eagerly they all set to work, and before noon the squat pile of potatoes reached up to their knees.

“We should store them somewhere cool and dry,” Vaega said.

“I’ll build a shed, double-planked to keep it dark, with a cellar below to draw the cool from the ground.” Trion explained.

“I’ll carry them there when you tell me it is ready.” Agra said.

“I’ll go hunt. I have an idea.” Yigars smiled.

Vaega tilted her head. “What kind of idea?”

Yigars continued to grin. “If I can bring back fresh meat, with these.” He pointed at the potatoes. “I can show you how to make pemmican.”

Vaega stood for a moment, head tilted still, looking at him. “That would be great. I hope your hunt is successful.”

Yigars rubbed the dirt off his hands and grabbed his bow and arrows. “I’ll come back right away, and we’ll make pemmican.” He headed out and closed the gate behind him on his way.

Agra was standing next to Vaega. “He seems happy today.”

“Yes. He’s still so young. Do you remember being this excited and cheerful, giddy almost?”

“He seems to thrive on feeling appreciated.”

Vaega took a step closer to Agra, then took her hand. “We all do, don’t we?”

Agra smiled and held Vaega’s hand in her own. “We do.”

At the campfire that night, as the starts appeared above one by one, they ate the pemmican with potatoes and rabbit meat Yigars and Vaega had made. They drank cool water from the creek and shared stories of their day.

When Trion, who spoke last, finished discussing the building of the potato shed, he sat staring into the fire as if thinking of something else, or lost in thought. Yigars yawned, and Agra scooted closer to the fire; the night was growing colder. Vaega felt sleepy too, but seeing Trion thus, kept quiet and waited for him to speak.

“I was thinking of home,” Trion said, “and how I really had to remember what it was like.”

Vaega sighed. “It feels so far away and so long ago. I am forgetting the faces of the people I knew.”

Agra said nothing. She wanted to reassure them she would soon build a ship to return home, but somehow, under the stars by the campfire, such hope seemed too remote, too farfetched.

“I don’t remember my life before Raheem.” Yigars said, looking at the dancing flames. “I think I remember my mother, but sometimes her face is different, so I am not sure anymore.”

“We will help Agra make a ship and we will all get out of here,” Trion said. He patted Yigars’ knee. “And you can come live with us and learn how to build spaceships.”

Yigars gave a half-smile, hopeful but not convinced. “I hope so.”

Later, in bed, snuggled under furs, Agra thought of the conversation at the campfire, but succumbed to sleep almost immediately.

Next chapter: Crashed Pod

Subscribe to the mailing list to get alerts when new episodes are added.