Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
violence takes many forms
some are obvious
some are disguised as love
and some are necessary
when survival matters
In the morning, the rain was still falling unabated. Agra woke up gently, warm, feeling squeezed to the side. Vaega was against her. Agra turned her head to the side. Trion was also in her bed, no doubt squeezed on the other side next to Vaega.
Ipsena and Yigars were asleep together. She saw that Yigars’ hair was wet. Had he gone to check on the animals? He must have.
Daroo was not in bed.
For a while, Agra listened to the rain, which was still falling heavily. The cabin was cold, but dry at least.
Daroo slipped into the room, closing the door quickly and quietly behind him. He was drenched and took off his clothes, then hung them on hooks on the wall of the cabin. He squeezed his shoulder-length white hair with his hands, then shook them, dipping his head down and standing quickly again.
Daroo slipped under the covers and pulled the furs to his neck. His teeth chattered from the cold.
Without making a sound, Agra left her bed and went into Daroo’s. He didn’t react, maybe pretending to sleep. She snuggled under the furs against his body, curling her left leg over his midsection. Her face was against his, her mouth at his ear. “Take this warmth from me and be healthy.”
Daroo opened his eyes and shifted his head just enough to look at her left eye. She stared back at him and moved her leg up a little. She felt his hand come up and hold her thigh under the furs. It was a cold, gripping hand, but also calm and comforting.
“Be warm. Sleep.” She whispered.
His teeth stopped shattering, and the heat from Agra’s body soon permeated the entire bed. He felt warm, at ease, suddenly happy, more than he had a right to expect. More than in a very long time.
The woman in his bed has shown selflessness, caring. For a moment he fancied she had meant more between them, and he felt a long-forgotten sensation rise through his body, the delicious, tender feeling of being loved, of being in love.
He brought his left arm out from under Agra to move it around her body, resting his left hand against her back.
“I feel you,” she said.
He thought he meant his hand, then realized he had grown stiff against her thigh.
“I’m sorry. I—”
“No need to be sorry. It’s natural.”
Her face had come even closer. Her lips, her face, so dark in the cabin’s darkness, were touching the skin of his jaw. She kissed him just outside of his lips, where the lines of his smile grew, lifting the flesh of his skin to his cheekbone.
“I am an old man.”
“I am a refugee on a strange planet.”
Daroo wasn’t sure what to do, what to expect. He still held her thigh in his right hand. He wasn’t cold anymore.
He felt the scar along Agra’s skin with his fingers, where the wilderwolf had torn her flesh and nearly killed her. It had been so ghastly, so terrible. He’d seen such injuries before; now it was so close to him, so immediate, like a message he was reading with his fingertips.
Her body moved, rocking back and forth as animated by some persistent pendulum. She kissed him again.
“Do you want this?” she asked quietly.
“I do.” He replied, pulling her toward him.
Agra shifted under the fur and straddled his body. She lifted herself on her knees and guided him in with her right hand.
Daroo felt that feeling of being in love again, but multiplied a hundred times, a thousand times.
Agra’s slow, methodical dance began. It arrhythmically combined side-to-side weaving and grinding of hips outward, then inward again, each time thrusting, pushing herself down on him.
Daroo wrapped his arms around her back, holding her in a hug. Her forehead cradled in the side of his neck, she exhaled each shallow, quiet breath against the neck muscles of his upper back.
His body reacted predictably. He felt the tension, the jolt, the release, and the instant when nothing mattered. It was the merest flash, and already his body wanted to be alone, to be finished with this.
Agra’s body slacked, tensed, then slacked again; she laid in place, feeling within how Daroo now receded, softening, spent.
She did now squeeze but stayed still, enjoying the gradual retreat until there was no vigor left and it slipped out, leaving her with only memories of the sensation.
They caressed for some time, not speaking, not moving. They became aware that Ipsena had been awake and had watched them, her pupils glittering in the dark.
Agra kissed Daroo on the cheek, then scooted away from him, careful to keep the furs in place.
She dressed and put on the face mask Daroo had made for her. She felt very warm but knew that once outside, she would be cold in the rain. At her bed she tucked in Vaega and Trion, who were sleeping peacefully.
She opened the door. Rain was coming down like a waterfall had opened in the clouds above, and she stood there, the tip of her nose twenty centimeters from the relentless water.
“Close the door!” It was Vaega.
Agra stepped out into the sheets of freezing water, shutting the door behind her.
She slipped and fell in the mud. She got up, then slipped again.
In the kitchen, she switched on the electric stove, but the gauge to the right was red, so she turned it off again. Whatever little electricity the windmill generated went to the freezer first.
She dropped some dried mosses, kindle, and sticks into the wood stove. She shoved the end of the spart lighter against the moss and squeezed the trigger. Flames danced, tiny at first, then spreading into the cavity, licked the wood with their bright yellow tongues. Smoke escaped so Agra shut the door, leaving it only one way out through the long tube that led outside.
She stood in front of the fire, added some more wood, and waited for the room to warm. Her clothes were still wet. She went into the research room, but it was too cold, so she returned to stand next to the stove.
She listened to the crackling of the fire and to the dull noise of rain pummeling the roof.
“I guess the rainy season has begun.”
For three days, they stayed mostly indoors. On the fourth day, the rain stopped for several hours. They went out to harvest, but it was meager.
By early afternoon, it was raining again. Trion stood in the cabin’s doorway. Vaega was behind him, looking at the rain, her hands around his sides. “Thank you for helping with the harvesting.”
“We’re still running low on food.”
“Can we cut back? Eat less?”
Vaega kissed his shoulder. “We’re losing weight as it is. We should be building reserves.”
“Didn’t Yigars go hunting today?”
“He did. He came back after an hour. The creeks are overflowing. It wasn’t safe to cross.”
Trion held his chin between his thumb and index while surveying the space between the buildings. He pointed at the kitchen. “We can’t even get food without getting drenched and muddy. I should build covered stone walkways.”
Vaega looked back inside the cabin. Daroo was sitting on his bed, his back to her, spinning cotton fibers into thread, a basket of cotton at his side. Ipsena was lying in bed, looking at the ceiling. She had been digging in the tunnel all morning and was resting. Yigars had gone to the stone room and would return soon. Agra was in the research lab, reading manuals, taking notes. Looking for clues.
Ipsena began speaking quietly, as if to herself more than to anyone else.
“I don’t want Yigars to know, but I have to tell someone.”
Daroo put the cotton down and came to sit next to her.
“There were five of us on the ship. When the alarm sounded, I ran to the escape pods. I got into the first one, but the mechanism was broken and it wouldn’t close. Then I noticed there were only five pods. I saw my brother Varam running to the pods. He’s older than me. He was the cargo manager. I left pod one and went into pod two. Varam went into pod three. I heard him curse. He got out of pod three and went into pod four. At that moment, Gamil, our pilot, arrived at a run. He got into the fifth and last pod but yelled and got out again. Varam got out of pod four. I heard them arguing, then the shell to my pod opened and Gamil told me I had to leave, that it was reserved. I was already strapped in, but he clawed at me to get the seatbelt off.”
“Varam was behind him, his face bloody. He was brandishing the priming rod for a mining grinder. With a great cry, he swung at Gamil and hit him on the side of the head. There was more blood. I screamed as Gamil fell away, his hand still clutching the seat belt. From behind them, I saw Karina running. She saw the open pods and understood immediately. She had this blank stare on her face that made her skin look even paler. Xama came running last. He’d come from the engine room. He jumped into my pod and unlatched the seat harness, then pulled me out and I fell. When I got up again, Xama and Varam were fighting. Karina slinked back up the hallway to avoid them. Varam swung the rod, but Xama jumped away, only to jump back in and land a punch in the middle of Varam’s chest. The ship was shaking then, and all the alarms were blaring, blasting in our ears. We all felt the dacadan slip. There was no time to waste. I found a spare gear chain and swung it at Xama, hitting him. He stumbled forward. Varam saw me and swung the rod at me. I blocked it but still got hit in the arm. The rod fell away but then he grabbed my head in both hands and shouted: ‘I’ll survive! Goodbye, sister.’ He slammed his forehead into my face, smashing my nose.”
Ipsena paused and looked at Daroo, tears in her eyes. He patted her hand. “It’s okay; let it out.”
Ipsena wiped the tears with her right hand and resumed. “Then Gamil smashed a cargo tray on Varam’s back and he fell, letting go of me. Xama was already in the pod, strapping himself in. I swung the chain and hit Gamil in the face. Something cracked. He fell plunging headlong into a pile of tools, lifeless.”
“My nose felt like it was on fire and I tasted blood as it dripped down my chin. I picked up the rod, and just before Xama could close the lid of the pod, I jammed the rod in and smashed his face.”
Daroo kept holding her hand, whispering: “let it out, let it out.”
“I got Xama out and went into the pod. I strapped myself in, then slammed the handle. The last thing I saw was Karina helping Varam get to his feet. Then I think I passed out.”
Ipsena stopped speaking and sobbed.
In the doorway, drenched with rain, Yigars was standing still, his face an unguessable mask.
Next chapter: Tea
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