Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
The Love Affair




Chapter 27
The Love Affair

Give me one ship, one crew! I will travel to the end of the universe!

No one will give you a ship. No one will be foolish enough to get on board even if you had one!

You're wrong. There are always people ready for adventure!

People desperate enough, you mean?

Yes, desperate enough. Like me!

—Unno Vito and Sisi Nussa in Harnessing the Stars, a film by Derico Lini

Agra dreamed and tossed the furs away and slept until the cold woke her. She had dropped the furs on the floor and got up to look for them, feeling about in the dark. She found them and set them up on her bed. Just as she was ready to slide under, she noticed she could not hear Trion’s snoring. She focused on her hearing, eyes closed, standing in the darkness.

She heard Trion and Vaega, eventually. She could not hear Yigars of Ipsena. Moving slowly between the beds, she came closer to Yigars’ bed, but still she could not hear his breathing. Feeling around, she reached Yigars’ bed. He was not there. Ipsena’s bed was empty, too.

Agra returned to bed, snuggled under the furs, and only fell asleep when her body felt warm.

When she woke up again, the sun had come up, and she could see Yigars and Ipsena in their respective beds. Vaega had gone out early, as was her custom, and Trion was waking up. His nose was swollen, red and black, with brown and yellow patches. His bandage dangled over his shoulder. He looked like he hadn’t slept well.

“Stay. Rest,” Agra said.

Trion was sitting in bed, touching his nose and the surrounding skin with his finger.

“Don’t touch it,” Agra said. “Come with me. I’ll fix your bandage.”

She led Trion to the infirmary, where he sat on the bed. She went to get fresh water from the stream, then washed him with a hand towel she had found in Ipsena’s crashed pod.

“Ouch,” Trion grunted.

“There, there. I’m almost done.”

She gently spread cream from a little jar marked: “Esalina Truana, Analgesic, External” in Vaega’s handwriting. After that, she reset the bandage, mostly to keep Trion from touching his face and to remind him to rest.

A little later, Vaega came to check on Trion, who was awake and lying on the infirmary bed, staring at the ceiling. She inspected his nose.

“You’ll be fine tomorrow. Rest until then.”

Trion barely nodded, and returned his eyes to the ceiling, resigned to his fate.

“Any plans for today?” Vaega asked Agra.

“I will study more. I will go hunt too.”

“Will you go with Yigars?”

“I think so,” Agra replied.

They left Trion in the infirmary and stepped outside. They walked to the garden, among the cornstalks, the potato plants, the strawberries, and the herbs. A little further away, the rice grew in a little watery pond.

“Is Yigars okay?” Vaega asked.

“I don’t know.”

Agra took a deep breath. There was a sweetness in the air, some fragrance from berries. Maybe something had just begun rotting.

“Ipsena and Yigars were not in their beds when I woke up in the middle of the night. Maybe she can tame him.”

“Tame him? Is that what you think must happen?”

“He’s wild. This planet, this life, I don’t think there is anything else he could be.”

Vaega bent down to pull a weed from the strawberry path. She threw it on a pile nearby where other weeds were left to dry. She bent down again, plucked a wild strawberry. It was small but red as fresh blood. She blew on it to disperse any dust, then handed it to Agra.

Agra lowered her head toward the strawberry and took it between her teeth.

Vaega smiled and looked away.

“Maybe I’m becoming wild, too,” Agra said. “Maybe this planet is making us behave differently.”

Vaega turned her head to look at Agra again. “I’ve noticed that too. Things that used to scare me don’t much anymore.”

Agra was walking at the edge of some herbs and flowers. “Do you miss teaching?”

Vaega kept walking. “No. it was so artificial. Nothing was real. That’s why I joined the research project.”

“Do you regret coming?”

Vaega did not respond. She kept walking.

Changing the subject, Agra asked, “what do you think of Ipsena?”

“I’m happy she’s here. She works hard and knows how to fight.”

“Has she spoken of her past yet?”

“No. Something happened on that ship.” Vaega bent down to pull another weed. “She will tell us when she is ready.”

Agra looked up at the sky in the east and remembered the reddish trail of Ipsena’s pod as it entered the atmosphere.

“I will go hunt. Five people to feed.”

“Take Yigars with you,” Vaega said, pointing at the cabin. “Have you seen large game lately?”

Agra turned toward the cabin. “I’ll get Yigars. No, no large game. Maybe they migrate?”


At the cabin, Agra went to get her bow and spear. Yigars and Ipsena were together on the bed, entwined, as though Agra had interrupted them. They giggled.

Agra picked up her bag, her bow, some arrows, and her spear.

“Do you want to go hunting with me?” Agra asked, looking at Yigars.

“I’ll stay here today. I’ll tend to the animals.”

Ipsena was smiling. She was holding Yigars’ waist as he lay over her legs.

“Are you okay?” Agra asked.

Ipsena smiled contentedly, her nostrils flaring, her cheeks reddening, her eyes narrowing. “I am very okay. Thank you.”

At the door of the cabin, as she was about to exit, she glanced back at Yigars and Ipsena, who had resumed kissing and caressing one another. She left without a word.

At the research bench, she picked up her notebook and pen. She stared at the map drawn on the wall.

“I want to go far,” she said aloud.

“Don’t go too far.” Trion answered her from the adjoining kitchen.

“I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I was hungry. Will you bring back fresh meat?”

Agra joined him in the kitchen. “I will try.”

Vaega walked into the kitchen too, closing the door behind her. “I’ll cook something.”

“Thank you,” Trion said.

“Have a seat and rest. I’ll make mashed potatoes and antelope in shallots cream sauce.”

Trion smiled. “Cream? From bison milk?”

Vaega smiled back. “Yes. Yigars got milk from them.”

Suddenly uncomfortable at the intimacy of their conversation, Agra stepped to the door. “I’ll try to bring back meat.”

After crossing the gate and glancing in the bison’s direction, she lit a Genoresis Macraw rolled leaf and smoked it.

A reddish fox was looking at her from across the creek.

She stayed still, smoking the leaf into her lung, waiting for the drug to ease the pain in her leg. The leg that had been bit by a fox, much like the one she was staring at, and which was staring back at her.

From somewhere far above their mutual reverie, a hawk’s shriek echoed. She looked up at the sky but saw nothing. When she returned her gaze to the fox, it had disappeared, as though vanished behind a bush or in the undergrowth.

She traveled across a landscape that was now familiar to her. When she went out, she noted her findings and observations, going further and further each time.

Clouds came from the east and hid the noontime sun. She stopped and looked back in the camp’s direction. The sky was darkening quickly; in the distance to the north, rain fell in gray sheets. It seemed the ground was welcoming it, leafy trees stretching their branches like tendrils.

A fox was watching her, sitting on its haunches. She was far from camp. As far as she’d ever come in this direction.

“Are you here to guide me, or to eat me?” Agra called out.

The fox did not answer but to the north, lightning struck a hilltop, and thunder blasted her ears.

The fox stood and gave a brief yelp, then turned and trotted away from the thunder and the rain.

Agra followed the fox, alternating between walking and running. Cresting a hill, she looked back to see the wall of rain falling from the clouds. In the valley below, where she had been, she spotted two brown bears moving along a perpendicular path. She shuddered to think about what would have happened had the fox not led her away.

She did not outrun the rain, but was nearly back at camp when she was drenched by the ice-cold downpour.

Watching for her at the gate, holding a piece of corrugated metal above his head, Trion opened the gate to let Agra in, then closed it again behind her.

As they walked to the cabin, Trion asked, “No luck hunting?”

Agra was shivering, hurrying to the cabin to dry off and be warm. “I was not really hunting. I think I was exploring. I got caught by the rain.”

“You should come to my work shed.”

“Did you make something amazing and want me to see it?” Agra smiled, changing direction toward the workroom.

Once inside, she took off her gear, dropping it on the polished pine planks. She moved to the stove where a fire was roaring, warming herself.

“I wanted to spare you the sight of Yigars and Ipsena.”

Agra stared at the flames in the stove, her naked body absorbing the heat until last of the rainwater evaporated.

Trion was tinkering with some tools on the workbench.

“Have they been in the cabin the whole day?”

“They have,” Trion replied.

“That means they get along, at least.”

“It appears they get along very well.”

Agra did not speak further. Rain drops drummed on the roof in a dull roar, and her own thoughts had to fight to be heard.

“She can have him.”

Trion snorted and smiled. He reached down into a crate and pulled out a large soft, flexible leather piece, and gave it to her. “From an antelope you hunted.”

Agra wore the antelope leather as a coat over her shoulders and down her back.

“I will go hunt.”.

She slipped out into the gray world of rain.

“Stay safe,” he murmured to himself as he closed the door behind her.

Next chapter: Wool

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