Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
The Solitude of Yigars




Chapter 19
The Solitude of Yigars

star after star
planet after planet
we found no sign of life
and we despaired,
we could not imagine
we had been all alone
in this vast universe

until we heard the sign
of living things calling
from radio signals
a half-billion years old

—The Search For Life, a memoir by space explorer Zhao Ka.

On the third morning after the fire, Yigars woke up early. After leaving a kiss on Vaega’s forehead, he took his bow, quiver of arrows, and slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder. When he reached the door, he turned his head to look back at the other three. Agra was propped on one shoulder, looking at him. He could only see the white of her eyes, her face hidden in the darkness.

“Going hunting?” Agra asked. “You want me to go with you?”

Yigars kept his voice low. “The camp’s in good shape again, so I thought I could go explore alone.”

Agra stared at him in the darkness.

“Thank you for offering. I think I want to be alone.”

“If you find some Genoresis Macraw, would you bring some back?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you,” Agra said, “I will sleep a little longer.”

She closed her eyes, and he left, but she did not sleep anymore. Her mind grew restless and filled with more questions than answers.

Yigars chose the path back home, the one he imagined Uweps would have taken.

Home, he wondered to himself. Is that not where I am now? Is it the place in Vaega’s bed where I am always welcome? Is it the tribe that raised me after they recovered the cargo-crew from the crashed ship? Is it the friendship of Uweps? Is it the sparkle in Aurann’s eyes who never shared their body with me but always came to me first to share their discoveries? Or is it where I most prefer to be?

His childhood on a different planet was too far from his mind.

He remembered at that moment the way Vaega had shot at Uweps with arrows. He stopped and stood, his heart in turmoil. His face scrunched and his brow furrowed, reflecting the misery he felt, torn between feeling sorry for Uweps, and how Vaega had treated and welcomed him, saving his life.

By the time the sun was high in the sky, he had found no trace of Uweps, but had shot two rabbits and uprooted six Genoresis Macraw plants. It was time for him to decide whether to go forward or to turn back to Vaega and the others. To Agra. To Trion.

He reminded himself that if Uweps had made it back, he would not have been treated this well, and how the tribal elders always asked more of them, sending them farther, to face dangers alone. He shielded his eyes from the sun and scanned the horizon. From where he stood, he could see the faint trail that led to the tribal compound.

He heard footsteps behind him.

“Yigars, it’s me,” Agra said.

He did not turn around. His decision was nearly made, but now it was laced with guilt, and it burdened him.

Agra came to stand next to him, facing in the same direction, not looking at him.

“Is that the way of your home?”

“You followed me?”

“I wanted to be with you.”

He stayed quiet, waiting.

“Yes, I followed you,” she said.


“I wanted to go hunt with you, so I was trying to catch up. Then I saw you were not really hunting. I think you wanted to be alone.”

“I did want to be alone.”

His words hung in the air between them. Agra took a step to the side, away from him. “I’ll leave if you want.” She pointed at the plants. “You got those for me? I can carry them back.”

He pulled the roots out of his pack and handed her the plants. As she was holding them, he plucked one of the leaves and held it out. “You can chew it and keep it under your tongue. It will help.”

Agra took the leaf with her left hand.

“Thank you.”

As she chewed, the leaf was bitter, but she kept it in her mouth, eventually stuffing it under her tongue.

Yigars waited with her, watching her chew, seeing her face change as she first felt the bitterness, and then the effect of the drug.

Agra smiled. “I can feel it. The pain is receding like a cry in the distance, getting fainter and fainter.” She paused. “Will I see you at camp tonight?”

Yigars stretched, standing taller, and looked at the horizon. He returned his gaze to Agra and smiled. “Yes, of course.”

She smiled broadly, revealing her teeth, and stepped closer to hug him.

He opened his arms, and they hugged, holding each other until they were uncomfortably warm. When they disengaged, their hands found one another and held on.

“I’ll go back now. I’ll give these to Vaega to plant.”

Yigars nodded and watched her leave. She had a spring in her step as she walked away. Before losing sight of him behind some trees, she turned and waved, holding her spear high. He waved back, and she continued, disappearing at last.

He was alone again.

The time that passed then seemed like a dream. His mind wandered over memories again, grieving the option he had chosen against. He would not return to the tribal compound, to Uweps, to Aurann, but would stay with joyful Vaega, steady Trion, and thoughtful Agra.

They did not make him feel he had to prove himself but accepted him as he was. This was what made his choice ultimately.

As he walked back to the camp, following the path Agra had taken, he saw a large antelope in the distance. Tawny and nearly invisible against the browning grasses, the creature was alert, ears perked to the noises carried by the wind, its nostrils high, seeking faint smells. He slowly put his gear and the rabbits down, then notched an arrow in his bow and began creeping closer, keeping low to the ground. Reassured there was no danger, the antelope returned to grazing. As Yigars approached closer and closer, the antelope raised its head again, sensing its surroundings. Yigars stopped and kept still, to blend into the surroundings, to become invisible to the prey. Then he heard the whoosh of an arrow at the same time the antelope did. The arrow tip pierced its flesh and buried itself deep in its flank. The antelope bounded away but landed awkwardly. It brayed pitifully as it stood, shaking. Yigars knew it would try to run away once the initial shock faded. To his left, thirty meters from the antelope, he saw Agra drawing the bow again. With force and precision, she loosed another arrow. It struck the antelope in the shoulder, and the beast buckled, falling in the grass.

Yigars stood quietly and watched Agra approach the downed antelope. The tip of her spear glinted in the sunlight. He saw her dash to the wounded antelope and jam the blade into its torso as it tried to stand and run.

Yigars retrieved his bag and the rabbits and made his way to Agra, who had gutted the antelope and left its innards in a steaming pile. The odor of blood mixed with the musk of fear and clay soil.

“It’s heavy,” Yigars said. “Let’s carry it together.”

Agra tied the legs of the antelope together and set her spear between them so they could each carry one end, the antelope dangling between them.

They did not speak on the way back, focused as they were on the task. When they arrived at camp, Vaega butchered the antelope and Trion packaged the meat in the freezer.

Vaega grilled some over the fire and they ate together under the stars, hearing here and there crickets and owls augur the moon’s arrival.

Before they all went to sleep, Yigars sat with Agra and, holding her hands in his, said quietly: “Today was a day of sadness and indecision, followed by decision and certainty. Thank you for coming with me after all.”

Agra had leaned and kissed him on the cheek, then whispered: “I am happy you are here.”

That night, Yigars dreamed of hunting antelopes and of the little moon they had not seen yet.

Next chapter: Donkey

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