Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
They Make Camp Better
They Make Camp Better
All planets known to support life have beacon satellites. Pages 89 through 95 show how to build a rudimentary radio to send a distress signal.
The morning came with a little light slowly seeping into the cabin from under the door, and what hid in darkness took shape as specters in a ghostly dream. This, Agra witnessed, for she had not slept at all. Her mind replayed the battle, the death, the last words Chorix had uttered, in an endless loop vacillating between pity for herself, for Chorix, for anger at this awful planet, and for the way she had so easily turned into a murderous monster the instant the fight had started.
Trion stood, and Agra shifted her head to look at him. He saw the movement and looked at her. He was naked, choosing to sleep thus, his uniform more tattered as days passed.
She admired his body. She would never say it, but she did. This distracted her momentarily, enough that she closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
Trion saw her fall asleep. He laid the racoon furs on her and opened the door of the cabin.
Vaega woke up then too, and they went out together to the creek, to wash and drink, taking turns to watch for beasts.
As they walked back, Vaega began a conversation. “Agra saved us. She must see that. She’s taking this very hard.”
Trion walked on, gathering his thoughts. “It’s a hard thing, killing a human being.”
“I tried to save his life,” Vaega said.
“You did. I wish you had succeeded.”
“I don’t feel bad that I didn’t save him. I tried my best, but it wasn’t to be.”
“We can only do what we can.”
Vaega reached the gate and opened it. “I wish Agra could see that.”
Trion walked through the gate after Vaega and locked it, but didn’t speak.
Vaega continued: “I saw her last night. I watched her before I fell asleep, eventually. She seemed to feel this enormous guilt and disgust at herself.”
“She was still awake when morning came,” Trion said.
Vaega looked at him, then back at the path in front of her. “Was she? Poor thing. We should let her sleep.”
“Yes. I will go hunt.”
Vaega stopped and they look at each other. “Wait. I will go gathering. I was thinking about something else.”
“Okay, I’m listening,” Trion said.
“What if Chorix had lived?” She began. She pointed at the cabin. “Where would he stay? We barely have room for our beds in there.”
Trion rubbed his chin with his left hand. “Hmm.”
“We need some place where we can treat injuries and beds for people to rest, where they can heal.”
“So like a sick bay?”
“That’s right, but also somewhere we can keep them imprisoned so they won’t escape or hurt us while we sleep.”
“I see. Yes. I agree. I’ll work on this right away.”
Vaega smiled. “And Trion,” she began.
There was much to do, and they did not speak after that.
Agra woke up just after noon. Out hunting, she killed more rabbits. She saw little red foxes but could never get close enough. She wished she had a good bow, or traps.
Vaega said they could make clothing out of the furs, out of the leathers, if they had enough. So Agra set her mind to that. She now knew she could kill, even if she didn’t like it. Even if she stayed up all night, seeing ghosts.
Agra went out again, scavenging. Her uniform was falling apart from the thousand nicks of branches and thorns in the wilderness, and she knew it was only a matter of time until she had nothing to wear.
When she came back just before dusk, carrying pieces of fuselage and berries, she asked Trion: “Are you not embarrassed to be naked?”
Trion kept working, fitting planks on the frame. “I am not.”
Agra stood there a moment, then turned to walk away. She turned again to look at Trion. “How?”
Trion glanced at her with a smile. “Nothing about it. We don’t have proper clothing, so we must be naked and carry on.”
Agra lowered her gaze. “Yes, I see.”
Trion kept his eyes on the woodwork, maintaining the blade along the thin line he had drawn as he steadily pushed, then pulled the saw again. “If you’re worried for yourself, you shouldn’t be. No one will judge you. No one will say anything.”
“What about what?” Trion cut her off.
“Nothing.” Agra drew quiet. She searched for the words.
“No, wait,” she added, “what about sexual tension?”
Trion stopped the blade and put it down on a plank. He turned to her and placed his hands on her upper arms, holding her, looking into her eyes.
“Agra, we are human beings, and these things are natural feelings. We are stranded on a dangerous planet and must survive above all. I—” There Trion paused and searched her eyes. “I am not opposed to anything, if you have physical needs—”
Agra took a step back, then another. Trion’s arms fell to his sides. “I am well aware of our need to survive, and that we must stay focused. Sorry I mentioned anything.”
Trion looked at the sky. “It will be dark soon. I will stop work and walk back with you.”
Agra waited while he collected the tools.
“What’s for dinner?” Trion asked.
Agra laughed. “Grilled rabbit.”
Trion rubbed his belly. “Yum, my favorite.”
Outside the cabin, Vaega was tending the fire and impaling the meat on long metal rods. She was also naked, her tattered uniform discarded on a pile to the right. She hooked the rods on the spikes in the ground to rest the rabbit meat above the fire, low enough to cook yet high enough to not be seared by the flames.
Soon, the smell of the meat in Agra’s nostrils rose to meet her hunger, and she sat by the fire, waiting expectantly.
Vaega tasted the meat, then began pulling it off the rods and piling it on the metal discs they used for plates. There was enough for everyone to eat their fill.
Trion came back from his walk of the perimeter with a jar of fresh water from the creek and poured ice-cold water into their cups.
Sitting there with them, Agra felt thankful, safe, and happy. Impulsively, she stood and half removed, half ripped the remains of her uniform and threw it on the pile. She sat down again with a contented smile, knowing she had made an excellent decision.
Trion handed her a cup and a plate, and they ate, enjoying each other’s company.
Agra noticed that in the dancing light of the fire, the darkness of her skin seemed to glow with orange and bluish hues, and she let her gaze linger and admired her own beauty.
She slept well that night.
Next chapter: The Trade Caravan
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