Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Drabble No. 9: Where We Were Part Nine



Where We Were: Part 9


Levine began to heal more quickly than Miranda had imagined possible. In days, the skin of his leg was healthy and pink, only a round scar left where the gaping wound had been. She wanted to believe that Jerome's medicine was simply that effective, but she knew it had more to do with the Jengu man's powers than anything else. 

At dawn on the seventeeth day on the island, Levine called them both to the fire. 

"We're going to have to figure out our own way off the island," he told them as he spitted three fat fish and held them over the fire. "I don't know what happened to my men, but we can't wait any longer."

"Can we build a boat?" Miranda wondered. There were only two palm trees on the island, and it would take days to chop them both down, but she'd seen men do more with less.

"Not one that will take us where we need to go." Levine turned the fish over the flames, lightly searing both sides. "I'll have to call on an old friend to give us a ride."

"Why haven't we done this before?" Jerome asked. He took the fish on the palm leaf that Levine handed him. He was tan, his skin having more of a glow than Miranda had ever seen. 

"Because this friend doesn't like to be bothered for trivial matters." Levine picked apart his own fish, a signal for them to do the same. They'd fallen into an easy pattern over the last weeks. He was kind to them, and valued their opinion. She'd never seen him angry, and didn't fear him as she had other masters.

"Umibozu is a sea shadow. He's recalcitrant at best and homicidal at worst."

"And he's your friend?" Jerome smothered a sigh. 

"We've been of mutual benefit to one another more than once." Levine chewed thoughtfully for a few minutes. "The only issue is how to call him up from the depths."

"How do you normally call him?" Miranda asked. Her belly was full, her muscles tired from the hot sun and the endless gathering, fishing and cleansing of water that they did all day. She blinked against the weight of her eyelids. She shouldn't sleep until her master allowed it.

"With my flute." Levine tossed his palm leaf into the fire, and then took hers. "Rest," he ordered.

"A servant should never sleep before the master."

He sighed. "No man should be master over another," he muttered darkly. 

"But, the Jengu take slaves. You said it yourself, it's the only way for the species to survive." She lay down on the sand, pillowing her head on her arms. She was too tired to argue with him about resting. Jerome finished his fish and tossed his leaf into he fire before he stretched out with a soft groan. 

"It is the way of the Jengu, but not my way," Levine told her softly. "We do as the king demands, but there are many of us who would rather bring the willing souls to the palace. There are many who would serve us simply for the meal and the bed, without the need for bloodshed."

"That's the truth," Miranda agreed. "Most of us on that ship would have gladly given up the fates we were headed toward for a chance at being treated decently for once. But..." She trailed off and swallowed. 

"Ask if you must."

"But why kill the men, then?"

"And if we boarded the vessel and asked politely for volunteers?" Levine chuckled. "We've learned that men who trade in flesh rarely allow us to take from their bounty so freely."

She knew he was right. None of the men on the ship were indentured like the women and children were. Even Jerome held a slightly higher status than them, being both a scribe and a scholar. 

"Sleep," he ordered again. 

"What about Umibozu?" She yawned, eyelids fluttering.

"Perhaps the gods will smile upon us and give us a sign."

She smiled.  A nice thought, but the gods rarely spared a thought for people such as herself. She drifted off, dreaming of sea shadows and a dark, haunting melody.

***
They worked in tandem for days, desalinating water, catching fish, and chopping wood for the fire. Levine didn't mention Umibozu again, and Miranda began to wonder if he'd given up on the idea. 
Then, while she stirred the salty fish stew as it boiled in the broken conch shell, Jerome handed Levine a shiny white whale bone.

"What's this?" Levine turned the bone in his hands.

"A flute. You said you needed one."

Levine's eyebrows went up. He stared at the bone, polished smooth. Miranda saw that holes had been carefully drilled across the top. Jerome had, indeed, created a flute.

"A fine job," Levine praised. "You're full of surprises."

"At least my hands still work." Jerome lifted his good shoulder in a shrug. "My hands and my mind."

"A man's mind is the most important muscle he has," Levine said with a grin. "More so than his arms, legs or back." He stood and held the flute to his lips. "Shall we try it?"

"What will happen if it calls Umibozu?" Miranda asked. As hard as life was on this tiny island, she was enjoying the peace of a routine. 

"He'll rise if he hears it. Then I'll ask him to carry us to the Jengu palace."

"Won't we drown?" Jerome asked.

"No, Umibozu can wrap us up in his shadow, and we can breathe. I've done it before."

"Can't you breathe underwater?" Miranda asked. She made sure to keep her eyes off the gills on his neck.

"For a certain bit of time. But to get to the deep, we'll need a vessel like Umibozu."

Levine put the flute to his lips and placed his fingers carefully over the holes Jerome had drilled. He began to play, and Miranda recognized the haunting melody from her dreams. It startled her, but it was not the strangest thing to happen to her of late, and she let it go with a shrug. She was living in the world of the Jengu now. 

Levine played to the waves until the sun began to set, and Miranda called him back to the fire to eat his soup. They each drank from the conch in turn, the warm liquid filling their bellies. 

"I'll try again tomorrow," Levine said as she scoured the conch with sand and rinsed it out. "It takes time for sound to travel, and he could be far away."

"I don't think so." Jerome was staring at the sea with wide eyes. "I think he's here."

Miranda looked over her shoulder and gasped. A shadow as black as a moonless night was rising from the water. It was almost human-shaped, with a head, shoulders and torso. Lidless eyes that were simply holes of white looked in their direction. 

"Put out the fire," Levine said to her with a grin. "It's time to go."



TO BE CONTINUED

**If you like the story please leave a comment and let me know!**

1 comment:

  1. I've really enjoyed this. I hope you keep going with it and post the rest, or put it on Amazon as a novella or something.

    ReplyDelete

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