7: The Narrow Yard
Where I lay crying and laughing. Nobody comes near me and I don’t, don’t care. The Ark Ship talked to me! I feel so … unbounded! I can do anything. And I am still me still the Harpy.
I’m scraped raw from being flung to the ground and skidding over the hard-packed dirt. A gravel rash that I barely notice is set with grains of sand and microscopic fragments of all the lives snuffed by the planet.
A guard reads hysteria in my actions or he knows just what I need. He turns a hose on me that spurts with a mixture of Lotor and Earth water. Lumps-in-a-liquid splatter over me.
All of me stings except the parts where the Lotor-water sticks to me. It seems Lotor is healing me. Does its central management know it’s healing me, or is it regional? As in, does Lotor’s heart know what Lotor’s elbow does? A life time study is Lotor. Soon to be truncated, at least by me. Ha ha ha!
I’m smiling so widely my face hurts. I sit up and smoothe the gel over my arm. Might as well. I look at them that couldn’t rush to my aid. There’s a fence separating us. Some look at the ground, seemingly ashamed that they couldn’t help. Some stare at me. I read a longing in them. Some smile fiercely to help along my joy.
Behind me in my yard are five fauns. In front, standing over by the fence on my side of it, where he is chatting with one of the Earth-born, is the one whom I suspect to be Thayne. He’s the only one in chains. He looks embarrassed.
“What’s your problem?” I inquire. I can’t stop smiling.
He shakes his head like he can’t believe what just happened. “You little fucker,” he says. “You made me a laughing stock. I built you up out here. Made you a real Harpy!”
A change of attitude rustles through the Earth-born. I didn’t see a signal. Men and women come to attention with various small incremental movements. Some look at me and then at Thayne. They seem to measure the distance between us, and move towards him despite the fence in their way.
Some stare fleetingly at the fauns also in the narrow yard. Four of the fauns are youths and the fifth is the man who might be their chief. He is made of frown lines, it seems to me. There’s no movement toward the fauns. No danger is expected from them apparently.
“Nobody I see is laughing,” I say, looking straight at the man on the other side of the fence conversing just now with Thayne. If anyone laughs, apart from me, it will be him. A smile sits waiting at the corners of his mouth. He’s a head shorter than Thayne and seems a few years the elder. He’s a taller than me … who isn’t … and stocky. From where do I remember him?
“Why the fuck did you sing the Meerkat Totem?” Thayne says.
“What?” His complaint is so unexpected, I laugh; it shoots out of me, a long burbling glissade.
He comes for me, fist raised.
I try to control myself but can’t stop giggling.
He’s furious. “It’s not your totem! Not mine! Not anybody’s here! How will a Meerkat Totem help to get us out of here? The salt-mines, I told you!”
“Touch the Shaman and you’re dead,” says the man by the fence. The rest have gathered near him. There’s a threatening murmur confirming his meaning.
I get that the man by the fence probably sees through my disguise. He might even know me?
I frown at him. This is not a good time to be unmasked. What can I do to prevent it? The Head Shaman often controlled the students with his eternal lessons. The structure pops into my mind ready-made.
“Nevertheless, the Meerkat is the totem of the day,” I say. “Lesson One. Each day we begin with the previous Lesson’s Totem. Yesterday that was the Eagle.” I recall the Eagle Totem’s positive attributes quite well after yesterday’s efforts, though Thayne and I did not sing them.
Interesting that he did not comment or complain then. I don’t believe he knows there’s a difference. Now, among all these people, hearing the totem he professes as his own sung properly, he will be forced to attend, and sing, to keep his disguise. He may still be needed. Alive.
While organizing my thoughts I’m organizing myself. I’ve turned to face the left, where the Earth-born are gathered beyond their fence. Thayne is to my right. The Fauns are to my new left along with a couple of guards flanking the entrance into the building.
I start with the first phrase of the call, “He soars with his great wings …”
All the Earth-born sing and the words roar back at me. “… reaching across the world …”
Thayne is still silent. I haven’t sung any of the real words yet.
“…far-seeing over fold and forest …”
Now he starts. Yesterday I gave him the words of the Fishing Eagle totem. Today we sing the Spirit Eagle totem.
“… He brings solutions to relieve a soul …”
“Now you dare!” he shouts. “I’m onto you now. I’ll …”
He doesn’t continue because the man at the fence pushes his hand through the wire faster than lightning—wire with slots too small to take a child’s wrist let alone a man’s arm—and grabs hold of Thayne. He pulls him close to the wire and talks to Thayne only.
Thayne, after he’s released, wears a diamond pattern in white on that side of his red face. And he wears a confused expression.
I miss seeing how the man gets his hand back through the wire, but sing the next phrase: “… a spirit and a heart …” Later, I think. Later I’ll think it through. The fence. The man. His hand.
My scholars sing the last phrase. The poor young fauns stare open-mouthed. I gather to my mind the line that the Head Shaman added in. “… The wind of his flight blows through our minds. …”
I suspect it gave the Head Shaman a few more words for a Shaman-to-Ship message. I don’t recall whether we dragged out any of the words to denote the dashes. I just remember the words and what they meant to me. Will they speak to anyone here?
Thayne snorts. The younger fauns sing it starry-eyed. The old faun glowers.
Well, on we go. “Next in the lesson is usually a story containing a homily,” I say. “I’m in difficulty here today. Knowing that many of you may be marched away at any moment, I have two stories that I want to tell you, both equally important to your survival.”
“With respect, Shaman Zjeb,” says the man by the fence. “Guards are getting toe-y. Tell us both as one-liners, if you please.”
The man by the fence knows my name! That abbreviation is how my father called me. What else does he know? To hide my trepidation I glance to where the guards are getting restless. They rock from their heels to toes, heels to toes. Ready to run for me? They’re mumbling. Deciding something. Looking at me, looking at my audience.
The old Faun, he no doubt being within hearing distance, looks even more forbidding.
“Make for the city by the mountains,” I sing.
The guards stop their fidgeting. Singing is all right with them?
“A salt mine is no less than a maw. Waiting in the landscape to slake. The planet’s greatest hunger.”
I manage not to mention the planet’s name but one of the guards gets my meaning and springs for me.