Thursday, December 1, 2016

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learning to burn part 13

Please begin at the beginning.

The two finish the water at a late afternoon break. “Can you see the town, Os?” Ofonode picks him up and puts him on his head.
No. I don't. I'm sure we'll reach it soon. Estie said it was about two days away. We've been keeping a good pace. We just have to have faith.”
We've just finished the water.”
Ineed. I'm sure everything will work out. Let's get going.”
The two walk in silence. Ofonode hears the barge-man's words in his mind, “Keep your eyes open for what you don't expect, boy. Be willing to see what you don't know.” He looks around himself very carefully. As they approach one of the very large support legs for the aqueduct, he feels compelled to stop and look carefully at the support leg.
What are you looking at, Ofonode?”
I'm not sure. I just felt like I should look really carefully at this support leg, Os. Do you see anything strange about it? Or maybe just slightly different?”
Os hops down from the rolling container and walks around the leg, looking at it carefully. Ofonode does so as well, running his hand up and down as he takes each step. In the shade again, he runs his hand up and down one last time and feels something different. He looks more closely, but doesn't see anything other than the stone of the support leg.
He feels around and finds that there is definitely something unfamiliar here, but he still can't see it. “Os, would you be willing to change and try feeling this? I'm sure there's something here, but I can't see it. I can feel it, though.”
Without agreeing with words, Os changes and joins Ofonode. He feels where Ofonode indicates. “Yes. I feel it, too. Let's close our eyes and see what we can see without them.”
They do. In Ofonode's mind, he imagines a tube coming down from the aqueduct and a switch. The switch must make water come from this open part, he thinks to himself. He opens his eyes and sees with his eyes exactly what he just felt with his hands and imagined.
Os! I can see it! Open your eyes. Can you see it, too?”
Yes. Ingenious. How do they do that?”
You think someone made it invisible?”
Yes. Don't you?”
I guess they must have, but I don't see how, either.”
I'm just glad the barge-man gave you a clue that you somehow just remembered. I told you everything would work out. Now we can refill the large container and even if it takes another whole day, we'll be fine.”
Do you think there's one of these things on every large support?”
Probably not. I'm sure there's an orderly system to how often the are on one, though. I don't think it's particularly important for us to try to figure it out right now, though.”
You're right. Let's get going. I'd really like to try to get to Crossroads before it's full dark.”
#
Just as the dark moon, Wingbatten rises, the pair arrive at Crossroads. The town has a wall, but not nearly as tall or thick as Trebukenan's. The aqueduct enters the town at a gate. A group of men mill about around the gate. As Ofonode approaches, the men seem to organize themselves a bit more. A smallish man steps forward and greets Ofonode with a smile, “Come to visit or stay, stranger?”
Ofonode smiles back, though guardedly, “I'm passing through on my way to Riverton. I'm hoping to find someone I can work for and earn enough to pay for provisions for the next leg of my journey.”
I see. Well, Maybella will probably be the person you want to talk to, then. She's got the best faterio in town and she just lost a young fella about your age. He went up to see what he could see at Tinepeninan. He thought he might continue on to Peninan. Anyway, she could use your help. Just follow the aqueduct until it turns south. Her place is just under the turn.”
Thank you… I'm sorry I don't know your name.”
I'm Roedar. You're welcome. Make sure your lizard keeps out of trouble. We won't have a problem with him if he doesn't cause any.”
He won't. He's a quiet kind of lizard.”
Good.” Roedar waves as Ofonode walks into Crossroads.
Ofonode finds Maybella's faterio easily and right where Roedar said he would. When he walks in, Maybella approaches him. “So Roedar thinks you'll replace Dirk, does he?”
Startled by the woman's greeting, Ofonode only nods his head. He looks at Os and wonders how she knew about his conversation with Roedar already.
Well, let's see what you can do. Start with the soup there. Do you know any good soups?”
I think so. If you have lumpkin and rampart.”
Sure. Sounds like a good combination. Go ahead, then. Get started. I'm behind as it is. Everyone knows Dirk left, so they'll come a little later than usual. But they still need to eat before they go to bed, don't they.”
Feeling a little more confused, Ofonode nods his head.
And make sure your lizard stays off counters and out of the way. I don't want to hurt myself because he's snooping around. You hear me?”
Yes, ma'am,” Ofonode says as he turns to face her. She nods her head and he walks toward a stove with a deep pot he imagines is meant for soup.
Searching his memory, Ofonode adds the ingredients he remembers Ram adding. Making sure to add the lumpkin and rampart in the correct order. All of the ingredients added, Ofonode quickly finds all of the ingredients for cornbread and makes a pan.
The soup and cornbread are just about finished when Maybella comes over. “Something smells different over here. Not like soup. What are you doing, boy?”
Well, I thought you might like to serve cornbread with your soup. You had all the ingredients, so I made some.”
Oh. That sounds right nice. What a thought. I guess you been working in a faterio kitchen somewheres. Well, I'm not going to complain. You'll just have to make sure to show me to how to make what you've made is all.”
I can definitely do that. Thank you for giving me a chance. Are we ready to serve dinner?”
I guess that depends on whether you're ready or not. I'm sure the girls are ready.”
Ofonode pulls the cornbread out. He's very pleased as it looks perfect. “I'm ready. It'll only take a minute to cut everything up and serve the bowls.”
Maybella walks away and within five minutes, a line of young ladies awaits the bowls with cornbread. One young lady stands out from the rest to Ofonode. She's plump and there isn't anything particularly beautiful about her, but he feels compelled to look at her repeatedly and he feels like he would enjoy watching her if he didn't have anything else to do.
She puts three bowls on her tray as she steps up and smiles at Ofonode. He feels himself blush as he smiles back at her and then looks quickly away. When he looks back at her, she seems almost to be glowing as she walks away.
His pot is almost empty and only two pieces of cornbread remain when the line has finished. The girl Ofonode seems unable to stop watching has come through a few times. He thinks she must have many tables to serve.
Maybella calls for everyone's attention, “Now, I know you already know, but I want him to feel more comfortable, girls. This here boy is Ofonode. He'll be with us a few days and then he'll be off to continue his journey. We'll probably see him again when he returns home once he's finished. But he's not here for more than a few days.” She then tells him the names of all the girls. The only one he really cares about is Trinia, the fluffy girl with the glow that he would like to watch all the time. After Maybella finishes the introductions, she invites everyone to get food and sit in the dining room to eat.
The girls move around. Trinia comes over to him once her plate is ready, “Would you like to eat together, Ofonode?”
Yes.” He blushes again and turns to serve himself the last of the soup and take the last piece of cornbread.
Surely you'll want to eat more than that… and what about your lizard? Will he eat with us? Or will you give him something and leave him there?”
I-I… uh, I guess I'll feed him now. He prefers his privacy, I think…. Usually, that is...”
Well, let me get you some covered meat rolls for you and your friend.”
Thank you, that would be nice.” Ofonode feels unable to look at her as he speaks, but as soon as she's turned away, he watches her intently. Why do I want to watch her? What is so fascinating to me about her.
Trinia returns and Ofonode gives a roll to Os and then the two make their way to the dining room. Ofonode feels unsure where to go, so he walks slowly, hoping to follow Trinia. He's relieved when she go straight to a table with a few other girls sitting together opposite the empty chairs. The two of them sit down.
How did Maybella know my name, Trinia?”
The same way we all did. We heard it. I think your lizard must have said it.”
But… he… he doesn't talk.”
Well, maybe not out loud. But he communicates with his mind. You may not hear him as well as we do, but you respond to him in some ways sometimes. Didn't you know?”
No! But you hear it just like someone talking like we are now?”
Yes.”
So, you can hear my thoughts all the time?”
Yes.”
Do you listen on purpose?”
Well, not really. I guess it's hard not to hear when someone is new in town. Once we get used to their voice we're able to not hear, just like we choose not to hear each other really specifically all the time. But it's almost impossible to tune out a new voice. I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.”
I guess I should be the one apologizing. I mean, my thoughts about you haven't all been really kind.”
That's okay. You probably would have done differently if you knew. And I'm kind of used to it by now. Where I come from, we don't really notice what you've noticed because everyone has it. But here, people still aren't sure how to deal with what they don't quite see, but see.”
Ofonode feels his head spinning, “I'm not really sure I understand what you just said!”
Trinia laughs a little. “Okay, well, in my village, everyone has a bright spirit and the udo gathers around us and acts a bit like a mirror. So, basically we shine even when we're not trying to. If we feel particularly happy… or really any other emotion more than usual, we also shine more brightly. Light is attractive. People want to watch it and are drawn to be around it. That's what you've noticed. I know I'm not really pretty and that's okay. I'm just me. I'll probably have to return to my village to marry someone who will see me for me because of this. Oh, and I haven't really told others here. I'm really only telling you because you're going to leave soon.”
Where is your village? I've only heard of a few cities and towns.”
My village is hidden near the coast. You'd have to pass through Bandit Mountains to get anywhere near it. And you might not be able to find it even then.”
Really!? That's exactly where I'm going. I mean… if there's any point in going that far. I guess there is, since you're from there!”
I'm not sure I know what you mean. I guess I haven't heard you think about the reason for your journey.”
Will everyone know it if we talk about it here?”
Maybe. But you've been here long enough that we're learning how to not hear you.”
Okay. I guess it's okay if they do know. I'm looking for some unusual people. Maybe your people are those I seek! My friend married one of them and returned to our village to ask the elders to welcome them, but-”
Ughegbe. Your friend is Ughegbe?”
Ofonode looks at Trinia, his mouth hanging open for far too long.
He is. He's alive! Oh, that's wonderful news. I was hoping to find him. I just haven't made it past Crossroads because I had no idea where to go to look for him! What a gift and so provident that we meet! I'm glad for the way we are now… that you would want to watch me and talk to me because of it!”
How do you know about Ughegbe?”
My Mother had missed him since he left.”
You… you can't be his child! The one he never met because his wife might have been pregnant when he left their village!”
Yes. I am. It is good to know he hasn't fogotten us. And he must be alive, then. I was worried he would be long dead.”
How are YOU alive? You should either be an ancient, or long dead yourself!”
Time moves differently where my village is. My Mother created something to hide us and protect us during the upheaval of our planet. It was scarry.”
You lived through it!?”
Well, not exactly. I was still in my Mother's belly, but I was almost ready to be born. So I remember hearing things and feeling things. I felt scared a lot. And when my Mother collapsed… well, I was really worried about both of us then.”
Hold up. I'm feeling confused. Is your Mom still alive?”
Yes. I told you… time moves differently in the place my Mother made for our village. We don't know why. It just does.”
That's wonderful! She'll be able to come and be reunited with Ughegbe!”
I'm not sure it'll work out that way. I guess we could all leave, but then we'd have to move into the flow of time as it is here. I'm not sure I've enjoyed it very well. It's so fast. I'm sure I'll look much older to my Mother when I return.”
Is that bad? Wouldn't you like to meet your Father? And live near him or with him?”
Maybe not all bad. And I would like to meet him. Obviously. I wouldn't be so far from home if I didn't want to meet him! I hoped he might somehow be alive. I left my village hoping I could bring him back to my Mother.”
Oh. He can't leave. He's the only reason my village is safe.”
That's amazing! My parents both saved their villages! Wow. That's sort of a lot to live up to. Sheesh.”
I'm sure they don't expect you to do what they've done. I mean, we haven't had an upheaval since that one… hopefully we won't have another any time soon!”
Yeah. If we did, though, my village would be the place to stay for safety.”
Maybe. I'm going there so I'll ask them.”
We can go together.”
I mean… I guess we could, but that might be kind of weird.”
Sure, ask your lizard what he thinks. If he'd rather I didn't go, I'll stay here. I didn't know where to go from here, anyway.”
Or you could go to Trebukenan. I can tell you where to go to work there. And it's a great city. It might be more comfortable. I would tell you how to find my village, but I don't know exactly how to describe it. And I don't want you to encounter the thing that almost had my hide.”
That would be bad. Maybe I could go to the city. I've thought about it a lot. It sounds exciting.”
Why don't you do it, then. It's on the way to my village. I have to go there before I return home. If your people decide to come with me, they'll go through it, too.”
That sounds like a great idea!”
Good. Will you leave very soon?”
I'll leave after you do. I need to get supplies and things together. I sold my canteen and water carrier before I found Maybella.”
Okay. Do you know where my lizard and I might sleep?”
If Maybella didn't tell you, she wants you to talk to her again before you go to sleep. You better do that.”
Where do you think I can find her?”
She's usually working on tidying up the dish pit. It's never clean enough for her when the washer person leaves.”
Ok. Thanks Trinia.”
See you later.”
#
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