Thursday, December 15, 2016

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learning to burn part 15

Start at the beginning.

The layout of this town doesn't make as much sense to me as the others. I don't even know where to begin, Os.”
The lizard just looks at him.
Ofonode sighs. He walks up to a door and peers through the window at the top. It looks more like a dwelling than a place of business. He keeps walking. He hasn't seen anyone yet. He walks up to another door and looks through the window. Another dwelling, he decides.
Instead of walking up to every door, he walks a few blocks and stops. He sits next to Os on the water container. I just don't know what to do. How can a town not have people out and about? And be so quiet. It's just strange. Maybe I should turn off this street and see what I can see.
A couple blocks down, Ofonode is able to see that the smaller individual dwellings end and a very large domed building, more like his village's dwellings than any of the other buildings he's seen since he's been gone, rises up to fill a large space. It's not made of earth, but it's definitely a dome. Ofonode walks up to it, stands on his toes, and peers into a closed window a little higher than his eye level.
All the people in town must be here. Ofonode is awestruck to realize it must be true. He rests back on his flat feet and pulls the container around the building until he comes to a large set of double doors. They are closed and look very heavy, so Ofonode find a place in the shade of the building to sit. He doesn't wait long when both doors open wide and a steady stream of people stream out. Some walk away purposefully, while others straggle along and stop to chat along their way. They are all pretty quiet, but it's no longer oddly silent in the town near the building.
Ofonode approaches a small group of men, “Hello.”
They look at him and seem surprised.
I arrived while everyone was in the large building.”
An older man with a long white beard smiles, “That must have been weird! I hope you didn't feel too unwelcome. We enjoy visitors. Of course, we weren't expecting you or we would've had someone at the gates to give greetings.”
That's okay. I don't need anyone to welcome me. It was pretty weird, though. What was everyone doing in the building?”
Another guy, a little younger looking than the first, “Today is Sunday, my boy. We were worshiping the Lord, of course. What else would we do today? After lunch and a nap, we'll be back for more. You can join us then.”
I didn't realize what day it was. I guess I lost track of time while I was traveling. I'd be happy to join, of course. My friend and I ran out of food and I'd like to get cleaned up.”
While Ofonode was speaking a woman had approached and whispered to one of the men. “Why don't you come with us. You can help on the farm for a few days to earn up enough to re-provision yourself before you leave. You don't have to leave, of course. I'm just guessing you'll want to since you've come this far.” The man she'd whispered to nods his head.
That sounds good. Thank you,” Ofonode says looking at both the woman who spoke and the man who nodded. The man and woman walk away and beckon the boy to come with them.
#
I don't really like working on this farm. To Os he says, “I've always loved working in my Aunt Kokofeko's garden. Why do you think I don't like the farm work here?”
Os looks around, “Probably because they do things very differently here. The ground is sore. They think they return nutrients to the soil in that stuff they add to it, but it really only hurts the planet. Can't you feel it? I think you can. Maybe you just don't understand how to tell the difference between your voice in your head and the others.”
Wha-,” just then Ofonode saw Primina, the woman from the town who had invited him to work on the farm, approaching from the house.
Today is extra hot. We're calling a mid-day rest. We'll eat at the regular time, but for now you need to put the tools away and sit in the shade somewhere.”
Thank you, ma'am. I'll do that.”
Make sure you're on time for lunch. I won't save yours if you're not there and someone else wants more when the pot is empty.”
Yes, ma'am. Of course. I'll be on time.”
Good.” She returns to the house.
I need to ask you about what you just said, but I think it's a good idea to stay quiet while we walk around the place. I never can tell when one of the other hands will pop out from somewhere. Maybe we can rest in under the tree over there. Do you think that would be a safe place we could talk, Os?”
Os looks at the tree in the middle of the field to which Odonode had pointed. “I think it would be safe. I was hoping you'd want to walk over to the creek. I'd like to sit in the middle of it for a few minutes.”
Ok. We'll do that and talk later.”
The lizard nods his head and walks behind Ofonode as the boy carried some tools to the shed near the barn. Tramdon is leaving the shed as Ofonode appraches the door, “The rest of us are going to the pond for a quick swim. Will you join us?”
Not this time, Tram. I was really looking forward to sitting by the creek.”
Sure. Next time, then. We'll make sure to tell you when we go.”
Thanks.” Ofonode puts the tools away and lifts Ofonode to his shoulders. He sees the other young men walking to the pond and wishes he could join them.
We can go to the pond instead, if you'd rather, Ofonode.”
Were you reading my mind, Os?”
No. You were watching the others so long I thought you might prefer it.”
I already agreed to the creek. We'll go with the guys another time. It's going to take a while to build up enough credit to get to Riverton. It seems to me that Primina and Boarch aren't as generous as Estie and Maybella.”
They don't have the same resources your previous two employers had. I think they're as generous as they believe they can wisely be.”
Yeah. I didn't mean what I said as an unkindness. Just an observation.”
Since we can't see anyone coming here around the creek, I think we shouldn't talk, Ofonode.”
You're right. I'll just dip my feet in the water over here and you can sit in the flow upstream.”
The friends separate. Ofonode leans against a tree near the creek and lets his feet rest in the water, not minding a bit that his pant legs get wet. From where he sits, he can see Os stepping into the middle of the creek. A part of him wishes he were small enough to sit under water and feel the current move around him. He sighs as he closes his eyes.
When he looks over at his friend again, his heart jumps into his throat making it impossible to make a sound. As he scrabbles to stand, he falls into the creek and flounders in his haste to reach his friend. Os looks at his with hooded eyes and then they pop wide open. Ofonode is sure his friend can see his terror. The lizard shifts into his dragon form and pops into the air in just the nick of time to avoid being snapped up by a large crocodile-like lizard.
The large croc-like thing shifts its attention to the flailing boy. Ofonode can't seem to get his feet under him because of the slick stones on the bottom of the creek.
Get out, Ofonde!” Os shouts.
Odonofe sees the thing approach with it's mouth open wide. It has four rows of sharp teeth and seems to be smiling, if that's even possible. It's so close. There's no way I'll get away! Fear, spikes in him so hard his head and heart hurt. So quickly he's not able to think another coherent though, Ofonode bursts into the air. A moment later, he's hovering next to Os. Ofonode looks around and sees the wings his fire has made.
Fear. Fear has made you wings to keep you alive, Ofonode. Did you realize it?”
I guess so. It's exhausting, Os. I need to get down. It's almost time for lunch, anyway. We better get back. I can't miss this meal!”
The two settle to the ground, Os much more gracefully than Ofonode. Os helps the boy up, “Now you just need to have faith in your flame and God's provisions. These wings are meant to be yours on demand. I'm sure of it. They wouldn't have shown up again if they weren't one of your flame's gifts. Something else would have happened to get you out of that invisian's way.”
That was an invisian, too? It's so close to people!”
Not really. When do the folk come to the creek. They have their pond and a well. They don't need this water. Their pond created it. They have plenty of cool fresh water right there.”
I guess. But that thing is awfully big to be in a creek!”
I'm sure it doesn't stay in one place. Why don't you ask if the people on the farm have seen anything like it.”
I will.”
Os shifts back to his lizard form. Though Ofonode offers his hand, Os decides to walk. Anyone can plainly see the boy is exhausted. The two make their way to the farm house.
#
Os and Ofonode finished their food. The others are still eating, so Ofonode didn't ask for more. He knows everyone must be finished before anyone gets more. Os is listening carefully to the conversation, waiting to hear Ofonode break in with his questions. He rises up to rest his front feet on Ofonode's chair and finds his friend is sleeping. He climbs up and plops himself on Ofonode's lap. The boy wakes with a start. He looks down to find Os sitting in his lap. The invisian has never done such a thing. He realizes he must have fallen asleep.
Quietly listening, Ofonode waits for a break in the conversation.
Have any of you ever heard of a giant reptilian monster in the creek over there?”
The table goes absolutely silent and still. Boarch, who usually remains silent during meals, speaks, up, “Yes. Didn't we tell you to stay away from the creek, boy?”
No. I haven't heard anything from anyone about staying away from it. I was just over there today.”
Yet, you're here. How is that possible?” Primina asks, her face chalk white and her hands shaking.
I guess I got away, right?” Ofonode begins to feel a little defensive. It wouldn't be good for them to know more about me than they already do. I can't let them find out about my flame.
How did you get away, Ofonode?” Tramdon looks like a little boy as he stares at Odonode looking wonder-struck.
I'm not exactly sure, to tell you the truth. I thought I was a goner and then I was out of the creek entirely. I'm just glad to be alive.” That's basically the truth. I don't know how to make my flame give me wings.
And you still have your lizard. I know I saw it. You both got away. That's a miracle!” Tramdon is pale now as he makes his proclamation.
Everyone at the table nods their heads.
When Primina serves more, she doesn't ask Ofonode if he wants any, she just serves him a large portion. Ofonode smiles and thanks her. The other farm hands look away, pretending not to notice that he has been favored.

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