Fantasy Fiction posted April 14, 2014 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 5... 


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THIS IS NOT YOUR NORMAL LIGHT SHOW!

A chapter in the book The Trining

KOJUTAKE

by Jay Squires


 
This is what you missed if you didn't read Chapter Three: The man (who at this point is nameless) and his former captor/healer, Axtilla, are out of the cave and on the trail that hugs the mountain. Something in a bush that extends out over the path bites her ankle and she tumbles down the hill with the man scrambling after her. The descent levels to a plateau and they thump to rest against a log. Axtilla is unconscious. The man carves an X over the bite and sucks out the poison and then, realizing it will soon be dark, goes looking for rocks he can use to start a fire. After quite an ordeal he gets the fire blazing—but not before he realizes that Axtilla is fading fast. Her ankle is swollen, she is still unconscious and moaning. Retrieving the stick he used to carve the X, he gets it red-hot so he can cauterize the wound. Trembling, he turns to her with the glowing stick. He drops the stick. Her head is turned toward him and her eyes are open, staring blankly!  As he reaches for the carotid artery to get her pulse, she asks: "What are you doing?"                                              And now ... Enjoy the new adventure!
 
 Chapter Four
 
 
I jerked back as though I'd been touched by a live electrical wire. "What am I doing?" I parroted, but an octave higher. In a more modulated voice I added, "I thought you were dead, Axtilla. I was checking to see if you had a pulse. It didn't seem too much to ask, at a time like that …"

With some difficulty, she had already pulled herself up to a nearly seated position against the log and she now cocked her head in puzzlement as though waiting to see how I would finish. Thinking I had a logical argument with a reasonable conclusion, I went on: "I mean, what were you doing, just lying there staring at me, Axtilla? And, couldn't you guess that when you spoke you'd be scaring the daylights out of me?"

She blinked.

Suddenly it dawned on me that hers wasn't the behavior of a person who, just a few minutes earlier, had been on her death bed. "Your ankle!" Her garment was pulled over it. "Let me see your ankle!"

Without a word she brought her fingers down and pulled the garment aside.

Nothing could prepare me for the miracle I saw. The ankle that I was just about to perform a second goofball surgery on bore no trace of her injury other than the pink X that I had so crudely carved there, like my initial on the trunk of a tree. "How?" I puzzled aloud. "It was so swollen it was about to burst. I was—I was getting the fire built so I could get that branch hot enough—"

"I know."

"What do you mean? You know what?"

She took a labored breath. "I knew what you were doing."

"No, you couldn't." I shook my head, vehemently. "You were unconscious."

"But, I knew. You crawled over there,"—she lifted a weak arm and pointed, then lowered it to the ground—"over there, where you dug up a big rock and then went farther; and you brought two rocks from there back to here."

"No! No, no!" I couldn't accept it. "I don't know what you did to fix your ankle. But, then I saw you do other things that didn't make any sense, either. Axtilla, your eyes were bouncing all over the place, like you were having a seizure. They were doing that before I went looking for the rocks and they were doing it when I came back. Are you saying you took some time off in the middle to watch me?"

"I never stopped watching you—Doctor X." At the look on my face, she raised a weak hand to cover her smile.
I stared at her. It would have been nice to have something to say.

The smile left her face. "Just know I would have died right there, and very soon, if you hadn't cut open the thrax's bite and sucked out the venom."

"Thrax?"

"Very deadly. You saved my life." She smiled, this time without covering her mouth. "Doctor. X." Closing her eyes, her head lolled to the side. She held that position, breathing slowly, regularly until I was sure she was asleep. Suddenly, her eyes opened, and she looked at me, adding, "Doctor X … Now, I have a name for you. Do you like your new name?"

I smiled. "There could be worse names. Now, go back to sleep."
#
Leaning back against the log, next to Axtilla, the fire blazing to our left, I listened to periodic, distant thunder. Each time the rumbling was punctuated by Axtilla's body uncoiling into a spasm, then going limp. She mumbled words I didn't understand, stopping when the rumbling stopped. The thunder, if that's what it was, was out over the ocean, far enough out that there wasn't any lightning associated with it. It was probably my imagination, or the haze brought about by the fire, but the faint contour of the mountain against the sky seemed to glow in a pulsing pale blue outline until the rumbling faded and the shape of the mountain disappeared in the background.

She mumbled something again. It sounded like Kojutake; then, her eyes snapped open. "We must go!"

"No," I protested. "You need to rest. I have a good fire going and lots of bark to feed it through the night."

"We must go!" she said, more determined. "We must go to the cave."

"Listen, you could hardly lift your arm a few minutes ago—and I'm too weak from whatever happened to me to help you."

Her eyes were in the direction of the mountain. She was trembling.

"What is it?" I asked. "Is it the thunder? Is that what's frightening you?"

She shook her head vigorously. "No! Not what you call thunder. I have not seen thunder, but we cannot be here when Kojutake arrives. We must go to the caves."

"But, what is this Kojutake? Or, is it a who? Who or what is this Kojutake?"

My not-too-carefully-concealed disdain for what smacked of ignorance or superstition apparently did not even penetrate her awareness. She stared unwaveringly toward the mountain until the next rumbling visibly possessed her. She shot to her feet, wrapping her gown around her in one fluid movement. Before I could reach out a hand to stop her, she was leaning into the incline, scrabbling up the hillside, now on all fours.

"Axtilla," I shouted after her. "This is madness. Come back." I was in pursuit, within a body-length behind her. She had no intention of coming back. In fact, if I should catch up to her I'd have a fight on my hands trying to keep her from dragging me in her wake. She was that determined to get to the path. What she didn't count on, though, was that the sandy topsoil covering the hard incline beneath didn't share her fear-borne zeal—nor did gravity's inflexible law. It took only one foothold for it to give beneath her. Her knee slammed into the hard, sliding surface, followed by her chest. By then it was too late. Her body began its descent and I, behind her, having nowhere to go, got swept into her slide as we both were propelled down the hillside to where it plateaued and we rolled the rest of the way to our starting place—the log.

"Well…" I said, dusting myself off.

She turned her smudged face to me and the tears started. Her body shuddered as she sank to the ground, buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I sat down beside her, my back pushed up against the log.
#
The thunder was getting closer and as it rumbled, Axtilla's body again stiffened, but then relaxed against my shoulder; we both stared up at the mountain's silhouette against the dancing pulses of powder- blue and silver developing on the other side.

Our shoulders had been touching ever since she stoically removed her hands from her face a few moments ago. She had taken a deep, but tattered breath, and scooted over next to me against the log.

It was as if her soul was in capitulation mode. She had been convinced that, without the protection of the cave, she was helpless against the powers that the Kojutake—whatever the Kojutake was—possessed. She had put all her hope for survival into the attempted climb up the hillside. When that failed, all hope that she could escape abandoned her. After a few moments of self-indulgence, she surrendered to her fate. The moment that happened, something strange seemed to envelope her. I had seen it before. When I wrestled the spear away from her, she at first panicked and then resolved to bare her neck to me. Had I not turned her tragedy to comic relief, she'd have prepared to go to her death with a kind of dignity in surrender. No, not a dignity in surrender, but a dignity in accepting her surrender.

"What I believe we have here," I ventured, "is the aurora borealis — the northern lights."

"How do you know this, Doctrex," she asked, running my new name together, "when you can't even remember where you came from?” She asked this while keeping her eyes turned toward the mountain.

I shrugged. "A good question. A mystery. But, it's tucked away somewhere in my memory. The aurora borealis does exist in my memory."

Without looking at me she said, "In the other person's memory."

Her words connected in an immediate and elemental way with something unwanted that tried to seep up into my consciousness while another force tried to push it down. "What—what other person?"

"The one who—" she cast a puzzled glance at me before looking back toward the mountain.

"Axtilla! What! The one who what?"

She took a breath, as if exasperated. "The one who died."

With her words, all thought stopped.

I found myself watching dumbly as isolated images and fragments of images tumbled willy-nilly through my mind.

A child, a boy, so serious, stoic, sadly devoid of humor, ageless and tragically heroic is at the center. He is the unmoving center—and sliding toward him, now, from the side, a young woman, mid-twenties, early thirties, fun-loving, beautiful; her image adheres, at one small point, to his image, causing hers to rock from side to side as though trying to work itself free.

I felt a sharp stab, palpable, a breath-taking stab of pain, watching it. As though I was the child. But, I was an observer. I was not an actor. I was part of the audience. I was powerless to control the images. I could only vacate the theater. But, for the moment I felt compelled to stay.

The image of the young lady breaks free and veers off, like a leaf or slip of paper borne away by the wind.

I felt violated and lonely with this departure. Who was she — my love? But, I was a child. Wait ... my mother? Why?—no! There was something sensual about—

The boy remains, visibly unchanged. But now his image is being attacked—no, not attacked, but unavoidably approached from all directions, above, below, from the side, in pairs, in larger groups, men, women, some images crumpled, some creased, torn or shredded——like photographs in various stages of disarray. Each image or group of images appears to swoop down, or slide or drift to him, one after the other, stay for indeterminate periods, then move away, some altered in appearance, some looking the same in leaving, some laughing some weeping. And one crumples in upon itself, forms a tight knot or ball until it simply disintegrates and falls like flakes to an unseen ground. The child is unmoved by all this.

I wanted to ruffle him, to shake him, to make him feel responsible for the consequences. What the consequences were I had no idea, but somehow the child was connected with the process and he was so uninvolved.

Then the images disappeared.

I must have been sleeping, dreaming. I opened my eyes to see Axtilla staring at me. When my eyes met hers she looked away, back up at the mountain. I followed her gaze. What had been glowing behind the mountain, leaving it in pulsing, silhouetted relief were now fingers of vaporous, powdery colors—silver to yellow to red.  They extended out then pulled back, and the rumbling had become a roar, deep like a lion's roar.  With the retreating of the fingers of light, even that softened.

"I remember it's called the aurora borealis. It's a beautiful light show, but it's harmless."

"In the world you don't remember it is harmless," she reproached. "But this is Kojutake. Kojutake exists. Tonight they will take us."

"They? Kojutake is a they?"

She ignored me. "You will want to think the Kojutake is only an illusion—just lights in the sky. To you it seems the right thing to do, to put this safe illusion—these lights in the sky—between you and the actual Kojutake. But seeing Kojutake for the power they are … you are going to find that is the right thing to do!" She paused and seemed to be looking inwardly and a smile twitched the corners of her mouth just before she went on. "And you need to always do the right thing, Doctrex, no matter how hard it is to do. You can't fight an illusion. Even though they will take us away, you must struggle with all you have to defeat the Kojutake. It is the right thing to do, you know …."

I felt the heat rising in me. "Axtilla, tell me … why does it feel like you're taunting me? And, this it's the right thing to do. Why do you keep saying that?"

"Don't you know, Doctrex?"

"If I knew, would I ask you?"

"Does it make you feel uncomfortable?"

I thought about it. It did make me feel uncomfortable. It was familiar, and in some strange way threatening. And, what was more unsettling was the feeling that she knew all about the life and the world I had forgotten … and she was merely teasing me with clues.
 
"Listen, Axtilla, if that really is Kojutake, as you think … and if it—they—are a threat to us, doesn't it make sense that we need to work together, that our life depends on our working together?"

She was staring at the mountain and appeared not to hear me.

"If they are as threatening as you say, why are you taking the time to play with my mind? How much do you know about me, about my life? Are you listening to me, Axtilla? Talk to me!"

While keeping her eyes fixed on the mountain, she said, "It would be better for you if you remember his past life yourself—"

"His!"

"—Yes, at the right time and in the amounts your mind can accept. I was taunting you. I was trying to gauge your strengths. But, you are right … we do need each other and we need each other's trust. I will talk with you."

"What do you mean by his past life?"

"Doctrex, the man whose life you want to remember is dead."

"Why would I want to remember another pers—I—I want to remember my … Oh, my God!"

"Yes, if it helps you to understand, then at one specific moment memory ended."

"No, Axtilla, I don't …"

"Of course you don't understand! How could you be dead and still be here and talking with me?"

"How did I—how did he die?"

She looked, searchingly, in my eyes and then down at her feet.

"Listen, Axtilla, I'm pretty sure there's nothing more you can say that will unhinge my mind." But, I felt compelled to add, "That doesn't mean that I completely buy what you're saying."

"He killed himself,” she said.
 

 
 


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