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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Searcher and the Sentinel chapter 7

 The Searcher and the Sentinel
a serial dystopian story with alternating chapters by
The Searcher
I opened my eyes fully expecting to wake in my bunk having never left for downtown.  Having never fallen through that hole.  Having never stepped on the body of that dead girl -the trauma of that experience would be too much to cope with.

A green blur -bright green, green that doesn't exist in the districts or downtown or anywhere that I've ever heard, filled my field of vision.  I blinked and the green came into the focus.  Green fields.  Expansive, rolling, a rock jutting out here and there until the green met with the blue waters beyond.  

Not a dream.  Any of it.  The girl. My God, the girl.  I stepped on her. I stepped in her.  She was so young. I've seen my fair share of death in my time.  I've never dealt any, contrary to what others believe.  I've always been one step removed from the death -a spectator. Never intimate with it.  I have an aversion to it. Most people will say that but when someone close to them is dying, they don't walk away. They don't hide.  I do.  In this world my fear is irrational at best and inexcusable at worst.  Death is everywhere. Somehow, I manage to avoid it. She, whoever she is, will haunt me for the rest of my days.

I was in a comfortable wooden chair with a cushioned seat.  I turned my head. I could move.  I was close to the large viewing window -right up against it almost. I looked down at my legs, which were bare.  Also, surprisingly, they were clean and free of the fine blonde hair that typically covered them.  I wiggled my toes.  They were neatly trimmed and...pink.  Bright pink, of all colors.  I'd never seen painted toes before and found myself chuckling at the sight of them.

"Something funny, dear?" a woman's voice said.

I turned, it was the same woman from before. Beautiful dark hair -almost down to her hips.  Dark skin -not the darkest I've seen still much darker than mine -much more beautiful.  Dark skin is a desirable feature in the districts. This woman, despite her impossibly old age, would be very desirable.  She was holding something -a cup of steaming liquid.  She sipped on it gingerly as she moved closer.  Her movement was so smooth, so effortless, I wondered if she had feet beneath her floor-length dress.

"My toes," I replied.   "They're painted.  I've never seen painted toes before."

"I suppose then you haven't noticed your fingers," she replied in her unique yet whimsical accent.

I lifted my hand in front of my face.  Sure enough, the nails were neatly trimmed and painted a matching shade of pink.  I laughed again.  The woman smiled and closed her eyes as if the sound of my laughter was a most magical song.  I finally noticed my clothes.  I was wearing shorts and a matching top made from the softest fabric I'd ever felt.  Both were white with thin stripes of pink that exactly matched my nail color.  My arms were bruiseless, hairless and dirtless just like my legs.

"You were quite a mess when they brought you in here, Searcher, but I had plenty of time to get you fixed up," the woman said.

"How much time?" I asked. "How long have I been here?"

A concerned expression crossed the woman's face.  It left as quickly as it came.  She set her steaming drink on the wooden table and extended both hands toward me.  I looked at them, then looked at her.  She smiled.

"Take my hands, child and I will help you up and show you what you want to know."

I haven't excepted help from another person -not even a woman, in longer than I can remember.  I wasn't about to let things change simply because I was dead.  As I reached down for the armrests on my chair, I could feel her inside my head again.  It wasn't painful or invasive but it was clear she was trying to change my mind. I suddenly knew this would be the first time I'd stood since I'd gotten here.  I would most likely be unstable and there was a good chance, I would fall head-first through the glass viewing window, which, despite being dead, didn't sound like a good idea.

Reluctantly, I took her hands.  They were warm and smooth -so smooth. The wooden floor was warm as well.  As I shifted my weight over my feet, my knees began to object and sway in strange directions. I'd never had trouble holding up my own body weight.  This was crazy.  The woman slid her arm beneath mine and wrapped it around my back.  I could sense her strength even with the gentleness of her touch.  Her touch felt...well good. Amazing, actually.  It's been so long since I'd been in the embrace of another woman.  My apprehension drained from my body.

I took a few steps (it was obvious she was supporting a considerable amount of my weight as I did so) then she turned me toward the back wall of the room.  Standing in front of us was a woman who must have been the twin of the woman helping me stand.  She was helping a girl stand as well.  The girl was strange looking.  We both wore the same outfit, both had painted toes and fingers and even had the same skin tone yet there was something different about this girl.  Her face. She was very unlike the girls of the district.  Her hair was longer than any district girl -it came down to just above her shoulders.  It was not quite blonde and not quite brown -like the color of the leather we dried out in the summer sun during the hot months.  Her eyes were big and bright.  Her lips were full-too full and her teeth were white -too white.

As I studied this girl, she studied me -almost mimicking my behavior.  At first I didn't mind her looking at me but eventually, I could tell she was mocking me -trying to do exactly as I did.  I leaned in, she leaned in.  I put my free hand on my hip, she put her free hand on her hip.  I put my hand on my head, she... Then it struck me.  I could feel the hair on my head.  It was long.  Longer than its ever been.  It felt so smooth and soft.  I ran my fingers through it, she ran her fingers through it. That girl was me.

The Sentinel
I was massaging my wrists where the ropes had been, waiting on the offered measure of Dragon Necter, when the dog trotted through the door.
Manny and I greeted the dog by name and I reached down to scratch him between his ears when he sauntered over to sniff my pant leg, almost losing my hand in the process. Wow, for a mild mannered looking Springer Spaniel, Buddy sure was testy.
“Watch it, Grant,” the dog snapped, “you’d do well to remember your place around here.”
“Umm, Buddy…” Manny started.
“Save it, Manny,” the dog said as he turned three times on the carpet in front of Manny’s desk, “I’ve heard all about the prophecy, and I aint buying it.”
“But,” was all many was able to get out  before Buddy snarled at him.
“Fine, Buddy,”, Manny said, “but Davis is gonna be pissed if you don’t at least act like you believe in this stuff.”
“After the couple of days I just had, I don’t really care,” The dog said, resting his snout on his paws, then lifting his head to say, “Some races out there you just can’t reach.”
The dog returned his head to his paws and shut his eyes, signaling the conversation was over, at least his part of it. I knew, though, he would be listening to everything Manny and I said, ready to correct us at any moment. I have always wondered why that scientist gave dogs the ability to speak to humans. Sure, it was only through their minds, but during the conversation it sure seemed like the dog was speaking out loud, heck, different dogs had different voices, or was that in my head too?
“My head hurts Manny, pour another measure of that Nectar, will ya?”
“Awww, Grant,” Manny whined, “I don’t have much left.”
“Hey, I’m the Sentinel and you are my Mage, we should be able to get all the Nectar we want, back in circle one.”
“Like she’s gonna let us go clear back to Circle one,” Manny said.
“If you told her you needed supplies or something, yanno, like eye of newt or toe of dog…”
The dog chuffed.
“Sorry Buddy, I meant toe of frog,” I continued to brow-beat Manny until he agreed to at least ask Davis if we could start my training in Circle one, back with the young ones, as far away from the one who breached as possible, and as close to the Nectar as possible.
“How do you think she got over the wall?” Manny asked, as he was collecting the stuff he was going to need for a trip to circle one.
“I don’t know,” I admitted, one minute she was kicking ass on her side, the next she was climbing, I didn’t wait around once it was obvious she was gonna make it.”
“I don’t blame you,” Manny said, while trying to choose between his dirty grey shirt and his dirty brown shirt, opting to take them both in the hopes he could find time to wash them.
“She’s the Searcher,” Buddy said from his place on the floor, “If you want to buy into that prophecy crap.”
The Searcher
I'm dead. No other possible explanation exists to explain what I'm seeing. In fact, I'm not sure I can explain what I'm seeing.  I'm in a room. It's large as we consider rooms but inside the dwellings of old it would be considered medium-sized. I'm seated. In what I'm not sure because at the moment, I cannot move my body -otherwise my senses seem to be working rather well. The temperature is comfortable.  I can't remember being comfortable in years. I smell something -whatever it is, smells intoxicating.  My body feels clean despite not being able to feel it. The perpetual layer of grime that exists on all dwellers of Earth seems to have been washed away.
In front of me is the largest pane of glass I've ever seen. Two women standing side-by-side with their arms outstretched couldn't reach both left frame and right. Large wooden planks (Wood! can you imagine?) covered the floor from my position to the window.  Only one other thing stood between where I was sitting and the large window.  A small table (also wood) and two chairs.  The tabletop was empty.  
Through the window (this is the best part) is an expanse of green rolling fields that tapered down to a rocky shore.  Beyond, blue water. Blue!  I'd never seen such a brilliant shade of blue. Looking out into the green and blue expanse must have touched something in the recesses of my memories because I find my eyes filling with tears. I can't explain it. I haven't cried since I was a little girl.  They roll down my cheeks.  I try to wipe them away only to remember I am unable to move at all.  
Shore birds rise and fall on the air currents above the water.  Some type of grazing animals munch on the green in a large bunch.  They're all a dirty white color. Rather than coarse hair matted tight to their bodies, they seem to defy gravity with what could only be the softest of coats. 
A loud creaking noise followed quickly by a sound I cannot identify  takes my attention from the distance.  I see movement out of the corner of my eye.  I want to wipe away my tears -embarrassed that another person will see them.  Then again, I'm dead so what's it really matter?
"Beautiful, isn't it?" a woman's voice says.
"Yes," I reply, letting go of my desire to begin interrogating and allowing myself to relax just this once.
"Are you able to move yet?" she asks, walking into my field of vision.
She is old -much older than anyone I've ever seen.  Guessing from the wrinkles around her eyes I'd say she's probably twice my age.  She has long, dark hair -almost as dark as her skin, and soft features.  She doesn't live like the rest of us.  She smiles, looking deep into my eyes. I feel her right then, in my head.  She's trying to calm me down but the sensation of someone inside my mind is unnerving.  She must have sensed this because she immediately backs out.  When you're dead, I guess anything is possible.
"You need not fear," she said. I detect an accent -nothing I've ever heard before.  
"Where am I?" I ask.  The sound of my own voice is startling.  The gruff, grainy, bark-like timbre is gone, replaced by a smooth, almost musical quality.
She smiles but says nothing. I see her reach for something just out range of of my peripheral vision.  The world goes black.

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