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Episode 8 Part 5

By:  Lenady

“50 red beads, 20 blue beads, 30 aqua beads. 51 red beads, 20 blue beads. 52 red beads, 21 blue beads, 31 aqua beads.” Tilly had counted the beads on the curtain in five different ways. She had thought about counting the stitches on the mat she was sitting on instead, but she found it moderately soft and wasn’t yet willing to move. She knew, however, that eventually the curtain would fail to keep her occupied and she would have to move onto a new diversion. All in all it was a relatively comfortable location.  The floor of the room was hard packed earth and cool to the touch, yet the small lamps gave just enough heat to stave off the cold desert air. The soft light cast moving shadows across the room and she leaned back against the wall, her knees drawn to her chest, to watch them. She could pretend for a moment that she was somewhere else. She closed her eyes and thought of a fireplace, like the one in her parent’s house.

 Tilly winced and opened her eyes. “‘The Kaftman’s house rather,” Tilly whispered. She quickly wished she hadn’t opened her eyes. While the lamp was pleasant, the glow it gave off gave an unsettling pallor to Sanrook’s face. She was on opposite side of the room, covered in blankets. The sound of her labored breathing filled the space. The ragged sound, as illogical as it seemed to Tilly, made her own breathing feel strained as well. She straightened up a little and took a deep breath, trying to alleviate the tenseness in her shoulders and chest. The last few hours had been harrowing, to say the least. They had been lucky enough to have met Mar and Kalta when they had. Without them Sanrook would probably already be-

Tilly shook her head and looked down at the mat. “One loop, two loops, three loops, four loops,” she counted, rubbing her finger on the rough threads as she went along. She went through the twists until the material changed slightly, going from dry and at times rough, to softer but also a little wet. It was from her clothes. They were still damp and clung to her skin just slightly. Her hair was still wet too. She grabbed some that was hanging down on her shoulder and squeezed a little. It was no longer dripping, but it would be hours until it dried. Despite the warmth of the room she shivered.  The discomfort she felt would probably be enough to keep her awake, for a while at least. She could feel exhaustion creeping up on her, the adrenaline having left her system drained, but she didn’t think she could fall asleep. Part of her didn’t want to. She didn’t really know how much sense that made, as she could do nothing but wait anyways.

Mar had really done most of the work of getting Sanrook to his home. And then his wife Kalta had done her best to remove some of the poison from Sanrook’s leg before applying an ointment and wrapping of sorts. She could at least talk with them, as the water hadn’t seemed to do any harm to the translators, but she had still felt pretty useless. She knew she had made the right decision in sitting out of the way and not bothering Kalta while she worked, but that didn’t assuage the fear that she should have done something herself. The fact remained that Sanrook would very likely have swam away unharmed if it hadn’t been for Tilly slowing her down. The least she could do was keep watch. As much as she appreciated their help she still didn’t feel completely at ease around Mar and Kalta.

She couldn’t remember if she had thanked them yet. She thought she must have at some point in time, but everything after she and Sanrook had found the water was kind of blurry. She didn’t even really know that much about them. Nor did she know anything about the city they lived in. They had gotten directions from the people at the cave, but that was about the extent the information they had.

Tilly looked across the room again, towards her friend lying under the blanket. With each ragged breath her gills were making unusual fluttering motions. Tilly didn’t know how long it would take for Sanrook to recover, or what that process would look like. At the moment she didn’t even know what things were a bad sign. Kalta said she had done as much as she could do, but hadn’t given her any more information than that. She looked grim at the time, but part of that could have been from trying to treat someone with alien physiology. That was what Tilly was hoping for, at least.

 She stood up, examining her pants for dust out of habit before realizing that, as she was still covered with blue sand in spots, the gesture was probably pointless. She couldn’t really help Sanrook in any way by sitting there, but she could try to find out some stuff about where they were and who they were staying with. Perhaps she could even get some information about how the poison typically affected people’s systems, although she didn’t know how much help that would be considering Sanrook was a Norian and probably wouldn’t react in the typical ways to begin with.

Tilly walked through a thick green curtain that functioned as a door between the two spaces. The main room of the house was much larger than the one that she and Sanrook were staying in, but still quite cozy by many standards. There was very little in the way of furniture, but curtains of beads hung everywhere. Tilly smiled, feeling a little more at ease as she looked around. The room was a veritable rainbow. Mar was sitting at a table in the middle of the space, working with small pieces of clay. His hair hung over in his face and she couldn’t see how he could work with it in his eyes.

He looked up from his work, smiled and motioned to a group of pillows against one of the walls. “Please, come sit down.”

“Thanks,” she said, seating herself as Mar went back to the piece he was working on. Tilly leaned back slightly into the cushions. They were soft and as multicolored as the beads which covered the room. She sat there for a moment, trying to think of what to say, or if she should say anything. She didn’t want to interrupt him, but it felt awkward to sit in the same room and stay silent. She wished that Sanrook were awake. Sanrook could talk to anyone at anytime, and starting up conversations with perfect strangers wouldn’t faze her a bit. It was something Tilly envied about her friend.

It was only a few moments later, when Mar held up one of the pieces to look at it in the light of the nearby lamp that inspiration struck. “Did you make these beads?” she asked, still feeling rather hesitant.

“Yes we did,” said Kalta, walking through another curtain with a few small clay pots. She sat them down on the table and asked, “Do you like them?”

“They’re beautiful,” was all Tilly could say. Although many of them were of a single solid color she had noticed that just as many of the beads bore designs and patterns in a variety of hues. To Tilly, so accustomed to factory mass production, the thought of all of them being made by hand was astounding.

Mar motioned around the room, to the curtains and then to the hem of Kalta’s sleeve. “This is our livelihood, as well as our passion. Very few people here are actually able to pursue what they love. We’re some of the lucky ones, in a variety of ways. It just so happens that our craft is sought after by many, including the queen…”

“Oh, don’t mention her tonight,” interrupted Kalta, bringing her hand to her forehead. “We have enough to think about without bringing her into the conversation.” She turned towards Tilly, smiling softly. “How are you feeling? You look more rested now.”

            “I do feel a little better. Although I wish I could say the same for my friend.” Tilly’s smile faded and she could feel her shoulders tighten again. “She’s not breathing very well. I know you’ve noticed that Sanrook’s a little… different physically, but is that a normal symptom?”

            Kalta sighed and sat down on a stool across the table from Mar. “Yes, I noticed. Neither of you are from here, I can tell. That makes your friend’s situation uncertain. You see, we really don’t know what affect that poison would have on someone, as it’s not really something we’ve dealt with before. Even miniscule doses are enough to kill and quite frankly the amount that was used on those arrows would kill a large ithig.”

Tilly’s confusion must have been obvious because Mar quickly attempted to explain. “Um…” he started. “How do I…? An ithig is a very large animal. Fully grown it would be at least two men high and… about four arm-spans from head to tail, if not bigger. To be honest we’re shocked your friend is still breathing at all.”

            Tilly wished she had never asked the question about Sanrook. The room was silent and the mood had shifted almost tangibly.

Kalta spoke up after a moment “We’ve done what we can, but…”

“You think it might not be enough,” Tilly supplied what a small part of her had been thinking all along.

“Unfortunately,” replied Mar. “All we can do is wait and see. I know that doesn’t really…”

“No, no,” Tilly said, raising her hands up, pretending she didn’t feel like her stomach had just turned inside out. “It’s okay, really. You guys have helped us so much. I’m very grateful for what you’ve done.  I know Sanrook would be too.” Tilly paused a moment and smiled. “And she’ll be able to tell you that herself when she wakes up.”

            Mar smiled slightly, and replied, “Yes, and we’ll be looking forward to speaking to her.”

            “Speaking of Sanrook, I’d better go back in case she needs anything,” Tilly said, beginning to walk back to the beaded doorway. She pushed the beads aside, but paused, then turned around.   “Actually, would it be okay for me to go outside for a moment? I could use a bit of air.” She pointed to the blue portion of her hair. “I know I look a little conspicuous, but if I put something over my head?”

            “Yes, of course. You’ll need a blanket for tonight anyway,” said Kalta, who walked over to a cupboard and pulled out a large piece of fabric. It looked lightweight, perfect for what Tilly intended. She wrapped herself in it, draping it over her head like she did when she played Mary in a Christmas play once. She was nearly out the door before Kalta spoke, stopping her.

“Don’t stay out too long,” she warned. “You should be fine for little while, but there is a curfew that starts soon. Also, the nights here can be quite cold, and you wouldn’t want to find yourself sick.”

            “I’ll just be out for a bit.” She opened the door and stepped outside into the cold night. When the air hit her still damp clothes she knew she would be going back inside sooner than she had anticipated. She needed a few moments to herself, but Kalta’s warning concerning the temperature was one she intended to heed.  

            The street was dark, most of the surrounding buildings having already turned out their lamps. The stillness surrounded her as she picked a place at the outer wall of the house and sat down. She was careful to keep the blanket wrapped around her while keeping it out of the dirt. She’d hate to get it dirty. It was really too beautiful to be used outside. The material was soft, but of an unfamiliar texture. ‘Like so many things so far, pleasant but so different than what I’m used to,’ she thought.

            She wished she could sink into the blanket further, shutting everything out except for the texture and warmth of the fabric. Instead she could feel herself sinking further into her own turbulent thoughts.

“An ithig?” Tilly whispered, her throat feeling tight.

A cool wind blew against her face. Things weren’t suppose to happen like this. She thought she could accept the giant spiders, people worshipping a rocket, the talking computer. It took an open mind, but she was adjusting. This was different. Her best friend, her only friend, wasn’t supposed to die.

Tilly paused a moment at what she had just thought. “She isn’t going to die,” she whispered. Some part of her felt she could give her words power if spoken aloud. Speaking the words gave them solidness, a reality.  She gripped the blanket and pulled it closer to herself.

There was so much she wished she could take back. So much that she was kicking herself for, especially over the past week or so. Their friendship had been strained ever since she stepped foot on the ship. Somehow Sanrook had this strange ability to make her laugh one minute then want to punch her the next. It had always been like that of course, but lately Tilly had been on edge and things had just intensified. She had taken so much of her frustrations out on Sanrook. Her hands tightened into fists, grains of sand scratching her as she pushed them into the ground. She could feel her nails pressing painfully into the palm of her hands. ‘Good’ she thought, pressing in harder. ‘I deserve it.’

           The sharp peal of a bell jerked Tilly out of her thoughts. She looked up to see the glow from a lamp coming around a corner on the narrow street. ‘That’s probably the curfew Kalta was talking about,’ she thought, standing up and quickly ducking back into the house. She wasn’t accomplishing anything by sitting outside, and she wasn’t willing to find out what would happen if she was caught. She certainly wouldn’t be able to help Sanrook while sitting in a cell somewhere. As Tilly walked past Mar and Kalta, back into her and Sanrook’s room she tried to ignore the part of her mind that insisted that in all honesty there was nothing she could do anyway.   

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