Grave Awakening

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The Line

Alas, due to Lon getting squirted on by a curved frisky orange banana, Nick was given more a “do as I say, not as I do” sort of orientation to his task that day. Of which his duty for the day... was fishing. Thankfully, though, this town-slash-tribe has developed the wonderful idea of putting string on a stick with a bit of bait. They had rods, though after the first few attempts Nick was glad to have the option of the net again. For two reasons, actually, the first, being the kinder and more thoughtful, was that it brought in more food... the other? Well, Lon might not be able to throw the nets, but she could go fetch them.

As the day waned on, him tossing the net while she went to retrieve, it reminded him of his times fishing with Rylo. They had come upon this symbiotic relationship; his species, the Reylon, couldn’t throw as well as him. Which is saying something; Nick couldn’t even get a Frisbee to fly back on Earth, yet here he was an Olympian. In comparison, mind. However, just like with Rylo, he had to explain how he could not swim. At least this time he wasn’t thrown in.

No. This time they actually gave him the benefit of the doubt –at least, Lon gave him the benefit of the doubt. In truth, he still couldn’t really get a read on her. Naiyala? Easy, since her arms betrayed her every time. He wasn’t exactly looking, either, but she was being friendly, friendlier than the others, which was akin to Rylo. That didn’t make any sense to him, though. Rylo had meaning, was significant behind his actions because of what happened with his sister. That’s what made him standing up noble, his mercy immaculate. Lon, though? He didn’t threaten any of her family, anyone in this village, yet she was going out of her way to make him feel welcomed. It was as if there was a silent understanding between them all, at the very moment he was telling his tales, that she would be the one to oversee him. No argument, no fuss, no dissent; this made him uneasy, and was probably why he couldn’t do the rod.

They were planning something. He just knew it. However, he doubted it was for the benefit of themselves. If it was, he would have happily shared his acid phial plan, but he felt more it was to be rid of him. They weren’t looking to empower themselves but to “save” everyone. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t as good an actor as he thought he was. Maybe they all already knew that he had lied about the fate of his allies, that he, himself, wielded the blade that killed them all, that he had killed those people in Leyshun.

If they could all come to an unspoken agreement about who would be tending to him, what other power did they have? Were they psychically linked- no, that can’t be. If they were, they would know all about him... unless... were they playing dumb? Seeing how much he could contradict himself? Were they waiting to pull that out once they gathered enough clashing information to truly bury him –both metaphorically and literally. He had plenty of blood on his hands now, plenty of souls wailing and haunting him to know he wasn’t getting out of such a situation clean.

The question now was how would he get away. How long would he stay, and how much would he give them –again, only if they were truly mentally linked. They most likely weren’t -otherwise all those deaths would have been found out at the beginning with the first life snuffed out- but he had to keep it in mind as he moved forward. If they weren’t, he had nothing to really fear. He could teach them so much, have them build such confidence in him, then, when he believed he gained enough, well, there was a reason he wasn’t letting them in on the acid phials.

If they were, though. That’s the real question. How long could he afford to tarry? How much could he really give? Unlike Leyshun, they hadn’t brandished their weapons yet, but he had seen them and they were made of far sterner stuff than their neighbor’s arsenal. Nick never gave too much stock into wood, but it was the simple fact that it was easier to work with than bone that gave them the edge and allowed for longer, more versatile spears. And axes. The axes, though, were not made of the obsidian. Understandable, how fragile it was, but they looked closer to stone age nail bats than actual instruments used to cut trees. That being said, though, they did have some “nail bats” with obsidian teeth, reminding him of the tribes back home and how deadly those monstrous items can be. They looked like they were never used, though, simply hung above the markets as decoration, but he knew what one sweep of those jagged tips could do to flesh. And he’d much rather it not be his.

The first sun had set, and Lon resurfaced after retrieving the seventh, and final, net of the day. She threw it over her right shoulder, filled to the brim with hearty, splashing pink fish about the length of Nick’s leg, matching the six others left to soak in the shoals beside, held shut by a wooden stake. Oh, how they fought in it, how they tried to pry free. They even vocalized their dissatisfaction, almost sounding like pigs grunting. Interesting enough, their actual skin was pink, but their scales were a jet black save for on their faces, where it turned pure white until it hit their mouths, changing to mottled beaks. Their tails had a whip at their end, a lot like sword-tails back home, but he made no mistake. There was a reason he tied them head-first, because those barbs would make a catfish blush.

He pulled the spike free and held all six -at arm’s length- as he followed Lon to the mound. She had more a spring in her step now than at the start, but he couldn’t really blame her. He would be a bit upset, too, if he took a load to the face. As an instructor, though, she sorely lacked. She couldn’t even tell him how to properly tie bait on to the end, or what the bait even was. He thought she was talking about the rocks in the sodden dirt near the water; it succeeded, once, in getting a fish, though retrieving it turned out to be a challenge. Also, it turned out fish can drown, especially when struck unconscious.

It turned out she was trying to tell him to dig into the dirt and retrieve their version of a nightcrawler. WELL, if that slimy, four-foot, barbed-tooth, yodeling worm was their version of the classic worm, he did not want to meet any of their other subterranean friends. Not without some specific actors and household chemicals in the right proportions. She did show him how to properly prepare the worm, though, and, after its head was crushed in underfoot, she handed him her blade and cut it info fifteen uses.

Again, it worked. It simply didn’t have as much gain. One net had the nine he managed to hook that way (plus the one drowned soul), but it also had thirty others from simply tossing it in, letting it sink with some of the worm tied to the inside, then going to get it. As the other fisherman came in, they noticed these results and Nick felt a bit... proud for what he brought to the table. The others only had about twenty to thirty fish each, while he brought in enough to... make him wonder how the species was going to recover... If their usual haul was equal to two of his nets, how severely did he gouge their numbers? They had to be notable, given it was a lake, but where did it go? Why were they gathered all there? Was it their spawning ground? Did he just single-handily wipe out four generations?

Once again, that was a problem for future-him to worry about probably never. Besides, given his haul, they could smoke and salt the majority and be set for a few months... as long as he didn’t find the fish tasty. If it was as good as the butter scorpion, the species of fish might go the way of the dodo and he would not care at all. He was but a tourist, after all, passing through.

But it was that time again. Everybody was gathered. Food was being served, people were trying to be patient, so that meant all eyes were on him again, demanding to continue his tales. He left them off with a cliffhanger the day before, what with the rise of the God’s chosen, the one who bore the dark pact and would be the vanguard for America’s freedom: George Washington. But he was not alone, for there was a skilled animist in his ranks, one who could make and unmake things with a swift stroke of his quill, Thomas Jefferson, and the almighty wizard who foregone the dark pact for the elemental gods of the tribes, Benjamin Franklin. Together, along with several others, all notable in their own right, they formed the Masons and hammered their victory home against the queen of England, leading to years of peace.

Or were they!

Yes, indeed, the crises with England was done, but there was in-fighting after the war. There was plenty of time now, peace time, slow time that, for those who did not rest, meant they had a lot of time to think and sit. First came the technological marvels, but that gave way to ethics and how to treat the human machines that worked the fields. Cost was becoming an issue as their labor became appreciated, and not only financially but in how to treat them. They weren’t but farm goods anymore but actual, living beings, fellow humans that fought alongside them in the war, that did what was necessary to let America flourish. It was time they were allowed into the pact, as well, but those down south believed that was the wrong way to go about things. They didn’t need the pact at all anymore. They were progressing in measures of minutes instead of years like they were before the colonization; they didn’t need to be up all the time. Instead, they pushed to learn more about their faith, those that worked their fields, try to work with them. The north thought this heretical, and, as the south gave up the pact, more and more people returning to normal ways, the north saw them as weakness. They weren’t as progressive, making as much money nor advancing in any significant way. In fact, they were becoming a detriment, and so, after a certain pig incident, the flame was struck and war was declared.

But that was the end of this tale, leaving them on another juicy cliffhanger. It scared him somewhat how easily he could tell the truth while at the same time speak complete schlock, but how he smiled as they groaned and had to scurry on home before the sun was gone. He already had so many plans of what was going to happen in the next session, but he was mostly anticipating for the turn of the century and the great wars. There was already a comedic documentary that would give him plenty of material to work with... He wondered, though, how true that film still held. It would have been... 2020 if he recalled proper back on Earth. How much must have changed, how much did he miss; that whole planet moved in seconds, unlike here where he was lucky to see anything done in months, if not the years he was satirizing in his telling. What was happening now back home? Were they finally in a real world war again? Civil unrest? Did the doomsayers and paranoid shut-ins finally have their “police states” and superflu’s? Would that orange man be meme’d into being president again, or were there actual, viable candidates up on the docket this time?

All questions he would never have an answer to. All events he would never see unfold again... When, in truth, he had already done far, far worse... He sighed as he made his way down to Lon’s room. She was already there, well in bed, but he had to make a stop to see his favorite person. Come morning, there was only a smattering left, but Lon was no less frightened by the sheer amount of orange rockets around her basket, aimed at her.

“Morning, sunshine,” he said, biting into a new fruit, an aelsage. Or, as he tasted it, a juicier, spikier pear crossed with a mango. Rather, spinier; the entire outer husk was covered in soft but rigid silver hair, like a tarantula’s back, and it had the color of an actual banana. The interior was more a soft green, though, and was lined with small, red seeds. “Sleep well?”

“N-Nick,” she began, pointing at the fruit, her finger shaking something fierce. “W-what a-”

“I got them last night for a steal, basically. He felt bad about the whole situation, so gave me as much as I wanted so we could enjoy.” He finished the aelsage with one last gulp and parted the burnt orange sea for her. She didn’t seem to have an appetite for them that morning and rushed out of the room, leaving him to eat one before following, back to fishing. For another week. Then farming. For a week. Then woodcutting FOR A WEEK then cooking FOR A W-

It was like they knew what he was truly after, as if they knew a great calamity awaited if he was allowed down there. However, like any job, at some point you’ve got to show the trainee the “worst” part, so he had to simply be patient. And they were being as patient, since he was treating them with grand tales of his world. Thankfully, he had skipped to the colonization and could go back to the more god-filled eras now that he broke them in to the theology, but, at some point, he was going to have to tell him his story. That, above all, he could not do. He must get to the mines, stall them out before then, for that was his deadline. That was the line in the sand he could not afford to give up.

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