“It’s very rare to find her” I think as I fall unconsious. I feel it’s my last thought too, since I feel very unwell. Something is really wrong with my brain, it seems to make me laugh at each thing. Is that normal?
Wait.. how is my brain even thinking if I’m dead?
My eyes flutter open and I see Mallory Jones in a distance. She’s done a miracle on me. My head is not burning any more, instead it has something wet on it. My hand too has something of the same stuff, but its tied even more strongly, making it hurt.
I do not understand what Mallory is doing. She seems to be standing near this very unfamiliar bush, the one that had prickled me.
Wasn’t that bush near the river? The last thing I remember before dying- I mean falling unconscious- is the land being barren. How is it full again?
“Mallory?” I ask, but I do not feel as if I am asking it. My voice is so hoarse, so low-pitched that is definitely not mine.
Mallory turns and it is hard to see her in the night time. I can’t read her face, since I’m sleeping in this helpless position with wet stuff all around me.
She closes near me and I see her bruises again. A painful one near the eye and smaller ones all over her face.
She sits on her knees right beside my leaf-bed.
“Are you okay? Have you even treated these wounds? They look like they’re not-“ I begin.
Mallory’s laugh stops me. Is she laughing because of my voice? To be honest, I’d laugh at it too, if I could.
“Rigel, are you really asking me if I’m okay?” she speaks.
How could she even say that? I do not even know what happened to me, and I can bet those bruises would be a hundred times more painful.
“Those wounds, you really need to treat them, Mallory. Look, they could even spread infec-“
She gently places her hand hand on my mouth and I stop. I guess she can’t bear my stupid voice.
“Don’t speak!” She says, a serious look on her face.
Following the questioning look on my face, that must be depicting anger, she speaks, “I am so glad you could utter that much. Now don’t speak more and get yourself into more trouble!”
“Don’t worry about me, look at yourself, you are so sick, I do not know how I even saved you.” She says.
“ You just did, since I’m speaking.” I try to smile but I can’t. “What had happened?” I disobey her and notice my voice is slowly giving off.
She frowns, like a mother would. like a mother would. I’ve never had a mother in my life or don’t remember much about having one. But out of the flashbacks I’ve had, I know she used to frown like that, when I’d misbehave and tease my little siblings by speaking more of gibberish.
“Look, I had an encounter with this all blue flame. It raged to where I had been having shelter and thankfully, I sensed it and had run away quite earlier. My vision had blurred due to the smoke and I didn’t see those wild dogs attacking me. I had blindly taken out my dagger and attacked to wherever I felt their paws approach me. They had probably died and I had run off and had been travelling to find other shelter until I saw you fall near the horizon. I knew it was you, since your dark hair shined in the sunlight.”
I notice my hair for the first time since I’ve been out of the orphanage. They’re all messed up, some of them burnt after the fire at the woman’s house, I guess. They’ve been too short, they barely reach my shoulders. So many things have been going in my mind lately, I did not even notice my once perfectly-braided hair have now reduced to nothing. I really do not care about it, but I do care that it doesn’t happen to the ones I care for.
Once perfectly braided and now reduced to nothing.
“I knew it was someone I recognize, I rushed towards you and my worse fears were confirmed. You, a mere young child, still having young skin, seemed as if you were shredded. I swear, I took out this noise, anyone in a one-kilometer radius would hear it.” She stops.
“How am I still alive right now?” I say, in a very low voice.
“For once, can you stop speaking, Rigel?” She almost shouts at me.
“It was all about me being foolish. I had not taken any first-aid kit, even though all my friends did. Oh, had I taken one, you’d be perfectly fine”
“You’ve already done a lot.” I speak.
She sighs, making a face I recognize to be I’m-sick-of-telling-this-pile-of-unwell-brainless-Rigel-not-to-speak.
. I knew there was a river nearby, and rivers always have these.” She points at the leaves that are all under me
“They helped you recover ,a certain boon from nature. I brought you carrying all the way from where you fell. You kept on muttering Meissa’s name in your unconscious state and moaned. I didn’t even dare check you. I was so worried I’ll find wounds beyond repair based on how you were groaning. You were burning from fever and speaking something I couldn’t comprehend. Other foolish thing I did then, ran away leaving you alone thinking the river was nearby, but it wasn’t, then. After three days of waiting, I am so fortunate to see those beautiful blue eyes of yours”
“They aren’t beautiful” I try to mutter.
“I just realized your voice isn’t working. You’ll need more rest. We could stay here till then. Anyways, who would even bother coming here?”
I guess I agree to her because I nod.
Under the thick canopy of the trees, I can still spot a few stars, the ones that form the hunter. Mallory follows my gaze and speaks dreamily, “That’s Orion, the hunter. Isn’t that constellation so perfectly depicting him?”
“Constellation?” I ask her.
“It’s how those stars form shape. You see those ones forming a ‘w’. It’s called The Cassiopeia.”
“You’re good at this stuff” I mutter.
She nods. “Nature is where I’ll find more about my parents.”
“Tell me more about the hunter.” I say her, maybe that would help me?
“It’s a group of those Eight stars, forming Orion, who was a great hunter. They never told this back home, I secretly studied it. I guess it was named after a Greek Hunter, Orion” she says.
I have difficulty processing whatever she told me. I’m still stuck where she had found me. Suddenly I feel as if I’m going to puke whatever I have actually eaten.
I try to tell it to Mallory but she is staring at the little portion where the stars are visible. I have an urge to call her but I dismiss it. She’s liking it like that. I do not want trouble that would destroy her peace.
Like a very polite child, I giggle. Isn’t it the right moment to do so?
“You are very sick. More than I thought of.” Mallory Announces, her gaze back at me.
For some unknown reason, I don’t stop. Even though I want to know more, my mind is playing tricks and I don’t know what to do.
“You are sleeping now.” she says.
“No I’m not!” I speak between my laughs.
“I’m not sleeping!” I protest but her forefinger and her thumb have already closed my eyelids and I can feel them approaching to close my mouth.
My voice has magically vanished and I want to crack a joke on it. But.. I need my voice for that!
I can’t speak, so I just smile, Mallory lifts her hand from my mouth and I open my eyes in an instant. She rushes to the bush she had been nearby, plucks a leaf and put it in her mouth.
“Hey! Don’t eat that thing alone!” I want to speak to her.
She spits it out of her mouth and grabs a pebble, something this area is full of.
I want to see the stars. They had something to do with me, didn’t they? But everything is so blur, where are the stars?
I proceed to look what Mallory is doing, she’s already close to me and drains a liquid into my mouth from her cupped hands.
It smells and tastes like leaves, like rubber. I want to vomit it out the moment it goes down my oesophagus but it doesn’t come out. Instead, my eyes turn heavy and the already dark-world turns pitch-black.
The next time I wake up, it’s daytime. Long rays of sunlight escapes the prison of the canopy.
I feel energetic now, and myself now. Whatever Mallory’s done to me is really great, and really working. I get up from my leaf-bed, and surprisingly this process is painless.
I walk around, looking for Mallory but she’s not there. I sit back on my leaf bed,waiting for her, staring at the trunk of a tree that’s around. And then there’s the skin of a flower, soft and fragile. And this rough trunk that’s strong but uneven.
The sun must have risen high above, I can feel the heat of it. Mallory hasn’t returned till now. Panicking, I move out of this little forest. Fortunately, I know this land very well.
There’s the river flowing as careless as ever, little fish flowing in it. They weren’t here last time I had been here, but there are quite a few now. I think of waiting beside the river, but decide looking for her would be better. I jump across the river.
Where could Mallory have gone? In this open land, she could be easily spotted, unless....unless she isn’t alive.
I panic yet again and call out for her but she doesn’t respond.
I’m walking here and there, and I step on something hard. When I look at it, it’s a small dagger, blood drenched on it.
“Mallory!” I scream, very desperate to find her. I pick up the dagger, hoping it would be handy if there’s some attacker.
It’s evening already and I hurry back towards the river, maybe she’d be back?
Under the thick bushes, I see no one. Swift wind rushes by me and my hair flows with it, as the sun bids goodbye to the sky.
The unlikely has happened yet again. I am lost with the only company of crickets.
I am alone.
~End of Part I~