Amawa-na was silent as the news spread around the village. She stayed in Tamir’s home for three weeks, and I was nearly certain I’d have to go in there and retrieve her from her cage of pity, no matter how much it hurt my chest. He was gone. Why stay in the past and mourn his death when the present was happening all around her? Why couldn’t she just move on?
To this day, the anger from that question has resonated with me, and has helped in the pulling away from her that I’ve fallen into, letting the beast take me. She’s not a loyal subject; she isn’t even a loyal girlfriend, as proven years later. I remember she came outside that fourth week, finished with her mourning, and her eyes met mine. Her face was tired and sad, and stayed that way as I walked up. I hesitantly wrapped my arms around her and she accepted the gesture with a sniffle. My chest loosened the least bit and I could breathe again, but the animal had me in a cage. I could only breathe if it let me.
“I can make you happy,” I whispered into her hair, pulling her closer, hoping the promise would cling to every renewing blood cell in my body. I tried to root it deep within me. I tried to be what she wanted me to be. But people change.
“It hurts,” she breathed back. “This is all my fault.”
“I know,” I said, not really letting her know which fragment I was referring to. I believed it was her fault. If she would have chosen me, none of this would have happened. She brought it upon all of us, even if I wished to take the blame from her. “But I can make the pain go away. I promise if you just give it a try, I’ll make you so happy.”
For a moment, Amawa-na considered this. I could see the wheels turning in her head.
She nodded after a hesitant moment and then wrapped her arms around me. The animal began to claw its way up my throat, reminding me of my quest. The one I need her to be by my side every step of the way.
But I couldn’t help feeling like I would lose her.
She didn’t notice the green glow in my eyes as I pulled away and told her, “You’ll always be mine and you will never leave me.”
Her eyes glazed over as the words imprinted on her brain. She wouldn’t remember me saying them, but they would forever be a part of her, unlike the promise I’d made. She could never make the wrong decision again.
I grunt as I recall her defiance toward me as she helped Cressa-la above the surface in the midst of our plan. Everyone was supposed to die. The One-Hundreds and Ones were supposed to rise and take over this planet. But those plans were foiled, thanks to my little rogue helper. But if I’m able to get to where I want to go, it will be my second chance.
The Revli Tribe passes me by. They’re so happy. So lovey-dovey. So naive and gullible. Don’t they know that acceptance of everything they come across only sets them up for disaster? A mind that opens itself too far is one that can be easily manipulated.
I snort as my stubby legs begin to ache. I’ve been running for a while now—uphill, none the less. My brain tells me to sleep, but I know I’m close to my destination. Maybe I can walk from here, but I can’t stop. Not while I’m something appetizing to other animals out here in the wild.
I see you, Damian.
Abruptly, I come to a stop to look around. I know that voice. It was the first to ever penetrate my skull and caress my brain. I know her by name and I could pick her out of a crowd. She had trained me. She had warned me. I found shelter in her for nearly a year before starting my mission. I was inspired by her.
Where are you? I wonder, knowing she can’t hear me. My powers are long gone.
Come find me, Damian. There’s more to your quest than meets the eye. And bring me a gift. A poor, poor soul that wants nothing other than my help—that is the price.
Her voice is gone just as quickly as it has appeared, and I find myself pinpointing one person, the person that only wants one thing: me.
I run as fast as I can, not worrying about the fatigue growing inside my body as I search for the hole in the ground I’d covered so well. My eyesight is terrible, and I can smell wonderfully—now if I only knew what its scent was.
But I know the direction. I’ve calculated the exact distance from the Revli Tribe. Night is falling and the day has passed me by, but I have a “gift” to persuade into helping me once again. A gift that will do whatever I ask, if only to please me. My little toy.
I sniff around, searching for any smell I recognize from my primitive human nose and try to focus on that one.
And there it is. I can’t place what it is, but it’s something familiar.
So I follow it, and alas, it leads to the hole I’d been searching for. I move the leaves and vines away from the entrance and duck inside, the hole much larger than I need it to be, and scramble downhill as my hooves clack on the ground and echoes surround me. My sudden decision to come here was an impulsive guess, and everything inside of me hopes I’m right as I weave down the hallways I’d created. I know where I’m going.
I search my throne room. Empty.
The dungeon. Vacant.
My pig noises fill the spaces as I double-check other rooms and crevices, but there are no signs of life anywhere. Not even my people litter the hallways or the beds. They’ve vanished, probably trying to find refuge in the trees, away from whatever could be happening up there.
I make my way to the kitchen, where two distinct voices are exploding off the walls. I know one by heart; the other is only from a faint and recent memory. They don’t notice me as I waddle through the doorway and stop, taking in the sight. There she is, Dametria, with Tamir’s younger sister, deep in conversation.
“...okay. It’s all right; I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I just don’t understand—” the girl’s eyes lock onto me. “A boar?”
Dametria turns around, just as confused as the other girl.
“Hey, little guy,” she coos, “how did you get in here?”
She hadn’t been there to see what Cressa-la did to me. Of course she wouldn’t recognize me.
Through the entrance. I press the words outward. And then I realize there’s no way I can communicate with her. My powers are gone. I’d have to find an alternate way, an animalistic way. Even worse: perhaps a cute way. She is a girl, after all. Her motherly instincts will take over if I find a way to seem like I didn’t want her to leave and like I needed her. But how would I do that?
“Come on, let’s get you out of here,” she says to me in the baby-voice as she reached forward to touch me. I open my mouth, wanting to bite, but change my mind try to take her hand. She moves it away, as if she was just trying to pet me. I groan internally and try again, gently taking her hand and tugging the slightest bit, telling her to follow. She doesn’t get the message.
“What is it, little guy?”
“Just leave it alone,” the girl says, holding her head in her hands. “What did I miss while I was out? The last thing I remember is hitting the wall...” She shakes her head and motions to the wall standing at her left.
“Damian stopped the world from moving and somehow it started spinning again. I’m not sure what happened, exactly, but I know that luckily nothing up there poured down into here. I can’t tell if that’s a good sign or not...”
The girl is hesitant as she leans forward and takes a breath. “We can go up and look. I mean, if there’s anything wrong, all you need is water.”
“You’re a One?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, and something flashes in Dametria’s eyes, but it passes quickly. “My name is Jackie.”
“I know,” Jackie says, shaking her head. “Cressa-la and Tamir.”
Dametria’s head drops at the sound of our old friend’s name. “I could have guessed.”
“What’s your history with my brother?” Jackie asks curiously, picking up on the body language Dametria gives off. “He kind of hinted at it too—that y’all knew each other before Cressa-la came into the picture. Were you... a thing?”
“That’s a story for another time,” Dametria wavers, her voice growing hoarse and unsteady as she shifts her stance and breathes in quickly. “Let’s go check it out.”
With that, Dametria turns and begins to walk away, Jackie struggling to stand on her own. But she stumbles after Demetria and I follow, hoping they won’t walk too fast for me
I have no idea how I’m going to get them where I need them to go, and I’m not sure how much time I have to do it, but I know I have to think of something soon—before they reach Cressa-la.