Good Reef!

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Chapter 5

She knew now. She knew everything. It was all dumped right inside her head together with the responsibility. Without even asking. Without any warning. And she didn’t want it. She wanted none of it.

There was a worried person bending over her. Eeliah helped her sit up and kept wordlessly asking if she was all right. And Bee was not all right. She wanted to share this burden with him and didn’t even know where to begin. Instead she started sobbing uncontrollably in his awkward arms, and, since it seemed like the right thing to do, she continued with it for a while. Eeliah patiently rocked her back and forth.

Night creatures went back about their usual business after the latest tremor, and the sea calmed down. A warm breeze enveloped the area and sprayed some salty water around. The two people on the wall noticed nothing. They were so engrossed in a silent conversation they would probably miss another earthquake should it happen. Not that there would be another one. That one was the last.

Eeliah listened patiently, and his concern grew with every moment. Finally, he helped Bee stand up and asked her to follow him into the sea. He jumped off the Wall and waited for the girl to slowly climb down. She left her shoes, skirt and shirt hanging off the coral but decided that it would be improper (sea person or not) to take off anything else, and followed Eeliah into the water. She knew where they were going. There was a settlement of Oorcheen (that’s what their name seemed to be to the girl) not far from the Wall. Her gift of Sight was now so strong that Bee was sure, if she concentrated enough, she could feel every single person on the continent. Maybe even in the whole world. She didn’t dare try. Her head wasn’t big enough to deal with it. She slowly walked into the water until her feet no longer felt the bottom and then started swimming. Eeliah was way ahead of her, his thoughts going backwards and forwards like a pendulum. One moment he was checking on her progress, and then another he was communicating with his people. The waves were gentle and silent and reminded Bee that there was no need to hurry. Whatever she did at this very moment could not undo things, take away the knowledge that was given to her, or give her the power to influence the future. She always felt there was magic within her… well, now would be a good time for it to surface. Who would listen to a thirteen year old girl? Actually, who on land would listen to a thirteen year old girl? Because evidently, the sea people were waiting for Bee and greeted her like an equal. Their minds reached out both welcoming and friendly. And a little worried. For her.

Eeliah was now waiting for Bee above his town and she could feel the Oorcheen minds getting closer. Oh, how she would love to see the way they lived. One after another, heads started popping out of the water all around her. The moon wasn’t bright and they were far away from any lights on land, but Bee saw them more clearly with the Sight than she would have on a sunny day. She was presently surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people, all welcoming her into their home. There were so many of them that she wasn’t sure which way to face, with whom to speak. If there were leaders among them they certainly didn’t stand out and Bee turned around more than a few times not knowing what to do. Tired and needing a rest, she decided to just float on her back for a while. The stars were blinking at her encouragingly, and she could almost hear them whisper if it weren’t for the constant noise from all around. Even the sea water in her ears was brimming with life. The girl reached out with her mind to the coral wall and decided to try something new. Now that her Sight seemed to have no bounds, maybe she could tap into the coral’s silence from afar. Bee closed her eyes and tried it. The Wall’s song surrounded the area and slowly dimmed the lights and noise attacking her mind from all sides. It didn’t silence them completely but just that small change made a big difference, and Bee felt a huge wave of relief, as if a vice permanently squeezing her head released its tough grip. Not completely, but enough for her to feel better. The girl sighed and sensed Eeliah’s encouraging presence beside her. How wonderful and refreshing it was to have met someone who was genuine and honest. Well, if your whole race can read your thoughts and you share them with each other all the time then maybe you have no other option, she assumed. And he obviously cared for her, even though they’d just met. And all of the others that were gathered around also cared for this little lost girl from another race, who was just about to tell them how their lives were going to change forever.

Unnoticed, Bee returned home before dawn. She’d spent the entire night with the Oorcheen and, despite the gravity of the situation, they made her feel welcome – even happy. They talked (well, communicated) for ages, and she got to know them a little more. They even joked to make her feel better. How that worked exactly, since jokes are a rather spoken language-based invention, she had no idea. But it worked. On the journey back however, she began to grow weaker and before long needed Eeliah’s help to stay afloat, after which a few of the Oorcheen insisted on carrying her between them to the shore. Exhausted and shivery she finally made it home, crawled between the covers and refused to get up with the family. Considering she rarely stayed in bed past dawn (what’s the point of trying to stay asleep if you can hear the whole town waking up in your head), her mother became worried and kept checking her forehead and tongue and, in general, being all motherly, which although most people wouldn’t admit it, is actually a very comforting thing. Bee kept nodding off into shivery nightmares only to wake up feeling even more tired than before. How she hoped for someone to help her. Someone who would understand… a smart grown-up. Gods knew there were very precious few of those. Where was Maya? The only person in the village whose thoughts Bee couldn’t see properly, and yet the only one who always appeared interested without being nosy and never failed to have a good piece of advice. People were more or less certain that she was a witch. Everyone apart from her husband, of course, who rarely noticed anything. Maya was a natural witch who had never gone to the Academy, and that kept her far more closely attached to the people in the village. She helped the ailing ones when healers failed, and everyone was sure (although there was no proof) that having her around pretty much guaranteed protection against most things. But where was she now?

Bee’s temperature was steadily rising and her mother ran to get June, the village healer, whose hands were now full with all the new arrivals that kept catching colds and such. June promised to come by as soon as she could. Bealla was never ill. Her two older brothers would sometimes get sick like all children, but Bee never did. When she was little she complained of headaches, which June unsuccessfully tried to help her with. But otherwise she was never sick a day in her life.

By mid-afternoon Bee’s temperature was so high that when they placed her in a cold bath, the water quickly turned luke-warm. June rarely saw a temperature as serious as Bee’s, and never with a happy ending. The girl should have been completely unconscious, but she kept waking up and telling them to stop screaming, which of course they weren’t. Nobody was allowed in the house anymore. Fearing that it might be infectious, June kicked everybody out, apart from Lara, Bee’s mother, who wouldn’t dream of leaving her daughter’s side. They both did what they could and soon June reached the end of her talents, pouring the last of her herbal extracts and remedies into the girl’s mouth. Now it would all depend on Bee.

A small crowd gathered outside the house. Waiting.

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