No Need To Live Alone
No Need to Live Alone
Sahn woke the next morning still in the darkness of the cave. He lifted himself off the cold cave floor and felt his way toward the entrance of the small cave. A tiny trickle of light filtered in through the opening of the cave, as Sahn found his way out back into the underground lake oasis. The light of the suns was drifting in through the manhole, as above him a farmer filled a cart with water from the huge wooden reservoir. The farmer opened the bronze nozzle on the bottom of the barrel to fill his wheeled cart. Once his wheeled barrel was full, he closed the nozzle. As Sahn rubbed his arms to warm up his chilled body below standing near the edge of the underground lake, the farmer pushed his barrel of water over to the far edge a section of the green crops above. He then opened a valve which let water out of small holes in the bottom of his barrel then pushed it along to irrigate the crops.
Below the farms above, Sahn felt the warm suns light drift down through the different manholes above then he removed his torn sweat-stained chillsuit and placed it on a rock on the bank. He eased himself into the water which was warmer than the chilled morning air and swam down deep into the lake. He swam down into the dark water searching for more fish, when he saw a feint light below. With air still held in his lungs, he plunged deeper into the dark lake toward the mysterious light. At the bottom of the lake he found one of many huge glowing stones, with an array of fish swimming around them and large crabs crawling on them. He swam a bit closer to see and found there were also mussels lying on the stone-covered bottom of the lake. With the oxygen in his lungs running low, Sahn reached for a crab near a protruding stalactite which backed away from him with its claws held up high, as Sahn grabbed it and swam up back to the surface.
Sahn climbed out of the water and sat up on shore with his back against the wall and smashed open the crab’s shell on a large rock. He peeled back the broken pieces of crab shell and pulled out the meat within, as the farmer continued to irrigate up above. Once the farmer watered several rows of crops, he then pushed his empty wheeled barrel back to the large cask of water near the windmill. The farmer nodded to a young Shrkai woman and her daughter, as they strolled over to the manhole that led down to the underground lake. Sahn was still eating his morning meal in the shadows on the opposite side of the lake near his cave, when the young woman and her daughter began to climb down the rope ladder.
Sahn grabbed his dry chillsuit and ducked behind a group of rocks to avoid being seen, as the Shrkai woman climbed down near the raft. The woman placed a bucket she brought with her on the ground, as her daughter finished climbing down. The woman paused for a moment noticing the fish scales on the ground near her raft, then untied the paddle and spear.
“That’s the same woman from the home a few days ago,” Darvin remarked. Sahn kept quiet and did not reply, as Darvin sat on a rock near him in plain sight of anyone looking that way “That’s no coincidence. There’s a reason the gods led you here.” Sahn still refrained from answering. He cowered behind the stone hiding in the shadows, as the woman and her daughter pushed the raft away from shore and out further into the lake. The woman floated out on the raft and aimed the spear at the water.
Sahn continued to watch from the shadows hiding, as the young woman plunged her spear in the water usually bringing it back empty, but occasionally catching a fish on the end. She would remove the fish and toss it into the bucket, as her daughter paddled them slowly around the lake. Up above the farmer was filling his wheeled irrigation keg through the aisles of crops. After his fourth fill up, the farmer pulled a lever alongside of the windmill which engaged a gear to drive the screw inside the clay pipe that dipped into the lake water below. Sahn flinched and turned to look toward the pipe, as the noise of the screw inside started to turn.
“Who’s there?” the young woman asked, as she heard a noise near Sahn. Sahn remained petrified lying with his back as tight in a shadowed corner as he could, as the young woman looked his way. After hearing nothing more she returned to her spear-fishing.
After fishing for the better part of the morning, with the suns outside passing over the farm fields, the young woman and her daughter paddled their raft back to shore. With only three small fish in her bucket, she tied her spear and paddle back up after pulling her raft on to shore. She looked once again out across the lake toward the sound she heard earlier with Sahn still lying in the same place afraid to move a muscle. She then sent her daughter up the rope ladder with herself carrying the bucket right behind her.
Once she was again topside, the young woman saw the farmer lying under a shade tree near a different section of crops. He was too far away for him to see her leave, so she started on her journey back to the city.
Down at the underground lake Sahn remained still after the young woman left.
“So you helped me free myself from isolation so that you could put yourself into the same?” Darvin asked while sitting on a large stone near a stalagmite.
“Is she Gone?” Sahn asked peeking his head up out of the shadows.
“Oh she’s so gone. Opportunity missed. I remember someone telling me once that fortune favored the audacious. You know what happened to him?”
“I’m not ready,” Sahn said, as he slipped back into the water. He swam down back to where the crabs were crawling on the bottom of the lake, after again grabbing one, he started to swim up, but stopped and grabbed a few more. He then swam over to the shore where the raft was tied and dug a hole in some sand with his spear. He dropped the crabs in the hole then swam down to scoop up some mussels and threw them into the hole as well. Sahn then swam across the lake, as the farmer up above pushed his wheeled keg over to the windmill and disengaged the noisy screw in the clay pipe.
Sahn sat on the banks watching the fish swim in the water where the rays of sunslight pierced the otherwise dark water. He smashed open one of the crabs and dug out the meat within. As the suns dropped, it again got quite chilly in the underground cave Sahn was laying in. After laying there shivering for a few hours, he rolled over and sat with his back against the wall in the dark cave.
“You need to find a way to start a fire at night,” Darvin said to him while sitting leisurely nearby. Sahn stood up and felt his way toward the exit to the small cave. He then followed a narrow path around the lake and climbed up the rope ladder out to the surface above. Poking his head out of the top of the manhole, Sahn peered around to see if any of the riders were out patrolling the perimeter of the farms. After reassuring himself it was clear, he snuck out to the grassy fields and gathered as much of the dry grass as he could carry, then brought it back over by the manhole. He made a few trips building up a pile of grass and twigs and branches, then holding as much as he could in one arm, he made several more trips down the rope ladder.
After piling all the grass and branches in his little cave, Sahn went out of his cave and in the dim moonlight that shone in the underground lake he found two rocks and brought them into the dark cave as well. He felt his way back to his pile of dry grass and scraped the rocks together to shoot sparks down to the dry grass. After several attempts, he finally produced a small flame in the grass and blew on it until it grew. The firelight reflected of the walls and Sahn’s haggard face as, the flames leaped from the dry grass. Sahn sat there while he added small twigs, then larger branches until the fire crackled and warmed the small cave. Sahn curled up with his ragged chillsuit pulled over him like a blanket and fell off to sleep.
Sahn was still sleeping the next morning, as the farmer again came to irrigate the crops and after a short time, the young woman and her daughter climbed again down the rope ladder. She stood looking at the gift of crabs and mussels in the small pit then looked out across the quiet lake.
“Hello,” She called out with her voice echoing against the stone walls. Sahn lifted his head. He scampered over to the embers burning nearby and threw sand on them until their glow was covered. “Is anyone here?” the young woman asked, as she looked toward Sahn’s cave hearing the noise of him rustling around and saw the glow of the embers. “Are you the strange man I met a few days back?”
Sahn huddled at the back of the cave again afraid to move. Darvin stood near him shaking his head.
“Well if you’re not going out there, I am.” Darvin started across the cave floor over to the entrance. He stepped out of the small cave and sat on a protruding rock nearby. “Ya he’s right over here.” Darvin waved to the woman. “He’s a little shy right now however.” Darvin giggled, as he watched the woman look around. The woman could not see Darvin although he sat in plain sight waving at her.
“Well my name is Shareena. You don’t need to be afraid. Thank you for the crabs.” After not hearing a response from the cave, the young woman and her daughter pushed off on the raft and again set to spear fishing.
The woman glanced over to the cave several times trying to see any signs of the person inside, but Sahn made no movement, of course Darvin continued to sit on the stone laughing to himself. As the day progressed, the farmer again started up the noisy screw in the clay pipe to draw up some more of the lake water to fill the reservoir above. That afternoon, as the woman guided her raft back to shore and put the crabs and mussels into her bucket with the fish she caught, she turned again to look at the cave.
“Well thank you again. Hopefully you’ll be in a mood to talk tomorrow,” Shareena said, as she grabbed at the rope ladder.
“Who are you talking to mommy?” the little girl asked.
“The man in the cave honey,” she spoke quietly as she crouched down to look at her daughter. “I think he’s the one we met a few days ago remember? He caught all these crabs and mussels for us”
“Oh! Can we go thank him?” the little girl asked excitedly.
“No honey not right now. I think he wants to be alone.” She coaxed her daughter to start her climb up the rope ladder and after looking back one last time at the cave entrance, she followed her up.
A long time after the woman left, Sahn crawled out from his cave.
“Afraid of a young woman and her daughter? Oh how you have changed,” Darvin laughed, when he saw Sahn stand up after ducking his head to clear the short cave entrance.
“Her name is Shareena,” Sahn replied.
“You really need to be a part of the living again.”
“I am living.”
“What? Hiding in a dark cave, talking to an imaginary friend, you call that living? I call that escaping.”
“You know why I have to do this.” Sahn said as he again slipped quietly into the lake and dove down to grab some crabs for dinner. He gathered up some more crabs and mussels and brought them over to the small pit he dug by the woman’s raft. Keeping two for himself he made his way back to the cave and busted them open.
After Sahn heard the farmer shut off the pipe screw, he made his way over to the manhole. With the suns setting he climbed out and gathered some more dry grass and firewood from the field that surrounded the farms. Once back on the banks of the lake near Shareena’s raft he took one of the twigs and carved something in the loose sand. He brought the firewood into his cave and started another fire. Sahn sat with his back against the cave wall poking at the flames.
“You can’t hide away from life forever,” Darvin argued.
“Sure I can. I have everything I need here.”
“I can tell you like that woman. Didn’t you encourage me to ask Millaney to dinner that time?”
“Sure but you know this is different.”
“I don’t want to discuss it anymore.” Sahn tossed a couple more branches on the fire, then rolled over.