In the After

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Dry Landers of All Kinds

The sound of branches snapping wakes me, I try to scream but the large hand on my mouth as another wraps around my waist. Still, I have to try to get away, I twist in my makeshift bed to no avail. This male Dry Lander is male, with African features, a head of curly blonde colored hair and skin the color of the driftwood. His eyes meet mine and they show fear. I use that to my advantage, pulling an old trick from my childhood, I lick his dirty hand. He pulls away, leaving me with an opportunity to grab my knife. I slash at his hand. “Stop!”

“Shh,” The savage says putting a finger on his lips.

“I will not be quiet you’re the one you attached me.” I tell him still holding my knife in front of him.

He smiles. “You speak my words.”

“English, of course I do.” I say as trying not laugh at his accent. It’s sound kinda like a southern accent the kind from the old movies.

“My people call me Tatum.” The man holds his right hand over his chest. “I won’t be harming ya.”

“Then leave me alone.”

He scoffs in annoyance. “I be wanting to but my leader say I gots to be bringing ya to her.”

“Look, I don’t have time for this I have to be somewhere so if you don’t leave I’ll stab you.”

“Looky here girly I’s just do what’n I was told now you’s come willingly or I gonna throw you on my shoulder.”

If this was Dee, she would go willingly with him not wanting to fight, she never was one to fight. Me, I was famous for not thinking that’s what happens, I slash going for the face like I was taught to do. Now I am not slow but Tatum was faster taking my left arm holding it in an iron grip.

Wince in pain I dropping the knife, then dive off my bed to retrieve it, well that was the plane anyway. Tatum lunges at me, forcing me backward onto the ground and in one quick motion has both of my hand above my head. “I’ma sorry Missy but ya left me no choice.”

I stop moving, letting the rational side of my brain take over. “What do you want with me?”

He pulls a piece of rope from his side. “I’s told ya my leader be wanting you, not me.”

“Fine,” I say as he ties my hands. He leaves my hands tied together as he rolls my hammock into a carry able size. “Why are you packing my stuff?”

“You’ll be want’n it right, these tides they be coming in and take it all away.”

My first instinct is to say thank you because while I’m sure he doesn’t care I do, since my sat-phone is in there. But, saying thank you to the person who’s kidnapping me ready doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do so I just keep my mouth shut. He smiles as he works like he knows what I’m thinking.

“You never did tell me your name.”

“Untie and I’ll tell you.”

He laughs. “I likes you even iffen you talk funny.”

Using a tree to get into sitting potion I laugh. “You’re the one who with the funny way of talking.”

He finishes, then stands holding the water bottle twist the cap open. “Iffin I was give ya some of this ya won’t be spit’n it back at me will ya?”

“No.” I am thirsty and hungry well if I ever get settled down I will be as of right now I’m more scared of what will happen to me. One Dry Lander is fine, but a whole tribe of them, I hear my heart beating in my chest. It’s deafening I look at the strange man, he’s a man older than me, stronger then me too. My mind runs through all the things he could do to me.

“Hey’ Missy?” His tips my head back my first thought is that he’s going to slit my throat. “’I’m sorry.” I barely hear is as he pours the water on top of my head.

My body reacts to that and I kinda head-butt him. “Sorry.”

Tatum rubs his forehead. “Naw ya good stronger then I been thinkin to. Thought ya’s sea people was a soft.”

Since he’s carrying me over his shoulder his right hand keeping my stable and my pack in his other hand. He’s strong too I wonder how he go so strong did he cut these tall trees and haul them to wherever he’s taking me.

“Where are you taking me and how do you know where I come from?”

He pulls up onto his shoulder. “We’s all been told the story ‘bout peoples who’s lived an died they whole lives on the sea. And I be taken ya to my village.”

“How far is it?”

“’Bout four hours walk from here.”

I scoff. “You’re going to carry me for four hours.”

“I am.”

Tatum is now carrying me and I get a closer look at his clothing. Mine is made from cotton fibers layered with fish scales. The cotton is grown on another ship sent over to all the other ships. These clothes are different made of animal skins and the smell is different more like the earth. Breathing I know that smell he smells like the forest like the pine trees and I smell like the ocean like salt.

“Well, how about this I ask you a question and you answer it. Then you ask me and I’ll answer you. We won’t lie, but if we don’t to answer we don’t have too.”

“’Kay. So, be have’n the old knowledge’s right.”

“Old knowledge, what’s that?”

He lets out a deep breath looking. “You knows why some paths be made of gray stone.”

“It’s a road. Before you and me and our parents and even when our grandparents where little kids these paths had great machines on them that could get us from here to your village in minutes.”

“Like horses.”

“You have horses?” Ever since I learned about land animals horses where my favorite.

“Of course.”

(*)(*)(*)

Tatum stops something he hasn’t been in four hours, I twist around. “Wow.” The bridge looks stable. Gently he puts me back on the ground. “Time for you to walk.”

“Really?” While I am still upset and a little afraid of Tatum, he’s not really violent. He carries a long machete for protection. I didn’t ask from what.

“I be unbinding ya hands too.” He says dryly. I did ask why he after me and how he knew where I was. Of course he didn’t answer that and I didn’t tell him about why I was here, though I will have to tell his leader. Whoever that is.

Smiling as he unties the knot. “Thank you.”

He scoffs walking forward “Oh iffen you run I’ll be cutten you, come on Missy.”

“It’s Delia.” I say rubbing my hands, of all the questions he asked my name wasn’t one of them.

He smiles. “What?”

“My name it’s Delia.” I hold out my hand.

He just stars at it. “Shoulda I be doing somethin’ with it?”

“You shake it.”

Taking my fingertips he wiggles my whole arm. “Strange custom ya got.” He puts his arm over his chest where his heart would be. “This how you be great’n people here.” I put my right arm on my chest. “Naw, ya use the favorite hand mine be the right you’s be the left.”

I put my left hand on my chest. “Delia.”

“Good, then ya say your clan name and the home of ya, like this. I be Tatum Rivers of Kent Island. You be?”

Putting my hand on my chest I say. “I be Delia Wicks of Trygg Havn.”

We walk across the bridge and I ask. “How did you know I was there?”

“I been hunt’n on the yesterday saw ya and on the shore.”

“Wow.” The bridge ends at a small hill that overlooks a small town structure. I see the roofs of house there are a least three dozen of them. There are small figures that I can see the people are walking or riding horses. All around the village there is high wooden wall that to me looks very well built. Surrounding the village are fields and grazing animals. “This is your home?”

“That it be.”

The wall is thirty feet high with two guard towers that makes me think of the castles I would see in books. One of the guards looks down at us he’s smiling. “Tatum ya a wifey so badly ya gone’n took a sea baby.”

Looking up at the man I say. “I am not his wife and don’t call me a sea baby.” His face falls I see the fear in his eyes just like with Tatum he saw me and was for half a second afraid of me. Turning to face I ask. “What’s that look for.”

He leads me into the village. “Ya eyes. They’s be thinkin that ya stole a twin when ya was in ya mamas’ belly.”

“I did.”

“What?” He stops in his tracks.

“I have a twin sister back home and she has one brown and one blue just like me.” I say quietly, I don’t yell like he did but people are defiantly talking about me now. Looking around I see Mother hiding their children, the men are holding weapons of their own too. “Shit, I’m going to die.”

“Naw!”

We all turn toward the woman who spoke. She is tall long curly black hair that complements her mocha colored skin. I look at my Tatum whispering “You didn’t tell me that your leader was also your Mother.”

The woman walks toward me unlike every other person here she like her son can look into my eyes. “Ya say you’s stolen ya sisters eye.”

“It’s a cute story my parents us when we were little that’s all. What it really is a genetic mutation called thing heterochromia.”

“Old knowledge’s, listen here peoples this woman be under my protection. Tatum here will be her guard. Now ya’s needs to gets back to works all of ya.”

The people go back to work as the woman come closer to us. She puts her hand on Tatum’s shoulder putting here heads together. They’re having a whole conversation while I feel very much on display. A girl, nine or ten, breaks away from mother coming over to me.

“Hiya.”

I smile at the girl she has flowers waved into her long brown hair. “Hello.”

The girl puts her left hand on her chest where her heart would be. “I be Lula Park of the Kent Island.”

“I be Delia Wicks of Trygg Havn.”

“Lula!” a woman rushes over taking the girl shoulder. “Ya stay’n aways from her hear.”

She looks down. “But, Mama! She be nice.”

Tatum is on my left. “Tilly, the kids speaken true.”

Tilly pulls the child closer to her. “I’s don’t be trusten people form the sea.”

“What’s that all about?”

He shrugs. “Ya trust me?”

“You kidnapped me so no not really.”

The man leads me to a cottage. “Good ya shouldn’t be.”

“Tatum!” I look up there’s a girl above us in a loft. Her skin is white like mine but her hair is a curly black mass. She jumps from the loft into Tatum’s arms. “This be the pretty sea girl ya saw?”

I scoff as a red blush rise on his face. “You think I’m pretty?”

“I’s thinka your pretty.” The girls, who can’t be older than five, says sweetly reaching out to my wavy auburn hair. “I likes ya hair.”

Stepping closer I let her touch my hair. “I like you hair too.”

“Ya talk funny.”

“Your brother said the same thing.”

She shakes her mass of hair. “Tatum ain’t my brother he be my uncle.”

“He be my brother.” A woman says she the same driftwood colored skins, her features are more African than her daughters. But, where the child’s hair is curled black her mother’s hair is blond and straight. Also, on her hip is baby maybe a year old give or take a month.

The little girl smiles climbing down from his arms. She stand striaghts putting her right hand on her little chest. “I be Rainy Mars and that be Jimmy my lil’ brother. Who you be.”

“Delia.”

“Delia of the Sea people. I be Cara.” The woman says in a friendly greeting.

Tatum hugs her being careful of the child. “Hiya.”

Rainy takes my hand. “Come on I’s show ya the house.” I have really have no say in the matter as she drags me to the left. The room is larger than I thought, it could fit seven to ten people comfortably. The wooden floor is clean, well the parts I see are clean, and most of the floor is covered in wool mats with intricate patterns on them. “This be the fam room where’s we eats at and talks. That be the fireplace in winter we uses that cook with.” She points to a low table to the left of the fire place. “That be the table Papa mades it.”

“Where do you sleep?” I saw her in the loft above us.

She nods. “Rights.” Rainy takes my hand and walks me through a hallway a piece of bright red cloth covers a door. “This be the kitchen where’s Mama pears’ and keeps the food.” The room is small but very cool. And unlike the family room and this room is made of stone and has a dirt floor. Long the walls are pots and pans, all of them are homemade.

There is a trap door. “What’s that?”

“This be where we keep our meats and cheese.” She taps the cabinets. “This is where the rest of the food be.”

In the left hand corner is wooden ladder. “That leads to your room?”

“Yea.” She goes over to the right side of the room. There is another piece of mint green cloth covering doorway. “That be Mama and Papa’s room. Jimmy sleeps there too.”

The other real door is on the south wall it leads outside. “And whats out this door.”

“That be the back where Mama’s outside kitchen, the outhouse, the garden, and the well.”

“Wow.” It’s all I can say. This place is nothing like I though and these people are different but not savage. Not, what I thought, maybe if I explained it they could help me or let me go.


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