Chapter 13: Recovery
There was a weight on top of me. I couldn’t see. This weight was covering my head as well. I leaned to the side and shoved it off of me, and I could see the blue sky again. What a welcome and beautiful sight was that cloudless sky above me. So bright and brilliant. I look over at what I had rolled off of myself, and I screamed. I grabbed my mouth to stifle the scream. There was a man lying there with an arrow in his back.
How… what had happened? I looked down at myself and realized that his blood was all over my shirt. My shirt was stiff with dried blood. It was… everywhere. What had happened? How had I gotten here?
A flash, I was running, looking back, a man following me. A battle. My bow. I look at my other side, and sure enough, there was my bow.
Practice arrows. I couldn’t shoot a man with practice arrows. It was all coming back, but how had he ended up dead? I had lost consciousness. No one was close enough to save me or care. I had thought it was over. I had thought… that he would…
I shied away from the thought. I had to get rid of these clothes. Maybe I should burn them. I would feel best if every drop of his dried blood was burned and cursed.
I grabbed my bow and managed to stand up and stumble away before I collapsed on my knees and puked up every piece of food in my gut. The knock to the head wasn’t making me feel too good. I wiped my mouth and stumbled toward the center of the town where people were quietly laying the dead in rows.
I saw Sandy and Kevin sitting down next to each other. Kevin was quietly cleaning his sword with a blank look and Sandy was leaning heavily against him. I saw Rod in his black cloak helping place a body in the row of bodies. I saw that viper Liz helping him.
Where was Fire? “Where’s Fire?” I rasped out, but my throat didn’t seem to be working and my bow was bending under the weight of me leaning on it.
My vision kept tilting and spinning funny. I walked closer using my bow heavily for support to keep me from falling out of my own dizziness, “Where’s Fire?” I rasped out again.
I guess someone heard me or saw me, because suddenly there was a person there holding me up and supporting my weight. My head hurt so badly. A person in a black cloak was suddenly holding me tightly.
“Roderick.” I whispered in my raspy voice. And suddenly I was holding onto him for dear life as my world tilted and spun. “It’s all spinning, I can’t quite see straight.”
“I thought you were dead… Sandy said she saw a man kill you before she killed him. She said you collapsed… We all thought. Please don’t ever scare me like that again Liv.” He was whispering in my ear, and it tickled slightly. What… why had they thought I was dead? My brain wasn’t quite working at full speed.
“Can I, ummm, can I sit down… somewhere. I think… I think he hit my head really hard.” Took so long to focus on what I wanted, “And water. Could I have water?”
I heard him calling something out to other people as he slipped my arm around his shoulders and helped me walked to a place where I was out of the way and could sit down. I’d... I’d dropped my bow. I… Did I need it? I lay down on the comfortable ground an pillowed my head with my hands. My head hurt so badly…
Rod was in front of me in his black cloak. His hands were gently waking me and lifting me into a sitting position, “Here Liv, drink this water. Nice and slow.”
There was a cup at my lips and I drank what was offered. I tried to grab the cup from him and tilt it more so I could get more water, but he held it steady so that I couldn’t take it from him and drink more.
And suddenly I was coughing. Everything hurt.
“I know you’re thirsty Liv, but you have to be patient. If you drink too much too quickly you’re likely to just upchuck it. You have to be patient.”
He was making sense. Why did he have to make sense? I just wanted to drink water till this infernal headache disappeared.
At some point he took the water away, “Rod, where’s Fire? She ordered me to change and grab my bow, but I grabbed my bow first. Is she OK?”
“Fire? Oh, that red head that is sometimes with you. She, umm, I’m sure she’s fine. I don’t know her that well.” My head might be killing me, and I might have been light headed and dizzy, but I could tell when someone was lying as poorly as Rod was trying to.
“Rod, where’s Fire? You know and you’re hiding it from me. I can tell even though my head hurts. Please Rod, tell me the truth.” I hoped my pleading would bring him around. Was she in the lines of dead or one of the injured lying around, like me?
He was desperately shaking his head, begging me not to ask again, but if he wouldn’t tell me I would crawl over there. I was disoriented, not weak. I pushed myself into a kneeling position and he held me to steady me.
“Please Liv, please don’t. You, you don’t want to see that. I thought… I thought you were going to be in those lines. I… I don’t think I can…” He was trying to dissuade me, but Fire couldn’t be dead. Fire was too alive to die.
“Fire needs me Rod. She needs my help.” She was still alive. What if she wanted to talk to me? She must be badly injured for him to not want to take me to her.
“She… She has her man, and… umm… her uh, her lover.” Yes, her man and what was her name again… Jasmine! I remembered her talking about Jasmine, but I hadn’t really met her.
“Oh God, Rod, if she’s injured, is her baby ok?” He stared at me blankly for a second with his mouth wide open, and then he shook his head fervently.
“Oh God, she’ll be so upset about that. She was so happy to be with child.” For some reason Rod wasn’t responding.
“Rod, please, we’re good friends. Please take me to her.” Again the headshaking.
“I… I can’t. I’m not allowed to. And you need to lie back down and recover. Here, let me help you.” I let him help me lie back down. I would pretend to sleep and see if he would walk away. If he went off, I could crawl to find her.
He stroked my short hair for a while, and then he quietly walked away. I waited till I didn’t hear his footfalls, and then I sat up and saw black spots and felt the blood rush to my brain.
I let myself collapse back against the ground and then rolled myself over and off the mat I now realized I had been on. There were other injured near me, but most of them were fairly quiet. I could hear others screaming elsewhere.
I slowly lifted myself onto my hands and knees and crawled along the lines of injured looking for her red hair cascading over her mat, but I reached the end of the row, and didn’t find her. I was preparing to go look for other injured, but I glanced toward the lines of bodies, and a bright red color that was too bright for dried blood was dashed in against the rest of the bodies.
I didn’t want to look over there… She had to be in amongst the injured somewhere. A person walked up and knelt next to me, I looked over and found myself looking at a blood splattered Dan.
“What are ya looking for?” I couldn’t help but stare at the blood splatters and pray none of it was his.
“Umm, are you hurt?” He blinked as if my response was strange, and then he looked down at himself and chuckled slightly.
“Nah, this is da enemy’s blood. Now what do ya need? If ya dona need anything I can always assist ya back to your mat.”
“My friend, Fire. I’m looking for her. Could you point me toward her? Rod wouldn’t tell me where she is or how she’s doing.” He nodded and held out his hand to me.
“Better yet I’ll help ya get ta her. I dona think this is something I can just tell ya.”
“I’m not weak. I’ve seen plenty of people die. My own father was beheaded in front of me and my best friend whipped to death. I can stand anything.” I grabbed onto his hand, and he helped pull me into a standing position which immediately made me dizzy. I clung tightly to his hand for support in my ever tilting world.
I could see… I dragged him, my support, behind me as I stumbled toward what I saw.
Her hair, her wild fiery hair was tangled. And… There was a… My hand lost its gripped and I collapsed to my knees. If I stared at her face she looked like she was sleeping. Someone had closed her eyes, but her chest… Her chest was torn apart. Her pale skin was cut open to allow the sun to touch it rays to her insides.
I crawled forward next to her, and puller her against me. “You can’t leave me Fire. I need you here. You... You…” I couldn’t speak as sobs were torn from my throat. I shook as I held her against me, “You… promised… you… would... show me… ‘round..” I gasped out a couple of breaths unable to talk. “Never showed me ‘round… ‘round the rest of… the… the clothing making place.”
“God Damn it Fire! You can’t die!” I screamed at her, tears coursing down my face.
I held her close. In the background I could hear people speaking, but I simply sat there and held Fire.
“What are you thinking bringing her here? She has a head injury and needs to rest!”
“She wouldn’t rest ‘til she saw her friend. I found her trying ta crawl over ‘ere. Ya cana protect her from everything.”
“I could at least protect her from this for a while. She’s had enough death to deal with in her life. And she’s injured.”
“Damn it Rod, She’s not made of glass. I think ya are givin’ her ye own inability to deal with death.”
I needed to move on. Her fire would always be with me, I gently laid her back down on the ground and kissed her forehead and gently smoothed her beautiful curls away from her face. I scrubbed my face with my hands, but tears were still falling. So I let them fall in her honor.
I didn’t want to leave her out here in the elements by herself. Not the way they had thrown Annie out. Just tossed her in the midden like common trash. No, Fire deserved an honored death.
“How… How do… What is the… the way you umm… the way you… bury… your dead… here.” I closed my eyes. I had just… Fire oh God Fire, how could you be dead? How could you leave me to face this strange world? I wasn’t ready to be on my own.
“We burn our dead. Fire got her name because her mother died when she was born, and so we said she was born of the fire. It’s a fitting end.” I nodded numbly.
Born of fire into fire she would return. It was… fitting. It was an honorable death. I stroked her hair gently. It was so soft. So vibrant. She would want me to live on. She would want me to…
To leave her. I’d left her. I wouldn’t have had to if I’d worked harder to learn to fight. I could have been next to her; protected her back…
The tears that had started to dry up turned back on. And dripped down onto her wounds as if I could heal with my tears.
Without realizing it I found myself muttering a prayer, “Oh God, please, if you have any mercy in you, take her into your arms. Love this child of yours, the gentlest of souls, and the brightest light I have met in this world. Please take this woman into your arms.”
I looked over at the two guys, but they were still talking. I didn’t care anymore what they were saying about me. It didn’t matter anymore. They could think what they wanted to think about me. I brought death to my friends. Would I end up causing Kevin and Rod to die? What about Sandy and Dan? Annie and my father were dead, and Fire was dead, and the common component was me.
I curled up there between Fire and the next dead guy. There were arms gently lifting me up. I looked up and found myself staring up at Kevin, “Whhaa?” I muttered unintelligibly.
“You shouldn’t go lying amongst the dead. I know you’ve seen too much death, but you can’t just give up. You live with the living. We must all carry on and make good of the sacrifice the dead have made. You need to sleep.” I closed my eyes against the dizziness that came with being carried and didn’t refute his statement. How could I?
I heard doors open and close, but I carefully kept my eyes closed. I felt myself being lowered onto a bed and I opened my eyes, “My room?”
“Yes, I think it will be better for your head than the mat out there. Just sleep, and hopefully you’ll feel better tomorrow. I’ll make sure you’re there, at her funeral. I know… At least she was given honor…”
He started to walk out, “Kevin.”
“Hhmm?” he turned back to look at me.
“Thanks. I… just… thanks.” He nodded. He was always there for me when I needed him most.
“Liv, no matter what happens, I will always be here for you no matter what stupid decisions you make or who you choose to love. It’s the best part about close friends that are like siblings, we look out for each other.” And then he turned and left, but there was a warmth in me that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Kevin was right; we would always be there for each other.
When I woke up again, no one was around. I sat up and I did feel less dizzy. My memories of what happened were still disjointed, but at least my head was spinning just from sitting upright.
I slowly stood up and got out of bed, and the room still seemed like it was moving a little bit, but it was moving a whole lot less than it had been just yesterday. I slowly walked toward the door grabbing something every time I became slightly dizzy and waiting a second before moving forward again.
Suddenly Rod was there at more door, and he was holding a plate of food. “Don’t worry, I’ll bring you anything you need. I figured you’d be hungry. I was worried when I couldn’t find you near Fire, but Kevin told me he brought you in here.”
“Thanks.” I went back toward the bed and sat down. I really didn’t feel like talking or being with company, but he sat down next to me.
“Here, eat. You haven’t eaten in a while and you really need to keep up your strength.” He was right. Eating was important. I just didn’t really feel that up to it right now.
“I… I don’t know Rod. I’m not actually that hungry.” I could still see her chest sliced open and her pale bloodless face with her fiery curls surrounding her.
“Eat. I know you aren’t hungry, but eat.” He held out the bowl he had, and it was simple fare, just oatmeal. I took the bowl and picked up the spoon, and slowly forced myself to eat the bland substance bit by bite.
He sat next to me the entire time making sure I was eating. When I finished I simply passed him back the bowl and leaned on his shoulders.
“Sometimes I know there must be an afterlife because such a vibrant life can’t simply end, but other times I wonder. Is there anything we are dying for? Is there any honor in dying, or do we only tell ourselves that to convince ourselves that we have a chance at life. That life is worth living. But really is there any point at all?” I wasn’t even quite sure what I was saying, but in a strange way it made sense. Was there any point? Were we here for a reason or just because.
Rod stayed silent simply resting his head on top of mine. We sat there silently on my bed when suddenly he kissed my forehead and pulled away. “I have to get going. I have work I need to do helping clean up the village.”
“See you later Rod, and thank you, for coming to visit me. And for forcing me to eat.” I passed the bowl back to him.
“See you later Liv.” He leaned down and kissed me, and I grasped his arm to hold him there, but he pulled away and left. My hand dropped like a lead weight.
And then I was alone again. Sleep seemed to help the last time, so I laid back down and let sleep claim me.
Someone was shaking me, and I opened my eyes to Kevin’s handsome face staring down at me. “Good, you’re finally awake. Funeral is soon and I knew you wanted to go. Sandy will be in here to help you get dressed, and then we’ll help you outside.”
Then he was gone and suddenly Sandy’s bright blonde hair was filling my vision as she yanked me in a sitting position on the bed. “Whatcha doin’ still lyin’ ‘ere? Come. We gota funeral ta get ya ready for.
I swung my feet over and sat there waiting for the sudden dizziness to fade. “I ummm… what’s customary to wear to funeral here?”
“Ya nice clothin’ ‘course! Didn’ Sandy teach ya nothin’?” She said it as if she thought Sandy had had the time to teach me this.
“I… She never got to that. There were no funerals till now.”
“She didn’ teach ya that when she gave ya da dress?” I shrugged.
“I don’t quite remember everything from my first day. It’s all kind of a blur.”
Sandy pulled the blue dress out of the closet and came quickly over to me. “Stand up n’ take off ya work clothin’.”
I slowly stood up and pulled off the soft shirt and trousers grabbing the bed whenever the world tilted. As soon as they were off and I was standing back upright Sandy was there pulling the beautiful dress over my head. And then I was ready to go.
“Come, let’s get there ‘fore it’s over.” She started walking forward and I walked next to her. Whenever the world tilted I corrected my body and grabbed her hand. Kevin was there at the door, and together we walked outside and into the town square.
There was a platform made of wood with sticks under it and all the bodies were laid out on top. People were walking on the platform and saying goodbye to their loved ones. There were a couple kids walking on the platform saying goodbye to friends and parents.
“We have a house now. With so many dead we don’t need to build a house now.” Kevin spoke so quietly I almost didn’t hear him. He was staring straight at the platform.
“What, there’s a house where everyone died?” That was just… sad.
“Everyone ‘cept their six year old girl.” Sandy replied from my other side.
“What do you think Liv, think we would be able to raise a little girl?” Kevin asked.
“I… I don’t know. Is the girl a condition of the house or something?”
“Nah, she just has nowhere ta go now.” I looked over at Sandy and I could see a tear falling down her cheek that she scrubbed away. Both Sandy and Kevin were avoiding looking at me.
“We can try. She’ll never forgive us for not being her parents though.” I remembered my pitiful half siblings still dishonored, and Felise who would be forced to work even though he had never worked a day in his life before. And Kevin’s father who was probably dead. All we could do was try even though we were a mess.
“Thanks Elizabeth. I knew you would understand. You know, I never thought I would say this, but sometimes I miss Felise, and I know this girl wouldn’t be Felise, but I think it would be, well, I don’t know. Good to do.” Kevin was now looking at me as if looking for approval and I smiled at him, and he seemed relieved.
Rod came running up with his black cloak flapping behind him, “Come on Liv! You should say goodbye as is customary for friends and family. He held out his hands to me and we walked over to the platform with me using him as a stabilizer. He helped me up onto it and he took me to Fire where her man and her female lover were both standing saying goodbye.
I walked up, and they both stared at me like I was an intruder. As if I had no claim to say goodbye to Fire. I nodded politely to them, but they didn’t even acknowledge me. The just watched me as I walked up and moved out of my way so I could stand next to Fire. I squatted down next to her and put my hand on her shoulder. “Goodbye Fire,” I whispered and stood back up.
I quickly left holding onto Rod. We stood amongst the crowd and silently watched as everyone left the platform and one little girl was pulled away from her dead mother. I leaned against Rod and tangled my arm in his. I wanted to be as close to him as possible.
They lit the tinder underneath, and eventually the platform started to burn, and soon all the bodies were burning. Everything was burning, and everyone else had left, but I stood there leaning on Rod with tears trailing down my cheeks. My dear friend Fire was gone. She was joining the ranks where Annie and my Father were.