Chapter Twenty Eight
Adam was still scanning the jungle floor for silver streaked rocks when he noticed the light beginning to fade.
Looking up he saw the sun was already half-eaten by the horizon. It wasn’t safe to be deep in the jungle at night, so he decided to give up the search and head back to the homestead with what little rock nuts he’d been able to root up.
Harvesting the slider could wait until morning, though he didn’t relish seeing Emma’s smug look when he returned empty handed.
He looked down at the strange fruit in his hands— six perfectly round orbs in all. Rubbing moist dirt off one of them with his thumb, he examined its husk, rich brown, the texture of leather. The rare fruit underneath would be worth the time it took to cut it open. They tasted sweeter than any tree fruit and the sensation they brought to the body and mind was something like floating on the waves in the early morning sun.
Adam decided to let his feet rest a moment and sat down on a long crooked root that protruded from the ground like the arm of a monster attempting to pull itself up from the center of the moon.
The balls of his feet pulsed quickly as he relieved them of his weight and his bare legs itched from being on the move all day. Reaching up, he pulled a frond away from a low hanging branch. Then, tearing it in half, he packaged the rock nuts tightly on top and folded the frond over them once before tying the small bundle together with vine and then to his spear. When that was done, he blew out a long sigh and rested his spear against the edge of the root.
The night world was beginning to wake, new sounds emerging around him as the day died away. He’d learned over the years that night sounds were shy and strange compared to daytime ones. They hummed at a lower frequency as though the creatures that made them were trying to stay quiet in the darkness. Everything evened out in a dangerously soothing way that could lull you into thinking you were safer than you were. There were certainly as many monsters in the dark as in the light.
A rustling sound along the ground made him perk up and grab hold of his spear. Looking into the brush he saw two mud mice emerge from a hole at the base of a tree and begin to root blindly for bugs. He shifted his weight and they froze. While blind, their other senses were still acute.
Adam rose to his feet slowly and they scurried off into the jungle. The way they moved reminded him of KoKo, the two of them together were like he and Emma. All they had was each other.
Suddenly, he longed to be home with Emma and the strangest feeling of shame washed over him as he realized he wasn’t mad at her anymore. In fact, he could barely recall what they had fought about in the first place. And, as the world grew darker around him, Adam knew Emma was right to worry about losing him in his battle with the slider, because the thought of being alone on the wild and massive jungle moon felt suddenly unbearable to him.
How awful it would be to be all alone day-in and day-out. How scary and dreadfully lonely to be the only one of your kind.
Suddenly Adam wanted nothing more than to be with Emma; to see her face and feel her close and watch her weave flowered necklaces and tussle with KoKo until they all fell asleep in a heap.
He moved with haste through the jungle towards the homestead, his sore feet and the wound in his leg no longer causing him any pain.
Adam raced towards the hut when he reached the homestead, ignoring the traps, the hungry honks of the flappers and the cold fire pit. They could wait. Right now, he wanted Emma. He wanted to wake her if she was sleeping and tell her how silly he’d been.
Stopping just outside the hut, he leaned his spear against the wall and untied the small package of rock nuts. Then, pulling them behind his back as a surprise, he peeled back the hanging vines and stepped in through the entryway.
The air in the hut was sweet and Adam recognized the scent as Emma’s immediately. She had always carried a distinct and pleasant aroma, as though her skin radiated with the pollen from the thousands of flowers she’d worn and weaved through her hair and clothing over the years. Mixed with the day’s perspiration, it was a powerful and alluring potion. But while her scent lingered in the air, the girl was not inside.
Adam’s heart sank. Bending down he peeked under KoKo’s covered sleeping basket to find the animal resting peacefully. Emma and the creature were usually inseparable, so maybe she hadn’t gone far. Maybe she was just gathering fruit for the evening meal and would return in a moment?
Adam decided that made sense and sat on their bed to wait for her. Placing the rock nuts on the floor next to Emma’s side, he lay down and stared at the ceiling restlessly.
How long would he need to wait? What if it was all night?
Adam huffed in frustration and sat up again. It was no good. He couldn’t wait. He had to find her immediately. So, leaving the package of rock nuts next to the bed, Adam ran from the hut and out into the cooling air of the homestead.
Stopping just outside the hut, he leaned close to the ground and looked for fresh tracks, signs of any recent disruption to the plants or flowers littering the area.
He found a bunch of young reeds that appeared to have been flattened by a footstep and gauged a possible direction from there. Once he discovered the general direction she’d gone, Emma would be easy to find. It was an old hunting trick they’d used many times before.
Adam grinned as he moved more quickly, tracing Emma’s footsteps through the homestead and into trees. As much as he loved hunting game, he was struck by how quickly his heart raced as he worked to find her. He could think of nothing in the world more satisfying at that moment than seeing her floating amid the trees, wild and free and unaware he was approaching. He relished the idea of surprising her, could almost see her smile as she turned to see he’d found her.
He began to ache for her as he walked ever quicker, his body crying out as though having lost some integral piece of itself. It was like, without her, he might die.