Chapter Thirty Six
A sharp whistle caught Emma’s ears as she reached the top of the cliff. Adam was already high in the branches of the trees, waving at her to join him.
The coolness of the stone felt sharp under her feet as she ran to the tree line and climbed the trunk quickly. Huffing deep breaths, she fought against a terrible exhaustion she’d never known before. As she climbed higher, eventually burying under the canopy of large fronds, the sounds of screams and slider bellows, and snapping spears faded into obscurity.
When she was safely hidden, KoKo jumped from Emma’s shoulders and sat on a branch beside her. The way the animal looked up at her, Emma knew she was saying goodbye, but she didn’t know why. Then a high-pitched chirping sang from the tree beside them and Emma turned to see a large purple animal watching them intently.
Emma tuned back to KoKo and smiled. “I think he’s waiting,” she said. KoKo chirped twice and Emma nuzzled her under the chin. “I’ll miss you, too,” she said and then KoKo bounded off and out of sight.
Emma watched after her until she joined the male and they both disappeared into the dense jungle. Then she continued climbing, meeting Adam who was watching her from higher up.
They continued onwards together, moving over tangled limbs from one tree to the next, not stopping to talk, or express the joy each felt at having found each another again. There was no time for rejoicing. Not when they each felt the cold shadow of death stalking them as they moved, invisible but ever present.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Emma collapsed into the crook of two massive tree branches. Hugging her knees to her chest, she begged to stop. “I need to rest, Adam, I can’t go on,” she said in a timid whisper. “Let me sleep here. Just for a while. I’m so tired.”
Indeed, they had travelled a long way, past the small waterfall with smooth black stone, but not all the way to the beach. They would have been too exposed there. Instead, they veered north into unexplored territory where the jungle was dark and wild, but there was a safety in the unbridled chaos of nature that suited them. If the ogres gave chase they would be slowed by their thick jungle, and they would be noisy.
Adam looked at Emma and knew she’d reached her limit. But there was something else, too. Her eyes seemed to stare blankly into the distance as though her mind was somewhere else entirely.
“What did they do to you?” he asked, sitting next to her and putting his arm around her shoulders to quell her shivering.
Emma looked into his eyes and found she couldn’t explain. Instead, she leaned into him, resting her head on his chest. She felt his heart racing. It was comforting and exciting at the same time.
“I thought I’d lost you forever,” Adam continued, burying his cheek into her hair. It smelled of smoke and fresh, night air. He was suddenly intoxicated by her. “I’ll never leave you again.”
Emma lifted her head and looked into his eyes. Even in the darkness they were deep blue, wide and serious. She had never seen him like this before; the cavalier boy she once knew was like a memory, replaced by someone grown up and capable.
Fronds rustled as the wind picked up. Emma shivered and pressed closer to him and he welcomed her, enjoying the sensation of their bare legs tangling up together, her arm sliding across his belly and pulling him closer.
He lowered his hand down her back lightly until it reached her hips and pulled her closer still. Then, lowering his head, he pressed his cheek to hers.
Sharp electricity pulsed through them when their faces touched, as though they had just completed a circuit long broken. They let their fingers entwine and their bodies glowed and buzzed as a strange sensation surged through them, igniting a hunger each knew they had for the other, but never knew how to express.
Emma stared into Adam’s eyes, hoping he could read her thoughts, hoping he felt the same and wanted her as much as she wanted him.
He did. Anticipation took hold of him and he swallowed hard. Emma’s eyes, so rich, like gemstones, seemed to invite him in and without thinking he—
A quick breath, like the flutter of a frond struck by a sudden wind storm, slipped from Emma’s lips as Adam pressed his lips to hers. She folded herself around him, urgently taking him in. She grabbed the side of his head, letting her fingers burrow into his curly golden hair as they kissed fast and strong. Then, rising up, she swung her bare, right leg over his lap and sat on top of him, careful not to let their lips part for even a moment.
She felt him grow under her and became even more excited, tugging him roughly as his hands wandered down her back and settled onto her thighs. His fingers dug into her supple flesh and another surge of adrenaline shot through her and she let out a delighted squeal as they became one.
The two lovers stayed locked together for the rest of the night in the massive tree, neither wanting to separate ever again. Their hearts pounded in their chests and their skin grew hot and moist as they remained tangled throughout the night. Their animal noises were masked by the swirling sounds of fronds around them as the winds picked up, and shadows danced about like spirits as they drank each other in.
In the middle of it all, Adam looked deeply into Emma’s eyes and spoke to her softly. “Do you suppose this means we’re married?” he asked, his breath heavy. “I don’t have anything to give you like you’re suppose to, but my heart is full and this thing we’re doing…” his voice trailed off then, words escaping him.
She answered with a nod and pulled him close. It was like they shared the same thought as Emma had also felt they had become joined in a way more meaningful than friend or family.
And for the first time in their lives, they let go of the confusion of being young and alone and allowed nature to lead them into a delirious ecstasy. It was a deliciousness they never imagined existed and, for this night at least, they were no longer Emma and Adam, but two creatures evolving into something new, something as old as the moon itself.
And through it all, the red planet loomed large above, roiling and raging as it watched over them. As it would continue to do until the end of time .
The next morning, hand in hand, Emma and Adam continued through the high trees northward in search of somewhere to start their life over. Neither spoke of the ogre’s attempted sacrifice, the rescue by the cliffs, or the pleasures they’d shared the night before.
For four tiresome weeks they travelled together, evading sliders and all new dangers as they pushed through dense jungle towards an unknown destination.
Not once during this time did they set foot on the ground. Instead they relied on the trees to provide all they needed: protection and cover, food in the form of fruit, nuts, and eggs, and, of course, rain water to drink.
It was difficult travel for both them, but ten days in, Emma seemed to bear the brunt of their hardship. First her stomach revolted, rejecting anything she ate or drank. Her fits always started with violent convulsions, her face beading sweat as she retched. Following that, she would need to rest, sometimes even to sleep for some hours.
Adam grew worried about her as the days went on, and watched over her in the evenings as she slept restlessly, curled against the gnarled trunks, shivering and clutching her stomach in agony.
Despite this, they carried on, often with Adam carrying Emma on his back when he could, ever loyal. And just when it seemed that the inhospitable jungle would never relent and reveal a place they could call home, they emerged from the thick jungle to find a vast expanse of grassland that undulated over low, rolling hills as far as the eye could see.
At odds with the chaos and claustrophobia of the thick jungle, the open landscape was truly a sight to behold. But this striking juxtaposition was far from the most surprising aspect.
Aligned along the edge of the grasslands, towering pillars of crystal rose some twenty stories high, some places even more. Arranged in odd, symmetrical fashion they grew from the earth like columns of bamboo and each was dotted with openings like caves.
Looking up in awe, Adam knew they could offer protection from the elements as well as from anything that wanted to eat them, but he worried about climbing up, particularly with Emma being so ill.
The crystal towers were so unlike anything else they’d seen on the moon that, if they knew to ask such things, Adam and Emma might have wondered whether they’d been set there by some intelligent life form. But nothing seemed so strange to them anymore to elicit strong reactions, and how the spires of glimmering crystal arrived to be where they stood was not as important as how they might suit their immediate needs.
Since the caves were high enough to keep a watch out for ogres, they both decided it was worth the risk and investigate further. Exploring the spires close up, they found that one of them leaned over more than the others, offering jagged plateaus of smooth crystal they could scale up without much trouble. So after spending the better part of a day helping each other up the side, they finally found themselves standing in front a large cave that glimmered brilliantly when the sun shone against its crystal interior.
Venturing inside, Emma ran her hands along the wall. It was perfectly smooth and had a smoky opacity to it so she couldn’t see the outside world through it. It was unlike anything she could have imagined and she felt immediately calm, as though something unseen inside the crystal was having an effect on her.
“Isn’t it exactly like the tower in Pin’s tales?” she whispered in awe, her voice echoing around them. “The magic tower the Royal Twins lived in, I mean. It’s like it’s come to life right here on this moon.”
Adam looked confused for a moment. Then, slowly, his memory of the stories returned he said, “You’re right. I haven’t thought about those old stories of Pin’s since I was a child.”
“Something about his place…” Emma began.
“Feels like home,” Adam finished.
Emma came to him then and sunk into his arms. The two of them slid to the ground and hugged each other tightly for a long time, surrounded by the warm glow of glimmering sunlight bouncing around them