A Different Species

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Chapter 10

June chocked herself awake. Her body on full alert at the smell of carbon dioxide reaching her lungs instead of oxygen. She could barely keep her eyes open. There was smoke in the cave, which irritated her eyes.

She did her best to peak at the cave opening. There was so much smoke from the flames that burned the forest. June shut her teary eyes. She had to get away from the flames before things got worse.

"Kargon," she chocked again. She looked for her alien friend and found him by the opening. He sat there frozen, terror written all over his face. She watched him let out a violent cough before her eyelids gave out.

Kargon, no. . . Even as she trembled, June couldn't imagine Kargon's fear—his trauma.

"Kargon!" She called to him as loud as her lungs allowed her to. The only sounds that came from him were his harsh, frequent coughs. She heard him gasp, not only for breath but due to his terror at the sight before him. Her heart ached for him.

We have to get out of here. She let out a rasp the moment she took another breath. With a quick glance around her, she found their bags. She crawled—eyes closed—and dragged their luggage beside her as she made her way to Kargon.

June's lungs were on fire—holding the little oxygen they had for as long as they could. Her skin covered in sweat. Her mouth was dry, lips dehydrated. Even the tears in her eyes couldn't lessen the burning sensation. It felt like forever before she reached Kargon's side.

When her hand touched his bicep, he didn't react. He was completely lost in his thoughts.

His name came out breathy when she called him. Still no reaction. Even as his lungs reminded him that his end was near, his eyes remained transfixed on the flames—his body as stiff as ever.

In that moment, June grew angry. Not at Kargon, but at something she couldn't place her thoughts on. Maybe it was the fire. Maybe it was something else. But June wasn't thinking when she placed her hands on each side of Kargon's face, guiding his gaze to meet hers.

Violet clashed with green.

June felt nothing but relief when Kargon placed a hand over hers. He was in complete shock, realizing the state they were in, but he was back. "We have to get out of h—" June ducked towards the floor—away from Kargon—violently releasing the carbon dioxide from within her. Suddenly, she felt lightheaded and her eyes shut.

She felt a hand make its way under her knees and another on her back. In an instant, her side came in contact with a hard chest. Kargon's hard chest. The tears her body involuntarily released to relieve her irritation were now being voluntarily released for Kargon.

She couldn't open her eyes, but she trusted Kargon wherever he was running to. He didn't speak, but she felt his anger. He was crushing her body against his—hands balled into fists. June wished she could say something, but her lungs wouldn't let her—not until the smoke had cleared her lungs and was replaced with oxygen.

No matter how much he coughed, grunted—Kargon kept running. He pushed and pushed himself for miles. When June was finally able to open her eyes, she looked over his shoulder. The fire had been reduced to nothing and replaced with green life.

Kargon had saved her, and yet, he kept running.

"Kargon," she turned her gaze to him. Her voice was hoarse, but felt a lot better than it did before. "It's okay. We're okay. You don't have to keep running."

Once again, he didn't notice she was speaking to him. He was lost in his thoughts.

She called his name again, this time she placed her hand over his cheek. His steps abruptly stopped, but Kargon didn't look down at June.

He couldn't.

He almost killed her. It was all Kargon could think about since she brought him back. If it wasn't for her, they would've both died, or worse—by the time he'd realize what was happening June would've been dead.

She didn't run when she saw the fire. She made sure he got out as well. All while he was there again. Kargon recalled his sudden wake. He realized mid cough what was happening. And when he looked outside, he was there again.

Kargon could hear their screams—the wood popping and crunching. He could feel his skin sizzle as he screamed his lungs out. In the short time his mind had locked him away from reality, to him it felt like forever.

His trauma had almost cost June's life.

How could he even look at June? She must be angry at him, he thought. She must hate me.

"Kargon," her voice was sweet, soft. "We're okay. Everything's okay now. We can take a breather. I know you're tired. You can put me down." Even if he couldn't understand her, June did her best to let Kargon know that things were better now.

He fought her the first time she tried to meet their gazes, keeping his eyes dead set on a tree a few feet ahead of them. The second time, she called his name. Kargon couldn't refuse her, not after what he had put her through.

His eyes didn't immediately meet hers. Instead, he took in her face. Small strands of her hair were stuck to her skin, covered in sweat. Part of her clothes and face had a layer of smoke except where her tears had run down to. And yet, despite the almost death experience, she smiled at him. His chest tightened. He felt nothing but regret.

"I am sorry," Kargon continued to repeat.

June didn't need a translator to know what Kargon kept saying. Still in his arms, she wrapped her arms around his neck and sealed whatever space there was left between them. "It's okay," she said in a soothing voice. "It's not your fault."

They remained in each other's arms for a few moments. Shortly after, June stood on her feet.

The pair remained in silence as they ventured deeper into the forest. The fire would continue to spread until the Goddesses allowed for rain to fall. It was unusual for the fires to occur, but not impossible. The Goddesses decided when, where, and how long the ground should be cleansed.

When he was just a child, Kargon remembered asking his mother why the fires were okay. He couldn't understand why the Goddesses allowed the death of their planet.

"It seems impossible for anything good to come out of it, but when the rain comes and the fire dies, time allows the ground to heal itself. The wind and animals carry new seeds over the plain fields. With time, new animals and plants emerge—stronger than before."

Young Kargon frowned, still not quite grasping the concept.

A smile graced her lips. “Do you think you’ll ever change if life remains peaceful, happy, or perfect? No, just like the forest, everyone and everything must go through things in order to grow.”

Kargon, however, wasn’t a forest. He did heal, physically, but he could never do so mentally. He was scarred for the rest of his life. The memories were there every time he closed his eyes for the night and every day he opened them and gazed down at his body. He didn’t grow stronger—only weaker. Today, just like every other day since the incident proved it.

Thank you for reading ❤️

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