Interlude I

Day Forty: Tirigan

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Inexperience Does Not Erase Validity

Disorientation. Blurred consciousness. Awake. Moving. My body undulates without overt force. I’m still in Kor’s vehicle. Traveling at high speed, over one-hundred and seventy kilometers per hour. Crash likely. The power of seven Téssera surrounds me. Crash less likely.

Approximately 40 degrees and rising. Uncomfortably warm. It radiates from the right side of my face and neck. I’m leaning against something. Not something, someone. My arm is against flesh, warm and slightly damp. Sweat. Head is resting on something hard. The junction of the clavicle and humerus, covered in cotton. Pleasant. The material is soft, smells of grass and lavender soap. My neck is in an uncomfortable position. The fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae have been over-extended for a prolonged period of time. Sore.

I shift. There is movement beside me.

“Sorry,” Avias says with some embarrassment. My head was on his shoulder. That is embarrassing. No. Not embarrassing. Intimate.

I open my eyes and ignore the moment passing between us.

Open mind: Avias.

I didn’t intend to use you for a pillow. Apologies.

Close mind.

Avias’ cheeks are slightly red. Blushing. More intimacy. I look away. Avias’ pink cheeks aren’t very interesting.

“It’s alright,” Avias says aloud. “I’m glad you were able to sleep.”

I was tired. Of course I slept. I do not say this. I have been told that pointing out what should be obvious to others is rude. Ask a question instead.

Open Mind: Avias.

Did you sleep?

Close mind.

His facial muscles are slack. There is an absence of red eyes. His eyelids are weighted. Breath slightly sour. He slept.

“Yes, some,” Avias replies. His eyes try to engage mine. Be polite. I hold eye contact for five not entirely unpleasant seconds, and then avert them to the window.

Brown. Nothing of substance to focus on. Desert. The road is black concrete with cracks and holes. The car swerves smoothly to avoid the most offending fissures. Car movement much too practiced for Charlie to be driving. Oleander.

He’s tired. Oleander’s eyes are on the road, heavy and blinking excessively. Driving for an extended period of time. Kor is beside him in the passenger seat, awake and reading a book. I can’t make out the words, they’re too far away, but the balance of probabilities would suggest the words to be useful for our mission.

Charlie is beside me, head resting awkwardly on the window. Asleep. Her neck will be sore when she wakes up. I ponder waking or repositioning her, but waking her up would disturb her sleep cycle, perhaps make it difficult for her to fall back asleep. Her inevitable sour mood stops me. I do not wake her.

Open mind: Avias.

Oleander needs a break.

Close Mind.

Avias turns his attention to Oleander. His eyes search his friends face. Avias’ head nods once. He agrees with my assessment. “Ollie, I’ll take over. You should sleep.”

Sharp pressure in my lower abdomen. Full bladder. I need to urinate.

“Yeah, okay,” Oleander replies. He nods as he yawns. “Thanks, mate.”

Oleander pulls the car over and I follow Avias out of the car.

My intention must be obvious. No one stops me when I walk several meters away from the car to gain privacy. My sister would say several šēpusi away, but the Anunnaki measurement system is terribly archaic. The metric system is far more logical.

There are heavy footsteps behind me. Male. Could be Oleander, definitely not Avias. The footsteps stop three meters behind me and approximately one meter to my left. Then, there is a gentle scrape of dirt under trepid shoes. Another second, then the unmistakable sound of liquid hitting dirt from a distance. Steady, strong, lasting approximately twenty-one seconds. A nervous voice that has yet to become familiar.

“Sittin’ in a car this long, my legs feel like butter.”

I affix the fly of my pants, then angle my body to acknowledge Calor, while still providing him privacy.

“Yes. It is confining,” I say aloud. Irritating. It still sounds foreign. I do not like the sound of my external voice.

“This thing we’re doing-” Calor stops talking and thinks on his next words longer than necessary. “I need you to know that I’m not going to let anything happen to Avias. No matter what happens.”

I don’t know how to respond. I know that he doesn’t mean he wouldn’t let anything at all happen to Avias, because that would be impossible. Avias exists in a world that will require action and reaction from him. Breathing, digesting, brain function, hormone production, smiling, seeing, existing. Many things will happen to Avias.

Calor means something more specific. The Fotián means he won’t let anything negative happen to Avias. On this, I can agree.

“Neither will I.”

When he turns towards me, Calor’s eyes divert to the ground, his hands push into the pockets of his denim. His face actively tries to hide something. It’s futile. The boy’s transparency rivals that of glass.

“You have your priorities and I have mine. Charlie is your sister, she’s always going to come first.”

I nod instantly. “Yes, she will.”

“Right,” Calor replies, taking a calculated step forward. “And I’m saying that Avias is my first priority. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him safe. You understand that?”

I narrow my eyes at the young man and try to decipher the motivation behind his statement. We will all do what we can to keep each other safe, but Calor has taken it upon himself to specifically point out his devotion to Avias’ safety in particular. I can conclude that he cares for Avias and yet, they only bicker, and show no outward signs of affection. Interesting. Interesting? Yes, interesting.

Emotions are complex and absolute. They are interwoven into every behavior and motivation. They are inevitable, they are incredibly powerful for some, but they are not especially interesting. Too many people experience emotions for them to be at all thought provoking.

 However, I find this exchange compelling.

“You are not friends,” I finally say. The statement is a fact, but I find myself curious as to Calor’s response anyway.

Blood rushes to his cheeks. He looks down at the dirt, his hands turning into fists in his pockets. Embarrassment, guilt, anger.

“No. We never were.” Calor’s voice is much quieter than it was before. I can barely hear it through a light Eastern breeze. He uses the toe of his shoe to draw a small line in the sand. Typically, metaphors are lost on me, but I am cognizant enough to see the one Calor is offering me now. “You two seem... close.”

In proximity? Not at the moment. Earlier in the car- No. Calor is referencing emotional attachment. Intimacy. How very boring of him.

“He is my friend.”

The statement feels odd on my tongue, but inexperience does not erase validity.

Avias is my friend. I have made a friend. I hadn’t expected to, and I didn’t mourn the potential loss of that seemingly normal piece of existence, but Charlie did. She has always wanted to make friends and experience that part of life. I, however, have never found the need or purpose for friends. I have Charlie. I had my parents. I haven’t needed anything else.

Avias, and to a lesser extent Oleander, Bo, Kor, and Vi, are unexpected additions to my life. I care for them, but Calor is right. Charlie is my priority. If we are in danger, I will always choose Charlie, and now I know that Calor will always choose Avias.

The Fotián says nothing more. He nods, a flicker of emotion on his face that passes too quickly for me to read. Calor walks back to the car and I follow behind him.

Bo is speaking quickly with her father. Oleander already snores. His deviated septum is distracting enough that I almost miss the sound coming from south of the road. Almost. My eyes follow the sound waves to their source.

A vehicle. Roughly two kilometers away, traveling towards our vehicle at a reduced speed. There is an excessive dust cloud behind it, which would suggest the vehicle only recently slowed down. The color is muted. Beige or tan. The vehicle is small, easy to miss.

Open mind: Charlie.

Charlie, someone is coming.

I can’t see my sister, she has taken Calor’s place in the rear seat of our vehicle, but I sense her immediately.

What is it? What can you see?

A vehicle. Possibly following us.

Should I-

No. Wait.

Close mind.

Charlie wants to alert the others, but there may be no need to alarm them. We are traveling on a public road, with evidence that it is used often. It is far more likely that the vehicle is slowing because its driver sees our vehicle parked on the side of the road. The driver may be preparing to stop and offer assistance if it is required. It is far less likely that the driver has knowledge that could do us harm. 

The vehicle continues to move but is slowing further. A peculiar sensation travels down my spine, curving with the lumbar vertebrae and settling in my sacrum. The feeling burns as it moves, tingling and urging me to pay attention to it. Caution.

It would be best to divert the vehicle.

I sweep my eyes over the terrain and look for a way to impede its progress. Action, reaction. What is the action? A catalyst. The easiest solution is to do nothing, but the impact of indecision could prove disastrous.

The vehicle still moves, only a little more than a kilometer away.

What is the immediate problem? Not indecision, not lack of options. The vehicle. The vehicle itself, is the problem. Remove the vehicle and the problem disappears. Remove the vehicle.

My thought is stifled by the scene as it morphs into something new. The dust cloud that trails behind the vehicle in the distance still rises and begins its settling process, but the source of the dust cloud is no longer visible.

The vehicle has disappeared.

 

Anxious for more? Never fear, new friend. You can continue to follow Charlie and Tirigan on their journey's on March 13th! 

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