After 4364 BC on the Plains of Thera. Kairos: Dallah
“Another one.” Alexis pointed. Lieutenant Harper trained her rifle in the general direction, but it was hard to pinpoint since whatever it was kept going invisible. They were the color of the sand, the main part of the landscape. The rest of the scenery was not much to look at. The trees, what there were of them, were just sticks, short, stunted and dry like they baked in the oven too long. The clumps of grass that stubbornly refused to give up looked burnt yellow and brown. The sun was relentless.
A dog howled in the distance, but Alexis shook her head. “They aren’t dogs,” she said. “What we are seeing.”
“A mirage in this heat?” Lincoln wiped the sweat from her brow. The sun itself appeared to be sweating from its own heat.
“Not a mirage,” Lockhart answered. “With mirages you see things. All we are seeing is occasional movement and glimpses of figures that vanish in the heat.”
“And not enough of glimpses to make out shape and size,” Roland added.
Lockhart and Captain Decker set down the stretcher. Doctor Procter kept mumbling that he would be alright, but Alexis was not so sure. Lincoln was going to take a turn, and Roland, though it would be his second turn. Mingus said he would be there to help if needed.
Poor Doctor Procter was delirious most of the time. The only time he came awake was when someone reached for him. Then his words were clear and sharp. “Don’t touch me.” And they were spoken with such vehemence, no one dared disobey.
“At least it is not the Bokarus,” Boston pointed out. “There is only one of them.”
“This is no terrain for a Bokarus,” Mingus assured them.
“Or ghouls,” Alexis said. “If they sent out a second group after the first stopped reporting, they would not be nearly this far along yet.”
“Whatever it is, it is a wild one.” Roland suggested as he sipped some water. Lockhart was already watching their water supply, carefully. There was no telling how long it might be in that environment before they found more water. Captain Decker also seemed to have gotten the idea, but neither said a word, yet.
“Wild ones, I think.” Mingus responded. He gave them the impression that he was seeing a bit more than the others, but he did not let on yet about what it was he was seeing or thinking.
Alexis bent down toward Doctor Procter. The man sat straight up. “Don’t!” Alexis paused.
“It is just some water.”
Doctor Procter reached for the cup, careful not to touch the woman. He drank greedily and when he handed the empty cup back so she could take it by the handle, he added a word. “Don’t let anyone else drink from that cup.” His words were stern as he began to shake his head. He closed his eyes, fell back and mumbled “no, no, no.”
Dallah walked out from the camp. She needed some alone time. Her daughter, Korah was to be married in the afternoon and in her world, the mother-in-law made all the arrangements, not the mother. She supposed that was only right since Korah would go and live with her husband and his family. To be sure, she had a wonderful time when Mya married her son, Reneus. Still, she had to think about it.
Dallah had too many cultures in her head. Maybe it was best if she did not think about it at all, but lately she could not seem to help it. She was forty-three or forty-four years old. She was not sure, but at her age and given her life circumstances, there was little for her to do but sit and think.
Godus, her husband was away for days at a time. He always came home with food for the fire, but the absences were hard. Her nine-year-old, Andor, the love of her age kept the sheep, what was left of them. Her son, Reneus stubbornly tried to bring grain out of the soil. Mya had taken over most of the cooking and cleaning duties for the family, and Dallah had no complaints, but it gave her too much time to think and worry.
Somehow, she made an enemy of the sun god, Dayus when she was a child. It was not anything she said or did, Dayus simply did not want her to be born in his world. His advisors warned against killing her outright as a child, but that did not stop him from ruining the world around her and thus killing her slowly. They moved and migrated and moved again to greener pastures only to find those pastures dry up under the incessant sun. The people swore the rains would come again. They can’t stay away forever. But Dallah knew it was more complicated than that.
She had no doubt Korah would move away with her new family once the marriage was consummated. Dallah would cry, but pray for her. Korah would do well away from Dallah and the ruination that surrounded her life. She might even be happy.
Dallah looked up at the sun and squinted. “Is it enough?” she asked. “Are you satisfied?” She knew the god was not yet satisfied. After all, she was still alive.
“Mother!” Reneus called. He followed her out into the wilderness. She had an empty water skin with her, but she was in no hurry to get to the stream. “Mother. You don’t need to be wandering out here alone.”
“Well, there does not seem much for me to do back in the camp,” Dallah said. “I thought I could fetch some water at least and make myself useful, somehow.”
Reneus took the water skin from her hands. “No need for that,” he said. “Father is looking for you.”
“Is he?” Dallah looked back once, but all she saw was Mya chasing after Andor.
“Mama!” Andor ran up to her. “Help me! Help! Mya is going to make me take a bath.”
Mya arrived with a stern look on her face directed at the boy hiding behind Dallah’s dress.
“There is time for that,” Dallah assured her daughter-in-law. “Reneus and I were headed to the stream. Maybe Andor would like to splash in the water while we are there.” She winked at Mya, who understood what Dallah was suggesting but had a strong-willed streak that did not like to be disobeyed by a certain nine-year-old boy. Andor knew the dynamics well. He stuck his tongue out at Mya before he took his mother’s hand.
Dallah put her hand up to stop them both. “I really came out here to be alone for a while. I don’t mind you coming along, but please keep your thoughts to yourselves. And that goes for you, too.” She poked Reneus in the chest. He backed up in innocence to say, “Me?” But he did not actually say anything out loud.
Boston stepped back. There was something ahead, just around the edge of the rock. “Did you see that?” She turned her head and asked. Captain Decker was already moving out into the brush to get an angle on it. Roland was making his way quietly around the far side of the rock. Lieutenant Harper had her rifle ready and Alexis had her wand in her hand. Lincoln and Lockhart had already put Doctor Procter on the ground. Mingus was the one who responded.
“Yes,” he said and raised his voice. “And they better all come out of hiding if they know what is good for them!”
A face popped up from the ground, not far from Boston’s feet. She might have stepped on it, but instead she jumped back though it hurt her muscles to move like that. He had not been invisible, but perfectly colored to blend in with the desert floor, and he spoke with a sandy rasp in his voice.
“Look, Itchy, it’s human beans.”
A second came from behind the rock. “Yeah, Dwizzle, and they got elves. ‘bout the worst case I’ve ever seen. What do you think, Crusty?”
A third stepped from behind a skinny tree. No one saw him there but could not imagine why. He was much fatter than the tree. He clicked his tongue a couple of times before he spoke. “Domesticated elves no less.” He clicked his tongue some more.
“Imps.” Mingus identified the creatures with some disgust in his voice.