167) The Salvation of Eden, Chapter 6 — Rainy day convos

         There wasn’t much to do in their little impromptu “cave,” while the deluge soaked the land around them, copious thunder their only company.  This was perfect, in a way, for Kohra.  She loved little more than spending days in her imagination.

         Strangely, given their circumstances, this was sort of fun. How many times had she played this game in her mind? Wondered what she would do, EXACTLY what she would do, if suddenly her world was upended by war or some mass chaos? She had always refused to believe that she would simply be killed right away, or captured and put in some prison camp or something. Besides, it was HER imagination, and that sure wasn’t very fun to imagine.

         But the scenarios in which she escaped? Gathered allies? Fought back? Those were way more fun. And, she kicked butt.

         She always wondered about the first day or two, exactly what she would do, where she would go, who she would turn to for help.

         As far as she knew, other people didn’t typically play this game in their heads. Or maybe they did and didn’t tell anyone about it.

         Probably keeping their strategies secret, like me.

         “… getting in fights whenever possible.” Dominic finished whatever point he had been making.

         “Uh, right! Definitely.” She nodded emphatically, trying to show support.


         “Definitely what?” he asked, looking at her with suspicion.

         “Definitely we should…get in fights whenever possible?” She tried to sound confident but realized, a bit late, that this didn’t make any sense.

         “You’re not even listening!”

         She swallowed, trying to dredge out of her mind what he had been saying.

`        Nope.

         “C’mon Kohra! I’m trying to help us! We need to plan! What are we going to do if we get ambushed by the Guard? Or something else? We can’t just rely on luck and….  Quick thinking.”

         She caught the pause.  She knew he was implying that they couldn’t rely on luck, and Dominic, to save their butts.  Implying further than it was very clear they wouldn’t be relying on her. She bit back her embarrassment.  She wanted to retort somehow…but he was right.  They couldn’t rely on her.  Well, he had her attention now, at least.

         “So I was thinking, what are some of the most likely things that’ll happen? Like, what are we going to do if we’re walking down a road, and we see the Guard coming?”
         “Hmmm, good question.” Kohra feigned enthusiasm. “First, we’d need to escape. Then we’d need a way of meeting back up with each other, in case we get separated.”
         They needed a default plan, one that would be adaptable to many circumstances. Dominic loved this kind of strategic planning. Kohra fought to keep her mind from swimming away with the storm. 

         Eventually, they decided that if they were confronted, they would run away if at all possible, sticking together, following Dominic’s instincts in-the-moment, and fight if they had no choice. But if they ever got separated, they would hide as best they could until dark, then each would make their way independently to whatever place they had designated to be their home base, like how the “wax cave” was their home base right now. Once they were traveling, they could pick new home bases throughout the day, whenever they encountered good landmarks that they’d be able to find their way back to.

         In the worst-case scenario that they were separated, and only one of them made it back to the home base, the other would wait until dawn, then backtrack and try to pick up the trail. Even Kohra was a half-decent tracker, after all. 

         By the time they got that far, Kohra was more than satisfied.  Great plan, as far as she was concerned. 

         Dominic thought about the conversation for a long time afterwards, while Kohra stared out their little “doorway” into the rain.  They hadn’t even gotten to combat strategies.  They hadn’t talked about cover, or using distraction.  They didn’t have plans for long-range fighting or close-quarters situations. 

         He sighed, listening to another peal of thunder. 

         Well, with Kohra, I guess it’s one step at a time.  She did okay.

* * * * *

         “But you’re amazing!” Kohra repeated, yet again.

         She just didn’t get it. Dominic felt his frustration rising. SHE was the one who needed to practice. If it came to an emergency, SHE would be the weak link in the chain. If they got attacked by anything, they were completely dependent on him.

         He just couldn’t understand her sometimes. Shaping was the best thing she could do, and by far had the most potential. AND it was, apparently, her life dream to become some kind of “Arch Mage” or whatever. So why didn’t she practice? And even if she wasn’t very good at it, why couldn’t she see that that is exactly why she needed to practice??

         As far as he could figure, maybe the problem was that she didn’t believe she COULD practice on her own. Kohra always seemed to feel that it didn’t matter what she did, that she couldn’t make a difference, that she just didn’t have it in her to do anything worthwhile. She needed a teacher, she insisted.  But with no teacher, and no lessons to follow, what was she supposed to do?

         He suggested that she could practice the skills she already knew, like Connecting with the Flux faster and faster. Or she could practice maintaining the Connection for longer periods of time without getting tired. Or she could practice candle-lighting, because that was the one thing she had been able to do with the Flux (once, months ago, with lots of help from Devona). Every little bit would help.

         To Dominic, practicing his skills wasn’t even a decision; it was just something he did. Because he wanted to get better! He enjoyed the feeling of being challenged, and who doesn’t like that sweet, sweet moment of perfection when everything “clicks”?

         For him, that meant target practice, all the time. When they were walking, when they were resting, even when they were sitting around talking, he would be practicing different shots: quick draws, multiple arrows in quick succession, wrong-handed shots, shooting while walking, while running, while sitting. There was always more to learn, and Dominic had found that the better he’d gotten with his bow over the years, the more fun it was to practice. Practicing something you loved was the adult version of playing, and wasn’t that the whole point of life? As far as he was concerned, if you aren’t enjoying yourself while striving for excellence, then what in Eden are you doing with your time?

         But Kohra? As far as Dominic could tell, Kohra just seemed to daydream. She didn’t seem to understand that daydreaming only makes you good at daydreaming.

         Sure, he had to admit, she was a hard worker and would contribute to meals, or cleaning up, or whatever needed to be done. Rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty was no problem; in fact, she seemed to almost revel in it, like she felt best about herself when she was doing some kind of “grunt work” for others.

         But to challenge herself?  To work hard at really improving?  Especially at “the thing” that she said was her passion?  Nope; she avoided that like it was a disease; he just didn’t get it.

         No matter what he said, how reasonable his points were, how carefully he tried to help her, Kohra argued anyway, insisting she was practicing “in her own way.”

         “When? When, Kohra?” he challenged, voice rising in rare annoyance. “It must be in the middle of the night, because I sure haven’t seen you!”

         “Well, I am!”

         “Yeah? Are you practicing like it’s life or death? Huh? Because it is! Look around!”

         Outside the little doorway, trees, as far as they could see.

         “You think anyone’s going to help us out here? You think I’m always going to be able to rescue you? Maybe someone should rescue ME for once! How many of the Guard did YOU kill back at your house?”

         Kohra sat placid while he yelled, her face a mask. She had done this before, lots of times growing up. It was easy, in a way. You just had to stand there and take it, and eventually the person would yell themselves out, and it would be over.

         Dominic wasn’t the same, of course. He wasn’t “Her”. (Kohra preferred to not even think of the woman’s name anymore.) Dom was still practically a kid, only two years older than Kohra, and surely just as scared and freaked out. She didn’t blame him for yelling. This was okay. This was just a moment of “losing it” between friends. She’d have her turn when she freaked out, no doubt.

         And she had to admit, she WAS being kind of pig-headed.

         So no, this wasn’t the same as…before. But still — yelling. She knew it well.

* * * * *

         Kohra peeked out through the pine boughs. The storm had lasted for two days, and the forest was wet and squishy-looking. Thankfully, they were dry, thanks to Dominic’s ingenuity. But her stomach growled fiercely; they were low on jerky, and, really? Jerky for two days straight?

         They were trying to decide where to go. Kohra didn’t have the faintest idea, other than vaguely imagining meeting up with “people” somehow and getting involved with the Resistance. And getting some food. Maybe they should look for her father? Or Dom’s?

         Dominic was arguing that they should stay as far away from their homes as possible for a while. He thought they should head further into the Wild; they could easily forage along the way, at least enough to keep themselves from starving. And there was a place he knew of, an old trapper’s shack about a two-day hike out of town. The guy was a friend of Ms B and Ian’s. Apparently, he was wealthy and had once been involved in local politics. But now he was retired and seemed to prefer his solitude. At least, that was Dominic’s understanding.

         Kohra knew who he was talking about — Old Man McKiller. According to local legend, he was nuts. And he’d killed somebody once, an orphaned kid, for no reason.

         “I met him once,” Dominic was saying. “I was out with Ms. B and Ian, maybe three springs ago? We were looking for leeks, and came across him in a big patch way out in the bush. Nice old guy. He invited us back to his house for lunch. It’s beautiful, this stone mansion, way out in the woods on some private lake where nobody else goes. And he makes moonshine!”   

         Dominic laughed as Kohra wrinkled her nose. She didn’t know what moonshine tasted like, but anything that was made by crazy old murderers in the woods was worth distrusting on principle, as far as she was concerned.

         “Seriously? Old Man McKiller? You know what people say….”

         He barked a sarcastic “Ha! People say all kinds of things. What are you going to trust – rumours, or Ms B and Ian? And his name’s not McKiller; it’s McKlein.”

         He was right, of course. How could they NOT trust one of Ms B’s friends? Plus, an old hermit’s shack way out in the woods was the perfect place for them to lay low for a while.

         It was the break of dawn, when they left their little hideout, just as the earliest birds were singing, presumably getting up to look for the earliest worms. Kohra wondered what would happen if the worms all agreed amongst themselves, and started sleeping in, avoiding the whole morning thing altogether. That’d teach those early birds….

         As they walked, the forest brightened, more birds joining the choir until the forest rang with song.

         At least something is still good in the worlds.

         Dominic was listening to the birdsong too, relaxing into the symphony. It meant that they were safe, and long before they weren’t, the birds would tell them.

         Kohra thought about what he had said during their argument. It was true — she wasn’t practicing Shaping like it was life or death. She wasn’t really practicing at all. She’d said she was “trying,” but the truth was, she was thinking about trying, which is a long, long way from actually trying, which itself is a long way from doing.   

         Most of the time, she was still pretending that “normal life” would last forever. This little blip of weirdness they were in would pass, and life would resume. She was going to grow up, find her place in the world, have a family or whatever, live in a town somewhere, and do meaningful things with her life, right?

         Although she knew all that had changed, she didn’t want to accept it. What does life mean when there’s no future?

         She sighed.

         Well, I do need to help out more.

         To be fair, she did know how to survive in the woods. Many summers of hiking, animal-watching, mushroom hunting, food and medicine foraging, had given her some skills.

         Yay me. If you want to sit around in the forest and make tea from leaves, I’ve got you covered. But, if bad guys come, real bad guys, with real weapons, wanting to kill you for real?

         Her mind flashed back to the Guard by the apple tree. She felt that oh-so-familiar feeling of emptiness in her chest.

         Yeah, I’m bloody useless.

* * * * *

         As Kohra pondered her fundamental Life Failings, Dominic listened to the sounds around them, and thought about the kinds of things that he tended to think about.

         I wonder how I can stabilize my aim while running. I’m always shooting to one side or the other. I should practice shooting-while-walking more often. Maybe I can learn to compensate for the movement better….

         Look at that moth! He’s so fuzzy! Little black eyes. I wonder why he’s out during the day?

         Maybe McKlein can help Kohra with whatever is holding her back. He seemed pretty wise. Ha, maybe he’s a fairy. That would actually make a bit of sense. Ms. B always did believe in fairies.

         I think I can get extra power in my bow if I can smooth out its distribution of tension. In truth, I need a better bow. I’ll have to find a Master Fletcher, and ask them. I wonder if McKlein knows anyone? If we’re heading into war, which it looks like we are, I want the best damn bow I can get.

         Mmmm, spearmint. Nice….

         We were lucky we got away. The tiniest mistake, and they’d have caught us….

         Maybe the fact that we got away wasn’t “luck” at all. Maybe we are exactly the kind of people who SHOULD get away. Like, if Kohra and I weren’t loners in the first place, we’d never have had the wax cave hideout.

         Maybe more of us got away. Of the 20-odd kids in Ms. B’s class, surely someone else made it? We’re not the only weird loners she knows. I wonder how we find them?

         He chuckled.

         “What?” Kohra asked from behind.

         “I was just thinking, we got away because we’re weird. Funny how that is.”

         Kohra had no idea what he was talking about. She decided not to ask. Dominic was always thinking about something. Soon he’d connect it back to doors. He loved going on about the evils of doors.

Please leave a comment below! Share your thoughts! :)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: