Series: Another Life
Bright sun-dappled down through the trees. The heavy perfume of summer flowers wafted in the air. A whisper of a sigh drew Elden’s attention. Spying the child, Misham, sitting on a fallen log, he watched as gold light chased dark shadows across his face. A smile drifted across his face. He smiled and his eyes lit up. Too soon, the smile had disappeared and the eyes were filled with sorrow.
Elden turned, looking for what had brought that moment of happiness to Misham. There in the courtyard, a group of children, close to Misham’s age, were playing. The children chased each other, wooden swords raised in fierce play. Sharing in with the play was a small herd of baby goats. The goats joined in the make-believe battle by butting their heads against the children and each other. The peals of laughter from the children and the bleating of the goats danced through the air. The laughter grew when one of the toy swords became entangled in a goats horn.
Hilarity ensued as the children chased after the goat. A soft giggle came from the log Misham sat upon. The solemn little boy was giggling. Elden was enchanted with the sweet sound. Yet, like before, the smile disappeared.
“Come, agape. The healer made a draught.” Keena, Misham’s mother, said.
“Will it take away the feelings? Will I only have my own? Will it cure me?” Misham’s young voice held tentative hope.
Keena reached out, but then pulled her hand back. “Agape. My boy. You are not diseased to be cured. We just need to learn how to help you control what it is that makes you special.”
“So, it won’t help me?” Misham’s face fell.
“It will help you sleep. We will only use it until we can move into our new home in the mountain. There the distance, stone walls, and veins of MXene should shield you.”
Elden watched Misham bow his head. The tears that slowly fell pierced his heart. He wanted to gather the child in his arms and comfort him. Keena must have felt the same. She pulled her son onto her lap. Elden couldn’t hear what words she murmured to him, but Misham’s tears subsided.
The wind picked up, rustling the branches overhead. The sunlight and shadows flickered across the mother and child. The sound of the children’s laughter faded to the cracks of the wood burning.
Elden glanced over and saw the faces of his fathers. The flames of the fire highlighted the concern in their eyes. Courtesy stopped them from asking about the vision the stars had revealed to Elden but he could see the questions in their eyes. He glanced over to the still sleeping Misham.
“He needs laughter. Once a day, I’ll hear that music from him,” Elden vowed.
“You set a task for yourself that may not be possible to accomplish,” Sander said.
Elden turned to face his father. “He was always so alone. He couldn’t go to school. Couldn’t play with the other children. I just want him to be happy.”
“There’s a better state to live in,” Rastus stated quietly. “Living in contentment is easier to obtain. Leave happiness for cherished moments. Yet live day to day in satisfaction of having done your best.”
Elden let the words his father said settle in his mind. Rastus was a submissive as was Misham. His insight might balance Elden’s own tenacity.
Rastus interrupted his thoughts with a compromise. “Maybe aim for a smile each day. Then take the laughter that comes as a gift.”
Before Elden could answer, he heard Misham stirring. Twisting around, he was greeted with large, dark eyes filled with concern.
Sitting up, Misham apologized. “I’m sorry. My body is not as healthy as yours.”
“No apology is needed. We all bring with us our own strengths,” Sander’s said matter of factory. Then he held up a strip of dried meat. “Right now, we are hoping yours is to identify if this is edible."
Misham slowly stood and joined the men around the fire. “Yes, it’s biltong.” When he saw their blank expressions, he explained. “It’s meat that has been specially treated to last a very long time. Yes, it is safe to eat.”
“That is a relief. I was afraid we’d have to go hunting. And in this storm, we’d be more like the brave hunter hunting the beast tracks.”
“Oh, are you great hunters?” Misham asked.
Elden smiled. “Have you not heard the story of the brave hunter and the child?” When Misham shook his head no, Elden started the tale.
“A long time ago a very brave hunter went in search of a great beast that had terrified many. Every day while the other villagers went about their own chores, he would go search the forest for the beast’s tracks. Until one day, when a child met him on his return.”
“Oh, brave hunter, come quick. I’ve found where the great beast lives!” The child exclaimed.
“The brave hunter’s face turned as white as the snow piling up outside. Then stammering and stuttering he blurted out, I was not hunting the beast, but only his tracks!”
At the end of Elden’s tale, Misham’s giggle echoed through the cave. The beautiful sound strengthened his determination to hear that wonderful laugh if not daily, then as often as he could.
Sander’s snorted. “Do not fret, Misham. We have enough food to last us and the storm won’t last forever.”
“I’m not worried. I know will get to your home I can feel his resolve.” Misham admitted shyly, looking at Elden.
Elden knew Misham was feeling his resolve to make him smile or laugh each day, however, he didn’t correct him. Besides, Elden was just as determined to get them home safely. “Yes. We will make it home. My stubbornness, my fathers' strength, and your guidance to the next cave, we should be home in the next day or so.”
End chapter 7
Read more about Gliese on the Another Life Blog.