Chapter 10 – Boys Will Be Boys Rough Draft

(This is my favorite scene in the book. Enjoy the rough draft!)

The next day after Ian returned from school (a day of limited bullying, fortunately), he told me something I had suspected for a while: Aaron and Chris were both dying to see me again. Somehow, they had resisted telling Ian’s aunt and uncle why they wanted to visit Ian so badly. At least, Ian was fairly certain they had kept their mouths shut. It had been Catherine that had told them to hold off coming over so as not to frighten and exhaust me. When I learned this, I told Catherine at dinner that although it did make me a bit nervous, I wouldn’t mind having them say hello.

I don’t know what I expected.

The very next morning, I sat quietly reading something on Ian’s phone early in the morning when I heard a horrifying stampede. Before I could even wonder who or what had entered the front door of the house, the guest room door burst open and gave me a heart attack.

“Hi little boy!”

Then, before I could even think about retreating, a blond-haired monster with bright blue eyes barreled into the room. He didn’t even stop beside me. The blue-tan-ivory boulder crashed upon the mattress, sending me into the air. I came back down with a thud, and while not painful, the shock of the giant yatvi flattened my confidence. He sat cross-legged in front of me, immediately placing his head in his hands and excitedly eyeing me. He’d probably removed his shoes at the front door, and the nausea of bare human boy crashed upon me like a wave.

“Chris!” shouted Ian’s voice as he entered the room. “What are you doing! I told you not to hurt Lenn!”

“I didn’t!”

Ian came and knelt in front of the bed at my side, and another familiar face met mine: Aaron, the red-haired and freckled cousin.

“Hi Lenn,” he said brightly with a quick wave.

Vah sulm, Lenn?” Ian asked.

I have to admit, I was more than a little shaky. I stared at all three ka yatvi staring back at me, and cleared my throat.

“Uh, s-sia, sulmtol…” I whimpered. “Hello Aaron, hi Chris.”

“What are you talking?” Chris asked. “What’s shumptol?”

“It’s Lenn’s language,” Ian said. “He’s been teaching it to me. He said ‘really good’. I don’t think he means it, though.”

“Sure I do,” I replied quietly, rubbing an arm.

“You can talk,” Aaron said, resting his arms on the bed. “Chris and me were really worried you would die. But I knew Uncle James would fix you right up.”

Codahke, Aaron,” I said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t found me. How did you find me? Why were you playing near the river that day anyway?”

“It’s a shortcut to the park,” he said. “It’s not far from our house, and we go that way a lot. We don’t tell Mom about it, though, she’d yell at us. She doesn’t want us to drown, I guess.”

“Say that shumptol word again,” Chris said. “I wanna learn it too.”

“Shulm… tol,” Ian said slowly.

“Shoom… tool?”

“Shoo-el-mm tol.”

“Shool-hmm tole?” Chris rolled the sounds around in his mouth. “That’s hard to say.”

“Not really,” Aaron said. “Shulm-toll.”

“It is for me. Shoolm-tool.”

I laughed.

“I’ve taught a lot of kids how to speak English. But I’ve never taught yatvi how to speak Yatnasi.

I got blank stares from the young cousins.

Yatvi means human,” Ian explained. “And Yatnasi is his language.”

“So what’s he called?” Aaron asked, pointing at me. “He’s not a human, right? He’s way too small.”

“What’s the word?” Ian asked again, snapping his fingers. “Yat…? Sorry Lenn, I can never remember.”

Yatili.

“Right, yatili.

Chris leaned towards me, tilting his head like a puppy dog.

“You say English words funny,” he said with a laugh.

“Hey, that’s not nice,” Aaron said, shoving his younger brother’s shoulder playfully. “That’s just his accent. I think it’s cool.”

“Can I pick you up?” Chris asked, thrusting his hands forwards. My eyes nearly bulged out of my head. Fortunately, Aaron and Ian quickly shoved Chris’s hands back down.

“No no no…” Ian stammered.

“Stop, stop!” Aaron agreed out loud. “He’s not an animal. He’s a person. You can’t just grab him.”

“But I asked him first! And I wasn’t just gonna grab him! How come Ian can pick him up and not me?”

“Because you’re not responsible like him.”

“Nuh-uh! I am ‘sponsible!”

I shook myself out of my fear.

“Ian? Can you help me up?”

“Oh, uh-huh.”

Holding out his hand, I leaned against it and grunted myself to my feet. My bad knee immediately bent backwards, and I winced at the discomfort. I snapped it back into a straight position.

“Whoa…” Aaron exclaimed.

“Ah!” Chris shouted. “Did you break your leg?”

“No, guys! It’s just-”

“Ian, Ian,” I said, patting his finger. “Let them ask questions, it’s okay. I was very sick as a child and it made my leg this way. Ian and James call it ‘polio’.”

“Oh. I’ve heard of that,” Aaron said. “Does it hurt? Your leg, I mean? Can you walk on it?”

“It only hurts if I bend it too far back. It’s a bit difficult to walk on, but I’ll soon be okay enough to use crutches to get around.”

“What’s a polio?” Chris asked.

“It’s a virus that can paralyze and kill people,” Ian said. “Especially kids. It’s really scary, but humans don’t get it anymore because of vaccines you get as a baby. Lenn’s people still get it, I guess.”

“Did I get a vaccine so I won’t get it?”

“I’m sure you did.”

“That’s good. I like my legs straight.”

“I’ll bet you run really fast on them,” I said. “Faster than me!”

“Yup!” he said proudly.

“Well,” I coughed, carefully stepping out of my blanket nest towards the boy sitting before me. “Might as well get this over with.”

“What?”

I stopped a half-foot from Chris’s folded legs. This young boy may have been the smallest yatvi I’d ever seen, but he still sat over me like a thick tree trunk.

“Chris, I’m going to trust you. Lift me up.”

“Lenn, are you sure?” Ian asked.

“I’m sure. So long as Chris promises to be careful.”

“I will, really,” Chris responded.

Despite the promise, Chris’s hands descended and monstrously closed in around me.

“Wait, wait…” I said, grabbing his hands as they approached, pulling the delicate fingers downwards. “Hold on, don’t take me all at once, you don’t want to make my wound worse. Hold me down here instead.”

I placed my hands on my hips, and Chris obeyed. His hands were cool and clammy to the touch, not to mention considerably smaller than Ian’s. They took my waist a bit tightly, and I soon felt my feet part from the bed, rising up to his eye level.

For a moment, he examined me. And when I say he examined me, I mean he brought me very close to his face and stared. His eyes darted across my features like a pair of bright-blue plates, and his long eyelashes blinked up and down like waving sails. He even went so far as to slightly rotate me side-to-side as if testing the gravity of my limbs, which swung heavy and loose.

“Wow,” he finally said, his breath smelling like a mixture of sugary cereal and toothpaste. “You’re so cool.”

I laughed, reaching a hand outwards. He leaned forwards as if knowing what to do, and I patted him on the forehead.

“I’m not that interesting, really. I don’t think I’ve ever been called ‘cool’. Except maybe by Ian. Serdi.

He tilted his head.

“What’s ‘shur-dee’ mean?”

“It means ‘thank you’.”

“Oh. What’s ‘you’re welcome’?”

Serdia.

“Hmm.” He made a goofy face. “Shur-dee-ah!”

“Very good. Sulmtol!

I felt a finger tap my shoulder.

“Where do you come from, Lenn?” Aaron asked. He chortled. “You’re not an alien from another planet, are you?”

“Oh, come on,” Ian moaned.

“Turn me around, would you Chris?”

“Oh, yeah.”

The fingers rotated me to face the two older boys with interesting dexterity. I placed my hands on the edges of Chris’s own.

“No, I’m not… what did you say? An ay-lin? What is that?”

“Alien. It’s a scary person thing that comes from outer space.”

“Scary?” I shrugged. “I’m not scary, am I? What’s outer space?”

“Up past the atmosphere.”

“Like, above the clouds?”

“Yup, way above the clouds,” Aaron said, showing the distance with his hands. “Up in the stars.”

“Like the star war? I sure don’t come from there.”

Ian shoved Aaron sideways.

“Besides, aliens are green, with huge heads and great big eyes.” He widened his eyelids with his fingers. “Does he look green to you?”

“Whatever, you don’t know what an alien looks like, nobody does! If he is an alien, maybe he’s got a hidden spaceship somewhere. We should go search for it!” Aaron then grinned wildly. “What if he goes up during the middle of the night and abducts cows? Or shrinks them with a laser beam? That would be awesome!”

I burst out into laughter, as did the cousins.

“What, cows? What would I do with a cow? You kañi are so strange!”

“Kahn-yee?” asked a young voice behind me.

“It means ‘little boys’.”

“I’m not a ‘little boy’. I am great-big to you,” Chris said with a giggle, and I felt a pair of great thumbs press me forwards and massage the middle of my back.

“Hey! I am too, you know,” Aaron said.

I locked eyes with Ian and saw a grin on his face.

“We already talked about this, Lenn. Remember?”

I wobbled my head.

“Okay, fine. But I’m still older than all of you. How old are the two of you?”

“I’m nine and a half,” Aaron said.

Swift as a bird, Chris placed me onto the surface of the bed. My stomach leaped into my throat as I landed.

“I’m almost six,” he announced, revealing why he’d let me down: he held up five fingers in one hand, and a bent index finger on the other that showed just how close his birthday was. Then, as quickly as he’d placed me down, he picked me right back up again, his hands grasping me too far up my chest.

“Chris, you can’t just put him up and down like that. Be careful, please,” Ian said.

“Down on my hips, remember?” I said, grunting. “You’re getting a little too close to my bandages.”

“Sorry,” he whispered, leaning me back and laying out my prone body horizontal trying to follow my instructions. My legs hung limp, and my arms did the same between his thumbs.

“That’s not a good way to do it,” Ian said, and I heard the bed heave under pressure as he reached for me.

“No, I can do it, I can,” Chris said.

Chris then flipped me back vertically, and wrapped his hands back onto my hips… trapping my arms at my sides.

“Guh,” I heaved as the young boy’s hands rotated me forwards, the edges of his bony skin shoving my stomach inwards.

“Chris, stop,” Aaron said behind me.

“Come on, give him to me, Chris,” demanded Ian.

“No! No, I can do it! Let me hold him!”

In trying to keep me away, Chris yanked me backwards against his chest, and my face rammed into him. Two months ago, I would have been screaming in fear. Instead, the soft collision and this kañi fumbling with my entire body made a mindless laugh burst from my lungs. I had truly gone insane, and I think my laugh shocked them all.

“Ian, Aaron,” I choked. “Wait! I’m fine, I’m fine. Chris, it’s okay. Don’t squeeze too hard, I need to pull my arms out.”

“Oh.”

The tightness faded immediately, and I plucked my arms out from between myself and his moist hands. I then felt myself slip forwards, and I reached out to grab the front of the boy’s shirt.

“Ah, careful Chris! Don’t drop me, please!”

His grip reformed around me properly, and again, Chris lifted me up to his eyes. Instead of excitement, I saw a face of concern and regret.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

“Phew,” I said cheerfully. “No problem.”

“Chris isn’t allowed to pick up the kittens at home,” Aaron laughed. “He plays with them too hard.”

“Nuh-uh! I’m getting better!”

I laughed with a moan.

“That, uh… that would have been good information to have a minute ago.” I patted Chris’s thumbs with both hands and looked up at his round face. “But you did very good, Chris. Sort of.”

He lit up like a candle.

“Yay!” he said with great big nods.

* * * * * *

The rest of that day, I became a merry little captive to the three kañi. From video games and watching funny movies on Ian’s phone to spending time in the backyard (keeping to the shadows of the porch as well as I could), I attempted to remain independent. But, of course, without crutches and practically limping by the late morning, I was carried and traded between all three boys like a pillbug. Catherine watched over all of us (or specifically me) to the point that she joined the boys whenever I was brought out of Ian’s room.

I could tell Ian was doing his best to keep me and Chris separated. Chris carried me around like a doll when it was “his turn” (which Ian begrudgingly allowed), and when he couldn’t, he poked and prodded me with every chance he could get. Aaron, on the other hand, was much more respectful. He was very calm and quiet for his age, mostly keeping his hands to himself. He followed directions much like Ian, but allowed me a bit more “freedom” than Ian preferred; whenever it was his turn to watch me, he let me walk instead of lifting me, and didn’t seem to know when or how to offer help when I stumbled. I didn’t mind all three of them, all things considered. But they certainly critiqued each other about the way I should be treated.

As the clock at Ian’s bedside table read 3 P.M., we spent the time watching an entertaining show on Ian’s television. Or, at least, the television was on; whether anyone was watching was debatable. Aaron sat in the chair, Ian laid on his bed, and Chris laid belly-first on the floor with his head in his hands. Naturally, as I sat on the floor resting my legs from playtime outside, Chris was right before me, and he was more interested in me than the cartoon. Aaron had begun to drift off, and Ian was engrossed on his phone, so I had no one to ‘protect’ me from the youthful and entertaining ka.

“You know,” I said to him as he bobbed his bare feet back and forth behind him. “I teach kids your age how to read and write. Do you have a teacher that does that for you?”

Chris nodded, his fingers dancing under his chin. He sniffed every few seconds as if allergic to something.

“Miss Rodriguez is my teacher. She’s really nice. But I’m not good at reading.”

He said every other word with an ever-so-slight pause, as if wanting to get everything out of his mouth correctly. I always found that endearing with kids his age, even if it annoyed some of the less-patient parents I negotiated with at the village.

“That’s okay,” I said. “It just takes practice. Have you learned how to spell your name?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sulm! That’s a great start.”

“Shul-hmm? What’s that mean?”

“It means ‘good’. Like ‘sulmtol’, remember?”

“Oh yeah,” he said, nodding as if completely understanding.

“What do you like to do at school? What’s your favorite subject?”

“Hmm,” He tapped his finger on his nose. Then he snapped up. “Drawing.”

“Oh, that’s mine too. What do you draw?”

“With crayons,” he answered awkwardly. “I draw dinosaurs and houses and trucks, and all sorts of stuff.”

Sulm,” I said again. Then I frowned. “I’ve read the word ‘dinosaur’ before. What’s it mean? What’s a dinosaur?”

“You don’t know what a dinosaur is?” Chris asked, leaning closer to me.

“Nope, I don’t.”

He spread his arms out as wide as they could go, leaving him breathless against the floor. His fingers nearly hit me on the way up.

“They’re great-big monsters that lived a million-billion years ago. Some of them ate plants, and some of them with big sharp teeth chased other dinosaurs and ate them.”

“A million-billion years ago?” I asked. “How do you know something lived that long ago?”

“Um… people find their bones and dig them up. And then put them in museums. I saw some when I went with Mom.”

“Their bones, huh?”

“They’re called fossils,” Ian added from his bed.

“Yeah, foss-sills,” Chris nodded.

“Interesting. You know, if my people found old bones, we knew it was important to stay away because that meant monsters like wolves and foxes and birds hunted there. If they found us, they would hurt our families and friends, and… and we’d all get very sad.”

Ys yul, those were bad memories. Images of a torn-off arm and blood-stained snow filled my mind, but those were hardly appropriate to share with a five-year old boy. Chris pouted.

“That makes me sad, too. I don’t want monsters to eat my family.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that too much. You’re great-big, remember? Monsters would be afraid of you instead and run away.”

“But I’m not great-big,” Chris admitted, folding his arms on the floor and resting his head on them. “I’m small. I get scared that something will eat me.”

“Like dogs, huh Chris?” Ian said. “Are you still afraid of dogs?”

“Nuh-uh,” he said quickly. “Well… not small dogs. Big dogs are scary.”

“Every dog is big to me, so I’m certainly afraid of them. Cats, too. They’d all rather chew on me.”

Chris nodded.

“But you’re not afraid of big people like me?”

Chris’s fingers floated towards me and took hold of one of my feet. He pulled me towards him, causing me to slide through the thick carpet on my bottom. I don’t know if he correlated his question with his actions, but I certainly made the connection.

“I am… sometimes,” I whispered, pulling back. “Especially if they try to hurt me. I was very afraid of you when you and Ian and Aaron found me.”

“Me?” Chris stopped tugging, satisfied to tap his index finger and thumb around my ankle. “But I’m not scary.”

“You can be. If you picked me up and put me in a cage, I couldn’t get out. If you didn’t help me find food or water, I’d get very hungry and thirsty and sick. If you weren’t careful, you could drop me or step on me. You know?”

These novel ideas floated through Chris’s mind as well as across his pensive expression. His tongue came out of his mouth, licking his upper lip as he thought.

“That wouldn’t be very nice,” he said finally. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“What if you did it on accident?”

He thought again, his hand covering his lips.

“I’d be really careful… and say sorry.”

“That’s a good answer,” I asked. “I’m glad.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, you’re being very nice to me right now. So thank you, Chris. Serdi. You boys have all been very kind to me.”

Chris’s hand approached me (naturally the one he used to cover his tongue-soaked lip) and gently patted me on the head. Unsure of what he planned to do next, I laughed and tried to gently push him away. Instead, he took hold of my arm and bent it up and down like a stick on a hinge. He didn’t even have anything to say about his actions; he simply hummed to himself.

“Hey,” I said, patting his thumb with my other hand. “You’re silly.”

Shoolm, shoolm,” he whispered. “You’re very… um, flex-ee-bull.”

“Well, careful,” I replied. “My shoulder hurts if it moves too much.”

“Oh.”

He let go, but gently squeezed my foot again. Ian must have been watching, or at least listening.

“Chris,” he growled. “Don’t touch Lenn without asking first. You’re gonna hurt him.”

“But I won’t.”

“Hey, Chris,” I called to him, recapturing his attention. “Can you help me up?”

“Uh-huh!”

He rose from his belly and sat upon the floor with his feet tucked beneath him, and reached out his hands to grab me and lift me again.

“Not like that,” I said. “Just give me your hand so I can stand up.”

“Oh. M‘kay.”

He did so, and with some effort, I clambered to my feet. Unable to stop a yawn, I paused for a moment, leaning against the young boy’s open hand.

Serdi, Chris.”

“Um… shoolm?

“Not quite. It’s serdia, remember? ‘You’re welcome’.”

“Yeah, sher-dee-ah.”

“Hey Ian,” I called. Ian’s face quickly appeared over the side of his bed. “Is it okay if I go back to the guest room to sleep?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I heard his phone click off, and he sat up. He bent down to take me in his hands himself, but Chris intercepted him. Powerful kañi hands hauled me into the air and presented me to my not-so-little brother. My head spun, but I said nothing about it.

“Here you go!” Chris said cheerfully.

Ian’s face flashed with annoyance, but he didn’t say anything as he took me by my waist and cradled me against his chest.

Serdi again, Chris,” I said.

“Um… oh yeah, serdia!

“Can you stay here while I take Lenn to bed?” Ian asked.

“Uh-huh,” Chris replied, immediately turning himself and flattening against the carpet to watch the television. Ian rose and stepped over the youngest ka, muttering under his breath something akin to “thank you very much, you little dork”. I laughed, patting Ian’s chest, and he let out an airy guff.

And That’s It… So Far

I have a problem: I like skipping places in the stories I’m writing. This would be a creative thing to do if I had a plan for what was going to happen when I returned to write the missing gap. And for the most part, do know what I’m going to do to bridge this particular gap and end part one. I just have yet to get to it.

Would you believe I have about 230 pages more after the missing gap between parts one and two?

I also wonder to myself why I continued writing this story when so many of my other stories die a page or two into their creation (or 120, as is Alyssum). I just had a really fun time writing Lenn and Ian’s characters, and then later on what would happen with the slow addition of family members. For example, with Chris and Aaron, I really planned to include them more in the daily life. But considering how Chris ‘bounced’ into the room without knowing Lenn’s condition, and that the whole idea of keeping him safe and keeping him secret (in an unspoken way) would be by not coming over often. Maybe I should add more details that Ian would leave to hang out with them in between Lenn resting.

And how’s that for a writer’s coincidence that Lenn is saved by the same family that has housed Xande, his wife’s long-dead brother? Writers are magicians sometimes in hiding their most egregious coincidences as simple events, much better than I can come up with. Oh, and the reason Xande outright decks Lenn in the face? This is a detail I need to add with more emphasis: he didn’t just say “I married your sister”, he didn’t just say “we had sex and had a baby together”. Iatnasi is a very plain language. It’s basically a word that simply and graphically describes the process. Think of it as the word ‘fuck’ that has an even stronger connotation that is nearly never used in such a small and tightly-knit community. Never mind that Lenn has no qualms about saying ‘vysht‘ when he gets mad enough (essentially ‘shit’).

Another thing I keep trying to do: after 540 pages of writing, I tried to come up with an even more serious reason for Xande and the village to hate Lenn. What I’ve described just doesn’t seem enough to me, but I’ve put the poor guy in enough pain and probably need a second opinion. So yeah, unless you’ve been leading the narrative along with a carrot, don’t put bombshells on page 500. It even felt tacky to me, and that’s saying something.

So yeah, I have more writing to do. But it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m glad it’s out there now. I have a gap to write, and then I can put more out there without losing anyone.

I Am Lenn – Chapter One

I was very determined for a long time to not post this story. I’m pretty protective of this, and it can get pretty corny and odd in parts, thoughts that I wanted to work through between these characters. An exercise in writing dialogue n’ whatnot. But I’ve decided it’s something I should throw out there. So hopefully it is enjoyable.


I was drowning.

Surrounded by a torrent of debris in a storm-swollen river, between the freezing water and my struggle for air, something narrow and frighteningly sharp crawled from my left shoulder to my right ear. The screeching pain removed most of the air in my lungs from the shock. I tasted blood, and worse, I felt liquid cascade into my lungs, even with my mouth closed. I could no longer breathe, even above water. Only by finally scrambling onto bare stone and turning myself downwards towards the slope was I able to feverishly expel the blood and water and gasp for air.

Once I could inhale, I realized that blood was not only flowing out of my mouth. I didn’t understand the full extent of my injury yet. Thick red drops fell in torrents from my upper neck and shoulder, creating a stream of crimson from my laceration that fed back into the river. The effort I had produced to stay breathing in the deep river combined with sudden blood loss made darkness pass over me, so fast that I didn’t have a chance to grasp my bloody neck. I had no time to worry about what might happen to me if the day came, or even concern myself with the thought of surviving at all.

Time abandoned me. I actually had dreams floating through my mind, which made me think that I was viewing my last thoughts. That, or I truly was alive, hanging on by a thread. I saw you, Aria. Unbearable pain rose, seeing you in my mind’s eye. I felt the urge to reach out for you, Aria, but I wondered if my body had been irreparably damaged. Every single member of my family was dead, and I would be the last, bleeding out on stone, frozen and numb. My dreams faded and disappeared entirely, and Death introduced itself to me.

But He passed me over. I don’t know why.

The very next thing I remember are spoken words:

“Hey, Aaron, wait for us!”

They didn’t immediately register. They sounded like my dreams felt, indistinct and hazy. But another sound quickly filled the void: the thundering sound of shoes pounding upon dirt. It was quiet at first, but it filled my ears until it deafened me.

Then, it stopped short, and a small bout of silence led to a single phrase.

“What is that?

My mind floundered in exhaustion, and nothing but the cold of my veins concerned me. Even when I felt a very powerful force physically lift me into the air and place me delicately upon my back did a small sliver of reality return.

I saw daylight without seeing. Strong and terrible, it blinded my still-closed eyes.

“Look, Ian! It’s… a little person.”

“Whoa…”

“It’s dead… Look, there’s blood everywhere. It must have been attacked by something.”

I felt a warm object subject pressure to my upper chest, and the intense agony made me clench inwards.

“No, it’s still breathing, look. It’s alive,” shouted a great being above me. Perhaps it wasn’t shouting, exactly; its source was very close. The sun disappeared from view, overcome by a shadow cast from a strange source. At once, I knew exactly what had discovered me.

Iatvi. And ka Iatvi at that. Several of them, by the sound of it. I would die. I was certain of it.

I opened my eyes. Still blinded by the scales of sunlight in my sight, I could only see the outline of an enormous figure standing above me in the air. I could see a head, bent knees, wide shoulders. Almost beyond my sight were two similar shapes, strong ivory towers that reached into the sky. Nothing in detail.

“Look, it’s awake!”

“Chris, you stay back and stay quiet. You’re going to scare it.”

“No I won’t!”

I closed my eyes again. Still no fear. No feeling in my legs or arms. Despite the warmth of the sun and the bright spring day, cold gripped me tightly.

“Aaron, something cut its throat. We’ve… we’ve got to take it to my Dad. It’s gonna die if we don’t.”

“Ew,” said the youngest voice. “I’m not touching it. It’s naked and dirty.”

The voice above me made a clucking sound.

“It’s not naked, Chris. It just doesn’t have a shirt. Besides, it’s obviously a boy. Who cares?”

“We don’t have anything to carry him in… and Dad taught me never to jostle a patient or it could cause bad things to happen.”

“Oh, hey. Hold on, Ian. Use my shirt.”

For a moment, I heard the sound of cloth. For the first time, a spark of fear filled my mind when another great force took hold of my prone body and lifted me upwards. But instead of casting me to the ground or crushing my bones to powder, I felt myself being placed into a warm blanket supported by a cradle. The blanket smelled of sweat, but I could hardly complain; for the first time in hours, I felt some source of comfort.

“It’s gonna get your shirt bloody,” said the youngest voice.

“So?”

“It doesn’t matter. Come on, we’d better hurry. We don’t know how much time this little guy has left.”

I felt a sudden acceleration, and to my side, the wall upon which I leaned heaved inwards and outwards with the sound and damp breeze of Iatvi breath. I didn’t know my intended destination, nor did I know what these ka intended to do with me. But like no other time before, I thought in my heart that I would never see you again.


The journey felt like hours as my ripped skin lay fully exposed to the air. I wasn’t sure if I were still bleeding freely, but my arms and hands didn’t dare to move and check. The sounds that echoed around me would have been frightening at any other time: the honking of terrible horns and the rumble of great machines, the delightful songs of birds that would have eaten me if given the chance, and the murmur of other Iatvi laughing and speaking to each other. One concern crossed my mind: would this ka reveal me to other Iatvi? Would I ever have freedom again?

But then it occurred to me: I might not survive this at all. Very little mattered if I died.

“Chris! Run ahead and go tell dad that we’ve got a dying patient! You’re faster than us. He should be in his office!”

“Okay!”

“Your dad’s not home today?”

“No, he’s at work filling out papers. Hopefully we can sneak in through the back.”

Sneak? An interesting word. Was sneaking something these ka usually did? Or did they do it just for me?

I dared to open my eyes again, now that my blindness had faded somewhat. Above me was a view I never thought I’d have. Beyond a chest covered in gray fabric was the slender jawline of a young ka, his gaze aimed directly forwards towards his travels. For a split second as his feet rounded a corner, his face landed upon mine, and our eyes locked. A short round nose, messy brown hair, light freckles, and deep-set green-blue eyes. His pace slowed as he looked down at me, aware that I was now fully conscious.

“Don’t worry, little boy,” he said to me, his voice quiet and sure. “My dad’s going to take care of you.”

‘Little boy’, he said. Kani. I hadn’t been called that since I was five years old.

“Is he okay?” asked one of the ka, not the youngest. He came into view, and looked upon me as one would look upon an injured animal. This one’s face was much more youthful than the ka that held me, he had a thinner build, red hair, freckles from ear to ear. He was also shirtless, but of course he was; he’d given me his shirt to lay upon. I couldn’t see his eyes very well from my prone position, but it was apparent that his awe was just as sure as the one who held me.

For the first time in many hours, I opened my mouth and attempted to speak. Although air escaped my lips, no sound accompanied it. I tried again. Nothing but a rasping noise. In slight panic, I lifted my hand as best I could to my mouth. I could breathe, but I could not speak. I placed my hand to my throat. Midway down my neck, I felt the paralyzing shock of a wound so deep that it felt like a channel in my flesh. I must have appeared particularly terrified, as both ka gasped at my reaction.

“No, no, please don’t touch it,” said the ka who held me. “You’ll make it worse! Come on, Aaron, hurry!”

“Let’s go!”

The second half of the journey did not take nearly as long as the first, now that I was aware of my surroundings. I looked to my left, and saw for the first time the weight of an Iatvi hand, thick and enormous. Its fingers curled around me, blocking my view of the road ahead. I suppose it was all for the better. Strangely, the thought hadn’t arisen until that moment that this ka was holding me in the crux of his arm like an infant. The black cloth beneath me covered much of the arm, yet within my hand’s reach was a portion of golden ivory, covered in invisible hairs and spotted with a single tiny mole. Whether it was curiosity or sick madness, I reached out my hand and gently slid it through the hairs and against the skin. When my hand felt the surface, I realized that I smeared it with light trails of still-wet blood I’d touched from my throat.

“Hey,” said the panting ka above me with a light laugh, to my great horror. “That tickles.”

I mouthed the words ‘sorry’, but only breath came out.

At once, the ka Iatvi arrived at a gigantic building, two stories tall and covered in white stucco. Instead of going through the main entrance, the ka passed it by and headed into the back. I saw garbage cans and wooden fencing, as well as the windowless wall of the structure the ka mentioned was a ‘clinic’. I knew the word, but I had only ever visited a herbalist in my life, and none of them ever called their practices such things. Truth be told, if you required something as grandly described as a ‘clinic’, you were very likely on the verge of death anyways, and there would be little help to give.

I hoped that wasn’t the case for me.

A door clunked open loudly, and the sunlight above me disappeared as the ka stepped into the building. Instead of blinding light, the atmosphere was replaced with dim halogen and the scent of Iatvi cleaning supplies. The air turned cold in comparison to the spring outside, freezing the blood that remained in me. Most Iatvi preferred living in spotless and pristine environments, nothing like the comfortable clutter of our homes. Of course, the gatherers always said that everything was relative when it came to Iatvi, and they lived in just as much of a mess as we did; everything was just a bit more spaced out.

Down a hallway, turn right, down another hallway, through a door, then another.

“Dad!”

“I told him, Ian! I told him about the dying patient!”

“What is this about, Ian?” asked a gruff deep voice. He sounded displeased, which turned my stomach. “What are you carrying? You didn’t find some bird or cat in the gutter, did you? I’m not a vet. I can’t waste time treating animals. Aaron, why don’t you have a shirt on?”

“Dad, at least look! It’s a… a little boy!”

“A what?”

I heard a giant rise from a creaking chair.

“What did you bring me this… time…”

At that moment, I gazed upon the largest Iatvi I have ever laid eyes upon, then and since. I thought the ka was gigantic; his father stood over him like a mountain. The face that descended to look upon me looked remarkably like the ka that held me. Slender face, round nose, intense blue eyes, and a beardless golden complexion. His incredulous expression turned into amazement as he witnessed me for the first time. I may not have been completely naked, but I have never felt more exposed than I did at that moment.

“Wait, wait,” he whispered in shock, turning backwards. He reappeared with a thin pair of glasses. This time, he examined me with perfect clarity. “My goodness… what is he? Ian, where did you find him?”

“It was Aaron who found him. We were walking down the canal when we saw him next to the water. What is he, Dad?”

“I have no idea, but he… he looks human, doesn’t he?”

The father reached his hand forwards. His rough finger touched my stomach, and his fingers gripped my knee.

“This is incredible. But… he doesn’t look good, does he? I don’t know if I can fix this. Look how deep the wounds are. Right across his neck… He’s too small… His injuries might already be infected, and that could kill him no matter what we do.”

“Please, Dad! You have to do something! I don’t want him to die!”

Emotion hit me for the first time in many hours. Despite the dreams of never seeing you again, I couldn’t imagine a world in which someone besides you could actually care about me. I wanted to cry out, but I only produced a whisper.

The great Iatvi pursed his lips and looked up at his son with sudden determination.

“Okay,” he said. “I guess it’s the only thing we can do. Go ahead and place him on the table, and give Aaron his shirt back.”

“Look. He was bleeding,” said the youngest ka.

“Yeah, he was. Or, is. But my shirt doesn’t matter, I’ll wash it later.”

The ka named Ian stepped towards a strange cushioned piece of furniture that appeared to be more of a bed than an operating table. Though I felt pain flash through my body, Ian took me gently with both of his great hands and lowered me down to the surface. I laid flat, and felt the crinkling of paper beneath my back; I had no idea what its purpose was. I gazed upwards at the ka named Ian as he looked down upon me, and his face showed immense concern. Beside him was the ka named Aaron, now dressed and watching me with worry.

“All right, all right,” said Ian’s father, sitting back in his chair. “Um… Okay, let’s see. This is going to be tricky. Chris, I need you to stand back. You too, Ian and Aaron.”

All the young Iatvi took a few steps backwards, and Ian’s father wheeled himself to sit directly over me. Into his ears he placed a strange circular metal tube that I would later be informed was a ‘stethoscope’, though at the time I thought he was about to flatten me with the hammer-like tip of the tool. When he placed the wide circular end of the device upon my stomach and chest, both the cold and the pain on my wound made me scream. Or, it would have, had I the ability to scream. Instead, he saw the reaction on my face.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t know how else to do this. Do you understand me? If you can, try to breathe normally. I have to hear your lungs.”

I obeyed as best I could, withstanding my discomfort and breathing in and out. For a moment, none of the Iatvi said a word.

“His lungs sound clear,” said the father. “No rasping sounds.”

“What does that mean?” asked Ian.

“It means he isn’t gasping for air from internal bleeding. It seems like the wound is completely external… except… well, now that I’m seeing it…”

He leaned in closer to me, peering through his glasses.

“Can you speak?” he asked.

Again, my mouth opened, and I created the words with my lips, but no sound emerged. Then it dawned upon me why: I placed my hand to my neck, being cautious not to touch the torn flesh, and mouthed the words: ‘Neh angia, neh angia’.

“You can’t…” said the father. “You poor thing.”

“What? What is it, Dad?”

The father pulled away from me.

“I think… It’s possible the cartilage of his larynx has been fractured. The wound is certainly deep enough. His trachea might be okay since he can still breathe freely. He’s lucky that whatever caused his wound didn’t tear open any major veins, but… I don’t think he’ll be able to speak for a while. If they are fractures or complete displacement… Without surgery… I just don’t know.”

My expression turned dark, and I let my hands fall. I’d never speak again. I’d never be able to yell, or cry, or sing, or read out loud. I just knew it.

“I’m so sorry…” Ian said, stepping towards me. He reached out a finger, and touched my forearm. “I didn’t hurt you when I picked you up, did I? You couldn’t have told me if I did.”

I didn’t move my head without looking up at him. I was too busy trying to process everything to be scared.

“Let’s see,” said the father, moving in close again. “I would suture all of this, but… I’m not a vet. I don’t have the right tools. I know hydrogen peroxide is not good for wound treatment, but we have to make sure those wounds don’t become infected. I’m sorry, little guy, but this is probably going to sting when I apply it. I have Lidocaine, so the pain should disappear quickly. You’ll probably need lots of rest from the blood you’ve lost… I just hope this works. You found him in the canal, right?”

“Yeah,” Ian said.

“I hope he hadn’t been there long,” said the father. “We can’t exactly put him on antibiotics, I wouldn’t know the proper dose.”

“He’ll get better,” Ian said steadfastly, bending himself to put me and his eyes on an even level. I looked at him and he looked at me. I blinked a few times, and then, out of sheer hopelessness, I raised my hand out towards him. He immediately took his wide thumb and forefinger and grasped my outstretched hand and most of my lower arm. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “I promise.”

I’d only known this ka for minutes. But tears formed in my eyes anyway; these Iatvi, and especially this Ian, were the few beings that dared to care about me.


“I think it’s better if everyone stayed quiet about this little boy,” said Ian’s father, driving a colossal vehicle called a ‘van’. Of course, I knew what a van looked like from pictures, but I had never been inside one, much less one that was moving. “At least until we figure out what he is. Agreed?”

“Yeah,” said all of the ka.

Ian held me carefully in his arm, supporting me with a thick and light-blue colored towel. Ian’s father had been correct: putting on those bandages was one of the most painful experiences of my life, worse than actually being injured: the ‘hydrogen peroxide’, as the Iatvi called it, was a clear liquid, which the Iatvi applied to my skin with a cotton swab. At first it was merely cold, but then the carved lines in my neck and chest stung as if I’d been set on fire. It wasn’t until the father applied a white cream on top of the antiseptic and covered them in delicate bandages did the pain subside into a slow burn.

Although I had nearly been swallowed by a torrent the night before, one thing was certain: nearly drowning in water does not get rid of painful thirst. This may not be a surprise to you, but I had thrown up not an hour before falling into the river. Although I doubted there was anything that could be done about it, I had to let the ka know. Again, part of Ian’s arm was uncovered by the towel, and I gently patted it.

“Hmm?” Ian hummed. He looked down. “Oh. What is it?”

“What does he want?” said Aaron, looking down at me as he sat at Ian’s side.

“Can I see?” asked Chris, turning around in the front seat.

I called upon my voice by mistake, mouthing the words ‘thirsty’. My hands immediately went to the cotton bandages at my throat.

“You’re…? I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” Ian said.

“I think he said, uh… something about thirty?”

“You can read his lips?”

“I dunno. Maybe.”

They looked back down at me, and I shook my head as well as I could.

“Oh. Nope,” said Aaron.

I pointed to my mouth.

“Yeah, you can’t speak,” said Ian. “Or… something about your mouth?”

I nodded. I cupped my hand and raised it to my lips, puckering them.

“Oh!” Ian said. “You’re thirsty!”

I nodded.

“Dad, do we have any water in here?”

“I don’t think so,” said the father. “But… I don’t think that’s such a good idea anyway. You’d probably spill all over him and drown him. I have an eyedropper at home in my office, that might be a good way for him to drink.”

“Okay, that’s what I’ll do.” He turned back to me. “Do you think you’ll be all right for a while more?”

I nodded slowly, closing my eyes. I nearly lowered my head, but the sting reminded me to do the opposite.

The drive only took a few minutes, but as I watched the landscape out the van’s window fly by, I came to the realization of just how far away I was traveling from you. I know my circumstances had led me here, so distant from both you and your love, Aria. But I knew that if I came searching for you or the village with my injuries, I would die within a day. Only with the help of these Iatvi would I have any chance to see you again.

The van stopped first at a well-kept home, at least from what I saw from my perspective in Ian’s arms. Chris and Aaron rose and slid the side and the passenger side doors open.

“Remember, guys,” Ian said. “Don’t tell anybody. Even Uncle Ty and Aunt Amy. Just tell them… uh, that you’re home early because I have a doctor’s appointment.”

“Ha, you’re not wrong,” Aaron said.

“See you, boys,” said Ian’s father. The doors shut, and both ka ran for the home’s front door and disappeared inside. The van then continued moving.

Ian looked down as his breath fell upon me.

“Are you okay?”

In truth, I was becoming a bit alarmed. The deep rumble of the van, the pain in my body, the exhaustion from the terrible night… It all conspired against me. The urge to sleep even overrode my desire for food or water. But if I drifted off into sleep now, would I wake up? If I lived, where would I be when I awoke?

“Let him rest, Ian,” said Ian’s father. “That will be the best thing for him.”

“All right,” Ian said, watching me. “Don’t worry. You can sleep, I’ll make sure you’re comfortable when we get home.”

Trust is a strong word. I wasn’t sure it applied then. But this Iatvi that held my injured body and crumpled mind gave me all the permission I needed to give in. I closed my eyes, and was out in an instant.

Mental Chains – The Gauge of Death

moardepression

No, it is not.

I had a mild panic attack and a whole lot of depression this week. In fact, I’ve been in bed for the past two days (yesterday I don’t think I even got up to sit at my computer until 5 PM). It’s incredible the amount of energy drain currently going on. And I don’t see my doctor until next Tuesday.

Ugh. Slow medicine is slow.

I’m not sure my upload schedule for the next couple of weeks as I will be adjusting my medication again. Things are not working as they should. But I am alive, and I will write when I can. I’ve been distracting my mind with Starcraft 2 co-op mode and Monster Hunter World, both of which I would love to review.

So yeah. I can barely keep my eyes open right now. And yet my mind is buzzing away, daring me to think about negative things. Sucks.

Backstage Tales – Coloring Book

I have been sick over the past couple of days, and combined with the Fourth of July, I’ve taken some time to rest and get over my head cold/sinus infection. Despite this, I may or may not have burned myself trying to set off four fireworks at once. Happy late Fourth of July, everyone!

Unfortunately, my plans for writing a game review yesterday or today both flew out the door. So instead, I wanted to share a few images of something I’d love to put together someday, even if it would never sell in any meaningful quantity.

Presenting What If Worms Could Whistle: The Coloring Book! Feel free to download, print, and share with your young ‘uns!

caveworm

Unga-bunga.

fallout4

I want to redo this one. 😀

griffon

Weeeee!!

monster

Ooooohhh! Ghosty-goo!

wheat

I’d love to make it a history lesson.

zealot

En taro Tassadar!

I was thinking most of the book would be illustrated in color, but a few pages at the end would be blank for kids to color. I have no idea if anyone would even care to let their kids read and color in a book about big-eyed worms in funny costumes, but it would be fun to try.

Anyway, a regular review is coming up Monday, and it’s one of my favorite PC strategy titles that always calls me back to play again and again. Stay tuned!

Backstage Tales – Goopy Fish

IMG_0263

So… My house is filled with many different art and ceramics projects, most of them decorative slab containers that my mom wanted to keep because they’re cute reminders of us kiddies when we were in elementary and junior high. Last week, however, I caught sight of this little guy, which was sculpted by my sister in junior high… and I knew exactly what I had to do.

His name is officially Goopy Fish, for I have named him this way. All my sisters think I should start an Instagram for this little ceramic fish, and I’m contemplating adding it to my weekly workload.

So, I started small:

Rogue-one-hologram

That’s no moon. It’s a Goopy Fish. The ultimate destructive power in the universe that just wants a lick of your ice cream.

This is my first Star Wars hologram. Not too shabby, right? Shoot, I was going to link to the tutorial, but I’ve lost it. But thank you, Pattern Tool!

So what was next? Well, naturally:

indiana

There’s no boulder chase scene after this. Indy just gets buried in three tons of wet trout.

Okay, I could have done a better job on this one; I went a bit crazy with the Clone Stamp tool in the background, there. I might redo it in the future.

So I’m thinking, okay, movies about fish. Oh! Simple!

Jaws-movie-poster

He just wants to lick all over ya. Frightening and suggestive. Not suitable for all audiences.

Too easy? Yeah, I agree. But I was able to find the Jaws font, so that’s pretty cool.

My mind was still settled on movies, so where else could I take Mr. Goopy?

silence

Hello, Clarice. Have you met my pet fish? I think you’ll find his appetite for your company quite… voracious.

I can’t tell you how much of a nightmare it was trying to remove the moth while smoothing out her skin in the complex shadows. I couldn’t use Goopy Fish to completely cover every mistake, or else it would cover her nose. I think this one turned out pretty well.

Found the font for The Silence of the Lambs, too. Pretty metal.

Then I thought: okay, what if Goopy Fish found his way into the art world?

Seurat

I’m sorry, Mr. Seurat. Though I’ve seen worse intrusions in your style.

How many Goopy Fish can you see? I think it’s hilarious for Goopy Fish to be beached and playing with a small puppy. That puppy is going to get his head gobbled immediately.

And then this one just made me laugh:

Jacques_Louis_David_-_Bonaparte_franchissant_le_Grand_Saint-Bernard,_20_mai_1800_-_Google_Art_Project

Sacré bleu! C’est du poisson britannique! Fuyons!

Bwahahaha!! I love the horse’s shocked expression. I’d be pretty shocked if fish rained from the sky all singing “God Save the King” in perfect unison, too. You can’t see the singing, obviously, but it is happening.

There will be more Goopy Fish in the future! Photoshopping him is just too much fun!