Part Four- based on picture 5
Word Count: 902
I don’t know what they expected. I stared at the child, and then up at the assembled group and it was as if the power had changed subtly in the room. Instead of the fear and belligerence and panic, I saw inquiry and I knew they wanted answers, answers I couldn’t give.
I couldn’t even ask questions.
I tried my best, whilst fighting down the worries that to ask what I was asking might be Taboo. I gestured at the woman, noting her fine features and bright, quick, intelligence behind her eyes as I tried to ask her if they child was hers. I found it was a difficult concept with sign language, and had I been with a friend playing a mime game it would have seemed smutty and rather amusing, but I felt as I pointed at her, then at the child, that I was miming for my life. It took a while, but suddenly her face cleared and she started to speak in that bird-like trilling speech, holding the child to her and pointing between her and the man I could only take to be her partner-husband-mate. She pointed to the child’s nose, and his chin, and then to her husband’s nose, her own chin and the shape of the child’s eyes compared with her own.
To me, babies are formless balls of clay that get more interesting with age, but to the woman, it was more than clear that she was saying the child was hers. She should know, I supposed.
This established, they all looked at me again with that look of expectant enquiry and all I could do was to stare back at them like an idiot. After an uncomfortable silence, I shrugged my shoulders, shook my head and waved my hands, unable to think of any other way to show my complete bafflement. The woman seemed to soften, and she put her hand on my shoulder for a second before one of the guards knocked it away so briskly that I saw her beautiful face wince in pain.
They took me out then, so quickly I could not even make some goodbyes, which I regretted, as for in the few minutes I had been in their house, I had felt a little more at peace since my arrival in this place. The guards continued to lead me down endless steps of the mountain city, but not at such a breakneck pace, and I had time to look around me as we went. The city was busy, the streets lined with stalls selling a lot of what you would expect on any world. (Or so I guessed, smiling to myself at the thought – great inter-world traveller as I now was.) Clothing I recognised and cooking pots, but there were other (much rarer) stalls which seemed to sell nothing but balls of light, and I wondered if they were the lights I had seen in the house. I tried to tarry to get a better view but my captors were having none of it.
I didn’t have to wonder why everyone was so fit, with all these stairs. For a man from flat lands, even this constant walking down was sapping my strength, and I was pleased when my guards took me into a large building, with metal gates which swung open when one of them held out his metal cube.
I was taken inside, unmistakably a prison – I could see that from the second we entered. It was a light and airy prison, for a place of incarceration, and I got the impression that they were just putting me there while they decided what to do with me. I was treated kindly enough; made to wash in a foul smelling liquid, then rinsed with water so cold it froze my sinuses – I guessed it must come from a mountain spring. Then I was given these strange clothes and put into a cell. Not this one.
The first place I was in was a large room, with a bench for sleeping, and wide barred windows with outside shutters to protect from the elements. The window looked over a large grassy courtyard, and the view kept me amused as I watched the coming and goings of others.
I wasn’t sure, after a day or two, that the place was actually a prison, because there was such a diversity of people and they seemed to be able to come and go as they pleased. The people are all tall and slender, quiet and graceful. In a day or so I recognised some of them, and although they all knew I was there, none of them even looked in my direction. So I could watch them without feeling that I was peeping. What fascinated me most were the children who were every colour under the sun, ranging from the youngest, fair, blonde and blue eyed, and ranging upwards in tone, through tanned to brown, up to adolescents, who had lost all traces of lightness and were, like the adults, dark as dark could be.
For someone with a rudimentary knowledge of genetics, having to encourage the best crops I could – it was a mystery, and one I doubted I’d ever be able to solve. It was an impasse, I could neither ask for answers, or give any, and I didn’t know what that meant for my future.
TBC© Copyright 2005 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes