Part 39: Meow
"Where am I?" For someone who'd only tasted beer once in his life, I'd woken with that question too often.
I didn't bother opening my eyes. That way, at least for a minute or two, I could imagine the answer being as it should. "At home, in bed, with sunshine stirring me from a good night's rest."
Looking back, good night's rest aside, it sort of was.
Lauca has raised you from the dead! Lauca demands a blood tribute!
You smell like flowers. What's going on there?
I see Lauca's introduced herself. Sorry about that.
Give him some space, will you? Kid'll suffocate.
Ohhh, yeah I'd love to but there's this big hairy freeloader in my house and space is kinda tight right now.
Hey, you know where there's lots of space? Outside.
...you're going to be a pain about this, aren't you.
Pain or rent. Your choice.
How are you feeling?
Physically, I mean. Otherwise I can guess.
...okay. Uh, anyway, we're going to lay low here for a while. At least until you're back on your feet.
I am on my feet.
Kid, you look like a corpse. And if you push yourself any harder, you'll be one.
No. No. I have to get the book back. I have to go. I don't want to be here.
The book is gone. It's lying in Rhoan somewhere and you can't-
It can't just be lying in the street! Someone must have picked it up!
It doesn't matter. You can not go back there. If you do, they will kill you. Do you understand? It's not your home anymore.
Lauca. I'm going to stay out of the way for a while. He doesn't need me around right now. Look after him, yeah?
Okay, but can you tell me the story first? This sounds like a good story.
Sorry. Not mine to tell.
She'd ask that often, when she wasn't prodding me for my story or bickering with Heath outside. In time, I think she cared less about the answer and more about getting me to say something, anything.
She'd bring food, wave it under my nose, but appetite had deserted me. Why eat? To survive. Why survive? Literally, what was the point, knowing what I did, feeling as I did, with my task a failure and no-one to miss me? What would it prove to hold out for a few more months?
Nothing. Hunger gnawed, but I ate only when its teeth became fangs.
pleeeeeease cheeeeeer uuuuuuuup
you are bringing me doooooooown
And then there was that.
I knew she meant well, but I couldn't accept it. Every time I shut my mind off, preparing for a good, hard brood, she'd spring up to jolt me with her perky smile and perky ears and perky bloody perkiness. She wielded perk like a blunt instrument.
Who was she to intrude on my grief? She didn't know anything. How dare she try to make me happy?
Well, I'd show her. I'd lost too much to let her cheer infect me. I could stay as I was, quiet and miserable, until the end. I wouldn't let her win.
So of course, when I eventually spoke, I did so to satisfy her and put a stop to her pestering. No other reason.
Why are you doing this for me?
Aha! So you can talk!
Why am I doing this? Just 'cause. Do I need a reason?
Most people would.
Most people are dumb.
How come you don't like Heath?
He's sorry, you know. I dunno what he did, but I can tell he's sorry. Keeps asking me to punch him in the stomach.
Is that what he did? Punch you? 'Cause he's punched me once or twice. We used to fight all the time. All the time.
And now we're friends. Life's weird.
Why did you fight?
Eh. Stupid reasons.
You know he's from Waisen, right? They weren't always at peace with Kaleila.
So you fought in the war?
Like I said. Stupid reasons.
...it's not just because he punched me.
He made me lose some things that were very important. And I don't know if I'll ever get them back.
What sort of things?
Friends. And a book.
...I'm gonna talk to him.
What's the point? You already said he's sorry.
If you're okay with that, why do you still hate him?
Think about it. I'll be back with some food.
You getting sick of meat? I could scrounge up some berries instead. Or nuts.
No no no. We're not going back to Mopeytown. Come on. What do you want to eat? I'm not leaving until you tell me.
...I don't like being looked after like this. I really don't like it.
Oh. Is that the problem?
It's no big deal. I always bring back more than I can eat anyway. 'Sides, what's not to like? Good food, pretty lady, waited on hand and foot. People kill for this.
Would you feel good about yourself if you had to sit in bed all day and someone else did everything for you?
That would suck, actually. Didn't think about it like that.
So get up, then! Do something!
You know how to hunt?
I'm out of ideas.
It's a forest. Not that much going on.
We could just, you know, walk. Air you out a bit.
Remember when I said you smell like flowers? You don't now.
I'll think about it.
Mm. Sometimes you shouldn't think about things. Sometimes you should just do them.
...I'll think about that.
OH WOW HE MADE A JOKE, MAYBE IN ANOTHER TEN YEARS HE'LL DO IT AGAIN
Fine. You're off the hook for now. But I'll be back.
Why are you being so kind to me? Really? There has to be a reason.
There is. I want you to get better.
But why? What difference does it make to you?
Well, it might be nice to have my bed back. I kinda miss it.
You can have it whenever you want! It's your bed! Why let me use it in the first place?!
Do you want me to kick you out?
I want to know why you're doing this for me.
I told you. Twice. You won't listen.
Know what I think? You're just mad. You're mad at everything, and you want to be mad at me, but I'm being nice so you can't. So now you're looking for a reason.
And I'm not gonna give you one. So there.
I'm off to get dinner. And this time, you're eating. If I have to cut your stomach open and cram a steak in there, I'll do it. I'll gutfeed you. I'm crazy.
And off she went, with the authoritative swagger of someone who hadn't just looked me in the eye and said "Meow" like a threat.
By the time I noticed the smirk pulling at my face, my chance to fight it back had passed.