Tag Archives: The Sugar Chronicles

The Blink, Conclusion

9 Jun

The Blink

Conclusion

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Like Sequoia, Adams had eventually slumped down over the hours awaiting nightfall. As the sky and the forest darkened, members of the tribe stoked the campfire into a roaring blaze, which they continued to heap wood into. The heat from the fire roasted the two prisoners. Adams was able to twist partially around, and cool himself. Sequoia, whose feet were a few inches above the ground, was not able to twist as easily as he.

The members of the tribe were busy with preparation for the evening’s ceremony. The women painted the men’s faces and bodies with colors mixed from clay and ashes and berries. Fearful scowls were drawn on the already somber profiles, and here and there came a “whoop!”

Children sneaked close to Sequoia and Adams, dared by their friends to touch or prod one of the two. Her being a witch, and him perhaps being a Wanderer lent more than a measure of bravado to the antics of the young “warriors.”

As dire as the situation was, Adams remained strangely calm. He had no idea what tests he might be subjected to, but he could imagine. Cutting, perhaps. Impalement of parts of his body. He had seen enough movies of white men tortured by the Red Man. Who could know how accurate those depictions were?

Adams wondered if push came to shove, whether he could make his escape by willing himself to blink a special blink. Obviously any blink was not the trick. He had already blinked many thousands of times since noon to no avail. If he could somehow learn how to manage this — what? Gift? He started to laugh. This “gift” was the reason he was how many years into the past? Was the reason he was trussed up like a pig, almost. Was the reason whatever bad was going to happen, was going to happen to him.

He countered the bad with the good. He had never seen the earth, or space, or the galaxies as when he first traveled. He had never seen the world so green, or the skies so clear. He had never smelled the rain so fresh, nor tasted water from a creek that he was not afraid to drink. He had never seen such a ravine-haired beauty as Sequoia, her large eyes filled with life and wonder, her round face begging for his touch.

He shook his head to return to reality.

The activity of the tribe abruptly became more frenzied. Warriors began to dance and leap around the fire, which was fanned by their activity, and spewed sparks into the smoky air. Several drums began to beat in the dark parameter of the clearing. Women joined the men, and children joined the adults.

It reminded Adams of the scene in Lord of the Flies when the hunters reenacted their chase and frenzied killing of the pig.

Someone’s going to die soon, he thought, still unafraid for himself. It was Sequoia he feared for. They believed she was a witch. They banned her from the tribe, and then went out to hunt her down. She was the target of this rage and insanity.

It depended on him. Her life was in his hands. And whatever was necessary, Adams braced himself to save her.

The drums stopped as suddenly as they had begun. All of the tribe members fell to the ground where they were. The tall man emerged from the darkness and walked into the circle close to the fire to be seen by all. Half his face was painted white, and the other, black. He carried a long spear, adorned with white feathers from the stone blade to the end of the shaft. He slowly thumped the ground with the spear three times.

“Unelahuhi approaches on the light of the stars,” he said. “She will judge the pale man. She will prove his metal, and as a result I will know how to deal with Sequoia. Bring him here and truss him.”

Adams was cut down from the horizontal pole and crumpled to the ground. Two men grabbed wither arm and dragged him to the tall man. Other men brought three poles which were about as long as Adams was tall. Two were crossed and midpoints, forming an x. The third pole was lashed at the crossing, and extended backwards, the opposite end thrust into the ashes at the edge of the fire, supporting the x at a slight tilt backwards.

Adams was lashed to the cross, his wrists on the upper ends, and his ankles to the lower ends. The fire behind him, Adams struggled against the poles, but it was useless.

The tall man approached the bound prisoner, and pulled a large stone knife from a leather sheath. The blade was glassy in the firelight, chipped to a fine edge. The tall man cut away the leather shirt top Adams wore as though it was paper.

“Who are you?” the tall man asked.

“My name is Kyle Wyndham Adams.”

“Where do you come from, Kyle Wyndham Adams? Where is your tribe?”

“I come from far in the future. Beyond your grandchildren’s grandchildren. Beyond the edge of the sky. Beyond the light of the moon. Beyond all dreams you will ever dream.”

“Are you a Wanderer?”

“I don’t know.”

“Your blood is silver if you are.” The tall man made a thin cut from Adams’ right breast across his chest and down to his left side. Adams bit his tongue from crying out. He could feel his blood rush out from the cut and run down his belly to his thighs.

The tall man looked intently at the blood.

“Unh! It is red.”

He then made a second cut from Adams’ left breast the opposite way across his chest, forming a large x.

Sweat poured from Adams’ face and neck, and his clenched jaws and taut neck and shoulders belied the pain. He was quiet.

The tall man took his finger and traced it across Adams’ blood swathed chest. He looked at his finger in the firelight.

“Unh. Once again, it is red. If you are not a Wanderer, what are you? A coyote? The dog that follows Sequoia? If I put my knife where the bloodlines cross, will you not change into your true spirit? Yes, you will — or you will die!”

With that, the tall man took the knife in both hands and placed its tip at the intersection of the bloody x. He closed his eyes and tilted head back to look at the full moon that bathed the clearing in its blueish light. He inhaled deeply, and tensed every muscle in his neck and shoulders, arms and hands.

“FATHER! NO!” came a loud scream from where Sequoia still hung from the pole.

Adams blinked, and everything slowed to a near stand-still. He felt his spirit pull away from his body as before, yet as before, his body was still alive.

As he rose with the sparks of the fire, he looked where Sequoia was tied. Her body seemed to hang in the air, and as he watched, Sequoia twisted and jerked frantically against the pole, breaking free. At that instance, she turned toward the tall man where Adams’ body still struggled against crossed poles, the tall man’s knife beginning to prick at the center of the bloody x.

She leaped, jumping incredibly high and towards the two. As she soared, Sequoia’s body became a blur. It shifted from that of a woman into a large black cat. A puma? A leopard?

The tall man dropped his knife and turned towards the beast, which crashed into him, throwing him to the ground. Then, turning and slashing Adams’ body free from the rack, the animal bore him on its back and disappeared into the dark forest.

Above the fray, Adams’ essence tried to follow the escaping animal and his body. Instead, he was forced higher into the dark night, and shot up into the air high enough to see the surrounding countryside bathed in moonlight.

He continued up. To the stratosphere. To the edge of the galaxy. Into deep space, all the while wondering what he had seen and what had happened.

Far into the deep he finally stopped and turned, and began the journey back, feeling his arms and legs drag behind. Back to the galaxy. Back to the stratosphere.

Finally, he came back down to the curving switchback road and the sports car, where he leaned in the direction of each turn, ascending to the top of the mountain.

His head and face throbbed with his pulsing heartbeat. He tried, but could not grasp or clarify the instantaneous flash — a dream that was blurred to the point he could not bring it into focus.

Adams parked and carefully picked his way on a well-worn trail that snaked through the rock formations until he stood — nearly alone — on an outcropping of rocks.

The sun had begun its slow descent in the western sky. All along the undulating rises of mountains separated by darkening valleys were hundreds of mountain homes. He sighed and wondered what it might have looked like a thousand years before. When everything was unspoiled and pristine.

A slight gust of wind whipped over the outcrop and blew into his face, and there was the faint aroma of a campfire, wafting up from the valley below.

Kyle Wyndham Adams blinked.

§ § § § §

Author’s note:

The Blink is intended to be one of five stories compiled under The Sugar Chronicles. Each story will be inconclusive in many ways if considered separately, which may frustrate you as a reader. Be patient. Each story will be woven from similar themes and characters. Or perhaps ancestors or descendants of characters. If you are reading this and are a writer, you know how coveted are comments, and not of the “I loved it” or opposite reaction variety. The whys are critical for any writer to hear. Why did you like a particular character — or not like the character? Was the dialogue convincing? Were there challenges in terms of storyline, credibility, consistency?

— LSM