Half Shaman, 5

Links to Previous Chapters:

1: Vigil          2: Wake Up Call          3: ArkShip in the Night         

4: The Yellow City Dream

Jeb spends three years in prison with cells either side empty, and gets a mysterious neighbour on the same day that she discovers the ArkShip again orbits Lotor. How is that not suspicious? She is the hereditary bio-captain: how will the ship contact her, and how does the signalling feel compared to the malign dreams that the planet sends? 

5: In The White Cell, Still

Anyway, I’m forgetting. There can be no preparing until I have contacted the ship and the ship has replied. What do I know so far? If it is the ship orbiting, it will have dropped sensors. So it is said, I add for the comfort of it. I set myself to recalling the business of making contact.

I’ll need the code. Got it. By head and by heart. Didn’t I just prove that? 

Don’t get cocky, my crow reminds me. 

Then the totem singing. A lot of learning there. Revision revision revision. 

So, revise the totems. 

Need more voices. And a sound-shell to bounce the singing outward and upward. 

Don’t know what to do about more voices. Just my own will have to do for now. This room might work as a sound-shell.  

Silently I rise from the bunk. With every move I make, I listen for waking-up sounds from the cell next door. Shrug into my tunic, sleeveless and knee-length, hold the two corners of my cloak between my teeth while belting the middle around my waist, to be ready for anything. If I saw the ship, others will have seen it too, and I don’t mean other shamans. The crow digs into my fears with its sturdy black beak. 

The forefathers long ago deemed a shaman to be well-dressed with a cloth of a width that could be measured by his or her outstretched arms, and measuring the other direction, one and a half of her or his lengths. But I inherited my cloak from my beanpole-tall father, the poor 7th generation boat-less captain of an ArkShip so injured that all my father’s life the ArkShip drifted helplessly in the void. I am the 8th generation in that sequence, and I will captain the ship through the manoeuvres requiring a human’s input. So it is said. 

I blouse the upper parts of my cloak above my belt to get the bottom edge up off the floor, and begin my push-aways against the wall opposite my bunk. This exercise is so habitual that I can meanwhile think about anything under the sun. 

Every man and woman, boy and girl, grannies and grands, if they are related to OldEarth human stock, studies a totem. Everyone, in their early youth, attends a totem school. Every totem is a creature of OldEarth. 

Physically, I am the stunted, drum-chested daughter of a sylph. My poor mother. I’m lucky, the Shamans told me, in what the geneticist was able to do for me. I said, “Huh? What she did for me?” I remember most of all how she died. How can I ask anyone about that? 

Get back to it. And also, I was a Harpy Eagle. And from age fourteen OldEarth years, young for my age and young for the school, I was taken into the Shaman School. Because, apparently, I am more my father than I am like my mother, in every way. Another huh. My father was tall and skinny and look at me. And because my father was the hereditary bio-captain of the ArkShip. 

After three years, my handsome brothers whom I hurt with my cruel harpy tongue saw a chance and carried me face-first a screaming log, between them to the well. They set me on the well rim, where I hung waisted while they changed their grip. I didn’t at first realise the danger of suffocation and was more worried how it undignified I might appear. 

Then I looked down. A dark reflection looked up at me for that short moment that I hung there. My brothers reached down for my ankles and toppled me into the jelly seepage. The stone sides hold back only sand, never the planet’s plasma. 

No air. No air! A sudden realisation that I might never breathe again. Only the thick jelly, Lotor’s approximation of Earth’s water. Could. Not. Breathe. At the last horrendous moment I recalled a myth about quicksand back on OldEarth. I dragged my head out of the brawny gel, at the same time rolling half onto my back. I swam two hesitant strokes to the side and with slow arms dragged myself up the ladder. 

These memories serve to entertain me while I push fall push fall to the wall in the white cell. Too tired to run from the guards alerted by my Earth-born-and-bred brothers, I gave myself into the hands of Lotor, and am still here, a thousand days later. A sixth of my life of not giving in to my whinging legs and my groaning shoulders arms wrists and hands. To keep fit. Every day I ask myself for what.

And tell myself. To get my bravery back, my courage, to haul them from under the soles of my feet where I keep such things to remind myself who I am and who I am not. My brothers for example might already be dead. The same disease my mother couldn’t save herself from. Maybe it really won’t come to take me. I wish I knew. 

Away from there. Now the reason for keeping fit might be to … I never heard of the ship replying by light flashes that anybody might see?

So how will the ship reply, if not by light flashes?

The morning’s food arrives without me having heard the approach of the guards almost as if I’m deaf and blind to the changes. Except I’m not. Tayne is silent. Because he listens to every move I make? There’s nothing different about the way the food comes. The plate is shoved through the slot at floor level. Porridge. A guard checks my condition by way of a look through the eye hole. 

I keep my eyes hooded against his frank and interested stare. I keep my yellow eyes hooded in the same way that we hood our shamanic deceptions with the practical applications of totem schooling. Everyone is helped and everyone helps. Most without knowing the latter. 

It's up to me to set things in motion?

Because … because … all the other shamans are also in the jail system?

Soowei’s story might contain a hint. 


  1. Very interesting voice and story construction. It's almost poetic. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Roland Boykin. Sorry it took me so long to take notice. Have been having some internet collywobbles ...


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