Half Shaman, 3
Links to Previous chapters1: The Vigil 2: Wake Up Call
Jeb, the Half Shaman, is still in the prison, still incognito. In the previous instalments she met Tayne, a possibly suspect fellow prisoner housed in the cell next to her. The wall between them doesn't go all the way to the ceiling. She has to be careful with sound.
3: ArkShip in the Night Sky
During the night, when I stand below the window leaning against the white-washed wall and staring into the quadrant of sky where I was instructed that the ship will re-appear, I see a speck of light on a regular if speedy trajectory. My heart lurches. I reach up to clutch the edge of the window hole. Could that fast-moving spot of light be the ArkShip? Lightness-of-being fills me: its other name is hope. Is it really, after all this time, the ArkShip repaired and coming to fetch us?
The Shaman School had fourteen teachers when I was taken. All of them shamans. Therefore all of them the ArkShip’s Crew. They were six-year trained, and then for many years practiced their skills in a theoretical way. They cosseted me because I came to them years younger than the regular intake. My father died early.
I was deemed to be the ship’s rightful captain by my DNA. ‘Deemed’ seems to mean ‘as said by an authority’. ‘Rightful’, if you ask me, sounds as though somebody might try to take the job without rights. Even though I was incredibly curious, and into places where I shouldn’t have been for the three years, I didn’t manage to find out why an ArkShip needs a captain.
What I wondered about was why the ArkShip even needs a captain. At one time I worried about that more than anything. It still doesn’t make sense. The ArkShip runs itself, right? All this time it has. And if that fast-moving light-point up there now it is our ship, it is meant to have repaired itself after Lotor’s attack? What does it need a human captain for?
My first worry though has to be to get free. There’s a crow living in my belly saying dark things about that escape. I tell it, I am still alive. The crow tells me that I am a piece of flotsam, a scrap caught in a plot. That the plot was organised by Lotor.
I feel my lightness-of-being start to leak away. Because who am I to hope? That too drains to my feet. Where I also keep my resolve, courage, and every other thing that needs to be trodden down because how else to survive than by rejecting anything that will endanger me?
Any little gleam in my eyes, laugh, smile, and cheerful posture earns me a thump on the head, or a kick in the teeth. Sometimes, when I upset a guard or the administrator, I get the feeling I’m a finger-width of being thrown into the Black Cell. Think rather of the dark sky, much more optimistic.
Look, that dot of light makes another pass. It feels quite a quick orbit for it to be overhead so soon again. What if it is the starship of some other visitor? We came several hundred years ago.
I wait for a sign from the ArkShip. Or must it be the captain who begins the conversation? I think I can remember how. As a reward for completing my first year of shaman studies, I got to talk with the ship. I meant to say ‘It’s me, Zjebelle, talking with our ArkShip.’ The Head Shaman shook his head. “We’d be singing for hours. You’ll be J for Jeb. Dash dash dot dot.”
The Head Shaman had a soft spot for me and I wasn’t afraid to tell him my thoughts. “I don’t want the J for Jeb when the Ship’s sign is dot dash and I don’t want the C for Captain when that is dash dot dash dot. They’d be too similar in a situation of hurry,” I said, intersecting a glance of thoughtful surprise between two shamans.
I’d learned about the difficulty of similar call signs … as in being called for dinner … from my mother’s inability to distinguish between Jeb, Jed and Jake when she was in a hurry. She always ended up saying “You lot.” My fellow second-year shamans shuffled their feet, like they’re saying to me, “Get on with it, Harpy.” Nobody stopped calling me that just because I was in Shaman School.
The Head Shaman had us write our signals out in longhand. I understood my stupidity after writing the first two words and began again. Dash dash dot dot / dot / dot dot dot dot / dot dash. In longhand, I remember, gaps between letters are denoted by a slash. Giving us thirteen elements to weave into a totem song and which, in a burst of generosity, the shaman choir made the Harpy’s positive attributes. Which felt oh so good at the time. One of my classmates sent his initial letter, the other her crew initial, dash dash dot dash, and both of them were sung with the Meerkat song.
The dot of light does pass again. It doesn’t signal.
I’m disappointed though I don’t know what I should be looking for. If it is dots and dashes would I be looking for a flickering light? Stupid, I knock my head against the wall soundlessly, it wouldn’t do to wake the snorer in the cell next to me. Stupid, I think again. If it is the ArkShip, its light is only a reflection of Lotor’s star, Procyon B. And, in the same way that the Shamans’ signal to the ship must be secret, and is hidden in the totem singing, so probably the ship’s signals to us must be made secretly, hidden in ….
I frown. I don’t remember how the answers came when I was still in the school. If they came.
But if the ship does still know me, it will be as Z. When I realise that, I also realise that if I can contact the ArkShip, I’ll be able to ask it anything I want to know, including how the chain of command will work and what everyone will be doing the whole long way back to Earth. If that’s where we’ll be going …
Sleep on it, I tell myself. It was the Head Shaman’s favourite vigil for getting in touch with one’s unconscious awareness, which according to the old man, is the repository of ten times the knowledge a mere conscious awareness allows its owner. “Added to which it’s a vigil we can work at without much extra work, every night,” he often said. I lie down to sleep.