Half Shaman, 6


View from Jeb's Cell Window

Links to Previous Chapters:

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

4: The Yellow City Dream       5: In the White Cell, Still

Jeb recalls Soowei's story for any information useful for her own situation. Soowei was the daughter of the first captain, Jeb is the daughter of the 7th captain. 

Due to the perceived ideal lengths for #Saturdayscenes posts, this story will be posted in two parts. Jeb's analysis bookends the two parts. 

6: Soowei's Story


Soowei, as I understand it, was the child of the Captain then. He of the 1st generation. My father, telling me the tale, never gave him a name. “Don’t interrupt,” he said. “I have no time. The First Captain had no totem to teach his child. It was before the totem system, before the shaman schooling. Before we had any idea that we might need to hide what we were about.” 

***

Soowei ran up the uneven blocky stairs to her father’s rooms. When she’d been a four year old making her pronouncements, he’d got a job as night watchman over the food stores. The rooms came with the job – daytime jobs only got you a place in one of the dorms. He told her to never tell anyone her dreams but him, and only up there in their little rooms.

She twisted with the stairs, they were that narrow, her satchel swung over the drop. She slept in the dorms now but still joined him for her evening meals. For her birthdays, Father always cooked up something special. She was sixteen today. Her mouth filled with saliva, anticipating what he had made.  She’d wait telling him the dream. Or she mightn’t tell him at all. 

Because how should you tell your own father that you saw him die? Her heart galumphed again, thinking of it. She mis-stepped. Almost tripped. The open, un-protected side of the stairs yawned to the dark ground below. She clung to the outer wall. There was no balustrade – Father’s way of discouraging visitors.  

She knocked and lifted the door a couple of centimetres to swing it open. The door sticking on the floor was another discouragement. “Hey,” she said, sniffing for the birthday treat. Tea-towel covered dishes stood on the kitchen bench. Chicken curry? She hung her satchel on the hook by the door.
“Come and sit down,” her father said. “Opposite me.”

The chairs faced each other along a longer side of the table. First aid paraphernalia was laid out on their place-mats. Two tourniquets. Two sets of bandaging. Two needles threaded. Two scalpels. Cloth and bottle of rubbing alcohol. She saw it all at a glance. She felt the blood leaving her face. “What are we doing?” 

“The thing we need to do before we celebrate,” he said. “The thing I’ve got no words for. First I have to hurt myself. Then I have to hurt you. You know I love you. My own little girl despite that the planet owns you.”

He didn’t sound sober. She glanced about, searching the various shelves for the liquor he might be sipping. 

Glass by his elbow. Clear liquid. The rubbing alcohol? “What’s with the grog?” she said.

“Crutch. Helping to steel myself for what I need to do.”

He’d treated her as an adult from the minute she’d spoken the first of her other-wordly judgments. That’s what he called them, judgments. As if she made them happen. 

She’d told him that Steed Gulle would break his back in a fortnight. It was before she could count. She’d counted off the days on her fingers … Monday again, Tuesday again … The same week she dreamed that Bessit Brown was growing a lump in her belly, not a baby. 

She’d been twelve before she found a different name for them, if not where they came from before she knew them. Fore-tellings. They came from her unconscious awareness and who put such thoughts into that part of her? “So maybe you should stop drinking now so you’ll still be able to cut straight?” she said. “I’m going by the presence of the scalpels,” she said to his eyes searching her soul.

He slumped. “Yeah. All right.”

“Tell me why?” she said. “Why we’re doing this, and why now?” 

Silence.

“You’re leaving,” she said. The first part of the dream. Such dreams also came from her unconscious awareness. “You haven’t told me everything you know. Things that I might be able to use to survive. Maybe do something real with my life. Other than being in the thrall of the planet.”

“You’ve thought about it?” He sounded surprised. 

“No one sleeps next to me in the dorm. No one will work alongside me. People are afraid of me. The only reason they don’t stone me is because you have power over their food. Why would I stay when you leave?”

He grunted agreement. “That’s my girl. Your mother and I were the first to jump from the ship-to-surface-lander. We lay down and made love. Yes, I would call it that even though we did it to win a bet. Pregnant from day one, who would’ve believed that?” 

He shook his head at the long ago mystery. “After we discovered how alive the planet is and how resistant to us settling on it, I was afraid for you. I’ve missed your mother more than I can say.”

“Sixteen years,” Soowei said. 

“I only knew her for a year. You are feisty the way she was. I was her anchor like I’ve been your anchor.” 

He gathered in his voice, though the walls were thicker than a hand’s length and no one else lived on this level. “Something is coming that I can’t save you from. The town committee got the news yesterday and are crying and weeping. A lot of them in the same situation as me, kids in the nominated age group.”

“What?” Soowei said.

He didn’t listen or didn’t hear. Didn’t even look at her. “All I can do is give you my chip. Make you known to the ship and so maximise your chances of surviving. Why it’s got to be done now! Before the announcement.”

“Surviving what?” She joggled his arm. “What?”  

He still didn’t say though he stared at her now. “The ship isn’t stupid. Once it figures out you are important to the planet, it’ll make sure that you survive. I foresee that you’ll … The planet has ordered a round-up.” 

 “The planet has ordered? How?” She heard herself being strident. Everything to do with the planet was important to her. How would she ever be her own person when she didn’t know what the planet could do to her? 

Her father got that severe expression on his face. His face was made for stern. Lank uncared-for grey hair. Grey eyes. Grey stubble. “Planet has been in contact with ship from the first. I believe now that the planet puts its requirements into the ArkShip’s life-support software. Through pulses of heat maybe. The life-support system because it is the most human-like." Here his voice softened. "And we know the planet can influence humans, because of you.” 



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