Half Shaman, 8
|A Staunch Mongoose|
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
6: Soowei's Story 7: The Round-Up
Jeb sets to matching her and the ships's call-signs to a totem song, and singing it ...
8: The Meerkat Totem
Another day, another vigil. I’m thinking on everything to do with signalling.
Singing a signal is singing a totem couplet. A couplet should have more beats than the signal. Or it needs at least a beat for each element of the signal. Which limits the couplets available. Or, different signals use different couplets. I mean, some couplets are quite short. Signals may be long. Couplets is a bit of a misnomer too. Often there are four lines, not two.
Second, there is the fact that dots and dashes need to be different lengths. Must they fall on short or long beats? I don’t know.
Give me, give me, give me a couplet to work on. Ants together carry their towns a stone at the time. Totems together carry their country a heart at the time. Together we live, singly we die. Don’t know why that one sprang into my head. I don’t know any Ant people.
Ha. Soowei had an unconscious awareness. So have I, of course. She was frightened of hers. She didn’t have the Shamans to guide her. I had them for three years. Ignore the meaning, the Head Shaman said. Leave meanings for the Totems themselves to cogitate on. If I sing Z to A, will the Ant Totem couplet give me enough elements?
Mmm. Write it down somewhere? Inner arm. Scratch it there with fingernail. dash dash dot dot dash dash dash dot dash. Plenty of elements in the Ant song. But I think not the shorts and longs in the right sequence.
Another couplet. Not the Eagles. The Meerkat? I sing the words under my breath. Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel. Charged with caring, a meerkat protects the young. Charged with food gathering, a meerkat leads the foraging. Carry your family, carry yourself. Who reaches the top, reaches down for the rest.
Yes. There’s a sequence. Don’t cheer yet. It’s only the first step. The code for Z, dash dash dot dot, can be sung as Sta-a-ands se-e-en tin el, where the two dots are short plosive sounds. ‘To’ will become dash dash dash dash, and can be sung as cha-a-ar ged wi-i-ith su-u-ur vei-ei-eill ance. ‘A’ is equal to dot dash, and will be a meer ka-a-at
I sweat. It seems to work. But I’ve changed the sequencing around. Will that matter? Will it matter in the singing? If I sing it three times and hide the wrong-way-round section between the other two?
I gasp because now I must sing. My cell will be my sound chamber. Start softly, normal speaking voice. Stand with my heels touching the bottom of the door. Face out toward the window. Remember to sing alto. Normal enunciation.
I sing the first two lines. “Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel. Charged with caring, a meerkat protects the young.”
Now the sequence. I raise my chin, fill my lungs, sing as loud as I can. “Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel. Sta-a-ands se-e-en tin el. cha-a-ar ged wi-i-ith su-u-ur vei-ei-eill ance. a meer ka-a-at Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel.”
I breathe deep. The murmuring outside, of which I am unconsciously aware, has ceased. Everyone out there is waiting, listening. I can’t help it. I fill my lungs and sing again. “Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel. Sta-a-ands se-e-en tin el. cha-a-ar ged wi-i-ith su-u-ur vei-ei-eill ance. a meer ka-a-at Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel.”
It sounds good. The phrases blend as if they belong. Guards, who else, are tramping up the stairwell. I sing again, “Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel. Sta-a-ands se-e-en tin el. cha-a-ar ged wi-i-ith su-u-ur vei-ei-eill ance. a meer ka-a-at Charged with surveillance, a meerkat stands sentinel.”
The guards arrive at my door. They stand on the other side of it. Waiting …
A sharp stinging in my arm, pain pain pain, in the pattern of my song, like the vibrations in the dream, of my letters, my code, answers my call. The twingeing simplifies. Pin-prick, needle-stab, stab, stab, prick, prick. Which represents AZ. Prick, prick, stab, stab, stab, prick. Which represents ZA.
The ArkShip gives me its call sign and mine.
I scream joy scream dance cry sing dance pull my hair. Epiphany. The ship. It talked. It signed me. It still knows me. I cry cry cry. Snivel snot and tears. The guards shove open the door, me along the floor with it. Yank me up, an arm each. Run me down the stairs. Throw me into the narrow yard.