Mongrel: Tardi at the Reefarium
If you have ever dreamed of being a dolphin ... you'll appreciate what Cele is doing.
Two short sections today. The first scene has Tardi explaining how he turned into a tree-man. The use of this scene is to remind readers of events in Mortal, part one of the series. The second scene is from Cele's POV, her reviewing parts of her backstory.
Cele sat down opposite Trinnet and Tardi but perched on the chair as if she would run given the slightest reason.
So he should start in on his story. “I was thrown against some silver coral by a shock-wave from a boat, and sometime after the poison from the coral took hold in me, our countryside was sprayed with what Joe Loreno brought home. Aerial spray, by a personal harrier, it is believed.”
He stopped to sip from Shad’s brew. No input from Cele, Trinnet or the monster. “Where the resulting mist fell, people transformed into what we’re calling new-trees, for want of a more accurate description of what might have happened to them. They still have their human souls.”
He short-cut where possible. In a minute Cele wouldn’t be able to take in any more of it. The cup-runneth-over syndrome. He’d seen it frequently since the unordinary times had taken hold. “Some people, inoculated by an earlier brush with the dust, are like me, walking talking tree-hairs. Weird that Loreno himself apparently wasn’t inoculated?”
This was something Tardi thought of while slop-slopping on boat-ride over, experimenting with the way to tell the story.
“He was a clean freak,” Cele said. “Never let anything touch him that might infect him.”
“I brought a sample from Joe Loreno’s well,” Tardi said. He stood the spray-bottle by Shad’s mug.
Cele got up. She did not touch Tardi’s peace offering. “Have a look around. I’ve got chores.”
Cele was sociable enough, she hoped, and stayed long enough in the feeding pool that none of her clients realised her upset. And why did she even think of the people she’d come to love, as clients?
The tree-man. The unordinary times. Joe Loreno, that damned greedy bastard. Yes. She should’ve kept her distance from what were essentially a bunch of experimental subjects. Before beginning with them, she’d made them sign every kind of statute she could think of. Used every kind of argument to try and talk them out of their intention.
She’d desisted only when Mr Moneybags said he’d take his money elsewhere if she threw up any more resistance. All boiled down to money. Keeping the Reefarium open. Keeping the research going with none of it going anywhere until she surreptitiously added the silver mud to their sea-water supply.
Got away with it right up until Zebe’s discovery.
But why the love? Her need for physical contact with other people after losing all her own, barring Callum, she now thought. Everyday she doubted that he was hers. All of it started her down the road of wanting to belong. The only people presenting themselves the ones she made into a cetacean-human breed.
What was she thinking, to even cave in?
Not thinking. Needing. As now they need me. They won’t survive if we stay here. But Callum?
Ushen’s baby, brought to Cele at the Reefarium by Ushen herself. Named for Ushen’s father, Cele’s actual grandson. How easy to conflate the two after the Huddle had their way with the first Callum. The Callum she had now the spitting image of the Callum she had then, apart from the ancient human characteristics.
Enough of the remembering. Need a couple of affirmations now with the bottom sagging from my world.
I am done with the Huddle.
Watering down their influence does work.
Has worked for fifty years. It’s been my life’s work.
And all the other lives. Nalbo’s. Colin’s and Bella’s. Callum’s. All the men eaten. All the women taken and then discarded.
How can I live with all that on my conscience but by trying to save one small group of stupid stupid people?
There’s still Callum to organise.
Let the tree-man think what he wanted, she knew the times were unordinary when a woman could raise her great great grandson. The raising was as finished as raising ever was. She knew Callum’s yearning. She’d done her best. Looks like the right people to take over his care came along in the nick of time.