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May 16, 2012 / Daniel

Trial and Error 5: Bruiser

(Read the complete Trial and Error series in the GSU: The Wastes section.)

[737 words, rated PG]

Toby woke, blinking, looking around, disoriented; Liam was just here, climbing a tree, but it wasn’t a tree, it was broken stone scaffolding bristling with carved hands, and the fingers kept snapping off while Liam tried to climb higher, slowing his ascent, the finger stumps were bleeding cold liquid glass…

The entire room was breathing, expanding, contracting, while the fog of dreams settled away, and the darkness solidified Toby’s awareness.

Liam.

Toby swung his legs over the bed and stood, walked around quietly. Everyone was where they belonged, all sleeping, or pretending well enough. Liam’s bunk was empty, no wrinkles at all. Down at the end, near the gear racks, Jayce’s bunk, too, was empty.

He listened.

Following the sound that didn’t fit, he left the bunkhouse and followed the backtrail around, out to where the benches lined the overlook which edged the central village. The sound was louder here, an occasional wet nose sniff. Down on the second bench from the end he found someone that looked like a small and terrified child. It was Jayce hugging his knees. Jayce heard him approach.

“Didn’t get your fill of shoving me around?” Jayce fiddled with a collected pile of pebbles, picked one and threw it out over the overlook.

“Jayce, look. You needed that.”

“Lucky me, I’ve got a dad now. Thanks, pops, I’ll grow up strong and true.” Jayce sucked hard at the snot in his nose and throat, clearing out his head, as if to make a point.

“I made my point, and I’m pretty sure you understood. We’re done with that now.”

“No, no, we’re not done. Liam’s not done. That old bum will patch him up and send him right back out to the pits to start rounds again with the rest of us, lamer and slower than ever. Pointless. I’ve been here as long as I can remember, and nothing has ever changed, nothing ever will change. There’s no point at all to this, and all I want is out.” Jayce threw a stone near, so it bounced off the edge of the overlook, making a spark where it hit.

“There is no ‘out’, Jayce.”

“My point, in its entirety.”

“You don’t remember how it was when they brought you here, you were too young. I was here, and I remember. Your people brought you in on their backs, wading through mound after mound of the black shit, not knowing what any of it would do, or what any mix of it would make. They came here, in pieces, sometimes, and others covered in weird formations and growths. Some were dragged in, and some of those people were just clumps of meat that didn’t breathe anymore.”

Jayce shivered.

“They, willingly, walked the path they knew they had to walk, through that carnivorous demon shit, to get you, you, Jayce, somewhere they hoped might be safe. There’s a point for you. There’s a point to this, and they knew that. The Librarian is farther than anyone has ever been, at least since The Event, towards getting to that point. That’s why I fight so hard, and that’s why I need help. So stop crying. Do what you know you can do; every moment, every day. Even if all you have left is calling out to the gods.”

“No such thing, Toby. We’re all we’ll ever have. You know that better than any of us. Just us and abandoned superstition on an abandoned planet.” Jayce threw the stone he was fiddling with out into the darkness. Whatever pillar of ruin it struck crumbled away, making a noisy clatter as it finally relented its last stand.

Toby picked up a fist-sized rock and set it purposefully on the ground in front of Jayce. In a strong voice, but not directed at Jayce, he recited, “Stacking the stones of Fenkegun will align the metal within…”, he placed his hand on Jayce’s shoulder in a brotherly gesture as he walked past him and away.

Jayce sat and stared at the stone for some time, and well into the darkness. He finally stood, found another rock, and balanced it on the one set by Toby. He whispered, almost making no sound at all, “…and with him Rangkajur is summoned, to strengthen the bonds of men.”

‘And thereupon will thrive the life, that Drael sees fit to bless, and upon her cheek will man at last, find bountiful caress.’

[Jump to Part 6]

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