fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Fifty Four. {fiction}

{source}
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “now that I have someone to talk to who understands the problem we have regarding knowledge retention, it occurs to me that there are other things we can do too.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if the raid they make tonight is successful, they can probably repeat the process with the other Slaver compound to the south. If they succeed in that, it will make it much safer for the rest of us to cooperate. In all ways. Especially technologically and in food production. There’s no reason that we can’t cooperate by sharing knowledge too.”

“You mean, like a school?” I asked, my interest piqued.

He smiled, his mouth a cheerful pink slit in a thicket of grey whiskers.

“Exactly like a school, my dear, exactly.”

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. The library of Alexandria hadn’t been just a place with books. It had been a place of learning, where teachers lived and students came to stay while they studied. We were in a university. Of course it could be a place of learning again.

“Certainly many people here have taken advantage of the resources, including learning from each other, but it’s been completely informal so far. There’s no reason it has to stay that way,” Elf continued.

My mind raced with the possibilities.

“Maybe we could arrange for people from the other settlements to come, a few at a time, and study. Maybe people could come also to teach the things they’re good at. It wouldn’t have to be just about reading either. We have some people who are really great hunters and could teach others. And we have an excellent agriculturalist, who could help everyone improve their gardens…”

Elf’s smile broadened, his eyes sparkling merrily. “Yes, yes, dear one. There’s so much we could do with the Slavers out of the equation.”

I pulled my ever-present notebook out of my pack and began to take notes. We had completed a pretty good outline of what our imagined university system could look like when, a couple hours later, the first of the raiders returned with the unconscious Slavers from the compound.

I stood with other onlookers to one side of the tunnel doors as pairs of Makers and Uvies appeared, carrying stretchers, each laden with the limp, unconscious, body of a man. With a jolt of recognition, I spotted Jeff on one of the stretchers, mouth agape. I guess he had only been knocked out by Ching Shih’s fancy neck squeeze after all.

The raiders made their way with their unconscious charges, one by one, through the Student Memorial Building, out the south doors, and over to their new drug rehab center.  Somehow, they didn’t look as scary like that.

I watched anxiously for Victorio, Ching Shih and Frank, until one of the raiders I had met earlier told me that they had stayed behind to help the freed captives. Apparently, a lot of them were not in good enough condition to travel just yet. It made me nervous to think of them staying there through the night, vulnerable.

There was nothing I could do to make the night go faster, so Elf and I agreed to continue our book-scanning the next day, after we had slept, or at least rested.

I lay, tossing fitfully, in and out of sleep, startling suddenly every time I thought I heard the sound of the others returning. By dawn, they still hadn’t come back. I dressed myself and made my way to the dining hall to see if anyone there knew anything.

“They’re okay, we’ve got great medics, and your own people are helping a lot with security to keep an eye out for other Slavers, or anyone else who might interfere,” reported a tow-headed guy who had helped bring in the unconscious Slavers.

“There were some captives who were physically really weak. And some who, I don’t know, just cowered in a corner and stared at us. Like they were scared of us, or didn’t understand what was happening. We’ve got some people who are really good at psychological trauma first aid. And they can use a little of the sedative on those people too. They wanted to all leave there at once, not leave only a few behind. That wouldn’t be safe.”

I thanked him for the information and went to find Elf again. Might as well start the day’s work since I could neither sleep nor do anything to speed Victorio and the others’ return back to me.

It was nearly noon when they finally arrived at the secure entryway, carrying some of the former captives on stretchers, although most of them were able to walk. Some women carried small children. One mother had a thin, listless baby in her equally thin arms, her eyes large and haunted. The former captives were taken to an infirmary that had been set up in a couple of the rooms down the hall from the library.

Victorio, Ching Shih and Frank brought up the rear, the last to come through the doors. I walked quickly up to Victorio as soon as I spotted him coming in behind the last of the stretchers, but stopped short of hugging him as I normally would, startled by the look on his face.

I clasped his shoulders and looked into his eyes. Then I glanced at Frank and Ching Shih, standing on either side of him. He looked like a zombie, just staring into the air, barely seeing me. Frank and Ching Shih looked like they were tired but otherwise okay, but they looked at Victorio with concern.

Scanning him for physical injury but finding none, I asked, “What happened?”

“Frank, can you take Victorio while I talk to Lakshmi?” Ching Shih asked.

“Yup…” said Frank, guiding Victorio down the hall towards the infirmary.

“He’s had a shock, Lakshmi,” Ching Shih began.

“What happened? What the hell happened?” my voice rose as I spoke, “he looks like a ghost. He doesn’t look injured, I mean, other than what he already had when he left.”

Ching Shih looked me straight in the eye. It was amazing how imposing her presence could be when she wanted it to be. I stopped talking and waited for her to continue.

“He was carrying a child. A little boy, about five years old or so. The boy didn’t seem to be with any particular adult when we found him. He had been curled up on a pile of dirty blankets. He was skinny, but he didn’t look like he had been injured. Anyway, Victorio carried him because the boy couldn’t walk very well. He seemed very tired.

But when we had gone just a few blocks, the boy just died. Right in his arms, for no apparent reason. Victorio started shouting, ‘He’s dead! Oh my god, he’s dead!’ We could barely get him to quiet down. It was very dangerous for him to be yelling. We didn’t know who else was around. But then Frank took the boy from Victorio, and set him in one of the wagons. Victorio’s been like this ever since.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, turning towards the infirmary.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.

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Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home‘ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.

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