fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Fifty Five. {fiction}

 

I found him lying on a cot, staring at the ceiling.

A plump, soft-looking comforter covered everything but his face, tucked in around his feet and along his sides, like a cocoon.

“He’s in shock,” said a slim blond woman sitting next to him. “We just need to give him a little time to process what’s happened. I’m watching to see when he starts breathing a little more normally, then I can do more with him.”

Victorio hardly seemed to be breathing at all. Just shallow little sips of air.

“I can sit with him,” I told her.

“Okay, I’ll be in the next room, helping with the others. Let me know when his breathing deepens and becomes more regular.”

After having seen so much death, it seemed to me we should be used to it, but the truth is that a sudden death is pretty much always a shock. Especially if it’s a child. I pulled another cot over next to Victorio’s and lay on it, wrapping my arms and legs around him, my face at the back of his neck.

I must have fallen asleep because I awoke to find Victorio facing me, arms out of the top of his comforter cocoon and draped over me, asleep himself. The blond medic was collecting some things from a cabinet, which is probably what woke me. She turned from the cabinet and, seeing me awake, walked over.

“It’s good he’s sleeping. He’ll probably be a lot better when he wakes up,” she whispered.

“I’m awake,” breathed Victorio groggily. He pulled me closer to him, and I could feel his body vibrating a little.

“You’re trembling,” I said, starting to feel alarmed.

“No, that’s perfect,” said the medic. “Victorio, that’s good that you’re trembling. Just let it happen.”

The trembling intensified and Victorio released me, rolling onto his back. It was as if little earthquakes were shaking his arms and legs and his breath became ragged, then gradually turned to sobs. I put my arms around him again as he held his face in his hands and cried for several minutes.

“That’s good, Victorio, you’re doing great,” the medic said quietly.

When the crying finally subsided, Victorio looked red-faced and puffy but his body was relaxed and his breathing deep and slow.

“I’m going to leave you two alone. He doesn’t need to stay here anymore. Victorio, just be sure to allow yourself to tremble if that comes up again. No work for you today, just be sure to eat something, get plenty of water and rest, okay?” It seemed to me we had been hearing that advice a lot lately.

Victorio nodded.

When the medic had gone, he said, “God almighty, Lakshmi, a little boy died in my arms. I didn’t think he was that sick!” He wept more, wiping the tears away from his face as fast as they came.

“You couldn’t have known. You just did what you could. At least he didn’t die alone there. Maybe dying in the arms of someone who cared about him was the best thing that could have happened to him at that point.” He nodded silently.

Victorio washed his face in the infirmary sink and we made our way to the cafeteria, where we found Frank and Ching Shih.

“You should go work on your books,” Victorio said, as he nibbled unenthusiastically on some bread, “I’ll go to our room and sleep some more. I’m still really exhausted.”

Frank said, “I’m too wound up to sleep now. I can help with the books.”

“I’m tired,” said Ching Shih, addressing Frank, “I’ll go sleep some and take over from you in a little while.”

Frank and I found Elf in the library, and we picked up where Victorio and I left off the day before. The Makers we had come with, and many of the Uvies, had migrated to the gym to help get the Slavers situated in the drug rehab center, and others had been preoccupied with caring for the people who had been rescued.

That evening at dinner, Victorio looked a lot better. I hadn’t spoken to him since the morning. I had brought him some lunch but he had been asleep, so I’d left it on the table for him. I came back later to find the food eaten, and him asleep again. After I finished scanning for the day, I found Victorio in the dining room, just sitting down with a plate of food.

Tochuku joined the rest of us and we traded stories about the work we had all been doing. The recounting of the raid on the Slaver compound was definitely way more interesting than my book-collecting and Tochuku’s description of the genius convention he had been having with all the other scientists.

“Yup, it was pretty bad,” commented Frank in his usual, understated manner.

Ching Shih elaborated, “I’ve never seen anything like it. They were worked so hard and weren’t given much food to eat. Or much water to wash in, or clean clothes or blankets. One lady said they were beaten if they were caught eating the food they harvested, but of course they risked it because they were starving. Except the young women they had living with them.

They were also knocked out with the sedative when we sprayed the Slavers’ rooms, but when they woke up they were just as happy to be free as the others.”

“You know, if we can get rid of the other group of Slavers, it’ll be a lot easier for the different settlements to cooperate. We could help each other a lot. Learn from each other, trade goods,” Frank said.

“Elf and I have been talking about getting some kind of educational system going here, at the university,” I said, smiling at how silly that sounded as I said it. “I think I can finish the last bit of scanning tonight if you want to leave in the morning.”

Tochuku cleared his throat and we all looked at him.

“I’ve been asked to stay through the winter. So we can work on our projects. With the knowledge of the scientists here, and the equipment and tools that the Makers have, we could do a lot here.”

The rest of us looked at each other.

“Of course that’s your choice, Tochuku,” said Frank shifting in his seat to look at him.

“Gary and young Thomas can do all the maintenance on our electrical and water systems. You don’t really need me.” Handing me a cardboard box, he added, “This is a little something for Gary. Some lab equipment that they were willing to part with here. We can always get the Makers to make more for us if we need it.”

I laughed out loud at his rationality, “But Tochuku, we’ll miss you. Even if someone else can do the work you do. Don’t you know that?”

Tochuku smiled broadly at me. “Yes, I will miss you too.”

The next day we said our goodbyes after breakfast and promised the Uvies and Makers that we would visit again in the spring after the snow had thawed sufficiently. There were many hugs all around. I had the hardest time saying goodbye to Elf. It was if I was saying goodbye to some part of my mother.

“I’ll come get some more books in the spring,” I told him.

Elf beamed happily at me. “I’ll be thinking about our school plan, and you can do the same. Just because nearly everybody on Earth is dead, it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to wallow in ignorance, now does it?”

The four of us headed back into the forest, stopping overnight at the monastery to fill in Matthew and the others there on the events in Silver City. They were thrilled to hear that one of the Slaver compounds had been disabled, and the concept of the drug rehab program had many in stitches, trying to imagine such a manner of transforming hardened, violent criminals into peaceful citizens.

“The Uvies and Makers plan to take down the southern Slaver compound after they have enough of the northern Slavers rehabilitated to make room for more. And to make more of the sedative,” Frank explained.

“You know, that could sure change things around here, to be free of those people. Seems to me that we all have a lot to share with each other, especially knowledge. It doesn’t make sense for us to be fighting with each other. It makes sense for us to work together. We’d all benefit,” Matthew said.

I told the group about the idea for a school.

“But it doesn’t have to be just school-school, we can also organize classes, or apprenticeships for anything. Victorio, Beto and I could teach people about hunting. Kate and your livestock people could share ideas. Jeanne is brilliant when it comes to medicinal plants, and other things related to healing. One of the Forest People’s women is going to teach some of our people about midwifery. Every settlement needs that.”

My mind whirled with the possibilities.

That night after dinner, I spent until bedtime catching up on my journal entries. There had been so much that had happened on this trip I hadn’t been able to keep up along the way. I thought of the generations down the road who would wonder how their forebears had handled the transition from the eight-billion-plus, petroleum-fueled world, into the one we had now.

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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