The Half Shaman in Space: Make a Fire? With What?
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Can a fire be the solution for Jeb when the entity takes her clothes?
I’m standing there pressed against the glazed stone. Unclothed. No one to see me but the machine all around me, so what do I care? I step away.
I feel the cold before I notice the goosebumps rising on my arms. The temperature is dropping? I start to shiver, more from consternation I decide than from cold. But then I start to shiver in earnest. I crouch down and hug my knees so that where my skin meets skin I can stay warm. “I’m cold.”
“On Earth, ages ago, you might’ve made a fire to keep you warm”
“Me personally, or anyone?” While I talk, my teeth don’t chatter.
“Anyone and especially you personally”
“My mother, whose pattern came from Earth, talked about making fires. She and her little brother used to for survival skills. Where she lived there were trees and dead wood.” I gesture with my head. No reason to wave my arm and let the cold in. “No wood here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure,” I shout. I expect my voice to clatter off the hard surfaces of the hall, but it dulls in a white mist that rises from the floor surface. The mist ribbons and twists like smoke rising. Where it meets the ceiling it fades.
“No need to shout”
Now parts of the mist darken. Those bits solidify into shapes of trees of the kind you see writhing in story books. Some kind of magic I’m probably meant to think.
“Oh!” the entity exclaims.
There’s a breathless silence.
“The wolves have found something very interesting! This I have got to go and check out!”
Just like that, I’m alone. Lucky me. I try to recall what Mother told about keeping warm in general and making fires in particular. Wood is the fuel of course. We did have fires. I can still hear her telling her stories, though she’s been dead since I was ten. I wander into the mist.
Once I’m in under the trees, the mist thins. The air around me is warmer. The trees are weird. For one thing, they are so much taller than I am that they are bent against the ceiling. There’s a ceiling?
Some trunks are covered with rough bark, some with smooth. Most split into smaller trunks above my head. Branches, they are called. Then smaller branches. And smaller, that might be called twigs. These have bunches of green leaves sticking out.
I get a crick in my neck from staring up and I rest my neck by staring at the ground. The tree trunks stand in dirt that is decorated with moss? and mushrooms? and tree litter? They are my school lessons come to life, but only resemble the ones in what I recall of my studies by where they are. On the ground, or on the tree trunks.
I rest my brain by just thinking a memory. My mother said that fibrous bark works best as clothes. I search the scene for tree trunks that are festooned with hairy strips of fibres. Make that fibrous bark. Yes. There are some to the left.
I go back to staring at the ground, at my bare feet on the litter of dead brown wood, broken twigs and soft dead brown leaves. I see forest litter.
I feel … I clench my toes a few times to make sure … I feel that I’m standing on a hard floor.
It seems like an unsafe discovery. I wait for a comment from the ceiling or wherever the entity makes her home.
I check all the trunks on the left of the path. Path? Yes, right through the middle is a hard trodden path. Like a parting in hair. At the end I see? A wall. I walk there. It’s real. I rub my hands over it. Smooth white plastic. Everywhere I can touch it, jumping high, sliding sideways in both directions, the wall seems to be made of a hard white plastic.
I wait again. The entity does not speak.