Read Tomorrows Child Online

Authors: Starr West

Tags: #adventure, #fantasy, #dreams, #magical realism, #postapocalypse, #goddesses, #magic adventure

Tomorrows Child (8 page)

“We should
eat,” he said.

As hungry as I
was, I didn’t want to eat. I wanted to hold this moment for as long
as I could. Warmth radiated from my heart until I was sure I was
glowing. I was surrounded by love and friendship and wanted to
wallow in it for just a little longer.

“Hoy, Psyche!
You gonna eat or what?” Navarre called me from across a dwindling
mound of roasted rabbit and broke the spell. Deep down, I wondered
if I would ever feel this safe or happy again.

We sat with our
plates on our laps and ate with our fingers. Roasted rabbit and yam
sat beside chunks of tomato and wedges of cucumber, all piled high
on old china plates. Others scooped stew with spoons, sopping the
gravy with thick, crusty bread. We didn’t always eat this well, but
we’d never gone hungry either.

“Do you realise
how amazing this is? There is so much food! There’s no misery! We
live nothing like those people in town,” I remarked. Phoenix was
sitting on one side of me and Navarre on the other.

Phoenix looked
around the fire, “Most of us were expecting it though. Some of them
were drawn here, but many of us chose to live here. Everyone you
see here tonight has spent years preparing for this day.”

“Yeh, we know
heaps of people that live like this,” Navarre said as he tossed his
bones into the fire. “There are four other groups in the area that
have better set-ups than us. One family has been living
off-the-grid for years and has a system that runs everything! As if
they were on the mains.”

“Wow, I wonder
if they would let me charge my iPod?” I said. Music was the only
thing I really missed.

“Psyche, you
can charge it here if you want. Even Libby has enough power to
charge an iPod.”

“We don’t have
power.”

“Yes, you do.
What do you think runs the fridge in the pantry? You have cold
milk, don’t you?”

“Yes… but I
thought it was gas like the one in the bus. You don’t need power
for gas fridges.” Now I just felt stupid.

“We all have
solar panels and small wind turbines. They’re pretty hard to
miss.”

“I’ve been
preoccupied, I guess.”

Navarre made me
feel foolish, but eventually Phoenix came to my rescue. “Another
family has a bunker so big they will spend the next twelve months
hidden in the side of a mountain.”

“Seriously?
I’ve heard rumours about people building bunkers and bomb shelters,
but I didn’t think anyone actually built one.”

“More were
built in the US than here, but there’s plenty in Australia
too.”

“Does anyone
here have a bunker?”

Navarre looked
at Phoenix and both boys shrugged. “Not that we know.”

“But they
wouldn’t tell us anyway, not until things got really bad,” Phoenix
surmised.

“Hey Dad! Do we
have a secret bunker in the hills?” Navarre asked.

The men were
standing on the opposite side of the fire, huddled in deep
discussion. Ruben looked unnerved by the question.

“Don’t worry,
Dad, I know you’d tell us if we had one.” Navarre nudged me with
his elbow and lowered his voice so only Phoenix and I could hear
him. “Maybe our security clearance isn’t high enough.” We all
laughed, but something strange happened when Navarre asked his
father about the bunker. It appeared they did have one and were
surprised by the question, or they were discussing something else,
which they didn’t want to share with the rest of us.

“Well, I know
why Libby has been preparing for years. The prophecy told her to,
but what about everyone else?” I asked after a moment.

“There are lots
of prophecies that predict the end of days.”

“Like
Armageddon and the End Times?” I had read about these and seen more
than one movie predicting the end of the world. “If they thought it
was the end of the world, why prepare for anything?”

“Because none
of the predictions say anything about the earth ceasing to exist.
Most mention major changes to the structure of society and a
transformation of spirit.” Phoenix answered as he stood up and
pulled me to my feet, “But that’s enough talk about the end of
days. We are supposed to be having fun.” Phoenix dragged me toward
the house, leaving Navarre alone by the fire.

Emily was
gathering musical instruments and putting them near the door.
“Great timing, I need a hand to get this stuff outside,” she said
as she stood with her hands on her hips, “unless you had something
else planned.”

“No, we’d be
happy to help.” Phoenix tossed a piece of wood into the top of the
stove in the kitchen and returned to carry a huge drum out to the
front yard. I picked up a tambourine and Emily handed me an old
guitar.

Someone
whistled as we stepped off the veranda and into the light of the
moon, then a chorus of cheers and claps and more whistles filled
the air. I saw Libby, laughing. She already knew me well enough to
know that I would hate the attention, but she didn’t come to rescue
me, she just sat there laughing.

“Do you sing,
Psyche? I know your mother was a singer.” Emily asked, waiting for
me to answer. Mum sang my whole life, she sang in the bus, walking
up the street and on the tops of mountains. Sometimes I thought we
travelled just so she could sing in every corner of Australia and
from the top of every mountain.

“Well, they say
everyone can sing, but not everyone should, at least not in
public,” I said.

“So which are
you, a ‘can and should’ or a ‘can and shouldn’t’?”

“I definitely
shouldn’t.” I often regretted that I couldn’t sing, but not
tonight. Tonight I was thankful that I had no talent.

“Hey, Psyche,
how do you like living here with all these hillbillies?”

“Remember
Lachlan Taylor?” Phoenix whispered.

“Yeh, I love
it, but I haven’t met any hillbillies yet,” I laughed. I knew it
was meant as a joke and although I still felt relaxed, I didn’t
want to respond with some foolish answer. I was pretty good at
embarrassing myself.

“Is Phoenix
treatin’ ya good? Has he shown you around our little part of God’s
Paradise?”

“Leave the girl
alone, Lachlan.” Emily smiled and winked, “Don’t pay any attention
to him, he’ll tease you all night if you let him.”

“I was just
makin’ conversation. She’s one of us now. May as well get used to
it.” Lachlan screwed up his face as if he were disappointed he
couldn’t tease me more.

The full moon
was large and golden and as beautiful as always. I wanted it to
glow with blue light, but I knew the “blue moon” was really just an
expression. I sat down beside Libby and rested my head on her
shoulder, “Thanks for making me come. I was pretty close to running
home, you know.”

“Yeh, I know,
but Phoenix would have dragged you over anyway. Or maybe Lachlan
and Navarre. You weren’t going to miss this celebration.”

The music
started soft and steady. Two large tribal drums sat side-by-side.
Lilly’s hands stroked the drums like she was tending a lover and
Emily hummed a wordless melody. As the tempo increased, Emily’s
voice rose and the words became a rich, haunting song. The beat
thumped through the ground and into my body, making my heart beat
faster and in rhythm with the drums.

Navarre ran up
and caught my hand. “Come, dance.”

Despite my
protests, Navarre dragged me toward an open space on the lawn. He
swung me round and round, oblivious to the music, as if we were
kids in a playground. We spun and the world blurred. The moon
appeared to wobble as if it would drop from the sky. When I got so
dizzy that I was about to collapse, Navarre slowed, but the world
still spun. I felt like a child and laughed. I laughed until tears
flowed and then I fell to the ground and laughed some more. I
hadn’t laughed in months. It felt good.

Navarre caught
my hand and helped me stand. I was still giddy and the music
permeated the air with haunting sounds. “Here, brother! Don’t let
her sit, make her dance, make her happy.” Navarre placed my hand
into Phoenix’s hand and kissed my cheek.

Without a word,
Phoenix led me to the open space on the lawn, but he didn’t spin
me, he drew me close and held me until I could feel his heart
pounding. “It was good to see you laugh, I have missed that,” he
said.

“Yes, I have
too.” I wasn’t sure when Phoenix had seen me laugh or even smile,
but it didn’t matter. He smelt comforting like smoke and sweet
incense. He often smelt like incense and it made me want to snuggle
in and stay like this forever. The music changed along with the
rhythm, but Phoenix held me close and we danced. Navarre had
gathered the children together and was dancing with them, spinning
in a circle and flopping to the ground. They giggled and climbed on
him until he spun them round again.

Jalani held
Navarre’s hand and wriggled her fingers into Phoenix’s hand “Spin,
Pheny, spin!” So the two boys held their little sister’s tiny hands
and the four of us spun, watching the blue moon wobble as we
crashed to the ground.

 

Chapter 8 ~
BEESWAX, DRAGON’S BLOOD AND A TASTE OF MAGICK

“A toast,”
Ruben said as he stood and raised an old cup skyward. The others
reached down and scooped liquid from a pot that was warming by the
fire. “It’s spiced mead,” Phoenix said. As he handed me a cup, I
could smell hints of honey, cinnamon, cloves and ginger rising in
the steam.

“To friends, to
family and to a new earth,” shouted Ruben. I sipped the
sweet-spiced liquid. It tingled lightly against my tongue and its
syrupy warmth flowed through me.

Libby stepped
toward the fire “To the Earth, our Mother and Great Goddess, may
she provide for us in the days ahead and may the fire in her womb
warm our hearts and souls as we head into winter.”

I was still
giddy from our spinning dance as I swallowed the sweet mead and
tried to steady my heart. Most of the smaller children had fallen
asleep on a rug just beyond the circle of the fire. Jalani was
still awake, standing wide-eyed beside Navarre, holding his hand.
The music continued, though the drums were replaced by the strings
of a guitar as we settled into the tranquil atmosphere of the
night.

Phoenix was
never far from my side. We had become friends without the test of
time or the necessary trials and demands new friends normally place
on each other. But it wasn’t just Phoenix, the entire community had
accepted me. I was part of the tribe, I was family.

In the soft
stillness of the night, a noise, sharp and sudden, shattered the
serenity. Harsh sounds assaulted the air, destroying the harmony. A
screech, a growl, a crash of timber in the forest behind us and the
music stopped. In the darkness beyond the firelight, it was coming
towards us, but no one knew exactly what was causing the noise.

In an instant,
everything changed. Chaos and commotion surrounded us. Navarre
scooped up Jalani in his arms. The screeching grew louder, closer.
And then, for a sickening moment, there was silence.

Breathe.

A deep growl
rumbled across the earth and my chest ached. I could smell it now,
the putrid stench of a creature, long dead. The hair on my neck
began to bristle and my stomach heaved.

Out of the
darkness emerged a large black animal, its features distorted, its
hair matted. It appeared to be a dog, but it wasn’t.

It stood beside
the circle of stones that designated the fire pit and looked into
the faces of the people, now frozen in place. The creature growled.
It had found its target. Red eyes glowed and thick globs of drool
fell in ribbons to the ground.

The beast took
a step closer. Its eyes fixed. Its prey defined. Red eyes burned
into my soul and I swallowed my scream like an ember of fire in my
throat. I was drawn into a world of death – a timeless space where
life was unimportant. It took another step, fixing its eyes on me,
its victim. I took a step back, drawn inexplicably into a world
where everything ceased to exist. Phoenix reached out and pulled me
aside as the beast stepped into the glowing coals of a dwindling
fire.

Ruben
whispered, “Navarre! The gun.” The beast whimpered as the hot coals
seared its flesh. As Navarre began to move, the beast swiped at him
with a paw, sending him crashing to the ground. Jalani tumbled from
his arms.

Everyone’s eyes
turned to Navarre. His blood seeped through his torn shirt as he
lay in a lifeless heap on the ground. Tahinah rushed to his side.
She lifted her face and I watched her eyes grow wide and her skin
blanch white.

“Jalani!” a
woman screamed. The beast was gone, but so was the child.

In no more than
a few seconds, we had lost sight of the beast and Jalani. The chaos
that erupted was deafening and confusing. Then, a voice of reason
rose above the chaos, “Stop!” It was Libby, with Tahinah now
standing by her side. Their faces were strained, but controlled.
Both women appeared unified and strong, demanding the attention of
the crowd.

“Don’t move!
Everyone stay where you are. Look on the ground, do you see any
footprints, anything from that beast?” Emily pointed to a
footprint, her hand shaking. Ruben pulled a clump of black, wiry
hair caught on a shattered piece of firewood.

“That’s enough,
that’s more than we could have expected.” Libby knelt near the
fire, stirring globs of drool and ash with a long stick. She
snapped instructions at Phoenix, listing items she needed.

The stench of
death fouled the air.

Tahinah reached
for a battered, soot-coated pot and placed it on the fire. She
dropped a lump of golden wax in the centre and I watched it puddle
in the bottom of the pot as the smell of beeswax and honey slowly
replaced the sickening smell of death.

Libby scooped
up the ashen drool and matted hair and tossed them into the pool of
wax. Then she hurried to where the footprints were pressed in the
dirt and ash. She mumbled in a language I couldn’t understand and
took a tarnished copper spoon from Phoenix. I watched as the
shadows deepened the lines in Libby’s face and her shoulders sagged
under an unseen weight. I saw an old woman scoop at the paw prints
beside the fire and toss the dirt and ash into the pot of molten
wax.

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