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November 24, 2012
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For days nothing was right in the village. Bighair's death was an oppressive cloy in the air, especially around the great fire. His mother's weeping filled the air at odd hours, and the women of the village spent much of their time comforting her. For two days only one boat launched, and the fisherman stayed home. Danni was nowhere to be seen. Peotr took the net and caught fish, then hiked out to the ruins and explored. He slept alone that first night.
    On the second day after Bighair's death, Peotr again fished. He found himself weeping at odd times, unsure of exactly who he was mourning. There was no food that lunch, and Peotr just went back to fishing. There was no food that evening either. Peotr hiked up to the ruins. He went first, as he had the previous day, to the place where the sharks were carved into the stones. He found himself thinking of this place as the temple. He found more stones in the brush nearby, tumbled and buried. On the surfaces that were visible he could see more carvings. These seemed to show battles happening between the animal people and the non-animal people. As he tried to dig around them he found more broken weapons.
    After a while he wandered back to what he thought of as the graveyard. The body was still there, protruding from the sand. Peotr just stood there, silent, for a while, emotions churning inside him. A flash of movement broke him from his reverie. It was a small black bug, skurrying along the edge of the wall. Peotr thought it was similar to the one that had bitten him, and he tensed. Ever since that episode he was shy around insects. He had wondered how the villagers survived, until Danni pointed out that there were large mats just under the sand around all the huts, to prevent the bugs from biting. Peotr had just had the bad luck to be sitting just beyond the mat when he got bit. He wondered now if there were mats in the ruins. He suspected not.
    There was still sun left in the sky, and Peotr stepped out of the foundation to explore more. He found the ruins of another foundation not far away. It seemed to be older than the other ruins, however. Beyond it was a sort of clearing, where the brush gave way to grasses. Peotr wandered through it. All around there were bits of charred wood, many of which seemed to be bits of weapons.
    In the center of the clearing the grass thinned away, leaving bare sand. In the light of evening Peotr could see that there were many bits of charcoal about, as well as shark's teeth. A closer look revealed other white bits as well, which Peotr finally recognized as human teeth. There were also many small mounds of sand. The red light of the sunset glittered off something metallic in that debris field, and Peotr stepped toward it to investigate. He had only taken one step when he saw the foot.
    Just like in the graveyard, this foot had been dead a while. There were only a few scraps of dried skin on it. Not far away was a smooth round object that was probably a skull. Peotr stopped, looking around. Now that he knew what to look for, he could see that the real graveyard lay all around him.
    Peotr could see the object that was glinting in the sun. It was not metal, but some sort of glass. He stepped closer. It lay on a smooth mound of sand. Peotr reached out to touch it, and snatched his hand back when up from the mount erupted a many-legged black creature the size of his hand. Peotr leaped backward several steps with a gasp. The creature did not advance, but stayed on the mount, holding several wickedly pointed appednages up threateningly. As if on cue, several more of the bugs also emerged from nearby mounds. Peotr turned and ran. He slowed when he reached the trail again, but did not stop until he was home.
    On the third day there was a wake. The women started cooking before dawn, and the men of the village spent the morning combing the shallow waters for certain crustaceans and sea plants. Peotr helped the men, his meager command of the language sufficent for the simple task. At noon the feast began. Bighair's family started a wail that swept across the village. From their hut they brought out his body, wrapped in fronds and stinking of herbs and putrification. The men of the village all took his body, holding it high over their heads and running around the village. They were shouting something about boats, Poetr thought, and Bighair, and leaving. Then they started running up the trail toward the hill. Bighair's mother started screaming and chased them. Her husband and family restained her. The men then carried the body up the hill. After a short while smoke arose into the sky from the top of the hill. The men returned, leaving the pyre to burn itself out. The old healer passed around some sort of intoxicant that smelled like feet and kicked like a crossbow. Danni's father started a chant that the whole village took up, and Peotr joined in. The eating started, and the day dissolved into a blur of food and singing and frenzied dancing.
    Peotr awoke the next day with the sun shining directly in his eyes. This was unusual, because Peotr was used to waking up inside his hut. Since the sun was in his eyes, it meant he must be outside, which was an odd thing, and he lay there for a while thinking about this. It was during this time that he realized that he had two heads. He must, since there was no way that one head could possibly feel that large. He tried to sit up, and discovered that he had enough of a headache for two heads. Looking around, Peotr saw that he was laying just outside of his hut, which was looking invitingly cool and dark. He crawled inside, lay down, and fell back asleep.
    Peotr awoke the second time when Danni stepped inside his hut. She stood there a moment, looking at him, and asked if they were going fishing. Peotr said yes. She nodded, and stood there waiting. With a groan Peotr got to his feet. He staggered outside and looked about. It was about ten o'clock. He saw two people down by the great fire, and one man out fishing. All the boats were still firmly beached. Danni was still at his side, lookig at him with a forlorn, almost accusing look. He Relieved himself against the tree, and headed down to the great fire, Danni in two. There were at least four people still sleeping around the firepit. Peotr snagged some leftover food and headed down to the beach, his head punding with every step. He and Danni began casting, and rather quickly caught a few large fish and a handful of smaller ones. Rather that continuing on, Peotr took the fish up to the great fire and handed them over to one of the women there. He then returned to the shore with Danni and went back to fishing. After a while Danni's father came down to the beach. He looked like he had a headache as well. He approached Peotr directly and asked him a question that sounded all the world to Peotr like "Do you want to go out on the boat?" Peotr nodded, and Danni's father nodded and walked away.
    The boats didn't actually launch that day. Peotr and Danni were joined by a number of the other villagers in gathering food from the shallow waters. That night they ate more sparingly than usual. After supper Peotr and Danni walked up into the scrub. Peotr led her down to the ruins. He showed her the additional carvings he had found.
    "Where is this place?" he asked her, repeating it in his best local. She looked around, and shrugged. She was still not talking as much as she had before Bighair died. Peotr continued on, exploring in the direction opposite the graveyard, keeping an eye ouit for the big black bugs. They came to where some trees stood. They were small and bent, like they had been damaged when young and had hardened like that. They bore scars from a fire as well, but they were definitely trees, one of the few Peotr had seen on the island. Danni looked at them curiously. There were interesting stones there cylindrical ones. Danni tried climbing the trees while Peotr examined the stones. She managed to get herself up onto a horizontal section of trunk and sat there, deep in thought.
    "Where is Bighair?" she asked.
    Peotr looked at her, dumbfounded. He had no idea how to respond. He struggled with different ways to say it, and finally opted for the simplest.
   "He is gone."
    Danni sat and thought. "Gone where?"
    More thinking. "I don't know."
    Danni sat and thought about this a long time, then began to weep. Peotr went to her and reached up his arms. She held out her arms and fell into his. He held her until she finished weeping. Once she was done he still held her, and began to walk among the ruins.
    For days an idea had been forming in Peotr's head. The ruins, the patterns of the fallen stones, the remains of support timbers, the layers of char and the complete lack of old trees almost anywhere all pointed to some large conflagration on the island some years before. He knew of the locals' use of funeral pyres. Give the presence of actual bodies in the sand, he had to conclude that there were too many dead after the great fire, and not enough fuel, so that the dead had to be buried rather than burned, and probably buried in a great pit, for the most part. Somehow, not too long ago, there had been a larger city on the island, and a fire had occurred that wiped out the entire island and most of it's inhabitants.
    Peotr carried Danni until she was too heavy to hold, then lowered he down. She walked, holding his hand. He led her back to the village and down to the great fire. There were villagers there, and Peotr found Danni's father seated along on a bench.
    "Aku akan pergi dengan Anda besok," Peotr said in his best approximation of the local accent. Danni's father looked at him for a moment, then stood and clapped him on the shoulders.
    "Kami meninggalkan dengan air pasang," he responded. Peotr understood this to mean, roughly, "we leave with the tide." Peotr nodded, and Danni's father smiled again and walked away.
    The next day Peotr was awake before dawn. He explained to Danni that he was going with the boats. She seemed upset, but he expected that. She ran off to the village and disappeared into her parent's hut, something he had not quite expected. He headed down after her to get some food, and found her father there. He explained to Peotr that the men would be gathering at the boats in an hour, and that Peotr should be at the boats then. Peotr wondered what he would do for the intervening hour, and decided to go fishing. His mind wasn't in it, however, and he mostly just stood and stared at the boats.
    As soon as one of the men from the villagers headed for the boats, Peotr ran back to the village and stowed his net. A few more men were heading down to the boats, and he joined them. They looked at him as if unsure what to think about his presence, then nodded grimly and continued walking. He fell in behind them.
    The boats themselves were quite large and heavy. The outriggers lent stability to the boats, a feature that their design otherwise did not afford. They were not rigged for sailing, although there were places to mount a mast if desired. Indeed, it appeared that an entire superstructure could be mounted. Peotr wondered if the current occupants of the island were actually the descendents of those people buried at the ruins, or if they had arrived on these boats afterward to find an empty island. He wondered if he would ever find out.
    Danni's father arrived and started directing the men to prepare for launch. He paired Peotr up with a hale young man named Salasar. Together they were set in the center of the boat. The tide was rising, and already the bow of the great canoe was awash. Peotr could feel the excitement rising in his gut. He hadn't been on the water in weeks. Wouldn't it be ironic if he somehow managed to get off he island that very day?
    The sound of a shrill, blatting voice caught his attention. He turned to see the old healer standing before Danni's father, haranguing him. His heart sank when she pointed at him. He caught a few words like "boy to man" and "night alone" and recalled Danni's statements about when he would be ready for sailing. Danni's father replied with heat, dismissing the old woman. He turned back to the boat, and she grabbed him, squawking angrily. He brushed her off. She pointed at Peotr, staring directly at him, and shouted something. Peotr could almost understand it. She then turned around and stomped angrily away. Peotr looked helplessly at Salasar, who shrugged and grinned as if to say "women who can understand them?", then turned back to work.
    It wasn't long before all the other sailors were at the boats. Peotr stood at his station in the knee deep water, watching for a signal. The waves were lifting the bow, and the outrigger was walking across the sand. Danni's father climbed up into the boat, his wet body glistening in the morning sun. The men took this as a signal and began to push the boat out. Peotr threw in with them, and soon they were moving. He climbed up in along with the other men, and with them laid into the water with a paddle. They pulled out into the surf and away from the shore.
   
A bit behind this month, trying to catch up.
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