Isabel Bush: In the Silence of the Day I am really pleased that someone found the original purpose of this blog on my About page: oh, go there. 🙂 (yes, I’m being lazy and cranky today).
First Sentence Prompt: Waking up at camp, on their third day, Esteban was famished.
The Valley of Katarrh
Waking up at camp, on their third day, Esteban was famished. On his way to pee, he kicked Charlie awake. “It’s your turn for fooding,” he said as he walked to the edge of the branch, pulled down his briefs, and let a streaming arc. It sputtered over the side, and went sailing down the hundreds and hundreds of feet. “Damn, that feels GOOD!”
Damy growled as she brushed off the moss-like substance that crept over her while she slept. “Damn this tree. Damn this moss. And damn YOU, Esteban! Three days. Katar Singh! I wish he would strike you down for suggesting this…monkey shit climb.”
Still prone on the wide branch, tied in place so he wouldn’t roll off, Charlie began to laugh. Again. He had been doing that since late the day before, when Felicia stumbled over part of the “green stuff”, as she called it, and fell…and fell…and dropped out of sight, where it got to the point they couldn’t see or hear her anymore. Charlie told Damy that he could have sworn it had moved, in Felicia’s way. She told him he was just experiencing shock. Charlie wouldn’t stop looking at the Bryophyta.
They had already taken samples down in the Katarrh valley. “Katarrh. Some joke,” Felicia had laughed their first morning at the root of Helios Hyperion, the tree that would be her death. “All this green covering. It looks like something huge took a massive sneeze all over the place. It’s disgusting to look at, and it smells like…”
“…your fooding,” Esteban piped in. His back was to her, hands on hips, head tilted all the way back to look up. Felicia side kicked him in the rear. He just laughed. “We are going up! Tomorrow. Pack tight, pack light. Looks like we have a long way to go before we reach the tip of the spine.”
Damy stared at Esteban. Feeling the glare, he turned to her. “We’ve been over this again and again. Yes, we have to climb. No, we can’t take a lifter. The last time we used the lifter to gain samples from the other giant, we shredded it. It almost burned down this part of the valley. We. Will. Not. Do. That. Again. Understood? You can glare all you want. I don’t care, Damy. I don’t care anymore. We climb tomorrow.”
Now, three days later and Felicia dead, Damy wished she had fought more. She saw no point to exploring UP like this. Euryphaessa’s surface had been mapped out, analyzed and sorted by the the crew on Giganteum. The real exploration, in her opinion, needed to be down, into the tunnels, the caverns and deep water pockets that filled this ugly planet.
The teams had been assigned aboard the space ship, and it was just her luck to be stuck with Esteban. She disliked him from the minute she met him, years before. Arrogant, self absorbed and dismissive of anyone that was not…him. He was Senior Field, and he did not let anyone forget it.
Charlie had by this time quieted down and flash warmed their morning meal. He sat away from any moss covered area, watching it as he ate. Yesterday morning they had all noticed how the moss seemed to be on them in places where no moss had been when they went to bed. Esteban blew away their concerns.
“Look around you. The green crap is all over the place. It was dark, we were tired. Get over it.” Felicia and Charlie had looked at each other while Damy ignored him, as best as she could.
So, Felicia was dead, Charlie was losing it, and Damy wanted to go back. “Now, Esteban. We’re not even beyond the main trunk. Who else is going down?”
Esteban ignored her. Inserting the climbing filament rope into the spring-load chamber, he sighted, shot, and hit and upper branch. Adding another, he tested their security, attached his clip, and gave the nod to Charlie. Packed, he clicked his link behind Esteban. Charlie looked at Damy, sighed, and climbed along.
“Bastard.” She clambered after.
The third night was the same as the second. They had reached a point before darkneww overtook the valley. They did their business, “fooded” (Damy hated that expression of his), and tied themselves down, and slept.
The fourth morning.
Damy stood over the moss covered bodies of both Charlie and Esteban. She had tried to hack them out, but only succeeded in cutting their bodies. No blood seeped out. Cutting through, she was able to tell right away. They were both dead.
She still had green mass over her back and left side. Sleeping as far away from Esteban as she could, finding solace on a track that had branched out from where the others had set up. Damy was sure there was none of the green where she settled down. Now, a large portion of the area was covered, and the smell was as bad up here as it had been down at the base of the tree.
Screaming, she tried to imbed her knife in the moss near Esteban’s head. Tried.
Whipping around her hand, a tendril of green snapped. The knife went flying over the side.
Before any verbal reaction could be uttered, tendril after another wrapped around her writhing body. Face enclosed, with a trail of green running into her open mouth and down her throat, Damy felt herself being lifted. Up she went, not down like she wanted, not down, where unknown to her all the teams there were already feeding the planet.
She was last. She gave of herself without meaning or wanting to, and it took a long time.
It gets more complex as it get older, and higher. The tip of the spire sprouted a new growth.