Snookeroo woke later. He got up and used his knife to cut a couple lengths of grazelope hide loose from the walls. He had to work some to make footwear from them. In the end; it looked more like he were wearing enchiladas then shoes; but he had to make do. Quietly as he could, he walked out to the now dark veranda and jumped over the railing. He landed a touch heavily; straightened. There were neither sound or light above and off into the dark he went.
He didn't even debate with himself over leaving: he had to go now. He was sure he could find the loft where he'd tangled with the skuda and from there; the road.
Well. PRETTY sure.
Emira telling him which way was west had given him enough info to risk a nighttime, lightless hike. Sure: it was scary....dark and here and there you could hear something scuttling away thru the grasses and weeds and shrubs. It alarmed and harassed one's nerves but: it had to be done. Besides: skuda were dayfeeders. There were a few other critters that might be less then comforting to happen upon but....he could make it. You just had to stay alert.
She began to drift into his thoughts. He couldn't make out just what she was about. Way out here....all by herself? Why? Maybe..... she wasn't by herself? Maybe.... she was out here for some really good reason? Or hiding from something? Or doing something she shouldn't? What was her story? It made his head ache to try to make sense of it.
When the light blazed out: right from in front: right in his face, he barely avoided tripping over his feet in stopping and did succeed in tripping as he tried to backtrack. He fell on his butt and the light blinded him and he had no idea what was going on. He was all set to run, till he saw a face behind the light and eyes from the face and a name for face, eyes and all of who was pointing a big, black flashlight at him.
"Oh. Hi." His grin felt like plaster: papier-mache feeling on display. "Nice night, aye?"
She lowered the flash; took it from his face to the ground between them. The sash was gone: replaced by a somewhat rough-hewn grazelope-hide tunic/jacket. It made her seem like a pint-sized football lineman: sporting shoulderpads designed to make a lady look professional and yet feminine.
"Why did you leave the loft?"
Snook hadn't recovered from the flash yet; so he blinked eyes and made words. "I canna stay." "You only just got out of bed. What if you were to become ill out here? By yourself?" "I suspect I'd have to do what you'd do." He got his feet under him; stood. He needlessly dusted his pants off. Theye were each jittery: out-of-ease in the setting. As if both had liked being here....till the other had been discovered.
"The best I can." "What?" "I'd do the best I can. I'm doing that now. What were you doing out here?" He kept to himself the words 'since you couldn't have caught me by following...
"I went for a walk."
He sought to find her eyes in the shadows stemming from her flashlight. As if detecting his ploy; she shut the flash off: they just stood in the dark. Snook sighed. "I'm going on to where I ambushed the skuda." "Ambushed." "Ok....it ambushed me, I guess. Then I'm heading back to the Williamson's. To Laddy." "You are convinced you can find them." "Aye." "Very well. I shall come with you."
Why, thought Snook. But he didn't ask. He told himself; when all was said and done: he didn't care why she was out here. She could go where she wanted. He was going where he wanted. What else was there to discuss?
They walked in the dark; Emira seemed to perfer the flashlight as confidence-booster rather then a tool to chase the night with. Snook didn't much mind; it was a pleasant night. A bit chilly, getting cold actually....there were lots of stars and grasses underfoot and though a few thinnish clumps of clouds cruised about above; in and out of them shone a just past half-full Zyra. It was all very fresh and sharp and Snook very much felt a intruder who should hurry along and not clutter the beauty with his raw, blatant presence.
He stumbled, then again and grumbling, stopped and stooped. Emira peered on, curious. "What are you doing, Snook?" "Oh: my moccasins are coming undone. Hold on a sec..." The flash was activated and Snook rewrapped his feet. Something ran a few yards off; past and getting further. Snook examined Emira: she certainly didn't seem much scared.
"Ready to go." "You have a most novel preoccupation for shoes, Snook." "Oh...aye." He couldn't help but smile; if only to himself. She did have a sense of humor and the realization prompted a desire for conversation; just a mite; from him.
"Seriously now, Emira. What were you doing out here in the dark?" She turned off the flash and they went back to walking. She finally spoke. "Just walking. I do that sometimes." "For exercise?" "Or entertainment. I like the savanna, you know." "Oh, aye. I hear ya. But....I have a knife but that 'tis it. Please tell me you have some firearm?" "No." A part of her form, moving back and forth upon her shoulders, backed her statement. And Snook couldn't believe it.
"You're kidding! You've got no firearms? No weapons?" "No." "None?" "None." "I donaw see how that 'tis possible!" "Oh, you are being foolish!" She sounded amused by his nonplussed manner. She kept up with him; with steady, quiet steps. "What makes you think guns are so necassary here?" "Well; skuda for starters. Ok, Ok: they're dayfeeders... but.... there 'tis grayfurs too, you know!" "Oh! I have never seen a single grayfur; in three seasons, Snook!" "But...." he sought words, "It 'tis the savanna! You do naw wander out here unarmed!" "I do." "You are the first person I ever met here on Kovokothat did naw carry a firearm...or at least have it where it could be quick-reached. Unreal, Emira." "You are so silly!" she definately found amusement in the matter. She pulled up beside him; shoulders nearly touching.
"Americans and their guns!" "I'm Zetan now, Emira." "Yes, yes, I understand that. But guns, guns and guns! Always the guns. I do not understand it...." "It 'tis cultural." "That is even harder to understand. Guns as culture." "You have to be raised in it, I reckon. Then it seems very normal. Wow..." "What?" "I'm still tryin' to get my brain around living out here, alone, without a weapon. You are one brave, chick." "Thank you. You must be brave, too." "Really? How so?" "You decided to walk into the dark with only your knife. This Laddy must be a very special dog. "He 'tis. To me."
In truth: it turned out to be a couple more miles away then Snook had been so sure it was. But he recognized the outline of the loft against the stars and wordlessly head dead on toward it. He could neither see or hear any savelk or much of anything else, for that matter. The vicinity of that loft had gone graveyard quiet. Emira apparently recognized the area, too. A few score yards out the flash was lit and thru the sudden light, Snook made out the hide, still as left. He silently poked about in it but there really wasn't anything left to save. He did find a couple magazines of .270 and happened upon his french foreign legion hat and smacked it against a leg: persuading dust to move along. He felt like someone who'd returned after years to a chessboard he'd left in place: wondering what he'd been thinking then. A bit of kicking about and he unearthed the remi. He made sure it's chamber was free of ammo; the safety in place and slung it over a shoulder. He looked up: the big loft standing over them like a palace long abandoned but never forgotten. Emira startled him back to the now.
"Are you going to look for tracks?" Snook shook his head. "Naw point. Too dark and too long since the tussle. We'll have to catch back up to that animal come daylight. Give me time for more research, anyway. I got a lot to learn about skuda: more then I first thought." "We could go looking for your other shoe." They both laughed and then stopped and stood about: both shy and trying to not seem so. Snook thought it a very good thing, Emira joking: maybe even having fun.
Then sound came: like very big taunt drums being tapped very gently. The rumble padded in low in decibels but deep in bass. Both looked up to the stars. "C-130." "Yes. I forgot we were so close to the spaceport." The rumbling rose, then fell, heading over the top of the loft to somewhere else. They looked at each other. Emira turned off the flashlight.
"I think we say goodbye here, Snook." "You're going to leave me to face the savanna all by myself?" "You have your gun." "Rifle. I reckon you'd be easier to talk to." "Maybe we can meet over coffee sometime. Talk." "Aye. Talk." Go now, he told himself. Linger and it gets weird and goofy and you got too much on your plate for that.
"You be careful, Emira. It'd be a comfort to walk you back home. But I gotta...go." "Yes." He got truned in the right direction...but couldn't get to walking. Apparently; neither could she.
"You know..." "Aye?" "Your friends?" "Laddy?" "No, no. The place you are sitting on the house?" "Oh, the Williamsons! Housesitting. I'm housesitting." "Yes. Do....is there...warg's bane?" "Oh...aye! Sure! Rigel loves warg's bane! Keeps load of it." "And...maybe...wood's-wart?" "I have got to think so. Kathy can cook; let me tell ya! Gotta have wood's wart...." "Cresent-root?" "Pantry's probably half stuffed with it."
Snook was lying and Emira had to have known it but there was something on the pretense that satisfied both.
"Then....perhaps...I can...." "Borrow some?" "Um....yes. Just a little. Just for me." "Oh, Kathy will naw mind. Neighbors and all, you know?" "Oh, wonderful. So....I'll just ..." "Come along to the Williamson's." "Yes. It will be a long walk." "Then we better get started."
They did; shoulder to shoulder and quiet but happy. The flash stayed off and they walked; got around to the other side of the prairie-loft and the sky lit up.
Snook nearly unslung the remi; he was so jolted. They looked about and finally there it was: on the horizen. It was dull red; a squat, lumpy orb. Nothing could be seen thru it and it rose; like something from a immense lava-lamp...up, up, turning white, then yellow, billowing now....Something like peals of thunder rolled over them. the billowing thing; surely miles away, kept climbing but began to fade; but something dark still blocked out the stars behind it.
"Oh, my..." "The spaceport..."
They took off running. A wave of something hot: air, tumbling and flattening grass and shaking loft and staggering hikers flowed over and past.
They slowed but kept up a stiff walk. They couldn't get to the Wiliamson's quick enough.