The Journey of Emeline: Chapter Sixteen
Linens were wrapped around her eyes again and Emeline was grabbed on either side, pulled away, hopefully back to the ship. She struggled and kicked her legs until she was dropped on the hard ground, and rope was knotted around her ankles. Before too long she heard the familiar trap door opening, and braced herself to be thrown head first into the damp darkness. Instead, she felt the rope around her hands and waist loosen. Lastly, her feet were untied, and the linen was pulled from her eyes. Dull evening light shot through her pupils but not before the door was shut, and her eyes still saw silhouettes of shapes and streaks that only went away with time.
She sat there on her hands and knees, craning her neck and flexing her toes when she remembered Eiir.
“Eiir. Are you in here? Eiir, where are you?” It was truly black as night, and just as quiet. Emeline choked on sobs and collapsed against the wooden boards of the base of the boat, weeping to the void.
Crawling towards the sound, she made it 10 feet before her hand touched fabric.
“Eiir is that you? Why do you sound so sick?” She shook him, and tried to prop him up, but only heard laughter from him.
“Emeline, I was sleeping. I’m just fine, in fact I’m better than fine.” He couldn’t see it, but her face was scrunched up, quizzical and intrigued, forgetting momentarily that they were trapped.
“What’s so special about sleeping, I wasn’t gone that long I thought.” Of course, he remembered. She really didn’t know him and here he was, thinking of them as long lost companions
“ I, I have a hard time falling asleep.” Eiir was ready to elaborate, come clean, air his true nature, when for the fourth time that day, the trap door was wretched open. Emeline clung to him, not ready to be faced with another intrusive search of her mind. This time, no one came from above, there was just a sound of shuffling before two animal pelts were thrown down the hole. On the steps, a hand placed a lit lantern, a loaf of bread, and bucket of clean water. Once the two were sure they were gone, Emeline saw the space for the first time with clear eyes.
“This must be the crew’s quarters.” Eiir spoke after awhile, and Emeline blushed, releasing her tight grip on his right arm. She stood and stretched her arms, freeing her muscles of any tension. Taking the two animal pelts, she laid them out in the middle of the room, and set the lantern between them. Eiir positioned himself on one of them, propping himself up by his left arm. The bread was good on an empty stomach and the water was cool on the way down. There was plenty left, and she washed off her face, her hands becoming muddy from all the dust she had endured.
They spoke about what was to come, how they both got there, and that this was no ordinary tribe.
“Has the leader spoken with you?” Emeline was curious, reliving the memory of the soundless words that reached her during their conversation. The water was still, and the sound of chewing and the feeling of contentment filled the air. Jaja Ki seemed desperate, but it was under all her authority, buried deep.
“I’ve been down in this dark hole since the beginning. They fed me, watered me, but I haven’t seen the light of true day. I have to ask. What did you see when you were outside? Where are we headed to?”
“Where are we headed to? The man scratched his head, cocking it to one side, and moved his eyes back and forth trying to understand why she questioned him.
“Eiir. You and I are on the top of a mountain. Same as when I met you. I suppose I can’t be sure we aren’t in a boat, but my two feet were on solid ground out there. They covered my eyes on the walk back, there was no use fighting them.” Emeline went on, explaining the bizarre happenings of the afternoon, and realized that there were no feelings of fear quite like the beginning. She was seeking out these people, although she was under the impression they were the Mazas People Oga had told her about. Eiir listened intently, but didn’t appear to be as surprised as she figured, and if she weren’t so tired, she would’ve found it easy to question such actions.
In the prisonous depths of their ship cabin, there were four hammocks fixed to two wooden posts, each separated by a few feet of space. They didn’t look appealing before, but after having sat on the wooden floor for most of the day, the two got themselves up and prepared for bed. There was no telling what was happening tomorrow, and there was hardly a plan in place. Emeline needed her pack back, in order to review her maps and to reread Oga letter to see if there were any clues as to what next steps she should take. The thoughts were racing in her heads like thousands of little hummingbirds.
“Oh, I’m sorry Eiir.” She helped him lay out one animal pelt over the hammocks gritty ropes and flattened it out with her hands. They did the same with the next hammock, and they hoisted themselves in, the lantern flickering below them on the floor.
“Can I be honest with you?” Emeline was warm, but chills tingled down her spine as the young man spoke to her. She nodded her head, but wasn’t sure if she could handle anymore truth, good or bad.
“There was this term that they used, ‘Slave to sleep.’ I’m sure they used it when they spoke to you.” Again, Emeline nodded her head, trying to get to Eiir’s point before him, readying herself.
“Right. Well I told you I’m from Bitzostan, but I wasn’t in Bitz when the Wind came. I was nearly 100 miles South. There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to go home to, my Uncles shop would’ve been the first to be looted. I made it to the mountains and…” His throat closed over the words, letting out a helpless croak, but he continued, looking up at the boards of the ceiling.
“It was the only place people weren’t crying or yelling. Just me, and my horse, which they took from me.” Eiir hopeless voice turned to rage, and Emeline shrunk into the folds of the blanket, hot tears rolling down her face.
“My horse was the only good thing I had left, and then I nearly killed her by getting swept away on that cliff. You saved me.” He turned and looked at her, their eyes brushing gazes before retreating.
“The Wind doesn’t destroy all at once. I felt fine the first few days, and I even thought that maybe I had escaped it. A week went by and I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, restless. Now I go days, no dream of sleep.” There was just silence now, and the turning of the words that Eiir had just said, over and over in Emelines memory. If she had known this, she wouldn’t have left him. They could’ve found Titok together, survived together.
She heard rustling, and saw that Eiir was getting up, and he knelt beside her, his eyes level with hers again.
“I can see it in your eyes, Emeline. Don’t hold grief for a dying man. It was my choice not to tell you. I knew the day I met you that you might be the last living person I see, and I didn’t want that burden on you.”
Emeline sat up, placing her hand of the side of his face. It took everything she had to trust him, she had sworn she wouldn’t, but he was just like her. Regardless of who else was out in the world, right now Eiir, this stranger, was her only friend. The rest of the people outside of these walls would kill her without so much as a verbal command, but a nod of the head.
“The day I left my home, I had nothing more than a bag over my shoulder, and my young siblings at my side. I didn’t leave everything behind to not carry more than my own burdens.” His face was soft in her hand, but she felt his teeth grinding, and his mind stirring in his eyes. Eiir gently grasped her wrist, and placed her fingers into his own.
“Then I will carry yours, too.”
It was a sleepless night for both of them, for different reasons, or for quite possibly the same. Her mind was awake, and her fingers still felt the pressure of his entwined in them, even if it was just for a few moments. Emeline rolled her eyes, scolding herself for her careless thoughts. If tomorrow came, or if tomorrow was already here, she would try and communicate with the Caarada leader. If she could convince the leader that her and Eiir came for a purpose, for help, they might be able to have more free roam. It was going to take something drastic for the two to prove themselves.
Inevitably, and without much of her own control, Emeline fell asleep, dreaming again. It was the same dream she had most nights, but there was something different about this one. It began like normal, the sound of waves, of screams for help, and the feeling of saltwater stinging her throat. However, the waves calmed, and Emeline floated to the top, gasping for air as she reached the surface, nowhere close to the shore like before. Treading water, she looked around, seeing nothing but blue, even waters matching the even sky. Something grabbed her leg, and as fast as she had surfaced, she was submerged again, screaming and kicking for her life. Underneath the water she could see a sunken boat. There was a rope tied around her ankle and it was pulling her deeper, closer to the shipwreck. Surely her lungs would burst before the bottom, but she inhaled, and like a fish was able to breathe freely. It was a gently ride down, and the rope loosened and Emeline set feet on the soft floor of the mysterious ocean of her dreams. There seemed to be a familiarity about the ship, and Emeline felt inclined to search, getting to the bottom of this nightmare once and for all.
Swimming through the broken hull of the ship, Emeline was surprised to find nothing of use inside. Just decay and small schools of fish weaving in and out. In her ears she could hear a faint sound of knocking. She followed the sound through the ship, swimming down a set of stairs until she felt like she was right above it. It was a hidden trap door that had a lock on it, but the trap door lifted every few moments and the sound of a thud against it. Emeline looked around for something to open the door, but failed to find what she needed. Before giving up, she felt a weight in the pocket of her dress, and when she reached inside, she found a peculiar, black key. Instantly she knew it was for the trap door, and in this dream, she didn’t question anything. With one turn of the newfound key, the lock burst open, and so did the door. In the watery vessel, Emeline peered into the dark hole, and when she did, let out a bubbling scream of horror that reached only her ears, as she was sucked deep down into the hole, the door shutting on her again, before darkness.
“Emeline!” Eiir was shaking her awake, cradling her head, and shouting her name. She wasn’t in the hammock anymore, and her body ached. Her eyes adjusted to the light again, and she looked up at Eiir.
“What happened?” Choking on her words, she cleared her throat and winced as her ribs sparked pain.
“You were talking in your sleep, but then you started shouting and you…” He seemed to be choosing his words carefully before continueing, but Emeline finished his sentence for him.
“I started to kick and scream and toss in my sleep, didn’t I?” Emeline always woke up in a mess, her bedding thrown about, her hair in a tangle. It was rare to find herself without sweat collecting on her brow and the birds chirping their morning song. Eiir nodded his head, and he positioned himself, visibly uncomfortable. Emeline became embarrassed, trying to sit up herself.
“God, I must’ve been laying here for some time, how stupid of me.” Eiir helped her to sit on the hammock, holding the back of it to make sure she didn’t flip over to the other side.
“What were you dreaming about?” His concern was evident, and he didn’t try to hide it.
“I’m afraid it wasn’t a dream.” Emeline went into what she saw, how she was pulled deep into the ocean, unlike her many dreams before. She explained how she found a trap door, and there was a key already inside of her dress pocket. Eiir stood silently beside her, nodding his head, keeping up with her story.
“It was this feeling that I had been there before, and that I had experienced the wreck. Like I said, I have this dream, I always end up on the shore, water in my lungs, alone. But this time I went under, and something told me that I either open the door with that black key, or I swim to the top, and have the dream all over again.” Emeline couldn’t explain anymore, the feeling of the last part was still so fresh, she feared that if she spoke it out loud, it would be true.
“So you think it wasn’t a dream, what else?” Emeline looked blankly at the steps that went up to the base of the trap door that kept the two inside. Many times that door had opened, but now that she thought of it, she couldn’t really remember if any of that was real. Shakily, she stood up from the hammock, limping over, Eiir trailing behind her, ready to catch her like a small bird with a broken wing.
“It was like I was standing right here, but on the other side of this door.” They were both underneath the door now, looking up at it as Emeline spoke.
“Water was rushing around me face, but I would breathe. I heard a thumping.” Lifting her arm high in the air, she hit the door, and it lifted a few inches, and slammed back down each time, into place.
“It was then that I felt a weight, just barely a tug, and I felt around until something cold hit my fingers. The thumping kept on, and I knew I had to open it.” Again, Emeline made a fist and hit the trap door a few more times. She heard nothing on the other side.
“You opened it?” Eiir mouth was set in a hard line, and she felt the uneasiness of the situation as well.
“I put the key in the lock, I turned it once, and the lock turned into tiny pieces and floated away. I pulled the door and looked inside. I was still gripping the key. It felt like hundreds of rocks tied to my one hand. And then I saw eyes.”
“Whose?” His breathing was shallow, and he sat down, gripping his own wrist, already having gotten to the point of her story, before she had.