For Damon, the time has come to take the plunge.
The Plantation: Part VII
The sky is made of leaves. Damon lies on his back on the fibrous ground, black soil clinging to his hair, the cool fingers of evening stroking his cheeks. His robe smells of sweat and is rough against his body. Wings disturb the air above him, bats like shadowy dragons.
It’s Rest Day.
He feels the bruises on his ribs every time he breathes in and out. The sensation is wet and soft, his skin a brilliant magenta. The green eyed man had not been happy with his reports; they were starting to suspect that Damon really was what he said, a journalist and nothing more.
A twinge shoots through Damon’s wrist as he holds his Na-Ske pebble above his head. It eclipses the rising moon. Klareh, Waro, Rineha, Wik – he hadn’t seen any of them since the escape attempt.
Voices shout in the distance.
He shuts his eyes. A dim pain runs along his skull. Green-eyes had been brutal, punches reinforced with metal, ropes biting into his neck.
Damon can’t remember now, whether he had really come to Aviva out of journalistic curiosity, or if he had wanted to disappear. Run from Rosa. It didn’t seem to matter anymore.
Damon shoots upwards. Two onyx eyes look out from the trees, like twin pools of unknowable depth.
Enhi steps out from the column of palms, her face impassive. Damon reaches towards her but then lets his hand drop limp by his side. “I shouldn’t talk to you,” he says. “It’s dangerous.”
She cocks an eyebrow. “Dangerous for who?”
“Both of us. I can’t say why.”
She steps closer.
Damon swallows, his throat raw. “Enhi, what do you do on Rest Day?”
Enhi remains motionless, moonlight slithering across her skin. “Damon, I’ve told you this before – sometimes it’s better not to understand.”
Her words are like porcelain, breaking into uncountable pieces. Damon looks at his feet. “Was I wrong, to think that there would ever be anything between us?”
He shuts his eyes. “I want to go home.”
Insects chirp in the carpet of fallen leaves. Damon can hear Enhi’s breathes, shallow like a small animal, and beyond that are the voices shouting. “They’re going to kill me,” he says.
“They think I’m a spy.”
Orange light seeps under his eyelids. He blinks them open to see Enhi holding a lit match, the delicate flame flickering in the breeze.
“Where did you get that?”
Enhi shrugs. “If you leave tonight, they will think the spy is gone. They will no longer be on the lookout.”
Something heavy slides into Damon’s gut. He looks at Enhi, a person he never really knew, standing with the flame between her fingers. His brain ticks around in circles.
“How can I get out?”
Enhi stretches an arm out towards him. There is something closed in her fist. “You already know the way,” she says. She opens her fingers one by one, revealing the little carved horse. Her black eyes look straight through him. “The pool is just a single point in an underground river. It surfaces in other places – outside of the wall.”
“Who are you?”
Enhi smiles. She flicks the match into the dried leaves. “This will buy you some time,” she says.
Damon looks down at the spreading flames, and up into darkness. Enhi is gone, folded into shadow.
Torch beams carve a path towards him. Damon finds that his legs will not move, his muscles poured of stone or concrete. He watches the fire take hold, feels a slight blaze of heat against his ankles.
The Pavilion is a good distance away. Even if he could reach it, crawl inside and find the pool in the maze of walls, he might go under and never resurface. It could all be a lie – an easier way to dispose of him. In his mind he sees Wik, his crinkled face submerged in a roar of white water, skin soggy and lifting away from the bones, eyes gone white and rolled up inside the skull.
A shout nearby, and now Damon can hear footsteps. The fire crackles.
Another voice speaks inside his head, one he can’t quite put a face to. It’s an Eastern European accent, telling him a story about growing up in a village. The voice uses a strange turn of phrase, something that might be a blip in translation: they make carvings on mass, churning out of the water.
Sensation returns to Damon’s legs. He runs.