By Charles Matthias
This story is based in the Here and There Universe created by Fish.
Part I: Mind
Despite what had happened in the past few weeks, Matty was glad to be able to come back to the Compound. The pain of losing Karen in the car accident, and her subsequent murder of Mitchell Dixon was still with her. Not even the last two weeks with the almost calm serenity had been able to completely take the edge off. However, she still had no other place she could call home, and so she returned to this world.
It would be her third potion, and, although she didn't yet know what she was, it was almost certainly her first non-equine form. And as she blinked open her eyes upon the orchard again, the bright yellow leaves of the fall trees coming clear to her eyes, she knew that it had once again worked.
It always amazed her that such a simple and effective means of transformation was available. Of course the randomness of it was sometimes disconcerting, and the possible side effects were frightening - as she had seen with Jo'nel - but that was not going to deter her from reaching her dream. Not that she had much choice; the U.S. Government would rather that she be here!
So it was that when Matty looked upon the world of Ma'erth she discovered that her earlier suspicions were true. No longer was she a unicorn. Nor, as she noted while looking down at the rusty maroon fur that poked out from the V-shaped neck of the tunic she now wore, was she even female anymore.
"Well, I guess I'm Charles again," he said aloud, to nobody in particular. The feel of his thick tongue against his mouth quickly made him wonder just exactly he was. Scanning down the length of the brown tunic and the baggy pantaloons that were the same as on his first visit to this new world, he saw that he was covered in a thick coat of reddish brown fur. His hands and feet were now more like paws - he realized he missed his hooves. And just at the edge of his vision, he could still see a muzzle, a much narrower one than he was used too, in fact.
Charles scanned about the area. It was slightly chilly, but it was October. Still, none of the others were in sight. Rising to his hindpaws, the once again male figure strode uncertainly towards the Compound.
He still had a tail, of course, and taking a quick glance at it, saw that it was rather canine. Was he some sort of dog? Or perhaps a fox? No, not a fox. His tail was a uniform red; he could not be a fox. He'd have to ask Cori, then. Feeling about in his mouth with his tongue, it certianly felt canine, the four large fangs, and the rest of his teeth small. Snuffling at the air, he noted that his sense of smell was a bit sharper than before. Reaching up with one paw, Charles ran it through the fur on his face, and up to his pointy ears, and his flat forehead.
Flat. He no longer had an alicorn. For a brief moment he realized that he sorely missed it, depsite the horrible memories that it held. He'd skewered a man with that horn. It was not sometihng he liked to dwell upon.
Sucking in his breath, Charles continued on up the sloping path through the beautiful woods towards the front gates of the Compound. It was a gorgeous day - the sky clear, the sun shinning brightly in the east, and the fresh vibrant scents of so much life about him. Without even consciously realising it, Charles began to step off the path to follow after a very interesting smell that seemed to make his stomach growl in anticipation.
With a bit of chagrin, the new predator shook those thoughts clear, and returned to the trail. He WAS a predator now, and he would have to make that mental adjustment. It wouldn't really be that bad after all. If The Captain could handle it, then so could he.
Being a jackal did not really upset him either. His first few days back at the Compound were mostly uneventful, just spent adjusting to his new habits. At first Charles had thought that not having to graze for five hours a day just to stay healthy would have been a welcome change of pace. It turned out that it just meant that he was bored most of the time. There were many construction projects still going on, and of course he lent his hands to whatever task the others felt was needed, but he still had too much time now that he spent doing aboslutely nothing.
So when Cori mentioned the jackals working on the Rail one evening over dinner, he became very intrigued.
"What is this about other jackals?" Charles asked between bites. His plate was a bloody mess. Of course, he really could only stand it that way. It had been some small animal from the woods, something Roxi had caught for him. He looked at it like he might any other piece of meat from his days as a human. Something to feed him, and nothing more.
Cori looked genuinely surprised at the question. "Oh, there is a tribe of jackalmorphs who work on the rails that connect us to many other parts of the world. I thought you knew."
"I knew about the rail, not that there were others like me working on it."
"Oh, that's right, you hadn't arrived when they finished the last section of it here. A train will be coming through tomorrow at noon, if you'd like to go meet them."
Charles blinked a few times, his thoughts turning to what it might be like to meet others of his species. Jo'nel had had such an experience first hand, and look what it had brought her. But there was another thought swirling in his mind, a particular image that he could not get out.
"How extensive are these rail systems?" He asked finishing off the last of the dead rabbit.
"I don't know," Cori admitted, stirring the stewed vegetables on her plate with a spoon, "but I understand that they cover most of the west coast area. Why?"
"Well, I was wondering if it might be a good idea to join up with them, travel about for a few weeks, maybe even find my parents."
"Your parents?" Hall asked before biting into an apple.
"Yes, a friend of my father's sent them both through an overlap zone near Los Angeles. I was hoping that I could locate them."
Coy chuckled a bit, his ottery throat producing a rather pleasing sound. "But you still can't speak much enlgish yet, Charles. How do you expect them to understand you?"
Charles let his tongue loll out of his mouth at the droll little musteline. He then quickly made the sign of the cross and cocked his head to one side. "How many people from this side are going to know that?"
There was a general chortling from the few assembled and Coy shook his head in mirth. "Good point."
"Anyway, that is what I was hoping I could do." Charles said to Cori again, who looked quite thoughtful. "If you really need me here to help with the construction and all that, I will stay, but I would really like to search for my folks."
The Captain stirred about at his place, his golden eyes glistening in the lamplight. "It's a dangerous world out there, are you sure you want to risk it?"
The jackal nodded. "I only have one set of parents, I don't want to lose them."
Cori grimaced, but then grinned amicably. "I think it is a wonderful idea, Charles. I'll introduce you to the jackal's tomorrow when they bring the train in. We have enough hands here to do fine without you for a while. I mean, look at Scarab, he's more than making up for it now."
Once again there was open laughter, and Scarab himself looked delighted. "So I says to the guy, 'Hey, I only got [x number of] arms you know.' "
Charles grinned, and felt his tail waging. "Thanks, everybody. You're the greatest."
Charles no longer lived in the stables - it just didn't feel right anymore. Instead, he slept in the barracks like most of the others. For the moment he stayed near the Garrett's, as The Captain had invited him to. Also, he found that, even though he had taken to it on a whim, his canine body was quite suited to sleeping on the hard floors. He was hoping to get a good night's rest, as he always got nervous before meeting new people and wanted to be at his best.
Terry, however, was not going to let him have his sleep, as apparently the griffon was worried for him. Sitting down on his haunches before the reclining jackal, the great mythical beast nudged Charles with his beak, and whispered out his name. Rising to a sitting position, Charles blinked away what little sleep he'd gotten and asked, "What is it?"
The Captain had a small lamp lit - how he managed that was Charles's best guess - and was gazing down at him with those saucerpan eyes of his. "I thought you should know something about the jackals before you go live with them. I don't think you understand what you are getting yourself into. I don't want you getting hurt, Charles, so I thought I should tell you."
"What is it?" Charles was still a bit groggy, but like any good canine, it was quickly passing.
"The one time we did have the jackals here, before you arrived, we found out somet hings about them that were rather disturbing."
Terry looked like he wanted to bite his lips, but being a griffon, had no lips to bite. "They are harsh and brutal people, Charles. I know that you are gentle and soft, and I think you could be hurt by them very easily."
"How do you mean harsh?"
"They lost a number of their men to Taylor a month or so back. They didn't bury their bodies, but gave them to the lions to eat. They did it so that the lions would not attack them. You have seen that trophy head that was in the sitting room have you not?"
"Yes, I have."
"Well, they did not take offense at it like Cori had feared. They thought it simply a waste of good meat. I don't think you would do well in such a culture, and I wanted to warn you about what might happen."
Charles sat there for a minute, trying to sort this new information in his mind. It was not very surprising; lions of course did eat jackals in the real world. People did what they had to survive. Charles was certain that it couldn't be as bad as Terry implied it to be. However, there could be no question it would be dangerous. But was it worth it?
"Terry did you really think about the dangers when you went for your family?" Charles waved a hand towards the closed doors behind which three humans slept.
The griffin stared blanky at him for a moment, those sharp eyes staring past the wall into the oblivion that awaited beyond. After a long unnerving moment of silence, his raspy voice spoke. "Yes, I did consider the dangers. But I could not leave my family behind either."
Charles reached out a paw and patted his friend on the shoulder. "I can't leave my family behind either. My parents are the only family I have left, after Karen died. I know this is going to be dangerous, just living in this world can be dangerous. But I would regret this moment for the rest of my life if I didn't do something. I may not find them, but at least I'll have tried. I have to do this. I hope you understand."
Terry nodded sagely, sensing the need in his freind's voice and demeanor. He knew that need all too well. "Yes, I think you do need to go then. You shall be in my prayers."
Grinning, Charles patted him on the shoulder again. "And you in mine."
Terry nuzzled him with his beak once, and then turned back to lie down next to the doors. "Sleep well then, Charles. I shall see you tomorrow morning to wish you farewell."
"Adios, Terry." Charles curled back up on the hard floor, and was quick to fall asleep again.
Ironically, the rail in Ma'erth were just as punctual as they were back in his old world. So for a good hour that morning, Cori and Charles just talked about recent events. Most of the conversation revolved aroud the construction at the Palisade and the coming winter. However, it did eventually turn to the topic of the jackals once more.
"Terry told me what you said to him last night," Cori announced all of a sudden, the jollity in her voice turning serious.
"You do know that the jackals can be a very dangerous group; they might not like having you along. They might kill you and eat you or feed you to the lions if things get tough."
Charles licked his nose and blinked at that. The possiblity was certainly undeniable, but as always, could he not do this? After all, this was for his family, why shouldn't he try? He did his best to explain his feelings to Cori, and found himself saying much the same thing he had to the Captain. As the jackal talked, she nodded and listened.
The sun rose higher into the sky, and a few clousd rolled past the treetops as the leaves swayed in the wind, some falling gently to the ground. It was a beautiful day, though the slight bite to the air bespoke of the coming winter. Charles could not help but like that prospect. For the first time in his life, he would see a real winter. Of course he would experience it without the benefits of modern day technology, so his brief joy was tempered with a measured concern. None of the others had spent a winter like this before either, so it was certainly going to be a challenge. The deerkin would know something of it though; there was that at least.
When the Rail finally did pull in to the station, Charles stared at the sleek uniform shape as it snaked up along the tracks over the treetops. Unlike trains in his world, these did not get made of interconnected cars. According to Cori they were chemically-powered, though the jackal could see no obvious mechanism. However, it was the fastest way to travel in this pre-industrial world, and if he wanted to find his parents, this was his best bet.
The engineers which traveled everywhere with the train were of course all jackals. It was their service to the rest of the communities of morphs in this land, by which they managed to eke out some compensation in terms of hunting priveleges. Cori led Charles to the front of the station which happened to be in the extreme northeastern corner of the Compound, where they climbed a series of steps in the bastion up to a raised platform. Several doors in the Rail opened up, and a few passengers disembarked.
There weren't many, and Charles wasn't really paying attention to them. Cori quickly identified the head jackal and introduced them; all but a few of them had remained inside when the train had stopped. She explained Charles's situation briefly, leaving out the part about his parents.
"So, you want to work on the Rail?" asked the lead jackal, a large figure with a broad black nose on his muzzle and two small silver rings in his left ear.
"Yes, I do."
"How much do you know about the Rail?" His voice was gruff, but Charles had heard much the same tones from his former employer, so he was not really concerned.
"Not much really. I know the jackals maintain it, but I have to admit a bit of ignorance when it comes to mechanics. I am very willing to learn though."
The other jackal glanced at Cori a moment, his yellow eyes slightly unsettling. She maintained her ground, still smiling despite his unreadable gaze.
Finally his eyes came back to Charles, who was understandably nervous. The lead jackal put one paw beneath his muzzle, and lifted it up slightly. The figure's eyes looked over the flesh and the muscles, examining them for a moment. He then folded his arms cross his chest and nodded once. "You look healthy, we could certainly use another hand. Since you don't know anything about engines yet, I'll let you have that old coot Slomer's job for now."
"Cleaning." The jackal looked back at Cori and blinked once. "Thank you for your time, oh Lady."
Cori patted Charles once on the shoulder, and grinned weakly. "I hope you're going to be all right."
"Don't worry, I will be." Charles licked her face once, a trick that usually sent Terry's little girl into gales of laughter. Cori smiled broader, and then threw her arms about his neck and gave him a quick hug. Just as quickly, she let go, and waved as she walked out the door, and was gone. Charles was alone with the other jackals finally.
"My name is Anaid. This is the Keener's Fang." He gestured with both paws to the train about them. Charles glanced about the seats and the machinery for a moment before he realized that Anaid was leveling a very heavy gaze at him. "This is MY Rail car. You want to join us, then you will do what I say at all times. If you see any jackals with earrings, you do what they say too. If I think you are slacking off or are not pulling your weight around here, I'm going to have you fed to the lions. Do you understand me?"
Charles blinked. "Yes, sir."
"I am Anaid, not sir."
"Yes, Anaid." Charles replied, a bit abashed, his tail tucked neatly between his legs.
"Just because you are a jackal because you drunk some silly potion, don't expect to get any special treatment. From now until the day you disappear, you are a jackal. You will live like a jackal, and work like a jackal. And if you work well enough, I may decide to adopt you into the Keener Clan."
"The Keener Clan?"
"Yes. We are the Keener clan, all of us here on this ship. We are part of a larger tribe of jackals obviously. If you do well by yourself, you may get to meet them in a few weeks."
Charles nodded, not sure he liked all of this talk about becoming part of a Clan. But if it got him to his parents, what harm could there be in it? Besides, it felt somehow right deep down to be part of a clan, or a pack.
"Germes!" the two-silvered jackal called out. The other figure nearby, a much smaller jackal, about Charles's size actually, came rushing down the central aisle. His single coppery-looking earing bounced up and down as he ran.
"Yes?" The small figure asked, casting a slightly curious glance Charles's way.
"This is Charles, he may be joining us. Take him back to Slomer for now. Have that old nuisance give him something to do." Anaid gestured with one paw towards the new jackal, who was sure he would be blushing if it were possible.
Germes nodded, and gestured for Matthias to follow him. The two jackals made their way down the aisle towards the rear of the train. Charles peered over his shoulder at Anaid, but the larger canine had disappeared into the cabin at the front of the Rail. "So, what do you do here, Germes?"
Germes was surprised at the question, and regarded him distantly for a moment. "Me? I'm just a mechanic really."
"What about this Slomer fellow? Who's he?"
"Slomer is an old coot who's lived too long, but he does a good job cleaning, so Anaid tolerates him for now." Germes remarked almost nonchalantly. Charles was a bit surprised at the callousness of the words, but shook it off. This was a harder world to survive in, he had seen that already.
"How old is he?"
"Forty-five if you can believe it."
"What do you mean just forty-five?"
"How old are you?"
"Really?" Charles was astonished. Perhaps jackals had a shorter lifespan than humans did?
"Of course, how old do I look?"
Charles shook his head, his tail tucked between his legs again. "I've only been a jackal for a few days myself. I don't really know that much about you all."
Germes stopped and gazed at him for a moment in surprise. His ears swiveled about, the copper ring inside them jingling a bit. "I guess that would explain it then. I heard Anaid giving you that little speech, I was wondering what he meant."
Charles then looked out a passing window as they resumed walking. "Was he serious when he said he would feed me to the lions?"
Germes nodded. "Absolutely." It was said in such a deadpan monotone, and with such fatalistic certainty, that Charles was sure it could have stopped his heart.
Slomer was not nearly as old as Germes made him out to be, though his habits did tend to border on the eccentric. However, there was an almost cheery demeanor to the jackal that Charles felt like it was the first sign of real life he had seen since boarding the Rail. After the sobering engineer left the two of them alone in what served as a restroom, the old coot gave him a quick hug, and grinned wolfishly. One of his yellow eyes tended to gaze in the wrong direction, but the rustic face, with small patches of grey along his jowls, was too friendly not to like instantly.
"So, you're the new man on the team, eh? So they give you to Old Slomer, huh. That's typical. Always sending the youngins to old coots." Charles had to resist the temptation to laugh.
"That's what they did to me." Charles nodded, noting the jackal's copper ring in his left ear. All the other jackal's he had seen wore such earrings. From what Anaid had said, it seemed they were some form of rank in the clan. Would they make him wear one too?
"Well, I'm Slomer. Been with Keener's Fang for thirty years."
"That sounds like a long time. Anybody else ever make it as long as you have?"
"Nope!" Slomer shook his head emphatically. He then wagged a single claw in front of Charles's muzzle. "There was on fellah, looked sort of like you, that was with us for twenty years."
"What happened to him?" Charles was rather enjoying this conversation. It meant that it was time he was not going to have to clen any toilets, or wahtever they used as such. He'd grown so acustomed to just doing his business in the woods over the past few weeks that the notion of indoor plumbing seemed almost arcane. Plus, there was a rather nasty odor coming from the stall, and he did not want to know what that was.
"Well, that's a story in itself."
"I wouldn't mind hearing it." Charles rubbed his sensitive nose with his paw a bit, but the scent lingered.
"Well, the fellah was named Neils. Neils and I, we joined up together when we was fifteen. The Rail wasn't as big then as it is now. Back then we were just starting to build out in this area, and even so, not all the wildlife were too happy about it, if you know what I mean. Why there was one time that we had some critters sneaking in there and ripping up the tracks right after we laid them. Boy, you never seen bloodshed like we did that day!
"Anyway, Neils and I, we both served as engineers for twenty years before the accident. He was outside fixing one of the channel walls when the operator tested the engine. Sliced poor Neils's arm right off."
"That's horrible!" Charles exclaimed at the thought of seeing Slomer or anybody else have their arm totally severed.
"Not really. It had been a harsh winter, we were low on food. It saved us from having to draw lots." Slomer then leaned over a bit and winked at the very surprised jackal. "Neils made a better meal than he did an engineer anyway. We never were able to find his arm though; might have been nice to have seconds, right?" He nudged Charles a bit in the arm, and chuckled at his own joke.
Charles meanwhile, was trying his best not to run to the toilet - or whatever it was - and vomit. The only way he was able to remain a straight face was by mentally repeating to himself, "Life is harsh here. The survival of the race is more important than the survival of any one person. They have to live with this to survive. Life is harsh here. The survival of the race is more important than...."
"Well, enough of that nonsense, it is a pleasure to meet you." Slomer then looked over his shoulder at the stall and grimaced. "I suppose I should show you what you need to do before Anaid catches us yammering away like a couple of pups."
Just as he was about ready to see what lay behind that stall, there was a lurching sensation as the floor shifted beneath them. Charles could hear metal grinding against metal, a strident screeching noise echoing from beneath them and above them. Though he could not see it, Charles knew that the Compound was now irrevocably left behind. He was with the jackals for the next few weeks whether he liked it or not.
Resignedly, he followed Slomer to the source of that awful stench.
Despite the auspicious beginning to his travels, Charles found himself quickly settling into life on the Rail. There were to his count somewhere between fifteen and twenty other jackals on the train. All of them had a single copper earring in his left ear, except Anaid and one other whose earrings were silver. Charles, however, found most of them to be a decent sort. Germes was especially thougthful and they often ended up working side by side as the week progressed. They would talk about many things, mostly about the Rail though, and about Keener's Fang.
After a few days of working with Slomer and a few others, Anaid decided to put Charles to working on the engines, but always under the watchful eyes of Germes or another. Matthias had never before displayed any mechanical proficiency, but the words of the two-silver (as he was called) came back to him anytime he thought that he just couldn't do something.
Since the Rail had to run night and day, they slept in shifts of about five at a time. Charles was given the early hours before dawn and of the morning to sleep, and it suited him fine. Of course, when he was awake, he was usually busy doing something, either learning the way the Rail worked from anybody who would show him, or cleaning floors and windows from the messes that the passengers left behind.
They all took their meals in the rear sections of the Rail, and most of it came from scraps that they were able to pick up here and there. Charles tried not to think of what he ate might have once been. It was in a way easier to just graze, or to use a feedbag - though with hooves it had been devilish to put on - since then he didn't need to worry about what he was eating. It all came from plants. Now he was a carnivore and had to eat meat. There was the occassional fruit and vegetable, but for the most part, it was meat.
He usually ate with either Germes or Slomer, and a few others, but occassionaly Anaid would be there at the table too. On his fourth day there though, he finally got to see the other silver-ringed jackal, as well as receive an unexpected surprise. The Rail was stopped for some repairs, but Charles and a few others were still eating. It was a cow that had wandered onto the Rail and had been struck by the train. The owner of the animal let them have it as compensation for the damage the beast had done, and it was quite good compensation indeed!
So while Charles was having a bit of small talk with Germes, in walked both Anaid and a similarly built jackal with a single silver earring. Charles noted the discrepency, and how everybody in the room went quickly silent.
"Who is that?" Charles discreetly asked his friend.
"That's Faltaf," Germes whispered back, his jowls barely moving as he spoke. "He's the operator. Something's up. He usually takes all his meals in the engine room."
Charles nodded, and watched the two lead jackals for a few minutes as they ate their meal in silence. Anaid had something in his right paw, but Charles couldn't quite see what. It was an awkward few minutes as he finished off the holstein. Rising to his hindpaws, he walked towards the door, but as he walked past the two-silver, he felt the jackal's firm paws grasp his arm. "Wait a moment there Charles. I have something I want to say to you."
Sucking down his breath, the very nervous jackal turned about on his paws, and faced the clan leader. "Yes, Anaid?"
"You've been with us a few days, and you remember what I told you I'd do if I found you slacking off?"
"You'd feed me to the lions." Charles felt as if he were going to be ill. The face of Faltaf was utterly unreadable, as he wolfed down a small hunk of the cow. Anaid looked hard, his right paw still firmly clutching something.
"That is right." Anaid then took a quick glance at the few other jackals about the table. "Because of what I have seen, I have decided against that." He went on before Charles could breathe a sigh of relief. "Instead, I have decided to make you a member of the Keener's Fang!" He opened up his hand, and held before him a bright copper ring, and quickly deposited it in Charles's open paws. "That is, if you will be part of our clan, of course."
Charles looked down at the trinket in his paw. He'd never worn an earring before, and thought that they looked disgusting on males anyway. However, the invitation to be part of a clan, to belong to this pack of sorts, was too good an offer for Charles to turn down. "Yes, I will proudly be of the Keener Clan!"
It turned out that they made a hole for his earring with a hammer and a small nail. The bleeding stopped in a few minutes, but it was sore for a few days. Charles found himself reaching up to fiddle with the new earring almost all the time. Slomer told him that if he kept that up, he'd tear his ear off. Though he doubted the old coot's warnings, he paid them heed nonetheless.
He also found that his assignments were less demeaning than before. Most of the time Anaid would have Germes and him work together still, but the two-silver did not tell Germes to "Take the pup" as he had been called. Now he was a clan member, low end of the totem pole perhaps, but better than a pup.
Germes was a rather quiet individual, but Charles found him opening up more as they shared stories. Many of the stories that Germes told were of harsh times, of winters where they did not hve enough food, of watching a younger brother go off to feed the lions. Charles wanted to cry for his friend, but their seemed to be no sorrow in Germes's voice. The other jackals had accepted their place in the world, as pathetic as it was.
One day, while they had stopped just outside of the mountains, Germes and he were taking a break from their duties to just sit and watch the world go by. Charles was amazed at how far he had come from the Compound in just a week's time. If this were Earth, he would guess he was in either Wyoming or Idaho, maybe Colorado. The skyline was jagged with the rocky outcroppings and towering peaks of the Northern Rockies - known as the Lion's Jaws among the jackals. Snow was a very real possibility as they climbed higher and higher. Anaid had told him that they would not cross them, not during this time of the year, but they would pass along them for a few days. Matthis didn't mind at all, this was beautiful beyond his ability to impart.
However, he finally looked to Germes and was moved to speak again. "So, where does the rest of the jackal tribe live?"
"Where?" Germes turned from the window, his bright yellow eyes distant. "Oh, we tend to live near the Rail itself. Any place we have a large junction, you are going to find a community of jackals. The Keener come from a bit further southwest."
"Will we go there anytime soon?"
"Sometime in the next few days we'll arrive I imagine. Depends on the weather through the mountains." Germes returned to staring out the window, sighing heavily.
Charles gently tapped his copper with one claw as he sat there thinking. "Are you looking forward to going back?"
Germes nodded absently. "I miss Lodera."
"My mate. I haven't seen her in almost two weeks."
Charles felt his tail pulling close to his legs again. The seats were designed with holes in the back for tails, so he couldn't really get it between his legs. But it wanted to be there. "Do you have any children?"
"We had a litter, but they all died last winter."
"I'm sorry," Charles replied, his own voice barely audible.
"What's the matter?" Germes turned to face him again, his vulpine snout lowered, betraying his friend's concern.
"I lost my mate only a few weeks ago. She was killed in an accident."
"It happens, even here it happens. What did you do about it?"
"I killed the man who caused the accident," Charles replied, seeing a brief flash of Dixon's head snapping back as the bullet struck him in the forehead.
"No, to your mate's body? What did you do with it?"
"Do with it?" Charles was surprised by the quesiton, and he answered without thinking. "Why bury it of course!" At seeing Germes's stunned look, Charles remember just what sort of society he was living in. "Well, she was burned to death. Can't hardly eat flesh when it was all burned away." He thought he would be sick, but it was the only way Germes could understand.
"Oh, I am sorry to hear that then. I hope the one you killed was able to provide enough meat to make up for your loss?" The question was so innocent, that Charles felt his heart breaking. The life of a jackal was horrifyingly brutal, for they were, even in their own eyes, just meat.
Charles nodded. "I'm sure he did." Germes nodded, and turned back to the window, obviously satisfied. For some reason, the thought of eating Mitchell Dixon's flesh was strangely appealing to Charles. After all, it might have put that bastard to some good. That murderer was worth only his weight in flesh.
Reaching back up to his left ear with one paw, Charles fiddled with his copper some more. He was a part of the Keener's Clan. He was for now a jackal. Whether he liked it or not, these were the gruesome realities of life. Was it so horrible to make use of the dead as food? No, not really. The Swiftian farce notwithstanding, he could find no materialistic reasons not to object.
He could face this to find his parents. It was only three more weeks after all. And besides, he liked Germes, Slomer, and the others. They were his clanmates. Surely with them alongside, he could endure this.
Charles peered out the window again, satisfied, and wholly comfortable. It was a beuatiful day out, and as he looked up into the clouds, he could see the first snowflakes of the winter season beginning to fall.
Onto Part II: Heart!
|Talk to me!|