[Via Rapid Post Arko to Haiu Menshir, to Gannara Melachiya, University patient c/o University Haiu Roru, wing-courier delivery]
Oh, thank All-Spirit you are alive and getting well! Why didn’t you stay home? Your shadow-father and I are on the way, we’ll be there two days after this letter, if the wind holds well. We will be coming by fast ship though we tried to get this new-fangled wing-thing.
Oh, Gannara, Gannara… we’ve missed you! We love you. We can’t wait to see you!”
Gannara put his head down on the desk on top of the letter and cried. I put my hand on his back and just waited until he was done. Ili came and put Indispensible Bear by his head. I hugged him with my other arm and whispered he could go back to his book, I’d look after Uncle Gan for him.
“I don’t know if I can even bear to see them… or them to see me! I’m so different! I still have holes in my head you could shove a mamoka through! What if they don’t want that in a shadow-son?”… he trailed off, clamping down on his emotions.
“You’re panicking. Everything will be fine… You can go meet them. Look why don’t we hire the room next door so you can be private with them?” So you don’t have to explain the weird Arkan kids you want to hang around with… been trained to hang around with…
He turned and flung his arms around me and I caught him in a hug and held tight. “Gan, look. They love you. And I do too, so you’re set. You have people who love you right down to your littlest toe-nail, so you’ll be fine.”
“You’re right, Min. You’re right. I’m afraid they’ll try and cart me off ‘home’ even though it’s not home any more. Or onto a ship, maybe. The barokeresin has three ships now… I looked it up in the registry in the harbor.”
“That would be good.”
“But I want to be with you! I found that out when I stayed up at the University. It’s not obsession or compulsion. We found that out. You’re like my best friend and brother and Ili’s just a great kid. I want to be there to make sure you’re all right.”
He sniffed and let go of me. “I’m weeping like a leaking faucet because I’m torn. I want both. And I’m scared.” There’s the Haian training, that emotional honesty. “I want to make sure that that self-punishing streak you’ve got doesn’t foam up and drag you under like a rip-current.”
I had a brief image of being tumbled in the ocean and the dayan saving me. “You’re kind of like a dayan, Gannara. Saving the drowning.”
“Bullshen. I’m selfish as forzak hayel not wanting to lose my best friend because he’s an idjit.”
I sat down in the other chair. “Right. No selflessness there. Just like Ch’venga.” I was picking up the way he said the name.
“Ohhhh!” He was looking for a pillow to smack me with but I put up my hands.
“Gan, sorry. I’m delaying… I’ve been working on that horrid letter to Ch’venga and I just can’t do it.”
“I can help you, even if you don’t tell me any more than you already have. You haven’t been too bad, lately, waking up.”
I’m not going to tell him that I’d been having silent, smothering nightmares since I started trying to write this letter. The letter that confessed that night to Chevenga. He probably didn’t remember it, and wouldn’t blame me, but to pretend to still be his friend after that night was dishonest and, according to Zinchaer, slowing my healing down.
I still hadn’t confessed anything to Zinchaer… dancing around the edges of it, trying to circle in… and every time it was like a huge wall went up that I could not get around or past or through.
I nodded and pulled the slate towards me. Ili looked up and came and got IB from the desk. “He helped me, Ili, thanks,” Gan said.
“You’re welcome. I’m going to spread my paper on the floor to draw.”
“That’s good,” I answered.
“I’m going to draw the domoctopus!” Ili had fallen in love with the hostel’s odd little pet, named Jia Klem, meaning ‘Little Clamp’. He was like the eight-legged sea creature – which, now that I had petted him made it certainly less likely I would ever eat akopo again -- with the suckers and so forth, but was comfortable enough on land. He had skin like plush instead of furred, like the soft knap on brushed leather.
Ili trotted down the stairs to find him. He usually draped himself over the garden trellises, looking like part of the rough wood, or splotched pink if he hid in the bouganveillia. Unless he was bright green, undulating through the grass, along the ground, after the big garden snails the size of my fist, which occasionally infested the hostel’s garden. To be hugged by a domoctopus was both odd and appealing. Jia Klem spent a lot of time wrapped around Ili’s shoulder and upper arm, when we were ‘home’ from healing.
I had never seen one before, though I was told they were more common than people thought along the coast, they were so good at hiding. Apparently some sea-captains kept them as ship-pets to keep the hulls clear of barnacles and limpets and such stuff. At least Jia Klem was quiet, unlike the fluffies in the Marble Palace.
I moved one of my lists out of the way. It was the eight names of the Haians father had incarcerated behind the White Corridor.
Tajenden of Kibir -- He never did speak to me other than to tell me his name. He had gone to Niah-lur-ana to work.
Merchoser of Berit – I hoped he was over his acohol cravings and his loathing of Arkans.
Taekin of Haiuroru – He’d thanked me once, in a whisper, before I was hustled out of the city. He was was retired now, living on Kibir where he’d moved with his family.
Alchaen of Berit – He’d stayed in Arko. Recovered enough to work there. A big change from the flaccid body I had seen lying in the cell.
Kaninden of Ensera -- She’d not needed surgery. Apparently 1st Amitzas had never administered the germ of the head to her, merely a saline solution. The old man, Mahid or not, could not bring himself to injure a Haian that severely.
Megidan of Kalisen -- She’d regained her equilibrium and was working from her practice out of Haiuroru.
Piatsri of Haiuroru – He worked out of the University and though he looked a lot older than the last time I saw him, he seemed all right. He was well enough to help Gannara heal.
And Misahis. He’d gone back to Arko to work as well. He was working for Mil Torii Itzan.
I said a prayer to Sinimas and my ancestors every day—since I didn’t feel I could beseech the Gods in my own person--asking for the Haians to be kept safe and happy.
Gannara sat down to look at his shadow-mother’s letter again and I started this letter once more.
There was a piece of paper with the opening salutation on it since that was the only thing that was the same every time I tried to write this horrid letter.
I wiped that out.
I glanced up at Gannara and wiped that one out as well. Why Zinchaer wanted me to write this… I knew. I was still clinging to the idea that Chevenga, if he could not remember what I did to him at father’s behest, would still love me. I closed my eyes against the pain of losing that dream. It hurt every time I thought of it. But it wouldn’t be honest to let him live without knowing something so important. He would need to be healed of it, I was sure, and he could never be healed if he didn’t remember or was not reminded.
That was probably why. It was part of my restitution for the act and would let Chevenga begin to heal from that.
My healer here has been telling me that if I am to get to the heart of what troubles me I must deal with the worst thing I ever did.
I wiped out the last line. “Gan, should I say that I understand I was forced?”
I realize that I was forced, and should not condemn myself for it…
but I still did what I did but I find it very difficult not to.
When I was twelve years old I put the slate down and took a couple of deep breaths. The words were swimming in front of me, sparkling like the razor-glass shards in the golden chains around the bed. and you were the mind-broken slave of my father…
I had to put the slate down to go vomit. Honesty. I was going to live my life under the eyes of the Gods as honestly as I could. Be straight. Even if it hurt.
he forced me to use you sexually. I’m sorry to even write this. It makes me sick.
Gan handed me a glass of water. “You can do it Minis, it’s something your healer said was important for you and him both. I nodded.
It convinced me that I was what my father had wanted all along, another like himself—another twisted pervert to grace the Crystal Throne.
The idea of the profane and disgusting bag of guts that sired me sitting in one of the holiest places in Arko was just shocking. There was more blood sprayed before that throne in my father’s time than in the past ten generations, I was sure. I thought of what would have happened if I’d been the next to rise to that Throne and was enormously relieved that I could not. Chevenga had been the one most suited for it. His sister, though not as good was, apparently, at least sane and not bloodthirsty.
In that sense, I am very glad you have freed me of that. I was grateful for it. It made me feel better that Arko had been made safe from me and my family.
For my part in this—for what I found myself wanting out of that incident—I am truly sorry. I regret having come close enough to you, my friend, to hurt you that badly, even though it was he who was hurting you, through me.
“Gan, how can I just say sorry like this, it’s not enough.” I read him that bit.
“Because it’s true?” He had a drink of water himself. “You’re sorry for it all even though it was your stinkin’ dad’s shen. So tell him.”
My hatred for him knows no bounds at the moment. But I repeat, for my part, I am truly, abjectly sorry. You never gave me anything but good, every moment you could. He did. He gave me good every moment that he could. Even the conquest was good in the long run. Like Haian surgery. Cut to save the body from death.
I have not written you before because I clung to a child’s idea that if you did not remember this, I could still imagine you my friend. But I am convinced now that this is dishonest. I am sorry to lose that. It hurts. But I must, or live this lie, that you could still be, on most levels, the father of my spirit, after I have done this to you.
I could imagine how his eyes would go, as he realized. As he remembered. I knew his killing look even though I had really only seen it in the Mezem.
I’m afraid… I miss you already… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, forgive me, I’m sorry… I cannot imagine it possible for you not to let your despite of my father fall on me, too, now. A harsh judgment, perhaps, but just. I had to be grown up about this. I did the deed, I was responsible for the pain caused. It was absolutely necessary to own up. To try and make it right. To take the consequences.
I guessed that Zinchaer would want to talk me through the whole thing. It would be how he found out about it. And then he’d make me send it once I understood the whole thing. It made me sick.
Now you know. And I have told you. Why this no doubt mutually-painful letter is necessary, I do not understand, and I am bewildered because Haians never ask that which causes pain. Probably the pain of surgery. But I needed anaesthetic. It hurt too much. I stopped again and buried my face in my hands, was surprised to find it wet. I hadn’t realized I was weeping.
“It’s probably better than you feel, Min. Just keep going. You can do this.” Gan was up, pouring a basin of water from the pitcher. These were the old hostels where there was one tap for every few apartments, and an outside privy. On Haiu Menshir it was not hardship usually, except through the rainy storm season now and again. He splashed his own face then soaked a towel for me.
I am sorry I did not have the courage to tell you to your face. I should. I truly should. But he’d feel duty bound to turn me in and I didn’t want to die, just yet.
Ili came trotting up the stairs with Jia Klem on his head like a sticky hat, two of the long tentacles raised and waving over his eyebrows as though he were some strange creature.
“Heya, Ili, make sure he doesn’t eat your hair or poop on your head,” Gan said slyly.
Ili giggled. “Hostel master says he’s people-broken and won’t poop on me.”
“All right. I hope his suckers let your hair go when you want him off.”
“I brought him a snail as a treat so I can draw him.”
“While he’s spreading snail guts all over the floor,” Gan grinned and I managed a smile. “Charming.”
Ili snorted and proceeded to expertly coax the domoctopus off his head and onto the snail in his fist. He then set both on the floor and picked up his charcoal stick and a fresh sheet of paper, to the steady grinding noises Jia made, his beak cracking through the snail shell. I picked up my own slate and chalk.
My sincere best wishes to you in your life, and I hope my father was wrong when he told me that time would deal with you for me. The only thing I can think of what he meant is an illness of some kind. You, of all people that I know, deserve to live long.
Right now it was the best I could do and after I had read it over once again, I carefully scribed it onto the page, ready to be taken to my healer… not tomorrow, tomorrow was a rest day for Haiu Menshir. The day after.