Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sassa Guard: Chapter 1

Mistoosha walks along a yellow stone path along the edge of a river followed closely by Para and Clan, Mistoosha's slaves.  Mistoosha wears a black toga and carries a walking stick, and his slaves wear black togas.  About ten paces behind them walks Lance Goodman, loosely dressed in a black tunic made for him by an old lady in a town they passed two days before.  Before that he trudged for days in his earthen clothing. His hands are chained to his waste.  Sweat drips from his pale face

Large leafed trees hover over both sides of the path, and their leaves are so huge that they bow over the road so it's like they are walking in a tunnel.  It is dark inside, although not so that they can't see enough to make their way. The only sound is of feet on macadam, the soft whiff and whoosh of the large leaves above, and the gentle flow of water.  Occasionally there's an opening so he can see the river, and the distant mountains and forests, although at present the beauty of Alton is hidden by dense trees.

Lance momentarily glances back over the gravel path the caravan trudged over.  "Where did the riders go?" he wonders. "Isn't it illegal for slave riders to ride alone? Mistoosha seems to pay no attention, as he continues marching on, banging his long walking stick, two long, thin yellow leaves still fresh on the top, into the gravel with each step.  Clan and Para seem to not heed this either.  "Why?  What's going on here?"

"Clan," said Para, "Did you know these trees are the history of Sassa."

"I don't know no Sassa story, let alone Alton.  I trapped in caves of Titan for twenty years, inhaling only the wisdom of dust and smoke and Grattan stone."

"What did you do in the caves?" Thought Lance, and just as he thought it, Clan said it.

"In charge of the buckets.  You have all this science up here, and we had buckets and pick axes."

"There's no science up here," said Clan.  "There's no science here."

Just then a loud SNAP comes from behind, followed by the clip-clop-clip-hop that sounded like horse shoes  patting on macadam.  He turned and that's exactly what he sees.  Closing in fast is a horse and buggy being lead by two black stallions.  Lance's instincts tell him to jump out of the way.  Yet neither of the slaves, nor Mistoosha, stop.  So, once again, lance finds himself tagging right along.

He can hear the horse and buggy closing in, galloping right along, and can feel a thump in his chest.  He bites his tongue as to brace for impact, as though tongue biting would do any good.  And just as he iss ready for impact, the clip-clop-clip-clop-clip-clop slows.  Lance turns and sees the buggy is now about ten paces behind him, cantering along at the same speed as Mistoosha. A trail of dust behind it makes it impossible to see beyond the buggy.

In the front of the buggy are two more aliens, both wearing tunics of the same color and design as the slaves Para and Clan.  The one on the right, the drivers side in Michigan, is wrinkly, and Lance thought this was the first old alien he saw since visiting with Tsatso on Alton One. His name is Zinka.  In a way, the old man looks eerily similar to Tsatso.  On the left side of the buggy is a smaller alien, small enough that Lance is sure he is a child. He is petting an animal that sets on his lap, which to Lance looks to be a cat. The boys name is Titan.

Lance wants to ask about the cat, but he's still afraid to say anything. After the incident yesterday when he witnessed a school boy beheaded by his teacher because he answered a question out of turn, Lance had no intention of speaking unless ordered to do so.  Lance figured there was a good reason Para and Clan walked so officially behind Mistoosha. So Lance tries to pretend the buggy isn't behind him, and marches along

This is how it is for what seemed to Lance several hundred hours, although in reality it's probably more like two hours.  It gave him time for thinking, and the more he thought the more questions he had: What are these trees? Why is this path here? How long is a day? What is a day? Where are we headed? Where did we come from? Who is the boy? Why is a boy riding in the middle of the woods with an old man? How did he end up a slave? Where did he get the cat from?

That last question was the question lingering on his mind at present.  The boy did not have the cat prior to venturing off on a side excursion to a village of Sassoonians.  He wasn't told, although he assumed the mission was to get food to offer to the King of Sassoon, which, by listening to the slaves talk, he figures is where Mistoosha is leading him.  And, of course, this brings upon the biggest questions of all: why? Why is he taking Lance to the king, and what will become of Lance Goodman, the speaker to aliens?

Yet, for the moment anyway, those two important questions slip to the back of his mind.  Right now he can't help but wonder why a cat is on Alton.  How did the boy get it? Better yet: how did it get on Alton.  Who brought it here? Or, is it possible cats are native to Alton and brought to earth by the Altonians.

He wants answers, and hopes the slaves start talking again so he can get some.  Yet for a long duration there is no talking, just an occasional sneeze from the boy in the buggy. Lance looks back and sees the boy's eyes are swollen shut.  He's constantly rubbing them, and Lance figures he's allergic to the cat.

"Master! Master!" says Titan.  "We must stop now!"

Mistoosha does not seem to recognize the chant.

Several moments pass.  Lance keeps peering over his shoulder at the boy.  He's having a severe allergic reaction.  Something needs to be done now.  Yet Mistoosha continues his march, apparently oblivious of the emergent needs of his child slave.

"Master!  Mastere!" says Titan, slightly louder this time. "We must stop now!"

Several moments pass again.  There is a series of sneezes, and now Lance can hear the boy wheezing.  It's a harsh croupy wheeze, and Lance recognizes it well.  He glances back, nearly tripping this time over his own feet, and sees that the boy is now leaning against the side of the buggy, so that it appears he might fall out.  His shoulders are high and his chest looks stiff.

"Mistooaha!  Mastere!" Lance says.  "I understand we are not to talk.  I understand we must respect the Sassa Guard.  But if we do not stop the boy Titan will die.  We need to stop!  Please! Please! Do it for the boy."

There is no response from Mistoosha.  His march is adamant.

"I will risk my life for the boy," says Lance, breaking the vow of silence he made when Mistoosha bought him.  "You can kill me.  You can cut off my head.  Let the boy live!"

"Enough!" shouts Mistoosha as he comes to a halt.  The slaves stop when he does.

Mistoosha shouts: "What do you propose we do for the slave boy?"

Lance says, "He's having a severe allergic reaction to the cat."

Mistoosha: "Why do you imply this? What is your proof?"

"He was fine before he had the cat."

"Then let the cat go."

Lance walked to the buggy, jumps into the cab, and helps the boy to sit up.  He grabs the cat, and tosses it to the ground, where it lands on its four paws and quickly scampers into the dark woods.

"Now let us walk," says Mistoosha, and he starts forward. The slaves follow.  The buggy starts moving even before Lance has a chance to get out, and he falls out, landing hard on his left side, nearly getting his feet tangled into the spokes of the buggies wheels. Yet he manages to roll away from the moving vehicle, and runs to his position in the caravan.

"Now you may kill me," he says.

No comments: