Hey everyone! For week 4, there's no prompt, but there is a chapter for you to enjoy anyway.
“Kohen? Is that your name?”
“Good. Kohen, do you know where you are?”
I licked my lips, wishing for more of that fluid.
“Are you still thirsty?”
He walked over to a spot on the wall. A hum, a flash of light, and another cup appeared. He stretched out his arm, not getting too close. I touched the cup, and he settled it into my hand without our fingers brushing.
Relief swamped me along with a tiny bit of regret. The fluid was cool, and I jerked, nearly spilling it.
“Careful, careful.” Captain’s warm hands cupped mine, steadying the cup. My heart started to pound in my chest, and I froze. Quick as a flash, I looked at his face and then away. I focused on the cup and took a drink. Captain didn’t say anything else as I finished the cup. I snuck another look when he took it from me.
He was pale but his eyes and hair were the same warm color. Brown? Like dirt. Or wood. I remembered them, sort of. Clods I broke with my feet. Big plumes racing across the fields on the backs of strong breezes.
I hadn’t felt the movement of air on my body in so long. I looked down, unable to believe the suit was gone. I ghosted one hand over my arm, but I didn’t touch. Couldn’t touch.
“Kohen? I need to ask you some questions.”
I stiffened. Tests. They’d ask questions, endless questions. Zap me all over with the suit if I got it wrong. My breath hitched in my throat, and the fluid I’d just swallowed came back up. Sickly sweet and bitter bile burned my throat. I vomited everywhere.
Stomach heaving, I curled onto my side. Hot tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes, dripping down my face.
“Okay, no questions. Just calm down, Kohen.” Captain put his hand on my shoulder, and that was too much.
I bolted from the bed, falling onto the ground and then scrambling to my feet. There were people all around, and the space was big, too big. I went from ice cold to hot in a flash.
Aparoe hurried over. “Hey, it’s okay.”
But it wasn’t. It wasn’t okay.
I ran, dodging around the bed, and Captain, and the other people in the room with their arms spread wide.
The door opened when I neared it, and I took it. I looked around wildly, but they were coming for me. I had to escape. Stumbling, banging into the walls from side to side like an unstable livestock after a tremor, I went as fast as I could. Doors stayed shut, and I banged at the panels beside them, but none opened.
My whole body hurt, but I was used to that. The corridor turned, and I darted around it, running smack into something hard. I landed on my butt, and stared up, mouth open.
It was a… I didn’t know what he was, but somehow I knew it was a he. He was tall. Wide. Horns spiraled out of his head. He had on a green and white robe. A blue light flashed, and my heart calmed, my breathing slowed, and the fear faded.
“That’s better.” He crouched down, and I curled up, hugging my knees. “My name is Lakshou. What’s yours?”
“Did you hurt yourself when you fell, Kohen?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t hurt. Just cold now.
“Do you need help?”
I nodded. The captain wanted to ask questions. They were all looking for me. I was too much.
“Peace can always be found in the temple to those who seek it. It’s just through here.” Lakshou touched the wall and a door I hadn’t noticed before opened. “When you’re ready,” he said.
He waited while I studied him and the door. It was dim in the room, and when I rolled onto my knees and inched closer, I could smell something light and sweet. The tremors wracking my muscles eased, and I made it to my feet. Glancing at Lakshou, I edged past him and into the room.
“Good lad.” Lakshou entered behind me and the door slid shut. The room, temple he’d called it, was small. A small blaze burned in a round jar, and smoke curled up and reached thin tendrils through the room. Large cushions dotted around the room. They looked so soft.
I leaned down and stroked one. My hand sank in to the cushion, and the covering was smooth and warm.
“You can lie down, if you like. Rest. No one will harm you here.”
It was less a matter of believing him, and more that I felt like I was about to collapse anyway. Exhaustion dragged at me, and the pain in my arms and legs was making my muscles crawl. Still, the fear I expected to return didn’t, and I closed my eyes without worrying that I’d wake back up in that suit, in my cell… or worse.
I woke slowly. It always hurt, staying too still for too long, but moving brought its own special agony. This time was different. The room was dim but colorful, and a lovely scent filled my nostrils. I took a deep breath, and my cheek slid on something smooth and soft.
Nothing in my cell was smooth and soft.
Slowly, the memories came back to me. I flicked my eyes open, and the being I’d run into was still in the tiny room with me. The lights flickered on his horns.
“Welcome back, little one. I hope you rested well,” Lakshou said.
I nodded. I had slept without nightmares, and the panic that had swamped me was missing.
“Good. Captain knows you’re here.” I darted a look at the door, but it was closed. “But you don’t have to leave until you’re ready.”
“Of course not. You’re not a prisoner. I would like to teach you some meditation techniques though.”
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