I wasn’t really ready for #FridayFlash this week. It snuck up on me as I’ve been neck deep in trying to finish this novel.  At any rate, here it is , another novel excerpt. Hope you enjoy it.

Symbiosis

by Jason Warden

Sartin wasn’t surprised the door opened as soon as he pushed upon it. He’d studied, watched and learned the customs of the men, and they rarely moved away from commonly held practices. The doors were open because even before the sickness, they had bigger worries, more pressing needs, than that of privacy. The act would have been seen as one of secrecy, planning, guile, all of which would have brought suspicion even if unwarranted.

He didn’t throw the door open, but neither did he slink in; he simply opened the door and walked inside. A man lay prone on the floor, his face a map of pain and madness. A woman sat at his side crying. Tears ran down her face, and as she brought her hands up to wipe them away both Sartin and Isia saw the sores on her hands, she was also sick, but the man was much further along.

Gently Sartin put his hand on the woman’s shoulder and knelt. He was close enough to smell the man’s stink, but did not show the slightest unease. Instead, he looked at the woman. Mild surprise crossed her face at his appearance, she had not seen nor heard him come in, yet she was comforted by the calmness of his eyes.

“Woman, your man is beyond the help of you or your god, only misery remains, would you have me take that from him?”

She was shaking her head, but Sartin could see in her eyes she just wanted it to be over, all of it, she was through fighting.

“Sartin, look.”

Isia was pointing to a small bundle of rags in the corner, within them the unmistakable shape of a baby. Sartin shuddered at the unfairness of it. The baby’s was no more than a few months old, and the skin had gone black. It must have been bundled there for weeks, probably only hidden from view when those in charge came to take the dead to the pyre. Sartin knew then this woman intended to die, in the same way, taking her with them would only be a mistake, she could never live with the memories.

He looked back at her.

“Mother, I think you know it is over for him… and for you as well.”

He grasped her hand and held it up for her to see. Quickly, she pulled it away and covered it with her other. It was also covered in sores.

“I’m sorry, tis a hard thing I know. Let us end it for you, you will feel no pain, and soon you will be back with your man and your child.”

She cocked her head slightly as if trying to understand what it was he wanted. She started to speak, but Sartin answered her question before she could give voice to it.

“We are what we are. Only the two of us remain. Mother created us long ago to end suffering among you. We are no product of your god, but made from the woman’s words.  We come now to help you if you will allow it. Your way will only lead to the destruction of your mind and body. We can end the suffering of both, and if your god exists, you will once again be united.”

He had been looking deep into her eyes, not trying to trick her, but rather to talk past her fear to the rational being hiding in the recesses of her mind. It was a skill Mother taught early on in their existence, a trait that they would pass on to others. Sartin hadn’t been the best of them, but with their numbers only at two he was the more experienced, and so it fell to him.

The woman was still shaking her head and Sartin felt his stomach knot in disappointment with this woman. Her stupidity and ignorance blinded her from seeing the obvious thing headed toward her. Sartin’s hunger was reaching into the pit of his existence, never before had they taken such a chance as they had when he boldly opened the door and walked inside, but never before had they been so long without sustenance. It had been nearly a week since they took the man who had fallen on the roadside, breaking his leg and leaving him nothing more than a potential victim in the process. He wouldn’t have survived the night in the cold so Sartin and Isia had taken him, and ended his suffering with little protest.

Sartin looked up as the man reached his sweat-covered arm out for his wife. The woman looked at him as he touched her arm. She recoiled a little, but then placed both of her hands in his and lowered her head to his breast. She cried, her back hitching up and down as the sobs racked her.

“Soloro, listen to him,” The man spoke in such a low voice, Sartin, even with his superior sense, could barely hear. “He speaks truth, he may not believe it, but….Got has sent them, I cannot go on, and do not want you to see the agony I feel now. Our god is mighty and just. Let us go see him, and Oroceti.”

The woman cried harder, and it was many long minutes before she was able to lift her head from her husband. She looked at him with pleading eyes, but his talking was done, he only nodded at her. She turned to Sartin, saw the compassion and truth in his eyes and nodded to him.

“I will follow my man’s wishes, and hope you are what you claim. No pain?”

“Mother, our ways are gentle, you will feel only a pinch, much less than you will if we leave without serving you.”

With that, Isia, unable to wait any longer, gently knelt behind the woman and lowered his head to hers. He spoke softly into her ear a prayer of thanks to the woman who had created them for this purpose, and fed. The woman did not struggle; she sat, and embraced Isia and the hand of her man until the heart within beat no more. As she slumped over the man’s eyes turned to Sartin who had stood and was looking down upon him. Sartin could see he was unsure of his choice, and he too would need some soothing. Sartin lowered himself to the man and spoke gently, but firmly to the man. When this was done, he lifted his head and looked into the man’s eyes once more. The man nodded, and as Isia had done before him, Sartin fed.

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