This is a little fragment I wrote to explore Animus, one of the main characters in my novel. He’s a Psyan (psychic) and the keeper of a very important artifact. The plot and setting of this fragment is no longer canon, but it still gives a good look at two important characters.
I heard from a friend that the journey is more important than the destination. I think what he meant to say is that it doesn’t matter where you end up as long as you learn something along the way. I wish I could agree with him, but I don’t know what I’d learn here, as I lose my footing again in the desert. I didn’t pack enough food, but my body can last for about seventeen more days. However, if I don’t find a source of water, I’ll die sometime tomorrow, or at least cease to function enough to continue. I guess I’ve learned that preparation is important.
The sun overhead beats down on me. The horizon is a wavy, blurry mess of savannah trees and sand. So much sand. I don’t dare put my head up, to risk exposing my face to the hellish fire in the sky. There’s a few vultures overhead. I never really had much exposure to the simpler creatures of the world. The vultures’ sole thoughts seem to be centered on eating me once I collapse. It’s not very comforting. But I suppose it’s better than the cacophony of closed eyes, staring me down every hour of every day. Stoic faces unchanged, whether they be subduing the captives, or breeding them, or slicing open the veins of a subject. Always the same closed eyes, unmoving expressions hidden under full heads of golden hair. At least the vultures sensed me. At least they’re honest about what they want with me.
My skin has been burned for the past few days. It began peeling the day before yesterday, but the new skin under it was burned before it got the chance to shield me. The sun isn’t very forgiving here. Neither is the air; my breaths are simultaneously empty and filled with fire. I wonder if my hair will melt in the heat. I suppose it doesn’t matter now. Once I get to Kirasho I’ll get this all sorted out. I’ll get to look Ordinis in the face and show him that the destination is just as important as the journey.
The vultures are circling lower now. Their minds are so close I can walk through them. I see prey, down below, soon to fall. It trudges through sand in a pathetic gait. It’s young, too. A human of no more than ten years, and sick with exhaustion. It’s easy pickings, if the damn thing would just fall over.
Maybe I should just fall. As soon as the thought crosses my mind, I can’t help but grasp at my forearm. The bracer is still there. The other one, too. Shining just like the sun, but dotted with green and purple and ruby red, decorated by ancestors who told me it was a great honor and yet the curse of our people. I didn’t dare take them off. But if I die out here, it’s really no different. I start pulling the left one down my arm.
Those vultures have to drink, don’t they?
I stopped. The voice faded away, echoing in a way I’d never heard any sound echo. But I didn’t feel the tinge, the prick of another mind entering my own. I looked down at the golden armbands. Who are you? I thought.
We number many, now nameless. We speak and answer only to you, but we assure you, we are here to help.
My eyes winced, in a painful blink as much as confusion. Why have you never spoken before?
We were gathering the strength to speak to you; it is always the way with a new bearer. We also did not feel you were ready. Indeed you are still not ready, but you are in mortal danger.
I’ll be fine, I thought. At the same moment, I lost my footing in the loose sand, and fell. It scraped against my face and the bare, burnt skin of my arms. It felt like I was on fire. A vulture landed on the ground next to me and waddled over.
Don’t fool yourself child. We can help.
The vulture pecked at my hand. I drew it away from the sharp pain. But it was soon replaced with the soothing liquid touch of blood.
Maybe I don’t want help.
If you die out here, you’ll kill your entire ancestry, child. Do not be foolish.
I thought back to the commune. The soft patter of bare footsteps was the only thing that broke the silence, the awful silence that slit throats and bled them dry. The silence that fornicated children, and slew them too. The silence that assured me that I was to be honored by being their “mastermind.” And it was that from which I ran. But the silence of death seemed as appealing at the moment as the orchestra of life I thought I wanted.
Maybe I don’t want this to continue.
We can change this, Animus. Together. But we must be alive. Now if you just consult the vultures, I’m sure their minds are aware of the location of water. All life must drink.
I looked back at where the vulture was. Another had joined it, and they looked at me, disappointed. I should just die already, they were thinking. The thought now struck me in a different light. They expected me to collapse. No doubt the Psyans back at the commune thought the same when they realized I’d left. I glared at the vulture with a new fury. As it approached, I launched myself up to my knees and grabbed it by the throat.
Good. Now read.
I stared into its dark blue eyes, the color of the sea. I smelt fear, I tasted greed, and heard the ringing of crushed expectations as it flapped its wings uselessly, now promptly aware that the gold-haired boy wouldn’t collapse. No, he wouldn’t. He would make it.
I dove past the surface. The animal scent of fear faded into the distance, and I probed the landscape, looking for the means of survival. My consciousness wound in circles, around dying animals, spiraling, spiraling, and feasting. Finally it led me to water. The routes were ingrained into everything. The circles were but pit stops along the fixed paths of its life. So simple. The patterns were mine. I would sate my thirst soon enough.
I came back out of its eyes, my body jolting as I returned to my own senses. I smiled at the vulture, hair covering my view. I think it sensed its life coming to an end, for its flapping roused up again, more powerful than before. It had the right idea. It would not feast today. But I would.
I bit into the vulture’s neck, severing its throat with my canines. I got up and flung the limp body of tonight’s dinner over my shoulder and headed southeast, in the direction of water.