Straight Off the Surface


I’ve started a project where every week, my fiancee will give me four random words, and I spend the week writing 500 words using those words. I’m posting the unedited version, for your pleasure or revulsion.


Mikabwe sat at the cave entrance, his legs dangling limply over the edge. Frothy cobalt waves crashed hard against the crumbling rocks below and the drifting spray caught on his toes, rinsing away the blood drop by tiny drop. The water was warm, heated by the midday sun, and would likely remain warm through the coming night. A small blessing for Mikaela. If it were earlier in the year, the shock of the cold ocean waters could severely decrease her chances of survival, having always lived inside the heat and humidity of the jungle caves. The heat was second hand, funnelled down from the land around the Odroenir, but still sufficiently warm enough to give the innermost tunnels a thick, tropical feel.

Somewhere down below the other Makotta called to each other, negotiating the crumbling cliff face as they carried Mikaela’s limp body to the shore below. Their clicks and throat-sounds became a mental map for Mikabwe; there was only a small patch of sand safe from the tumbling chunks of limestone, and set upon it was the medicine hut, a small but weather-hardy shelter full of healing herbs and carefully sharpened tools. Mikaela would be examined, cleaned, and sewn up, left to bathe in the small ocean dam until she either woke or died. There wouldn’t be enough room for anyone other than her and the healer woman. One of the carriers warned that they did not have much time left before the sun set, and that nightfall would bring the cold and the dark, leaving them to the tides. He wanted to leave Mikaela in a nearby abandoned cave and return in the morning.

Mikabwe knew she didn’t have until morning.

Her blood was still beneath his fingernails. Still in the creases of his hands, still up the length of his arms. It gathered in the flesh around his spines, browning and tacky, beginning to tighten as it dried. The smell of it almost overpowered the smell of the limestone around him. Her wounds had been great and so much blood had been lost. The sight of her pale yellow rib bones still lingered in Mikabwe’s mind, torturing him, like her whimpering. The way she recited the songs of the Makottana, the gods Mikabwe believed so completely had abandoned them, the way the songs became a low growling chant. It chilled him to the bone. She chilled him to the bone.

Somewhere behind him they had staked the priest to a patch of dry stone, close to the cave mouth so the carrion hawks would easily find his body. The Bone Mother had cut off and burned the man’s face, ensuring that his family would be unable to recognise him in the afterlife. It had left his head looking like a chunk of meat, daffodil-yellow fat hanging like old custard to tight bloody muscles and shiny bone. Mikabwe’s stomach had turned as the skin burned on the fire, but he watched, he watched with cold rage and quiet hatred while he did his best to stem Mikaela’s bleeding.



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