Chapter 31: Follow that Butterfly

“Remove the bag from your head,” the voice said.

“I can’t,” Sangor answered, “my hands are tied behind my back.”

“No, they aren’t,” the voice said. “Try to place your hands on your head.” Sangor moved his hands apart from behind his back slowly, achingly, and lifted them up tentatively to the bag on his head. He grabbed the material of the bag in both fists and slowly lifted the bag over his mouth, his nose, his eyes, and then up entirely. He lowered his arms slowly in front of him, as though the bag weighed a great deal. His fingers released the bag and it fell lightly to the ground. He looked around himself and saw no one, nothing but thick trees, leaves whispering gently in the breeze, grasses undulating softly, and bright flowers, blue, red, and yellow. Sangor looked up and saw a patch of cobalt blue sky between the tall tree tops. He spun around but saw no one, nothing but the trees, the grasses, and the flowers.

A pale yellow butterfly flitted past Sangor. He heard the gentle lapping of water between the trees. “You stink,” the voice said gently. “Go down to the creek, remove your soiled clothes, and wash yourself thoroughly. After you have done so, you will find clean clothes hanging on the tree by the creek. Put them on and where you saw the butterfly.”

Sangor walked slowly, suspiciously, between the trees, down the sloping path to the creek. He kneeled down with both hands planted in the soft mud of the creek bank and drank thirstily from the clear cold water flowing by his hands. He drank long the sweet water for all the days he’d gone without drinking. Sangor removed his clothes that stank from urine and feces and treaded carefully into the cold stream, up to his waist. He submerged himself in the water and opened his eyes underwater. There were only smoothed rocks and pebbles, swaying grasses, and silvery fish darting past. He stood up and pushed his wet hair back behind his ears. Sangor looked around but did not see anybody watching him. He bent down and picked up a porous grey stone. He scrubbed himself hard with it to remove the filth and excrement that had accumulated on his skin. Sangor scooped up dripping handfuls of fresh water and splashed it on his face, his neck, under his armpits, and on his private parts. He looked around again but saw nobody.

He noticed some white clothes; it looked like a shirt and pair of pants hanging from a branch of a tree on the bank of the creek. He walked toward the bank, picking his way among the smooth underwater pebbles.

Once again, he stopped and looked around but saw nobody. Sangor slipped the white trousers over his wet legs, pulled them up, and closed the waist snap. He reached for the white shirt and pulled it over his head and arms. The clothes were damp from his bathing, but the dampness soon evaporated in the dappled sunlight and breeze.

He walked back up the sloping path to the tree line and peeked out to see whether anyone was there. There was no one.

Sangor saw a table set with a diamond shaped cloth. There were bowls of fruit, loaves of bread, and a carafe of clear liquid, possibly water. There were two chairs beside the table, both empty. Sangor sat down in one of the chairs and tore into the bread and fruit, stuffing it into his mouth until he choked. He swallowed big gulps of water and stuffed more fruit and bread into his mouth. The urge to vomit hit him. He spun around and heaved his stomach contents into the bushes. Sangor had a bitter taste in his mouth and drank some more water to wash it away. He felt better now and he ate more slowly than before.

He looked up and noticed Lem sitting in the chair opposite him for the first time. Of course Sangor did not know it was Lem.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

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