Blue Eyes Blind

“Nama! Nama!” Nine year old Keisha cries as she rushes into her home many miles outside of Rendition. Her face is panicked, her breathing heavy. It is clear something has terrified the young girl. Her little legs pumping so hard they are a blur of motion right up until she reaches her father and throws her short arms around his waist, refusing to release her grip.

“What is it little one? What is wrong?” Keisha’s father, Barak, asks his daughter. He tries to pry her from his leg but she resists, her face hidden to his gaze.

“Some of the boys found a bad thing.” Keisha admits feeling guilty for having witnessed the sight which try as she might she cannot blink from her blue eyes.

“Whatever do you mean? Keisha, tell me. I cannot help if you do not speak. Silence is not a solution. You know this, don’t you?”

“I do Nama but but… I’m scared.” The girl admits candidly, like only a child is able to.

“Of what? Nothing here will hurt you. You are safe in the village.” Barak pauses. It strikes him that perhaps his daughters’ reticence is due to her having followed the boys out of their village and into the wilds beyond. That would be reason enough for Keisha to wish to stay quiet. Whether through fear of repercussions she would suffer or those that the village boys might he cannot be sure.

“Did you leave the village?” No reply. “Keisha, answer me, this is important. Did you leave the village?” Barak makes sure to keep his tone even as he speaks.

If his daughter hasn’t kept within the village he will be more disappointed than angry for Keisha swore she would stay within their meagre homes boundaries. It isn’t safe out beyond the village for the wilds are filled with rabid beasts, poisonous insects, reptiles and birds. That is not all that lies out beyond but the children of Ferevin Village do not need to know about the cities, Rendition chiefly for it is the closest. There is nothing but misery to be found in those places. Barak, as a young impetuous youth had ventured there in hopes of making something of himself. What he found was suffering, melancholy and so he left. Ferevin is a better place, a much better place. It is devoid of many of the hardships found around the world. Barak still recalls the newsfeeds blaring catastrophe after tragedy, they were unending. Such miseries are not things he wishes upon any man, woman or especially child.

“Nooooooooooo.” Is the answer Barak is met with. His daughters’ tone is not at all convincing and so again he tries to pry her free from his leg. This attempt is successful and following the small victory he drops into a squat so that he and his daughter are on a closer to equal level with one another.

Keisha refuses to lock eyes with her father forcing him to gently raise her chin with his hand and yet still she keeps her gaze averted. Barak sighs and then says, “Come on Keish, talk to me. I can’t help if I don’t know what’s happened. I won’t be mad but you need to be honest. Did you leave the village?”

A vigorous shake of the head follows from his daughter but no words accompany the gesture. At times like this Barak wishes Pamara were here. She would know the best course of action but alas she passed during child birth. He continues to miss her and has not sought a fresh union since. His focus is his daughter, their daughter, not his life and happiness. That, he believes, can come later once Keisha is grown.

Pamara would be impressed with their daughter for she possesses every trait that made her mother the great woman that she was.

“Then you need to open up about what happened otherwise I can’t help, can I?”

Keisha considers her father’s words for a while. Her face twisting and shifting as she analyses the query issued unto her. Her conclusion is that her father, or as she calls him Nama, is right and so finally her gaze shifts from a spot somewhere on the hemp covered wooden plank floor to her father’s face. To her surprise he does not look angry or disappointed. Rather he looks concerned. A pang of guilt strikes hard in the young girls’ chest for worry fills his face. She hates it when her father worries for he has suffered too much, in her opinion, in life already having lost Keisha’s mother. The girl is aware of how her mother died and had blamed herself for the outcome until her father found out and made it explicitly clear that she was not to blame.

“W-We were down at the fishing pool Nama, me and the boys. They were looking for bugs to add to their collections when… when…” Keisha stumbles, her face turning grave as again she is struck by images of what the boys found. The images were something she had only recently managed to get out of her head, to stop fixating on and now they are back again. She hates them and wishes she did not see what she did.

“When what little one? Tell me so I might listen, so I might know what afflicts you. Without that I cannot offer…”

“…When the boys, well they stumbled across it, say it must have floated down from up river somewhere. It was tangled in reeds and stuff.” Keisha says interjecting over her father, interrupting him.

“An animal; is that what you saw Keish?”

A fresh vigorous shake of the young girls head conveys that it was not. Barak is about to ask then what did they find when she blurts, “A body. They found a body. It was…” She trails off, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Oh come here little one.” Barak pulls his daughter close to him and embraces her, offering comfort as tears begin to roll down her face while she weeps.

“It’s going to be OK, do you hear me? Nothing is going to hurt you. And you did nothing wrong. You’re such a good girl, Keisha. I love you very much, you know that right?”

The girl nods frantically sniffling as she goes. At the moment she doesn’t feel capable of saying a word. Barak doesn’t want to but feels he must ask, “What happened once they found it?”

“I-I don’t know. I ran. It was horrible Nama, it was… yucky.” Keisha struggles to find the right words and so settles on one she understands enough to believe it to be suitable for use in this situation.

“Is that because of the reeds and dirt and stuff?”

She shakes her head from side to side again. The movement isn’t as vigorous this time as it has been previously and Barak feels as though she might be calming down, the weeping has certainly subsided while the sniffling has ebbed. That’s a good sign he thinks unsure if what he is saying and doing is correct.

“There was… gore; I think one of the boys called it. It was yucky, red and like when I’ve cut one of my fingers but much worse.”

Barak freezes imagining the worst version of what his daughter may have seen. His blood runs cold and drains from his face. Just as well he pulled his daughter to him again so that she is not forced to gaze upon his reaction.

“I’m sorry little one; you shouldn’t have had to see that.” Father and daughter remain like that for a while until finally Keisha pulls back and offers, “Thank you Nama, I don’t want to go out again today, can I stay with you and watch you work?”

Barak serves as the villages’ repairman, carpenter, woodsmith.

“I’m sorry Keish, I need to go out. I have to make sure no one else stumbles across what you saw. We don’t want it spoiling our water nor scaring anyone else, do we?”

Again the girl considers her father’s words and again she concludes he is correct, issuing a shake of her head to convey as much. A smile splits his face. “You are the best child anyone could have, go play. Gran will have to watch you while I’m gone, OK?”

“Yes Nama.” A smile slides across Keisha’s face. She loves spending time with Gran, Pamara’s mother. Principally that is because Gran tells the young girl all sorts of things about her mother, which she would not know otherwise because much of it occurred before her father came on the scene. Though there is some overlap from time to time, and Keisha loves hearing stories. Most of all Keisha loves hearing the wondrous yarns her Gran spins about her own youth. They all sound fantastical and impossible. Not that Keisha cares whether they are truth or invention for the entertainment they bring is exquisite.

“Then go, Gran is out back sowing seeds in the garden.” Barak gives his daughter a shoulder tap for encouragement. It does the trick.

“Yay!” The girl cries as she races through the small wooden cabin heading for the rear door and the small patch of ‘garden’ where the household grows crops to help sustain themselves.

With his daughter out of sight and some excited voices being exchanged Barak departs. He should be working but this is important, far more than Willard’s new chairs.

Having left his cabin, Barak takes the dirt smattered wood planked path between the near identical cabins which belong to his neighbours, past the market square where stalls of fish and trinkets are being sold to the fishing pools edge. He smiles thinking of how the term Keisha insists on giving the body of water, even though it is a lake and not a pool. In a few short years she’ll have grown out of such things. That worries him for he does not know if he will be capable of communicating with a teenager. He recalls what he has been like during that time of his life. Difficult would be the nicest way of terming it he thinks.

“It’s a bright day, Barak!” Is the village specific greeting that someone delivers unto him while his eyes scan back and forth searching for anything that might indicate where a dead floating body, or the boys who may still be obsessing over it, could be.

In the seconds prior to the interruption, Barak could well imagine they have sticks in hands, poking and prodding that which they should steer clear of. Yet, he cannot blame the boys for he would have done much the same in his youth.

Regardless, at the call of his name Barak breaks from his seeking and looks up to find the welcome is from Jarin. Barak returns the call only to quickly ask the man join him.

“What is it Barak, you look fraught?” Are Jarin’s first words once he’s made his way over to stand close by clad in his usual simple bland robe.

Jarin unlike Barak, who is dressed in an outfit formed from skins and hemp, is a healer and one of the monks whose group resides within Ferevin. Fortune could not have favoured Barak more heavily he feels for whom better to help or advise him than a monk, a healer, in this matter.

“Keisha, she… the boys found a body.”

“A body?” The monk exclaims aghast. He does so in a much louder voice than he meant to and than Barak would have preferred. Thankfully, they are alone. Market day keeps much of the village busy for that is where the bulk of its inhabitants make their trades. There is no money in Ferevin. Coin is unnecessary. Everything a family might need can be bartered for through an exchange of other goods or services. Barak principally works for extra food; grain, fish and eggs chiefly. They are things he cannot supply himself for his ‘garden’ is too small to grow grain or keep chicken, plus he has not the skills to fish. He tried in his younger days. It didn’t end well. He fell into the lake. It was very embarrassing.

“Yes.” Barak says dropping his voice to little more than a whisper. His hope is that in doing so Jarin will follow suit.

“Down by the water. Keisha saw it; frightened the life out of her.”

“Poor girl.” Jarin agrees with a shake of his head. The gesture is followed up by him adding, “Do you know where?”

“No, Keisha could not tell me. But she did say they were within the confines of the village, near the fishing lake and that the body was covered in reeds and such. They must have been near the river which keeps our waters fresh.”

“Yes, you’re right. Should I get help?”

“No, I think we can manage.”

“I believe you’re right.”

And with that Barak and Jarin turn to scouring the lakes edge. They find nothing, at least nothing out of the ordinary. Plenty of fish are jumping as if offering themselves up for scoffing. It strikes Barak that their leaps may in fact be mockery, the fish aware that this pair are not fishermen and so taunting them mercilessly as a result. He puts such thoughts out of his head as he and Jarin work their way up the river which runs into the lake.

The name is a misnomer for the ‘river’ is barely waist deep and no wider than a few metres at its most swollen. Yet that is what everyone in the village calls it for stream seems offensive. Barak does not mind but knows that other have. For him there is no issue with the incorrect terming of the rushing flow along the edges of which, as it winds its way from source unknown, are copious clusters of brown and green reeds. They choke off some of the flow, forcing it down a narrow and more deliberate path.

Soon it will be time to cull some of the clusters for they are growing too thick and populous. If they are not stemmed they will stifle the current until it no longer runs. Yet, a full removal of the reeds will never be the solution either for they act as catches, nets of a form, which stop larger items of detritus making their way into the lake. On this occasion, a first it must be said, a body has been halted.

Suddenly Jarin hears some voices bounding back and forth. They sound young, overly excited, numerous and eager.

“Barak, I think we’ve found them.” The monk points and Barak follows an imaginary line from the tip of the finger outward. Soon his eyes fall upon a stooped cluster of young village boys backs. He can guess who might be a part of this crew; Kerel, Ioan and Ceceel.

Barak agrees with Jarin’s conclusion, it would be impossible not to and so issues a nod. The pair cross the distance and quickly descend upon the cluster of boys. Their bickering intensifies in both frequency and volume until suddenly there is a cry, “Elders, scatter!”

With that cry the boys, all nine of them, scurry away laughing and chanting some nonsense which holds importance only to them. Barak and Jarin exchange glances and then shrug. They care little about the fleeing boys as they are here for the body. It must be removed before it pollutes the villages’ lake.

That was the plan until Jarin laid eyes on the remains of the filth encrusted body. At the sight of it his eyes go wide and his jaw drops.

“My Gods, what have they done to this poor soul.” Are the words which burst forth from the monks’ mouth as he rushes over and drops to his knees in the damp sediment which form the banks of the ‘river.’

Barak offers no response; he cautiously approaches until he is afforded a full view of the body. Undoubtedly it is dead, so why the monk is talking otherwise he cannot comprehend until suddenly Jarin turns and orders, “Barak, we must move him. His injuries are grave but he can still be saved, the poor man.”

“He’s alive?” Barak replies shocked. He would never have guessed. Just as well you have Jarin here now, he hears himself say.

“He is but will not continue to be for much longer if we do not aid him, now please get his legs. We must get him back to the…”

“Sure, sure.” Barak cuts Jarin off.

The monk has a tendency to prattle longer than is necessary at times and if time is as constrained as has been intimated then now would be best to cut in so things might be ushered along.

With that Barak wades into the reeds, passing the burnt husk splattered with mud and other filth to the ‘boots’ of the man. He still doesn’t believe the body is alive and yet he has elected to kowtow to the healers’ expertise regarding such matters. However, the stench coming from the man, body, whatever; is horrific. It’s enough to makes his stomach churn something rotten and force him to breathe through his mouth rather than his nose to avoid the stench as much as possible.

He stoops low and grabs a hold of the boots of the body. They are heavy, like metal but not, and take several attempts to secure a suitable grip upon. This is especially true due to the presence of the mud and corruption, much of which he has wiped off during his failed attempts.

“Are you ready?” Jarin asks worried the man might not make it through this transportation so grave are his injuries.

“I am.”

“Then lift!” The monk cries alongside his attempts to haul the body out of the shallows. It half works but only in as far as the pair succeeds in wrenching the body free of the shallows.

They shuffle a little ways and then are forced to stop because both of them are losing grip upon the sections they have a hold of.

“What’re you two doing over there?” One of the villages’ fishwives calls.

“Ah… Yarah, where is your husband?” Jarin shouts back in query.

“I’m here, monk.” The fisherman replies appearing from inside the cabin he and his wife call home.

“Good. Good. We need a hand.” The monk shouts which gesturing.

“Will I suffice or…”

“As many as can help carry.” Is the swift interjecting reply that is delivered.

“Carry what?” Yarra asks curious and unable to see the body.

“That matters not for the moment wife; fetch the lads for me, will you?” Dein, the fisherman, orders as he saunters toward the monk Jarin and the woodsmith Barak.

“By Gods, what have you here?” Are the first words out the fisherman’s mouth once he reaches the pair and sets eyes upon the remains of the body.

“He was down in the river. Jarin thinks he can still be saved.”

“Saved? This man’s a goner. I’ve seen my fair share to know a lost cause. He is dead. Good thing having cleared him from the waters but what he needs now is a burial, good and proper.” Dein assures pointedly.

“No. This man lives and as my occupation demands I will tend to him until he succumbs or sustains.” The monk is blunt, defiant, in his reply.

Dein shrugs. He thinks the monk foolish but will not argue semantics over the choice he has made. That is for other men to partake in. He is a fisherman, plain and simple.

“We need a hand carrying him. He’s mighty heavy.” Barak admits.

“Aye, I imagine you do. The lads will be along in no time. Then it’ll be a doddle.”

True to his words Dein’s two mates, Ged and Hal, appear before long. In no time at all they manage to haul and heave the body back to the monks’ meagre temple and then are swiftly ushered out by Jarin’s brothers so that the severely wounded man may be tended too.

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