Characters: Miina Awenata
Heat. All around her. Just on the verge of being oppressive, not quite smothering. She took a slow, calming breath and succeeded only in filling her lungs with the moist, steamy heat. Grandmother called it healing and cleansing, and said that it would do her much good. What she didn’t add was that it would melt strong muscles, drain away energy, and leave Miina as helpless as a mewling babe. It had already done all these, and yet she still lay naked on the woven grass mat inside the tiny hut. She imagined she could even feel her ears sweat as all over her body beads of sweat grew and pooled and ran down her back, legs, and arms, across her scalp, and down her neck. There was no escape and no relief. Had it been days? Or merely hours?
She stared wide-eyed into the long-familiar darkness. Medical science had pronounced her condition as irreversible, but she could still sense the moving forms around her, whispering prayers and offerings. This was more than just an exercise in obedience. This was trust in a tangible form. Her body was not her own any longer. She had given it up to the gnarled, brown hands of the elder women who controlled her immediate fate. She had given of herself wholly, and without question, and what their next actions would be were of little consequence. Her task was simply to be.
She gave an involuntary gasp as a cool fragrant liquid was poured over her from head to toe. Then light, stinging strokes of small, fleshy rushes worked the liquid into her skin. The lack of food and drink, the thick clouds of sage smoke and incense, and now the stimulation of her skin made her mind seek solace as it tumbled forward into the darkness. Her parched throat long since silenced, one unspoken word was keeping her from slipping into oblivion.
I’ll be waiting… a familiar voice whispered in her mind. Or was it a memory? Or merely a dream? And what was dream and what reality? What was the last thing she remembered?
The stars, she told herself, though her mind didn’t form the words. Just the memory. The stars were singing…
(C) 1999 Judy Caswell. All rights reserved.