This story begins with Topaz Bond – The Call (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
After they buried the kola nut, Abelard and Opele left the oasis behind and walked for quite some time. Opele listened with interest to the chime voice and cello voice; sometimes they interacted with each other, sometimes they addressed her directly, sometimes they made other observations. The cello voice liked to quote lyrics. When it said “The tolling on the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly spoken magic spell,” Abelard responded.
“Hey, I know that one.”
Opele stopped walking. Abelard kept on for a few steps, then noticed her pause and wheeled to face her. She stooped, picked up a handful of blue sand, and threw it in his face. “You were in my head again!”
Abelard reared up on his hind legs. This looked impossible for his hippo side to accomplish. He shook his head, trying to blow the sand from his eyes by puffing a curled lower lip. “Hey! I can’t help it, Opele! You’re totally projecting those voices!” He dropped back down.
“I’m not doing anything with them, except maybe talking back once in a while. They do their own thing.”
“Well apparently ‘they’ like to broadcast. You might want to teach ‘them’ to contain ‘themselves,’ or you’re going to find it very hard to move stealthily in Aum.”
“I heard your singing from a mile away!”
“Yeah, well, I wanted to be found.” He shook his head again and blinked his watering eyes furiously. “What’s it like, anyway?”
“What’s what like?”
“What do you think it’s like? It’s not my job to educate you.” She rattled off her stock response. “Go read a book or take a class or something. There are plenty of voice hearers out there who have wanted to share their experience. Leave me alone.”
Abelard sounded plaintive. “I don’t want to go back to Earth! Not yet.” He continued to blink.
“There’s a way to get back?”
“With practice, powerful athletes can go back and forth, and can even bring people or objects with them. Us beasts generally can’t do it without help, like from the vortex. But why would anyone want to go back to sickness, old age, and death?”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned ‘the vortex.’ What is it?”
“Could you rub my eyes???”
Opele sighed. After Abelard closed his eyelids, she pushed from the bridge of his wide nose out to the corners of his eyes and down, a few times. The deer lid and the hippo lid felt surprisingly similar to each other beneath her fingers.
When she had squeezed out most of his tears, Abelard said “Thanks” quietly, and opened his eyes.
Opele felt unprepared for the intensity of his animal gaze, and backed away.
Thank you for reading! In my next installment, Abelard shares some hearsay about the vortex.
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