Continuation of the fourteenth carousel and fed by real life.
The man in the back seat was more of a youth than a man. The mesh cloth taped across his mouth could not conceal the purity of his countenance. The girl with the argyle socks did as the man with the rifle commanded and refrained from talking about the youth in the back seat.
Except to remark that he looked like he couldn’t breathe, to which the man with the rifle assured plenty of oxygen was reaching the youth’s lungs and the appropriate amount of carbon dioxide was being released through the nose.
“I don’t mean that kind of breathing,” the girl with the argyle socks noted.
“What other kind of breathing is there?”
The girl with the argyle socks explained that breathing to keep the human body functioning was basic, primitive — there was another type of expanding and contracting of tissue that involved the mind, whereby the cells acquire sustenance and energy that the eating of food doesn’t always provide.
“And you’re telling me this because…” the man with the rifle quipped as he put his foot farther down on the gas pedal, never taking his eyes off of the road.
“You need him alive and coherent when you hand him off to whomever.”
The girl with the argyle socks started to reply but stopped to study fully the man with the rifle. She had been close enough to him in the past to know he smelled like honey suckle and that a three inch scar ran down the back of his right ear. He was at least three heads taller than she and had traveled far enough around the left hemisphere after that day of destruction eighty-six years ago to have seen or even met members of her tribe.
But she had yet to take in the man with the rifle’s features and mannerisms. His movements were fluid yet steady. His reflexes were faster than any human that the girl with the argyle socks had seen before firsthand. His aquamarine eyes conveyed integrity wrapped in disillusionment and exhaustion. She did not know why he was ferrying these human males through the forests and deserts between the city and the ruins of the old temples, but she could see that he was getting close to the end of his journey and he very well could disintegrate when it was finished.
The girl with the argyle socks had seen it happen to other humans. They spend their entire lives on one mission and when it is done, they no longer know what to do with themselves. She didn’t want to see the man with the rifle fade into the wind. If she could preserve his heart, one eye, and his tongue, she could recreate him in another body, but she liked the one he was currently inhabiting.
“Well?” the man with the rifle glanced in her direction. “What’s your point?”
“He comes from a line of storytellers,” the girl with the argyle socks started to explain. “He needs to tell stories and listen to stories in order to survive. The red mark on his neck that resembles a rectangle means that he hasn’t been hearing enough of them. He’ll be dead before we reach wherever if you don’t let me tell him a story.”
The man with the rifle pulled over but kept the truck running. He turned to the youth, who indeed looked about as close to death as anyone who hasn’t had any food to eat. He then focused his gaze on the girl with argyle socks.
“Okay, let’s have a story, but you don’t look at him. Look at me. Look only at me.”
The girl with the argyle socks took a deep breath, clasped her hands together, and lifted her eyes to meet his. She cleared her throat and muttered that if she couldn’t look at the youth, the only way the recitation would work is if the man with the rifle let her hold his hands.
“There are so many rules it’s hard to keep track but I know this much. You technically requested the story, which makes you the point of triangulation.”
The man with the rifle uncrossed his arms and rested his hands on his jacket, which was bundled up between him and the the girl with the argyle socks. She took his hands with palms facing down, placed her hands on top of his and began.
“I will tell you tales of tree spirits and the prankster satyrs who drink too much wine and think they are centaurs. I will sing ballads of the days before the oceans knew how to keep secrets. I will ensnare the cowardly demon that claws at the backs of your knees.”
The man with the rifle shifted his sight every few minutes over to the youth to see if the words coming out of the girl with the argyle socks’ mouth were making a difference. He could not discern any change, but then the girl with the argyle socks started to glow a dull blue, and suddenly he couldn’t see anything but blackness.