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We Can Survive (part 1)
The autumn leaves crunched under the pressure of Shalom’s feet. She took a deep breath, sucking in the crisp afternoon air like a vacuum. Her white dress swished around her as if it had a will of its own. The red and orange floor continued its rhythmic beat as Shalom trudged on.
She paused at the base of a towering oak tree and estimated it was roughly six or seven feet tall. She took a step closer, throwing her head back to get the full advantage of its height. Her mouth dropped open, her estimation was a little under size.
A little? She thought. A mile under size would be more realistic. But her now attention was drawn to the tree itself. Not for the size but for something more.
It was calling her.
“Shalom?!” called her sister, Shanay. But still she did not move.
“Shalom. If I find you playing in the dirt again–” she stopped dead in her tracks.
Shalom was floating.
“Jess, get the flour.” Ordered the cook, “Simon, Simon! Stop playing with that box of yours and go help Intom with the herbs!” The cook’s face was red with screaming. Simon looked up from his puzzle, his short blonde-brown hair bobbed up and down with the sudden jolt of the head.
“Yes ma’am.” Simon bowed his head and rushed out the door, bending to protect it from the low frame. He halted briefly to stow away his ‘box’. He quickly glanced at it, to make sure it wouldn’t fall off the shelf. It was very much a box but it had four small squares on each face. They were each different colours but if you twisted them right you could get all the same colour on the one face. It was tricky but Simon had done it before, if only he could do it again.
He stepped out into the fresh afternoon air, breathed deep, and jogged over to where Intom was working. He was a small kid; frail at that, but was good in the gardens.
“Hey, Intom!” he called, “Need help?”
“Sure!” Intom beckoned him over. “Mrs. Crank told you to help me, right?” Mrs. Crank was their nickname for the cook.
“How’d you know?” Simon bent down and began plucking some Coriandrum Sativum. The evergreen plant resisted his pull at first but eventually gave way. The thick roots would go great with their supper soup with the leaves to top off the pasta.
“So… why are you here?” Intom was down next to him, picking some other plant.
“Well, you see I wa–” Simon didn’t ever get to finished his sentence, for at that very moment Princess Shanay burst out of the forest surrounding the compound, her eyes wide with fear. Simon and Intom jumped to their feet in attention and ran to her aid.
Shanay stumbled and fell on the soft grass. Simon, the faster of the two reached her first.
“Are you okay, highness?” He lifted her up and steadied her by the arm.
“Shalom, she-she’s...” Shanay couldn’t get anything out before shaking and crying once more.
“Intom!” Simon shouted over his shoulder, “Get the nurse! And call for the guards! Princess Shalom is still somewhere in there!” He tilted his head in the direction of the forest. Intom needed no more commands; he dashed off to find help.
Simon scanned the landscape. The castle was only ten or so meters away, too far. The kitchen was closer, but no, the Princess would not go in the kitchen.
Then he spotted something, a garden bench. It was no more than a few feet away. Slowly he walked the sobbing Princess over to the bench.
“Sit down, Princess.” He instructed. He waited ‘till her crying had reduced to an occasional sniff.
“Princess,” he asked “could you tell me what happened?” She bobbed her head in reply and wiped her eyes.
“It started this morning…”
…Shalom laughed and screamed as her father, the King, charged after her.
“Stop it! Stop it, papa!” She dashed out of the bedroom and into the hall. Her mother was standing there with Shanay, talking to a maid.
“Mama!” she cried as she ran for safety in the folds of her skirt. The maid hid a smile as Shalom dived for cover.
“Honey,” the Queen placed her hands on her hips and faced her husband, “what have you done now?”
“I was just chasing her.” He replied innocently.
“Was not!” challenged Shalom with a giddy grin; she had now emerged from behind her mother. “You were tickling me!”
“Well yes,” smiled the King, “but when I caught you, I had to do something…” Shalom stormed out into full view and crossed her arms. Her face was all scrunched up in a frown, a cute one at that.
“Now look,” said the Queen, “you’ve made her mad.” She copied Shalom’s posture, face and all. Her larger than normal belly added to the effect. With nine months under way, the child was due soon.
Shalom looked up at her mother and her frown deepened.
“But you’re not mad. I’m the one mad.” She scratched her head in confusion. Mother laughed, her voice sounded like bells. The King joined in, bellowing like a tuba. Shalom stomped her foot in frustration.
“Why are you laughing!?” This only made everyone laugh harder. It was then that Shanay choose to come in.
“Shalom, would you like to go out into the garden?” At this Shalom’s face lit up. She loved playing in the garden. She spun around and hugged Shanay, her anger forgotten.
“Let’s go!” She bounced on her toes, egger to enter her favourite playground.
“Father?” Shanay looked to the King for access to the gardens. Shalom turned and did her puppy eyes. Please, they said.
“Of course.” He waved his hand away. Shalom shot down the hall like a bullet.
“Thank you father!” called Shanay over her shoulder as the desperately tried to catch up with her younger sister.
Shalom giggled as a small white butterfly landed on her head. She slowly reached up to catch it but missed. With a flutter of its wings the butterfly was off. Shalom raced after it calling, “Come back!” But it kept on fluttering, closer, and closer to the forest.
Shalom gleefully jogged behind, spinning in circles as she traced the butterfly’s tracks. Shanay looked on, admiring her sister. She was so cute and innocent. Not a care in the world.
Little did she know that it was all about to change; if only she had noticed the danger before it happened.
Shalom went in the forest…
… and then I found her, floating.” Finished Shanay, “It was horrible!” She burst into tears once more. Simon reached over and patted her on the shoulder. He couldn’t think of anything else to do. Princess Shanay was only a few years his junior so it shouldn’t be that hard to think of something, or so he thought.
He stumbled for words, trying to find the right way to comfort her. He was blank. It was the following sound that saved him from the idealess moment.
The thudding of footsteps as Intom drew near, followed by the guards and a nurse. The nurse ran straight for Shanay while the guards jogged off towards the forest. The nurse helped Shanay stand and began walking her back to the castle. Then out of the blue there was a question, “Shanay, why are you sad?” The small voice sounded like an echo. Every second word was repeated in as ghostly way.
Shanay spun around, she recognized that voice, overlapped or not. There standing at the edge to the forest was Shalom; the bewildered guards took another step back to allowing Shanay to run for her sister.
But something was wrong. Shalom’s skin wasn’t the same tan it used to be, it was flickering. Black, tan, black, tan. Shanay stopped in front of her sister.
“Shalom, are you alright?” She took a pace backward. “What happened in there?”
“Look.” Shalom stepped forward and pull an orange leaf out of her pocket. But it was not the leaf she wanted to show, it was what was in the leaf. She gently flipped back the folded edges to reveal a little white creature within. For a moment, Shanay thought it was the butterfly, but it could not have been. This small creature was scaly like a fish. Its small head was curled up against its stomach with its white wings folded at the back. It looked very much like a lizard with bat wings.
“Shalom,” she asked, “what is that?”
“Don’t you know?” she replied, “It’s my Dragon.”
“Dragon?” repeated Shanay, still not believing her ears. Shalom had a Dragon? When did a Dragon come into her possession, Dragon as in capital ‘D’? What about the floating she saw?
“But I saw you floating?” asked Shanay.
“Oh.” Shalom cocked her head as if trying to remember something. “But I thought you knew.
I’m an Air Dweller.”