She had been cold, always so cold since the dust had fallen. Life in her poor village had never been easy; except for the injured, sick or
elderly, everyone had a task and even the children contributed toward the benefit of the village. There were times of drought, and there was
sickness and hunger, but there was also beauty and laughter and stories told around the upward-spiraling embers of the fires of the gathering.
Sicca walked with her arms hugged around herself, eyes tearing in the slanting wind and thought about laying down and giving up. Her people had
cast her out. What did she have to live for? One foot in front of the other, direction uncertain, purpose unknown, she plodded through the night.
She stumbled and looked up the grassland to see a Chichou tree that had fallen on its side, its branches forming a rough dome, and crawled beneath
the branches, shivering. She dug into the dry leaves and pulled them over her and lay her head down, not caring anymore if she survived the
She dreamed of a time when her family was still alive and mewled softly. Chuff, her brother, carving spears, his dark eyes shining as he
methodically smoothed the grip with a curved piece of sandstone. In her dream, her family sat together, gesturing and telling stories under the
sewed-skin overhang of their hut. Her mother grinding grains they had collected. That morning, a treasure was found – a clutch of eggs, a rare
treat and their family celebrated their fortune.
Sicca awoke to the flickering slant of sunlight through the branches and for a moment looked for her mother, almost smelling the cooking fires.
She was alone. That was probably not going to change. She remembered a few villagers that had been cast out when she was young. They had not
survived on their own.
Sicca walked and slid down the drainage and found a slender-flowing stream and knelt to drink. She saw her reflection and recoiled. She had once
been beautiful and now she was disfigured….. no……. she was hideous. She sat on the bank of the stream and cried for herself and cried for all
her kin who had died in the plague.
It had started five cycles of the moon ago. At first, the village was filled with wonder when the red dust flowed into the village. Children
played in it, and the elders of the village pronounced it a blessing from the Creator. They convened a gathering and danced to the glory and gift
of the Creator, because the dust made them feel alive, and for a few days, their bodies thrummed with the changes taking place, and they rejoiced.
The dust drifted into the village, and travellers from afar said the dust was everywhere. It couldn’t be avoided, and at first, nobody tried to
avoid it. It was even mixed with animal grease to paint the bodies of the performers.
Sicca’s brother, Chuff was one of the first to get the fever. He grew weak, and coughed and his hair fell out all over his body. The healer
chanted over him, but Chuff died toward the end of the cycle, his almost hairless body withering and wracked with spasms. Then there were more, and
suddenly everyone who even sneezed was shunned, the village fearful of the wrath of the Creator, and they prayed and begged for salvation.
Within two cycles of the moon, half of the village was dead, and the elders who had survived decided to cast out all the sick, in order to save the
village. They sacrificed all the newborn children to appease the Creator. Nothing worked. Sicca’s parents died and soon afterward her
family’s belongings and hut were burned. Sicca survived the ravages of the fever, but she had lost most of her hair; the villagers shunned her –
even the children – and soon afterward the elders cast her out.
As a child, the sun was her friend, and she remembered basking by the oolum pool in its warmth. Now, to her horror, she found that the sun burned
her skin and made her feel the pain of the fever again. What had she done to deserve the Creator’s wrath? She had woven the wreaths of bic’nu
flowers for the elders as her mother had taught her. She had lay with her head on the ground to pray. She had washed herself in the stream often
and helped those who were sick or injured. She had once been told by Pichu the elder that she would one day be a great healer, and he had allowed
her to accompany him on several travels as he gathered herbs and told her how to prepare them, and what they did. She was so proud when Pichu
presented her with the pouch of herbs, inscribed with the symbols of the elders. Sicca fingered the drawstring of the pouch; with her father’s
bone-handled knife, the pouch was the only symbol of the village she still possessed.
Sicca couldn’t remember her feet ever being cold. Her skin burned, and yet she was cold, how could that be? The Creator was cruel, and she
wished it would just take her. Perhaps the elder were right and someday she would reunite with her kin. She hoped it was so. She began
travelling mostly at night, and her feet bled from the sharp stones she couldn’t see. Sicca didn’t know where she was going, she only knew that
she was drawn toward the north, into the cold and away from the village.
Sicca cut and shaped a spear, sometimes using it as a walking stick. She began walking in the early mornings, and built a small shelter from the
sun each day which she slept in until the sun was nearly down. She was able to kill small animals and fish and gathered edible plants and ………
it was enough. For now. Sicca’s skin browned, and the sun didn’t hurt as much.
One day she found a dead tiger. It reeked of rot and flies swarmed around it, but she cut its hide and scraped the flesh from it. She worked the
skin against a stick sunk into the ground, and eventually the skin was flexible enough for her to drape it around her, and she was warmer. She kept
the enormous teeth; she knew they could be ground into a poultice to heal boils. She wished she could make a fire, but that skill was a mystery to
Sicca. She knew it was a sin, but she had tried once to watch the firemaking, peeking from between ba’ttam branches. Fire was a gift from the
Creator, and only the male elders were allowed to wield it.
She stayed in a sheltered valley with jutting vertical stones and a creek with a pool for nearly six cycles of the moon. Fish were abundant in the
pool, and misra shoots grew on its banks. She was stronger, but very alone, and at night she crooned with the animals as they sang their moon
songs. She made a pad for when the moon called her bleeding and she cut long strips of hide and wrapped them around her feet.
edit on 4/9/14 by argentus because: forgot the 'pan' bit