31 August 2012
The hovertrucks swept over the area around the Organarium and burned all the green life. They did this periodically to make sure that anyone viewing the terrain outside the dome would see only a wasteland in which nothing could grow. But life is persistent and it popped up repeatedly. When the flame guns hit them the tetra trees exploded into flame and burned to ash. The conical grasses burst into small bright explosions and did likewise. The burners patrolled and burned on a set schedule so there was always some new growth for them to cancel, always a budget for their work. They were told that these plants were poisonous, useless weeds. If some of them knew better they said nothing. Not long after Jihi’s departure from the area the flame trucks came and burned the tetra tree in which she had taken refuge.
She saw this happening when she turned to look back from the other side of the bridge. She had crossed the deep catatract under cover of darkness the previous night, and witnessed the burning from a clifftop on the other side. Like Holden she had learned to suck oxygen from the conical grasses and from the tender nubambu shoots. There was also a species of conifer that enclosed its trunk in a tent of boughs fused by sticky resin. On the inside the branches grew like the rungs of a tapering spiral stair, rungs coated in rubbery fungus that consumed the tree’s oxygen and fed it with carbon dioxide. At the top a pair of rune hawks had their nest but they did not seem to mind her tenancy. She cut a door in the boughs that enclosed the base and dug a pit outside the door in which she positioned a sharpened nubambu stake, supported by rocks and masked by brush to serve as a deadly pit trap.
A few days later she heard a horrendous squealing noise and discovered that a large canine had fallen on her stake, leaping over the pit she found a large rock and flung it hard at the animal’s head, stunning it into silence. Then she took another nubambu spear and made sure it was dead. The process exhausted her but now she had to deal with the corpse. It would be nice, she thought, to have a lighter but all she had was a knife. She gathered some dry wood, shaved it into tinder and began to strike them with the blunt side of her knife until she found one that was hard enough to make a spark. After hours of work she discovered the best kind of stone and the best way to strike it (against a sharp edge) to get sparks and finally her little heap of shavings burst into flame and the dry cones of oxygrass beneath exploded but burned down qickly to ash. Finally she discovered that the best way to keep it going was to make a small firepit inside the tent pine because there was enough oxygen in there to keep it going. The smoke however was offensive to the runehawks who screamed as they departed, leaving a convenient smoke hole. Then she hauled the dead wolf out of the pit trap and started to carve and roast.
After her hunger was sated she wiped the fat from her mouth with the back of her hand and considered what to do with the rest of the meat. She decided to bury it at some distance from her tent pine and carried the head and pelt up to the smoke hole where she hung it over the top of the tree to dry. She was thirsty now but it was too dark to go to the spring. She lay back on her bed of moss and realized that she needed to make some kind of container so that she could keep water in the tent tree. In her minds eye she began to see various kinds of watertight containers. The one’s in the Organarium had been plastic, steel or glass but those substances were not available here. In this strange breathing tree, dark now except for the shapes that swirled in her mind as she fell asleep.