The Lightsby Narratorway
Terra and Gau: The Learning Lights
Terra and Gau: The Learning Lights
Chapter 4 - Discoveries
Summer turned to autumn, but it was difficult to tell. Although the catastrophe of the year earlier had moved Molbiz to the south, it was still in the planet's moderate weather belt, and so was relatively constant in terms of storms and cloud cover and whatnot. Of course there was no change in the environment to signal the coming of a new season. Any attempts that had been made to grow the vegetation were abandoned long ago and it could be years before the ground could be capable of bearing plant life. And so the only true signs of the changing of the seasons was in the mild temperature decrease, and the surprisingly accurate calendar Katarin was able to keep. That and the start of the new school year.
When Terra first made the decision to stay in Molbiz, one of the first things she felt was necessary was the continuing of the children's' education. Other than the obvious need to keep them busy while spending days in a cave, she also needed to distract them from the fact that were spending days upon days in a cave, for perhaps the rest of their lives. Therefore school was seven days a week, even Duane and Katarin would have to attend. But even then, she soon realized it would be impossible to keep all the children inside at all times, no matter how dangerous it was outside. Eventually she started allowing the children play times outside of the orphanage. She would change the hours and days in which to do this, never allowing the animals to establish a hunting pattern. She also dug out hiding holes should an attack occur. She was also extremely strict on how far they could wander, no one was allowed beyond the borders of the town. Except during the summer, when the animals seemed to just disappear for two months. Terra didn't know why and she didn't care. All that changed when she came back.
Terra and Duane had many more discussions, all far more productive than the first. They both agreed it was time the children got out of the cave. They sealed it up, after removing all the furniture and supplies. The orphanage became the school and all the children were split into small groups of two or three and put into one of the houses all of which Duane had repaired. Duane and Katarin moved into Duane's family house. Other ideas were not so easily agreed on. Terra was considering trying to open communications with the outside, but Duane thought it was too soon and too dangerous. "Besides, what would be the point?" he asked, "Most of the other towns are in as bad a shape as we are, if not worse. The only country that has survived is Figaro and that's a three month journey, one way." A compromise was made. Instead of Terra traveling abroad, she asked Gau to ask any migrating birds to send messages to the closest towns and bring back any replies. In exchange, they would be given protection from predatory birds, and so Duane built a large aviary for them. Despite himself he began to get sick of tools.
During these talks, Terra realized Duane was not the boy she'd left behind. He was now unmistakably a man, and a very capable one at that. While the intense project of rebuilding the houses had literally changed the face of the town, she blew it off as nothing more than something to keep himself busy. Eventually it occurred to her just how difficult and complex his "hobby" really was. And when they talked, they talked as equals. Duane's suggestions and arguments were intelligent and thought out. He never started an argument to start an argument, when he disagreed it was usually for a good reason. He had become an equal, just as important to the town as Terra. She was never sure how she felt about that.
During all the talks between Duane and Terra, the issue of Gau never came up. This was due partly to the fact that Duane didn't feel he needed to be talked about. Gau's nocturnal habits meant that he had little to no contact with him or the other children. He never socialized or indeed talked to anyone except Terra and only on rare occasions. Duane had all but forgot about him.
Terra on the other hand, felt he did need to be talked about, and soon. She had taken him in with the purpose of reintroducing him into society. It seemed to make sense at the time, Molbiz was a place he was familiar with and it was filled with people closer to his own age (although admittedly, the eldest child was only ten). But the events of the summer had distracted her and Gau seemed to be keeping the animals at bay. But the children had no contact with him and the younger ones eventually forgot he existed. Terra realized that she had accomplished the exact opposite of what she'd set out to do. Now she would have to fix it, but how? It occurred to her that she never thought out how she was going to get Gau to socialize with everyone. Suddenly she was forced to confront a whole slew of questions. How would the children react to more exposure to Gau? How would he react to them? What if they didn't get along? Children could be mean, how far would he go to defend himself? What if he was apprehensive or stubborn? Wait! What if he didn't want to be reintegrated with people? That was something she hadn't even considered. Gau had spent all his known life in the wild. Suddenly forcing him into this wholly different and alien situation could be extremely traumatic. Terra wasn't sure what to do. Eventually she decided she would have to have a long talk with Gau.
This was easier said than done. Terra had never before actually tried to seek him out and talk with him and it turned out there were precious few times when he was available. If Gau wasn't out in the fields doing Lord only knows what, he was sleeping, deeply. And ever since the cave was sealed up, he was no where to be found. Terra had been worried sick that day until Gau suddenly appeared and told her he found a comfortable place to sleep. She soon found out that Gau had a hole dug that lead right into the cave, that was when she truly began to think about Gau's situation. But Gau was constantly on the move and so one evening, Terra finally climbed down his hole and waited for him to wake up. She was amazed at what she found.
The entire cave had been covered in soft dirt to the point where it hid the floor completely. Terra was forced to take off her shoes, which were sinking into the earth. She looked around but couldn't make out anything very well, it was very dark. On the far side of the cave the ground seemed to get darker, like a shadow on the floor. Walking slowly towards it she smelled the strong earthy aroma of wet dirt, and she could hear water dripping. She knelt down next to the patch of wet dirt looked at it closely. There was something on top of the dirt, but it was too dark to make out. She bent her head close to the ground.
Terra shrieked, jumped up, and hit her head on the ceiling all at same time. She jumped about and rubbed her head vigorously, while Gau stood at the entrance to his cave with his head tilted to the side. He was confused as to why Terra responded to his greeting with this strange dance although he was happy she decided to pay him a surprise visit. Quickly Terra regained her composure, feeling quite embarrassed. She sighed then cleared her throat which Gau had learned meant that she had done something she thought was dumb, wanted to say something important, or wanted to sigh and clear her throat. Turned out to be all of the above.
"Gau you startled me. I thought you'd be asleep down here."
"I was, but I had to go pee."
"Oh...uh...okay. Listen Gau, I need to talk to you about something very-" Terra stopped suddenly, "What did you say?"
"I said, 'I was, but I had to go-'"
"I?" Terra asked slowly, "Did you say I?"
"Yes." Gau replied calmly but hesitantly, as if the answer was so obvious it didn't need to be questioned (which was how he felt). Terra just stared back at him and Gau became very nervous. He was seriously considering that Terra had lost her mind, or as he put it "possessed by a bad ghost". She fell down on her rear end with a solid thud and puff of dust. Gau rushed to her side. She looked at him and took a deep breath. Finally she asked, "Where, I mean, when, I mean, how? I don't understand."
She did soon enough. It seems that without anyone ever knowing, Gau kept a close, very close, eye on the town. He listened to everything he could possibly listen to, all the records they played when they played them, all the discussions they discussed when they had them, even all the children's rhymes when they rhymed them. It was how he had learned to speak when he was young, listening to the people of Molbiz whenever he felt courageous enough to venture near the town. Now that he felt no danger, he could observe at his leisure.
"We had always thought you slept during the day, and went out in the fields at night." Terra said. They had sat down Indian style across from each other in the part of the cave where the fireplace had been. It was still there, even Duane couldn't take it apart brick by brick. It now served as a ventilation shaft for the cave.
"I did not sleep from dusk to dawn Terra." Gau replied indignantly. Terra was absolutely amazed at how fluent his speech had become. There were still some slip ups that showed he wasn't perfect, he talked somewhat stiffly and concise, almost robotic, and he had to search for words in his mind once in a while. Also she noticed his voice was uneven, abrasively going from high to low pitch seemingly at random. But Gau had gone from a five-year-old level speech to adult level, in less than a few weeks.
"I began to have...uh...problems with the animals." Gau continued, and he bowed his head. "My...voice was wrong and I could not talk with them. I tried to call them, but they could not...um...under-stand me."
Terra nodded to herself, his voice was changed, and she suddenly understood why. Gau was going through puberty and while she hadn't even become aware of it, the animals were more than likely far more perceptive. Apparently they weren't very accepting to his changes.
"They began to...a-a-aban-abandon-" he had pushed his legs up to his chest and now buried his head between his knees. Terra could see he was trying desperately not to cry. He knew the word abandon; and Terra felt her a pit in her stomach as she realized what he must have been thinking about. She rushed over to him and hugged him. "Oh Gau, I'm so sorry." She whispered to him. He buried his face in her chest and wept. Then he said something, muffled and incomprehensible, something that may or may not have been "Mommy".
A second, or a minute, or an hour, or a day had passed when Terra looked up and happened to spot the wet dirt. Her eyes had become used to the dark and she could make out what was covering the wet spot of dirt. She would later wonder how she could accept what she was seeing so easily, dark was dark, whether you got used to it or not, and...it just couldn't be possible, not this soon. Terra turned her head back to Gau as the water continued to drip on the plant life that covered almost all of the wet soil.