Polaris Skies: Ch 21

Polaris Skies: Legend of the Bai Book 3 by Chapel Orahamm, Mobile home in snow with green glow against storm clouds

TW: abuse

He had been fighting off the pain as best he could. It was about the witching hour when he succumbed to it. Laying still was the best way; curling up, movement, it all tingled, sending saw blades of electricity through his system. God, this power mark is going to kill me. He told himself, gripping the angry swirl on his skin where blistering heat emanated like a fever. Sweat plastered his hair to his head, and the carpet moistened with it where he lay.

Sun Hee had subconsciously moved away from the heat in her sleep, unaware. It was only when she exited her dreams that she woke to Deck’s harried breathing. “Lexi! Lexi!” she yelled, terrified.

Benj darted up, scrambled to her side, and checked Deck’s heartbeat and temperature. Yeller woke up to glance anxiously at his writhing friend before Benj mutely pointed him down the hall. He skittered up from the love seat cushions and dashed out of the living room to the tiny room that held Hana and Nat. He didn’t bother knocking. The door slammed into the drywall, sending plaster cracking. What he saw almost made him wretch.

Hana was worse, way worse. Nat had helped her out of her top, and she lay face down in the shag carpet, her wings spread out from wall to wall. Rot took over the shoulder joints, elbow and carpal joints of her wings, a black puss dripping, staining the carpet. She had passed out from the pain.

Nat had made his way out to the kitchen without waking the group. Piles of dish towels propped and wound around joints. Iodine, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a massive bottle of vodka sat at his fingertips. He worked over the joints of her wings, washing and cleaning. The stench of the iodine and the alcohol mixed with the putrid smell of rotting flesh overwhelmed Yeller.

Cashia took over, throwing the man into the far primal recesses of his brain, disconnecting him from his senses. Yeller had never felt so totally disoriented. “What do you need of me?” Cashia asked, expecting to get an answer from Sven.

“How is Deck holding up?” Nat asked numbly, never stopping his administrations.

Cashia stepped back, amazed the boy, the man, was still there, not having relinquished his mind to the wolf to take responsibility for the situation. “He suffers far less than she, but Benj is worried.” He knelt out of the way from the wings.

“As long as he lives, I know nothing will happen to her.” Nat tore a piece of dish towel into strips and bound off the joints of the phalanges.

“How can you be so sure?” Cashia asked, a quiet voice in a darkened corner, a living conscience, a malignant ghost.

“This won’t kill him,” Nat whispered, more to himself than to the great beasts in the room.

“What makes you so sure?” Cashia watched as the man, with as much tenderness could be expected of the act, pulled primary feathers from sloughing flesh.

“Dietrich has already sent him to the back of his mind and taken over. There’s a black void when I look for him. I believe in your leader, Cashia, that he is one tough bastard and not readily overcome. Deck, he whispers here.” He rubbed at a glowing star on his temple. “He told me of the greatness of this beast. He served some great ancient tribe, the Bai, when he was still young. That you all were the last to see the great Ursus. You are ancient, more so than I thought.” His voice monotone, concentration emanated from his core, steady as a rock. The change was crystalline in him, a calculating creature.

“You accept this easily, child,” Cashia ventured, wary.

“You ask of me to take on your wife. I have in residence three of your kind within me. This woman here possesses wings. Every time I touch her, I cause my best friend pain immeasurable to that which he surmises as having his arm sawed off with a bone saw. Also, I am fully aware that I speak differently when exhausted. Don’t need to be reminded. Got that enough from my father.” He yawned as he pulled a particularly long feather and held it to the moonlight flooding the window. He handed it to Cashia, who gingerly cradled it in his hands.

Cashia flinched under the feral glow of Nat’s green eyes. Cold rushed through his system. He saw a concentration of death so acutely tuned that he knew this man, outside of Sven, Tereza, and Sylvi’s occupation, would be the end to at least himself this very night if something bad was to occur to the woman.

“She will not die tonight,” Nat swore once more.

“You must realise that this will take many days, a month, for her to lose these wings,” Cashia ventured.

“More than abundantly aware,” caustically, Nat returned to the woman’s wings.

“Can they both survive this?” Cashia asked.

“If I must take on Dietrich and Sylvi in full to preserve them, I will,” Nat responded as he continued stripping the feathers.

“Why are you doing that?” Cashia asked.

“Why are you asking so many questions?” Nat rebuked.

“I’m sitting here. This is what I do with Dietrich, sort of his subconscious,” Cashia ventured.

“Before she passed out, Hana told me to get rid of them, to take the weight off of the joints and bones,” Nat told him. “She said they would be too painful to remove if she was awake.”

Cashia nodded.

They sat there for a time, Cashia watching Nat methodically plucking the feathers of the right wing, leaving pink skin bare. It was only into his second repetition of a series of lines that Cashia realised that Nat had begun to mumble poetry.

“Halalu, Halala is what the wolf howled over me,” Nat mumbled twice as he found a particularly difficult feather.

Cashia shivered as goose flesh rippled along the side of his face. What is it that Nat says? A spell? A ward? Cashia turned to Yeller.

Yeller remained elusive for a moment from the wolf, knowing the words to be an evil omen before he shot out the door. It’s from a book of poetry. Dark words, death, war, destruction.

Cashia tasted the edge in Yeller, pure terror, the acceleration of adrenaline and the heart that he could not overcome. What is it that you are not telling me? Cashia pressed, stretching into the man’s mind unwelcomed. There, like a shattered fragment of a stained-glass window, he found it. He saw the scars now for what they were on Nat’s arms, ignored.

She will not die. I can’t let her. Yeller informed Cashia once more.

How does poetry deal with this? Cashia, only having caught the image from Yeller’s unbidden memory, still could not fully comprehend it.

Gage was Nat’s younger brother. He gave him the book on Christmas eve, the day before he and Nat went out to the pond to ice fish. Gage fell in, and no matter what he did, Nat couldn’t bring him back out. He had to face that. It took him three months before he tried to go with Gage into the afterlife. The day before he tried that in the gym locker room, he had been mumbling that poem while he was working on his homework. We have to go tell the others. Yeller pushed Cashia back.

In the living room, Deck had passed out, somewhat easing the tension of the group. Yeller barged in, interrupting the moment of quiet relief. “He’s saying it.”

Benj looking up, his already pale face dropping another shade. Zola looked up from Benj’s shoulder, terror in her large round eyes.

“Bloody hell,” Sun Hee hissed.

“I’m not sure how much more we can take of this,” Zola ventured, standing up, allowing Yeller to hug her. He knew it; they all knew it; Nat was falling and becoming an issue in the group dynamic. They were trying. They were.

It was shortly after sunrise when Deck came out of it. “Nat says Hana woke up about an hour ago,” Deck mumbled, his head throbbing.

“Did he mention that he was quoting poetry?” Yeller hissed.

What the Wolf Howled?” Deck whispered. Yeller nodded, meeting his eyes under frustrated brows. Deck’s heart skipped ahead of his thoughts. He turned his attention to reach for Nat’s path. He found the words pressed against the front of his friend’s skull, the eternal rhythm. He turned on him, belligerent and frustrated. Don’t you fucking dare go trying to end it all on us, you son of a bitch. Deck screamed.

Nat recoiled, unaware of where the vehement rebuke came from. Where the hell is this all coming from, Deck? Nat sank into himself. Sven writhed beneath the surface.

When you…when Gage… Deck tried to broach the subject that had become a taboo topic amongst the group. He found himself clumsy and unsure of himself.

When what, Alexander? Nat growled. He didn’t know what his brother had to do with this. It had been four years since that fateful Christmas. I’ve mourned Gage, still mourned him, but bloody hell, what does that have to do with this?

When you tried to commit suicide in the guy’s locker room, bastard. That’s what I’m referring to. You only started chanting poetry when you were about to end it all. Deck sobbed, his mind cracking.

What are you talking about? I don’t remember trying to do that. Lord, I’d never even contemplated that. You’re just like my parents. I have too much here to do. Get out if you aren’t going to be helpful. Nat snapped back, terrified, pulling away from the telepathic line. He went back down his line of memories, questioning his friend. Waking up in a hospital bed, his arms wrapped in bandages. His mother hadn’t visited, and his dad, though dropping by for the week, had barely said more than hello to him. It had only been his friends who had come to keep him company.

Deck, barely a thread on his telepathic link, watched the memories flood his friend. A dam held back some. He brushed at it, encountering a locked memory, one that Nat refused to open. His friend had never spoken of that terrifying day, never elaborating on why he had done it.

Deck eased into it, quietly, unobtrusive, to find himself witness to a horrible memory. A stack of circumstances and a pack of bigots had gotten to him. Nat hadn’t tried to end it all. Cornered by the senior captain of the basketball team and his lackeys, they were jealous of his talent. Nat had not made many friends, being the front runner for the best player on the team that year combined with trying out for the drama club. He memorised What the Wolf Howled Over Me, and the captain couldn’t take having to share space on the team with a drama-geek, who he assumed to be a sexual deviant for his choice in extracurricular activities.

Deck turned away from the memory in the painful moments, breaking his connection, finding himself puking into a porcelain bowl of tepid water Sun Hee had been using to wipe the sweat off of him.

“Deck!” she exclaimed, reaching for him.

“He didn’t do it,” he whispered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Cold turned his stomach, knowing bringing that memory out was likely to make him hurl again.

“Deck?” Benj asked.

“Mason, Jeremiah and Luke. They did it to Nat,” Deck fought the second wave of bile at the back of his throat.

“Mason?” Yeller scrunched his eyebrows.

“You never met them, hopefully. They would have been all over you like water on a duck. Scumbags.” Deck drew in a series of deep breaths to still his churning stomach.

“I remember the guy,. Tripped me into the corner of the lockers,” Benj grumbled, fingering a long-healed scar on his shoulder. Zola laid her hand on his, perplexed.

“He doesn’t remember it. He refuses to remember it.” Deck lay back down on the wood, wanting to curl into himself.

“Deck? What is going on?” Sun Hee tugged at his shoulder. He rolled onto his back, laying his arms out wide, feeling exposed and numb.

“We always thought Nat tried to commit suicide because of Gage. Mason, Jeremiah, and Luke jumped him in the guy’s locker room for having tried out for the varsity drama club because they thought he was gay and didn’t want to have him beat them at basketball,” Deck confessed, feeling guilty.

The colour drained from Yeller’s face. He hadn’t known that. A pit hardened in his stomach. Even he hadn’t had it that hard.

Nat’s folks were cold to their son, to begin with, they had become heartless, thinking he had tried committing a grave sin. He had taken after-school jobs through high school and college to pay his medical bill when he got out of the hospital. No room to put money away; he had been bound to his parents to pay rent on the room he lived in. Years of offering from Yeller to let him move into the bungalow had always ended with a soft shrug and a soft no.

“He refuses to remember it,” Deck repeated.

“Why is he quoting it now, though?” Yeller demanded, balling his hands at the side of his legs.

“He didn’t realise he was doing it.” Deck curled back around to hug Sun Hee.

“Guys?” Nat caught them off guard. Smudges of black and red stained his white skin like sickening bruises. They all spun, stunned at his sudden appearance.

Yeller engulfed him, his head resting on Nat’s shoulder. Nat stiffened under his hold. “I’m so sorry,” Yeller mumbled into his skin, a hot tear running through a black smudge.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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