Weather: Sunny and warm. Windy by the ocean.
Encounters: Soup vendor, See further.
This morning I woke up early from excitement. We were on track to enter Metro Seaside, a large city planted right on the shore. I had only been by the ocean once before. There’s something about it that really sets me on fire. We stopped briefly in the city to eat soup from a vendor and watch the people bustle about. I traded a scarf I made for two huge bowls of soup. The vendor seemed annoyed at my insistence to barter. She quickly waved me on to help another customer who presented a shiny card. Her register made a ding and the transaction was over. Next customer. Ding.
It is interesting to see the people in Metro, they move quickly from one place to the next. They walk in straight rows here; a constant feeling of efficiency permeates the air. I wonder if they stop to see the ocean.
We took our food to the shore, letting our feet sink into the sand. We sat and listened to the waves, enjoying our soup (well, soup for me). The sun was high up in the sky, but it didn’t overheat us. I felt it pressing down on my nose and cheeks; the heat was nice after spending so much time in the tree-canopied woods.
I had just finished eating and lay back to close my eyes when I heard a shout.
“Hey, lady!” I sat up and saw a man running across the sand in my direction, “Hey! You! I need your turtle!” Senalala stood when he heard the word turtle.
“What do you need him for?” I asked, already resolving myself to shaking this man off. He ran straight up to me. Sweat poured in streams down his tan face. He was strong and big, his clothes were old.
He reached over to pat Senalala’s shell, but I blocked him.
“I can explain on the way, but I need help moving something heavy.” He panted. “Trust me, this is important.”
I felt the familiar flutter in my stomach, the flutter that seemed to lead me into strange situations. I quickly packed up our things and motioned for Senalala to follow. I trusted that fluttering feeling. We all walked at a quick pace down the shore toward a large boat anchored by a rickety dock.
“Why didn’t you go into the city to ask for help?” I probed. I noticed tattoos running down the back of the stranger’s neck and arms. They almost looked like formulas, observations, and scientific sounding words written in script font.
“They aren’t too fond of me in the city!” he laughed and tossed his head back.
“Why not?” I asked. Why was I always getting myself into these situations?
“Have you heard of the Rogue Healers?” he smiled and started to pick up pace. He was way more athletic than me.
I panted out, “Once in a paper. They don’t use modern medicine.”
“Precisely!” He laughed and pointed to large boxes on the dock. “I’m Rogue Healer Alpha, the leader of the crew. I got a call for a huge diagnosis, and I need the stuff in these boxes for the job.” We pulled up beside boxes; they were marked with strange symbols. He motioned for me to lift from a rope pulley attached to a pallet. We lifted boxes up and onto Senalala’s shell. He looked strained but determined. We unloaded the boxes, eight in total, onto the ship.
“Are you going to tell me what’s in them?” I asked.
“Nope!” He patted Senalala on the head.
When we were finished with our work I left Senalala on the deck of the ship and followed the Healer into the cabin. It was there I saw his workspace. I could feel my eyes grow large as they took in the scene around me. There were six cots along a sidewall, underneath small circular windows. The walls were covered in shelves, and the shelves were covered with bottles, jars, and vials. Some of the jars contained substances like tentacles and flowers; some of the bottles glowed and pulsed.
The Healer reached for a leather-bound book on the desk. He cracked it open and walked over to me. “What’s your name?” He asked me, I noticed one of his eyes was bruised like he had been punched.
“Sarah Jane.” I said and craned my neck to take a look in his book.
“Well, Sarah Jane, up the coast we have the beginnings of a hysterical outbreak. We aren’t quite sure what’s causing it, but I want to beat the government to the problem.” He traced a finger up a crude map to show me where he was going. Inscribed next to the map was a list of what I assumed were symptoms: scratching, hair loss, cackling, sluggishness, and morbidity…
“What do you think is causing this?” I asked. I felt safe in this ship with its strange chemical smell and glowing bottles.
“Beats me!” He smiled and tossed the book back onto the desk. “But, I know how the government will treat it…and that’s a lot worse than the symptoms.”
Barely anyone got sick where I was raised. I remember one woman being removed from her hut, but I didn’t know why. “What do they do?”
“Sedatives. Brain-altering sedatives.” He lost his smile. “Come with me, I want you to meet someone.”
We left the haphazard clinic and walked down a musty hallway to a room. The door was open, so sunlight spilled out into the hall. There was a man sitting in a chair facing the window, so I could only see the back of his head. The room was tidy, the bed was made, and the shelves were neat.
“We have company, brother.” The Healer said and leaned against the doorframe. The man stood, he was so pleasant in appearance that my skin formed goose bumps.
“Hello.” He said and gave a slight nod. “Pleasure to meet you.”
The Healer picked up a book from the shelf and flipped through it. “Brother, why don’t you tell her about our travels?”
“Hello.” The brother said and gave a slight nod. “Pleasure to meet you.” I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I felt a deep pit forming in my stomach. The ship swayed slightly, accompanying the feeling of unease growing within me.
“Alright” The Healer clapped his hands together, “We will get out of your hair. We are about to sail!” He turned around with a flourish and made his way down the hall. I jogged to keep up with his stride.
“Wait! Tell me what’s going on!” I firmly planted my hand on the Healer’s shoulder.
He turned and looked directly in my eyes, “My brother used to be one of the most adventurous and mischievous people I knew. Now look at him! Blank as a page.”
“And medication did that to him?” My mind was whirring around in a million directions.
“So, Sarah Jane!” He climbed the steps to the deck of the ship. The sea air whipped my hair around my head. “Would you like to go on an adventure?”
I said yes.