Weather: Dark and drizzly
Encounters: We added more Healers to the team!
This morning we docked the boat and clambered off into the woods to pick up two other Rogue Healers. I was nervous to add more people to our little team, but the Healer was excited. I need to start calling him something else now that we have added more Healers. Alpha? He won’t tell me his real name...which is getting really annoying.
We climbed over the thick roots that jutted out of the forest floor. Beta sat crossed legged on Senelala’s back under the protection of my shelter. He swayed with the movement, eyes ever forward. It was hard to look at him the same now that I knew his spirit was still there...unable to connect with his physical form. Was his spirit sitting beside him? Or did his spirit walk beside me? I swore I saw the misty form of Beta sparkle in my periphery.
“Ah, you are going to love Bullet and Jasper.” The Healer cracked a giant grin and slapped a low-hanging branch. “I need some help around the boat, it’s been hard to manage on my own. Even though I’m pretty tough.” He flexed his tattooed arms. I rolled my eyes.
“I’ve been helping you!” I pointed out and pushed a vine out of my way.
“Sure, but you are terrible when it comes to sailing boats.” He laughed and put his arm around my shoulder. I shook it off. It would tip me over while I balanced on a root. “I like having your music around, though!”
I had taught myself how to play a few instruments back when I was living in my village, but had only brought along my tablet to record my travel logs. It was equipped with a small keyboard type-device. The Healer heard me fiddle with it multiple nights. I was playing in Beta’s room early this morning when the Healer popped his head in.
We walked on for a bit when the Healer tossed up a hand to make us stop on our path. “You hear that?” he whispered and titled one ear toward his imaginary sound.
“I don’t hear anything.” I whispered back and drank some water out of my canteen.
“Oh, I hear it! I hear it!” He jumped up and down like an excited child. “I’ll be darned. Oh, Sarah Jane. I’ve waited years for this.”
“Just tell me what…” I started to shout, but the Healer pressed one finger directly over my mouth which, per usual, I swatted away.
“Follow me and see.” He whispered and motioned to Senelala to keep quiet. Beta nodded once and Senelala started placing his feet more delicately. Turtles know how to tip-toe? I looked up and the Healer was already off across the forest floor. I trotted up after him.
That’s when I started to hear it. A buzzing? A droning? This deep in the woods?
The Healer’s eyes were so wide I could practically see into his mind.
We walked closer and closer to the sound, distinctly musical but unlike anything I’d ever heard before. Out between the trees I saw people winding their way through the forest. There must have been fifteen to twenty people, all wearing the same robed outfit. The sound was coming from the travelers. They were humming!
Oh, I wish I could describe the sound.
We got even closer, and I fought the urge to hold my breath. They were all men. All humming in unison walking gracefully over the roots and under vines and thick tree branches. The rumble that erupted from the men was deep and ancient, the sound of a river being carved out of a mountain. I’m sure I had never heard the humming before, but at the edge of the sound was something so familiar.
The Healer strode straight into the path of the men, his hands covering his mouth. I pulled up beside him and watched the men pass around us like a flock of birds. That’s when I noticed their eyes. Their eyes were all completely white, every last man had milky unseeing eyes. Some carried canes made of gnarled and knotted wood. Some waved one hand in front of them gently, in time with their inner song.
Oh, that song… the hum of time and creation. It was as deep as the sea, and blew through like the first wind of a coming storm. Did they know I was standing there?
Time seemed to pass slowly, when their hooded backs were to us I could feel my heartbeat like a drum. We stood in silence until the last robe dissolved into the trees. I was pulled from a trance. I stood and leaned against the trunk of a tree. The Healer stood and wiped tears from his eyes, it was unsettling to see him cry.
I turned to look at Beta. I could have sworn he winked at me... but surely not.
The Healer broke my concentration, “Well, onward!” He clapped his hands and Senelala started to shuffle after him.
“Wait!” I cried. “Who were those men?”
It was clear he wanted to talk and walk, but I grabbed the Healer’s arm. This was too important to breeze by. His deep emotional reaction to their song made him feel uneasy. Could it have done something to Beta too?
“My whole life I’ve heard about them.” He said and pointed a finger in the direction of the men. “They are called The Hearing. They are blind, every last one of them. They’ve chosen to be blind.”
Chosen to be blind. My skin prickled.
“How do they get around the forest? Look at this place!” I stretched my arms out to the labyrinth around us.
The Healer seemed to push the words past the emotion welling up inside him, “They listen.”
Why did these men have such a strong effect on him?
“They listen?” I asked and spun around slowly trying to hear anything at all. “I don’t hear anything.”
“It’s the song of the moon.” He placed one hand on a tree, traced the mossy bark. “I never thought I would hear it. Well, would hear the hum of it.”
“You are telling me they navigate the forest with the song Juniper Vale sings to them?” I was convinced it was an elaborate prank. Moons don’t sing and blind men can’t deftly navigate this overgrown place.
The Healer shrugged and said, “That’s a simple way of putting it, but you aren’t wrong. Most people think it’s all made up. They think The Hearing are a bunch of kooks, but they’ve been around over a hundred years. I believe ‘em, I mean if anything it’s dedication.”
The whole time ringing through my mind, Chosen to be blind. Chosen to be blind...to listen?