NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Fourteen

Alissa, clinging to her bundles and what was left of her travois, bounced unsteadily on the broad rough back of the creature, or person, as it alternately stamped and leapt through the night in some private pattern of its own, its blue light and its many eyes apparently giving it the confidence to proceed through the dark with a speed that Alissa found admirable, if terrifying in the moment. She looked and listened nervously around for more buzzing flying shapes, but there seemed to be no more after the first assault.

When the creature, or person, with the blue light had first knocked away the threatening buzzing balls with their sharp stingers, and Alissa had thanked it profusely, introduced herself, and asked her savior’s name. But to her surprise and puzzlement, the new voice had only repeated, “What have we here? Hello! What have we here?” and then, bending an uncertain number of legs to bring its considerable body closer to the ground, had said “Hello! Up! Up up!” in a decisive voice.

“You want me to… climb you?” Alissa had asked, but the being had only repeated “Up! Up up!” in an even more decisive voice.

This had put Alissa somewhat at a quandary. She would have infinitely preferred to hunker down deeper into her little hole, and pull the earth in after her, spending the night dozing in a secure little packet under the ground as she had frankly been designed to, before people began to gather into gatherings, and spend nights in airy indentations and comfortable leaf-beds.

But if she did that, and the large individual with the blue light were then to go away, the nasty hissing and buzzing and stinging things might find her again, and she had a notion that they might be able to follow one a ways into the earth if they were angry enough.

And on the other hand if she pulled herself snugly downward, this large creature with the apparently-limited vocabulary might become annoyed, and that idea did not appeal either. By the blue light from its chemiluminescent chin sac, as Alissa now saw that it was, she had observed that the leap and stomp that had driven away her harassers had also, she thought probably involuntarily, rather smashed up her little travois; and she did not relish the idea of annoying the creature that had had that effect, especially since it did not seem likely that she could explain her reasons to it (or him, or her, or them).

So she had sighed a sigh through all of her spiracles, slipped out of her neat little hole, extracting her bundles with her rear legs as she went, and clambered somewhat awkwardly onto the being’s broad back, picking up the remains of her travois as she went.

It had muttered something like “Yes, yes”, and begun to move off, she could not tell in what direction, when there had come a swarm of buzzes and hisses, and some number, almost certainly more than two, of things very like the things that had spoken to her so unpleasantly before had dropped from the sky and begun harrying her and her large vehicle.

With a booming grunt that sounded something like “Oh, no, no!”, the creature or person had bounded startlingly into the air, with Alissa barely hanging on, perhaps impacting one of the flying buzzers, or perhaps only confusing them, and certainly confusing Alissa, as it continued to bound and stomp in various directions in the darkness, until it seemed to settle on one particular direction, and the buzzing and hissing receded behind them, either outpaced or eluded in the darkness.

The current unsteady bouncing of the being was comforting in comparison, but Alissa wasn’t sure that she would stay balanced up there for very much longer.

“Excuse me,” she attempted to call softly downward to where her vehicular host’s hearing organs might be, “I wonder if we could stop for a bit? I would like to, well, adjust my hold, if you see what I mean.”

After a moment, and a few stomps through undergrowth, the voice came back, “Yes, yes,” it said, “yes, stop, stop soon,” but the stomping and leaping continued, as far as she could tell unabated.

The storyteller closed her eyes and attempted to be a point of unworried stillness, with her arms and legs and her bundles and the remains of the travois constituting fixed and stable points in the matrix of her perception. This was moderately successful, until the being took a couple of great upward bounds, which took her breath away and all but dislodged her from her place.

Although it was far too dark for Alissa’s particular eyes to see now, she sensed that they were an unaccustomed distance above the ground; the first upward bound must have reached some sort of shelf, and the second this high point somewhere against the thick bole of a trunk, some perhaps-distressing distance into the black sky.

But at least the bouncing and stomping seemed to have stopped.

“Here!” the voice of her mount sounded, and “Here!” again, rather loudly as perhaps addressed to someone not as close as Alissa, and then peculiarly it called “Well, what have we here? What have we here?” and then was silent.

There was a rustling, or at any rate a movement, from somewhere in front of them, and then another blue light appeared, seeming to come out of the bole of the tree itself. Alissa heard something like a laugh, and then the from the direction of this new light, where it seemed there was another largish person, a different but similar voice said, “Well, what have we here, indeed? What have you brought in from the mother darkness tonight, Glomorominith?”

“Glomorominith! Yes!” the closer and more familiar voice replied, “Hello, what have we here!” and it sounded quite happy about it.

A face with, again, a great many eyes came close enough for Alissa to make out, closer perhaps than she would really have preferred it come. It moved up and down, to this side and that, and the creature (or person, Alissa decided, a person of some kind at any rate) lowered itself and her downward, flatter onto whatever it was that it was standing on, perhaps so that the new face could see her more clearly.

“You appear to have baggage, creature from the night,” the new voice said, “do you speak?”

“Well,” Alissa said, and her voice squeaked embarrassingly.

“Well!” she began again, more boldly and more clearly, “I do indeed speak, thank you very much! I am Alissa, and while I beg your pardon and I am not at all sure what is happening, I do owe Glomorominith here, if that is indeed their name, and perhaps you, gratitude for saving me from the stings of the night buzzers.”

“Gently spoken, gently spoken,” said the new voice, and from beneath her somewhat muffled by its prone position perhaps, the other similar voice said, “Glomorominith,” again, again sounding quite pleased.

“Let us get you down off our friend here,” said the second voice, and large but not overly rough arms or perhaps antennae came from out of the dark and helped, or frankly moved, Allisa, still clinging to her belongings, off of the rough back of the large creature, to rest on what felt like wood, or woody fungus, underfoot.

“Pleased to meet you Alissa,” the second voice said, “would you like to come inside? I can produce more light, a place to rest, and a promise there will be no night creatures to trouble you.”

“Thank you very much,” she replied, and followed the voice as it moved slowly forward, feeling around her in the air and the echoes that they were moving into a smaller and enclosed space. The first person, Glomorominith, appeared content to stay outside, on the bark or fungus shelf.

“You may call me Sonoraneldan,” said the voice, the person, more softly now that they were within a space. Alissa decided they must be within a burrow or hollow place within the trunk of some large tree or vast stem, leading very far above them into the sky. It smelled of many unfamiliar things.

“Most pleased to meet you,” she replied, realizing as she let go of her burdens and sank onto her rear legs just how tired she was.

“The same,” said Sonoraneldan politely, “entirely the same. And may I say that I gather from the configuration of your face and form and other signs, that you might prefer to rest until at least the first dawn, more than having much further conversation?”

Alissa sighed and moved slightly in agreement, and almost instantly fell into the depths of the night.

Fling Fifteen

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