Water to Water
Karen A. Wyle
Karen A. Wyle
Two young Vushla questioned what everyone knew about death. What should they do with the answer?
When the time comes for Vushla to die, they go into the ocean and are dissolved away. Or so Terrill has always believed, and still believes after taking part in his father's final journey. But when he meets a young Vushlu who lives by the sea, Terrill must confront information that calls this fundamental belief into question. Will the two of them discover the truth? And what should they do with what they find?
The last taste of dinner was fading from Honnu’s mouth. Even food was different when the peddler came. This very night, around this same fire, they had roasted and eaten plump sausages spitting with juice, made from some crawling creature that pushed through underbrush and rooted in the earth of far-off forests.
Honnu stretched his arms and upper body to soak in the warmth of the fire, welcome as the end of hot season brought cooler night breezes. Which of the peddler’s tales might actually be true? Honnu had never traveled farther than the nearest market town — far enough away from the shore that the sea could not be seen, but not too far for its smell to carry, competing with the smell of the fish he sold and the pastries and spices and flowers in the stalls all around him. Were there really trees so tall that a Vushlu would have to rear back on its hind legs and lean against something sturdy in order to see the tops? Did mountains soar even higher? Did rivers of water pour out of those mountains? Did the mountains rise above the air itself, so that the air strained and grew thin, and one could look down and see the thicker air below? Did fountains of fire leap up from hidden places to consume travelers? Did birds, glowing as bright as any fire, swarm over the fields in springtime, keeping farmers from sowing seed until the birds had flown away? Did a species of giants, giants who never came near the ocean, giants with two legs and two arms like the Weesah but each limb twice as thick as a Weesah’s trunk, raise beasts for farmers, never leaving their ranches, requiring farmers to come to them? Were there places where the sky was always red, and others where the sky was always black?
Honnu’s family must know the answers to those questions, or to some of them, but his aunt never wanted to talk about it, and his grandfather changed his story from one time to the next, and his mother said none of it was true. Honnu refused to believe that.
Unless he found a way to go see for himself, he would never know.
Now he heard sounds of movement and conversation, and tires pushing through sand. The procession must be leaving, with one of its members gone forever into the sea. They would probably not go very far in the dark. There was an inn serving such travelers in the market town. But by morning, they would be on their way back to wherever they came from. To one of the many, many places Honnu had never seen.
Character Interview with Honnu:
[NOTE: Honnu is a young Vushlu. His family are fisher folk and live by the sea. This interview takes place around the time the story begins, on the beach, in late afternoon. Honnu is cleaning a fishing boat.]
Q. Hello. I hope I’m not disturbing –
A. Watch out! I’m using seawater here.
Q. It’s splashing all over you. Isn’t that a problem?
A. Not with this suit on. [He gestures along his body.] It’ll keep the water out for years and years yet.
Q. Do you have such suits for visitors? For rent, perhaps?
A. Sorry, no. They take a long time to make. We only get them when we’re done growing, and then we keep them for a long time. Let me just finish up here, and we can talk.
[a few minutes later]
All done! I have a few minutes before I go do chores.
Q. I gather you fish for a living.
A. That’s right.
Q. Do you like it?
A. [a slight pause] Pretty well. I like working with other people. More when they appreciate my help, which they mostly do. Of course, I like it better some days than others. In hot season, it’s cooler out on the water than on land – though the suit does make me warmer than I’d be otherwise. Cold season, that can get, well, cold, suit or no suit. And I get pretty tired by the end of the day. But it’s better than being bored. [another pause] Not that I’m never bored.
Q. Do you picture yourself doing anything different, later in your life?
A. [scuffs a hind foot in the sand] I’d like to see more of the world, someday, somehow. I hear stories – mainly from the Weesah peddler who comes here – and I want to see for myself whether they’re true, and what other stories might be out there waiting to be found.
[someone calls Honnu’s name from a nearby dwelling]
I’d better go. Chores, like I said. It was nice talking to you. If you want to come with me, you could maybe stay for dinner. The peddler brought sausages, and we’ll be having a campfire.
Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle's childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.
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