The Cliff and the Jawbone
[Episode 25 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and
Mission of the Unwilling.]
An amazing event happened. As the smaller second sun rose some more, the solar winds buzzed, and the cosmic clouds lit up a swirling multicolored mix in the sky. Where was my camera when I needed it? Where indeed was the radio transmitter to say that we were going to be delayed? In my haste I had left both camera and radio back at camp. I wanted to tell the others to come up and enjoy the spectacular scene. I trod gingerly over a rocky outcrop to obtain a better view.
Fahrer sat nestled between two boulders mesmerized by the dual sun rise and cosmic cloud show. I opened my mouth to announce my arrival but thought better of it. My mouth remained open in awe at this sacred moment. I tried not to look down the cliff. I imagined hang-gliding into the valley. What an experience that would be!
The spectacle lasted ten minutes. When it was over, Fahrer glanced at me. ‘Oh, it’s you!’ He turned and continued to stare into the distance.
I edged over to him. ‘We have to go.’
He looked at me, his eyes were dark pits on an unshaven face.
He shrugged. ‘I’m the Captain to you.’
‘No! No! No! You are Gunter Fahrer who lost Minna and two boys, and you must face that.’
‘Still the Captain. And still don’t want to talk about that.’
‘Then what are you doing visiting this planet over and over again?’
‘I am Captain Fahrer and I choose where I go and what I do.’
‘Shut up,’ he snapped. ‘Stop getting inside my head!’
‘It’s my job, Gunter, but I cannot force you to talk about it.’ I peered at him, his face bare from any protective covering. ‘Isn’t it dangerous, with all the radiation still up here?’
‘Maybe, I don’t care.’
I studied his exposed face—that high forehead, dark curls, and prominent nose. ‘Why, Captain?’
His eyes glistened, and he wiped his mouth. ‘I have nothing to discuss with you. So go.’
I examined the sheer drop below our dangling feet. ‘I can’t, no I won’t go—not with you sitting at the side of a cliff.’
‘Of what concern is it to you?’
‘Because you matter. Your life matters.’
‘Really?’ He laughed and then rose. ‘You didn’t think much of me back in Strahan.’
I stood up and met his gaze. ‘I’m truly sorry.’
‘Doesn’t change the fact you made a moral judgment based on appearance which revealed a serious flaw in your character.’
I ran my gloved fingers over my protective hood. ‘I’m working on it—the flaw, I mean.’
‘We’ll see about that,’ the Captain said.
The warmth of the two suns heated the back of my neck. ‘We better get going, the others won’t wait all day. Nathan has put in a call in for us to return to the ship.’
He picked up a sack and slung it over his back. ‘If we must.’ He lifted a box from the ledge and hugged it.
As we hiked down the gully, I reminded him. ‘I am not going to give up. I will improve.’
‘You are the empath, surely you see beneath the surface and do not judge on appearance. That, I do not understand.’
‘I will try to keep that in mind,’ I said. ‘The thing is, to expose myself to others’ feelings and thoughts, all the time, is over-whelming, so I have methods of guarding against overload. Anyway, you are very good at blocking me—not that I go invading your mental privacy.’
‘That is comforting to know.’ He adjusted the weight of the container in his arms. ‘Do not tell the others, what happened up there. I do not want to spoil their image of the Captain. It is all about image. People believe in me as Captain Fahrer—even if I am a grumpy old Fahrt at times.’
I chuckled. ‘Glad you haven’t lost your sense of humour. It is what I remember of you, when we first met. I was eleven and we went on that horrible road trip with Boris.’
‘You are that Holly?’ He looked me up and down. ‘You were engaged to my brother?’
‘Yes, unfortunately, but not for long.’
He pursed his lips trying to keep a straight face. ‘I see you are a slow learner.’
‘But I broke off with him.’
‘Then you went with Fox?’
‘Yeah, so? Fox is a good man.’
‘If you say so.’
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’ I looked at the Captain as we bobbed down the slope. ‘Fox was kind and loving.’
‘Yes, very loving. So loving he spread it around.’ He shook his head making his curls dance around his forehead. ‘I have known him a long time, Miss Mueller. I went to university with him. In 1985, I informed the Grey aliens where he would be so they could abduct him. Even then, he was a ladies’ man. A leopard does not change his spots.’
‘You can’t judge, Sir. You were a Boris agent and from what I heard, had many Grey females.’
‘Not exactly. You heard incorrectly. I am faithful to Minna.’
‘You need to face reality and let her go.’
He stopped, looked at me, and locked eyes. ‘And who are you, to tell me how to live my life, Frauleine?’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Here, take this.’ He thrust the box into my arms. ‘And before you start giving advice, take a good long look at yourself.’
I stood with the box heavy in my hands. ‘And what do you mean by that?’
Without reply, Fahrer stomped ahead.
I trailed behind. The box made my negotiation with the slippery shale more difficult.
When his form seemed barely visible, I paused, lifted the lid, and peeked into the container. I could see a jaw bone with some teeth embedded in it. I moved my jaw which had grown tight. What’s this jaw all about? I closed the box and then tottered down the slope towards Fahrer resting at the base of the mountain.
Was this something to do with Minna? When I met her in the hospital, her jaw was missing, blown away. The medics did their best with a titanium plate fused with nanotubes, but the burns were too severe. Infection set in—just when it looked like she would recover. She never did recover.
But why would Fahrer want Minna’s jaw bone? Bit late isn’t it? I wondered.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Rawnsley Bluff in sepia © L.M. Kling 200
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