Mobius: Eyes Above the Clouds- Chapter 11
Before departing the area, we had found and cut down a few more of the strange pods. I held carefully to the strange pieces of vegetation, one under each arm with just enough pressure to avoid tearing the tender exterior. Babir cradled a couple more inside in the crux of his arm, held against a leaf pressed to his chest. Joseph was ahead of us, walking with another of his own while arduously retracing the steps back to the camp. Somewhere out back into where the ceiling returned to a higher peak, the familiar vein was found, or at least one that appeared similar.
There was a small glint of metal in the distance, and surrounding it was the clearing in the muck where we had set up our camp. As we drew nearer, I saw a head pop up from one of the piles of gear.
“Wat d’ye got there?” Chase called out to us. He jogged up, scooting ahead of Joseph to look at the fruit in his grasp. Babir moved in, passing the wide leaf platter to the cook.
“Take a look, sir.”
Chase poked at the object, digging his fingernail into the flesh. He brought it back out and examined the clear juice upon his digit. “S’kay to eat?”
“Just fine.” The brown man insisted. “I suppose you’ll like it.”
Chase touched his tongue to his finger, rubbing against his bottom teeth. His lips curled up, with his tongue giving them a once-over. “Reminds me o’ the cacti hidin’ out down there in the canyon.”
The Dunns were always happy about offering up their experiences, both with the captain, and before they knew him. Chase had worked on a boat for much of his teenage life, going back and forth between the British Isles and New England. He said he had seen Mobius a total of two times doing his work.
He had met his wife in one of the ports in the states- North Carolina I believe it was. She was just a teen as well when they had met, she the daughter of an innsman, who was also a successful hunter. After the course of a few visits over several months, he finally decided to remain the in the states for the sake of marrying her.
Mary accepted the proposal, with her father begrudgingly giving up her hand. After the marriage, Mary fell pregnant, and nine months later, they had their selves a son. Unfortunately for the child, Chase had already made up his mind to go off deeper into the states to explore the wild west, as he called it. In order to continue with him, Mary dumped the child off on the side of the road at the edge of some town they were passing by.
This story was told to us more than a couple of times, the details changing little by little. Each time, about the halfway mark, it would always seem to trail off into rambling that slowly ate away at the otherwise convincing nature. Daniels did once corroborate that when he had met them way back in a railway station in California, there was never any talk of a child or anything else of the sort. Chase would say that he was thankful that the Captain found them then, before they were planning a trip up the Sacramento river to try and relive the gold rush of fifty years previous. Instead, they were to head to the Sierra Nevada mountains, to map out a mountain pass to navigate easier to the famed Lake Tahoe at the border of the state. Apparently, Chase was also promised that if he did find any gold, we would be able to keep it.
It was after that point that Captain Daniel’s fame was quickly growing, and that having talented, brave, and level-headed folks who could hunt and fish like nobody else would be important to follow him. Mary always nodded with a smile when Chase would repeat those words.
Chase had taken the leaf wedge of the strange fruit and dumped it by his things. I took my own collection and placed them beside the others. “Can you make something with these, you think?”
Chase ran his head side to side while fiddling with a thin roll of his things. From the half pouch, he pulled out a tarnished and chipped knife, just under the length of his forearm. “Dunno, We’ll have te see, huh?” He said, running his knife across the skin. With the grain, it bruised the flesh and drew out some of the moisture, and against, it took up the layers of paper skin in rough bunches. “Quite fibrous, ya think?” He muttered. With a flick of his wrist, he sliced downward into it. The fruit produced a puddle of the nectar from the opened face. Inside the flaps of skin was a think vein of dark orange. Chase picked at it with the tip of the knife, before pulling off a bit.
He shoved it into his mouth with the edge of the blade and ran it back between his molars for a bit. “Palatable. Starchy. Not too pleasant to chew.” He sighed. “But… we can use it for a source ‘a drinking. Bet if we let it tuh rest, could get a bit o’ mash brewin’.”
Babir huffed. “What a waste.”
“There ought to be more, no?” The cook replied.
“Lotsa’.” Joseph said, pointing back into the darkness.
A set of footsteps came up upon us from behind. I looked up to see Mary coming back in from one edge of the area. “Well, well, what did you find?”
“Some strange fruit, or seed pod, or something.” I said. I picked up one of the still intact ones and passed it her way.
Mary shook her hands in front of her and stepped back. “I will restrain myself. Though… thought I saw some strange light comin’ from where yous was at?
“Light… daylight!” I nodded my head. “And lots of more plants, greenery, where we found these guys.”
“Lovely.” She smiled.
“Sure is.” I sighed and crouched on my heels on the ground. “Anything exciting here?”
Mary frowned and looked to her husband, who made a similar face, before offering a nod up to her. “Ya’ can tell ‘em, I figure. Even if they don’t like it?”
“What is it?” Babir stepped closer.
“We don’t even haft’a use it, dear.” Mary strained.
“What’s done is done.” Chase said and pursed his lips.
“I gave some of the flesh here a bit of a dissection.” She admitted.
Babir’s head and neck jerked like I had not seen before. “For what?”
“We’ve gotta’ eat, ya’ righteous bastard.” Chase slapped his thigh.
“There’s no way I can eat something like… that… from here.” I said, gritting my teeth as I imagined the act.
“From what part?” Babir scanned around, his voice low. “This creature is a delicate organism.”
“Delicate, right.” Chase sneered. “I saw the mark ye’ were makin’ with that draw knife o’ yours.”
Babir nodded his head in exaggerated gestures. “The dermis- it is a layer of skin already dead. Not a single nerve ending.”
“Listen, it wasn’t even much.” Mary butted in. “I made sure the knife was plenty sharp.”
“Mary’s taken down many an animal, nothin’ but humane.” Chase jutted his finger between the dark man and his wife.
“The creature… is not… our prey.” Babir insisted, his voice harsher than I had heard before.
Joseph shuffled his feet, stamping lightly. “Stop fighting, please.”
“What’s done is done, I said.” Chase huffed. “Dun’ eat it if you dun’ like it”
“I will not eat anything produced by your hands stained by this creature’s blood.”
“Babir, Chase.” I wavered back and forth between the two of them.
“Starve, then, ya’ fool!”
“I won’t have this!” A deep voice called out. It came up again, louder. “Knock it off, both of you.” Daniel’s tone froze them both in place. He crept out of the airway moments later, followed by Harris and Alice. “What has suddenly driven you both mad?”
“Your crew are butchers, good captain.” Babir spoke up first.
“Of all-” Chase bared his teeth. “Wess, we’re only doin’ what’s necessary.”
Daniels lifted his eye to Chase. “Mary, I assume you did as instructed.”
“I did, Captain.”
“And will it be of any worth to us?”
“Captain!” Babir interjected. “I can not believe that you would allow… encourage such a thing. We should not allow ourselves to do such harm when we are already intruding ourselves!”
The captain let out a loud sigh and shook his head. “Harris.” He turned back to the doctor. “What do you think? A little slice here is gonna hurt it in any significant way?”
“I mean…” Harris shook his head, stuttering.
“Spit it out.”
“By my little bit of knowledge, I don’t believe this area to be of… smooth muscle. It isn’t serving… any particular function other than structure.”
“Good enough.” Daniels smirked.
“Explains why it’s mostly gristle.” Mary added. Babir frowned and began to turn his back to us.
“Sengupta, don’t leave us just yet.” Daniels hummed sarcastically. “If you really want to be able to spend an ample amount of time here, you better expect for us to gather up rations, wherever that may be from.”
Joseph bent to the ground and retrieved one of the strange fruits. He brought it up and presented it to the captain, silently looking self-assured. “Captain…”
“What is it, Lomeli?” Daniels glanced at him. “Oh, so you did find something out there. Good man. Sengupta will be able to eat after all.”
I sighed and looked to Babir who had perched himself at the edge of the camp, his bundle of instruments unrolled at his feet. I turned to look back to the captain, who had all but ignored him. He noticed my stare, and quickly hid his scowl. “You want something, Sami?”
“No.” I mumbled back, pulling my gaze away. I found a seat beside Alice, who had placed her pack down and leaned her head against the back wall.