Friend or Foe?
Lifted from the water…
What was happening now?
Liwliwa awoke with a start, panic filling her chest. Where was she? It certainly wasn’t the afterlife, she imagined there would be more water and dead Osyatao. Her vision swam as she tried to sit up. A burst of white hot pain shot through her body and forced a choked yelp out of her as she fell back onto the mattress. She fixed her gaze on the ceiling, trying to stay conscious as her head threatened to split in two. The wooden beams were unfocused. She couldn’t seem to see the whole ceiling, no matter how hard she squinted her eyes…
Her eye. Her left side was fully enveloped in darkness. Liwliwa lifted a shaky hand to her head. Her fingers touched soaked cloth and came away red. Her breathing quickened as the cost of her foolish plan hit. The Hepe was right, the gods never wanted her to succeed after all. Perhaps they only wished to get rid of a naive Osyaba, who was of no use to her island-
Her train of thought was cut off as the door to the room opened. Through it came the most horrifying creature Liwliwa had ever seen. An ape-like face with sunken, forward facing eyes and squashed features. It had slender arms which carried a small basket filled with Gods know what. Wiry strands grew from the top of its head and framed its grotesque face. It’s beady eyes were fixed upon her, it’s expression one of equal terror. The basket slipped from its stubby hands and landed with a soft thump on the floor. The tension broke as Liwliwa let out a panicked shriek, leading to a pathetic wail from the being as it ran back out through the door.
‘I’m being held hostage by monsters!!’ Is this how it ends? Being torn apart by nightmarish monsters? She could hear it outside now, speaking with another of its kind in a chattering dialect, most likely plotting her death…
“...and with those disgusting teeth, that’s the most horrifying beast I’ve ever seen! Is this some sort of joke, Egan?! You said there was a person in there!”
“I didn’t say that, Moya! I said there was someone-“
“That’s not a someone, that’s a MONSTER!!!” Moya pulled away from the door, smoothing down her apron. “Where did you even find it?”
“The fishermen did. I was patrolling the docks when they brought it in, told me I should take it in. They managed to patch it up a bit, but it might die without you,” Egan sat back down on a small tool and propped his halberd against the wall, “now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to resume my nap-“
She yanked him up by the ear. “Oh no you’re not! You’re going in there and protecting me from that thing!!”
“Owowow okay! Let me go!” The two of them stood in front of the door, and at the count of three, carefully opened it to see a terrified, one-eyed fish creature, gripping onto the bedsheets of the infirmary bed and muttering in a foreign language.
Liwliwa was saying her final prayers. Pleas of mercy to the gods, begging for forgiveness after misjudging their will. She asked for them to protect her sister, her father and her sick mother… she’d failed them all. Her prayers quickened as the door opened again. An even bigger monster stood in the doorway, protected by armor and wielding a long weapon. All she could do was brace herself as the monsters circled in for the kill. The pair approached, one from each side. She screwed her eye shut and braced herself for… the feeling of the old, blood soaked cloth being removed, and new bandages being applied.
Liwliwa carefully opened her eye again. The large creature was holding the basket, which she could now see was full of bandages. It was passing them to the smaller one, which moved to the other wounds across her body: a gash in her leg, bite marks in her shoulder, a piece of wooden debris from the shattered outrigger. It worked with surprising gentleness, despite the steely look on its face. Once it had finished its work, it moved to stand next to the bigger one.
The two parties stared each other down, unsure of what the next move would be. Not an enemy, but not a friend either. The humans whispered to each other in low tones, as if the Osyatao could understand them anyways. One thing was certain; this encounter would change everything.