Monday, April 20, 2009

Another sample of "kaben nine"

The reaction to the first chapter inspired me to post the second. I hope you all enjoy it.

Chapter 2. Wild

While kaben nine waited for the voice, he worked on finding a way to salvage his Sarton uniform. In the end, he kept the shirt which extended down below his knees now. He used the belt to cinch the waist and he had to button the top button to keep it from sliding off his shoulders. The sleeves had to be rolled up almost half their length. He did his best to see how it looked, then decided no one would see him anyway. He had just decided to return to the transport when the voice returned.

"There is no need to go to your transport. Anything you will need will be found within the forest."

"There's a hunting knife there and some mending supplies that would help me with this shirt," he answered, adjusting one of the rolled up sleeves for emphasis.

"Forget the transport. It will not be there when you start your tasks. You will need to learn to use what is available in the wild. Start now. This forest holds your food, water, and shelter. All you have to do is learn where to find them and how to use them. Before you start the thirteen tasks I will assign you, you must train yourself in the ways of nature."

"Will I be returning to adulthood to complete your tasks?" he asked, pulling his knees up to his chest and hugging them. He suddenly felt small and inadequate.

"No. The tasks will not be possible by an adult. As a child, you will be able to get into places adults will not have access to. I have faith in you or I would not have chosen you."

Kaben nine rested his chin on his knee, tilting his head slightly as he asked, "When I finish these tasks, will the way be changed?"

"The way is no longer your concern. Kaben seven, who you brought to safety, will be the instrument to bring the way to an end. The way will be corrected long before you are finished with what you need to do."

Kaben nine stood and walked to the stream and took a drink before asking, "If fixing the way is not my task, what is?"

"The dream I sent you as you rested showed you many of the places you will be going. You will be dealing with entities that would cause serious damage in the future if they are not stopped. Do not worry about that now. Now you must learn to survive on your own."

"I thought you were going to keep me alive while I do these tasks," kaben nine stated as he sat on the stream bank and hugged his knees again.

"Yes. I will keep you alive. That is all I will do for you though. You will need to deal with pain, sickness, hunger and other things that I will have no control over. For those you must be prepared. If you aren't then you will fail your tasks and hundreds of thousands of innocent people will suffer."

"So what do I do now," kaben nine asked, frowning.

"Learn. I will set you on the path by saying that you need to find food and shelter before you do anything else. I will be with you while you learn but you will not hear from me again until you are ready to begin your tasks."

Kaben nine remained by the stream a while longer. He had already begun to doubt whether he would be able to succeed. He did not like the sound of pain, sickness and hunger. None of that had ever intruded on his sterile world prior to this. His mind rebelled against having to deal with them now, especially in this small, weak and fragile body.

The voice did not come to reassure him. He felt alone and deserted. Finally, after nearly an hour, the first pangs of hunger forced him to his feet in search of food. He considered going to the settlement where he left the four kaben the day before but felt that he would not be allowed to find it. His training had begun and he had to go through with it.

Crossing the stream, he walked deeper into the forest, carefully searching his surroundings for something that resembled food. He realized then that he had no idea what food would look like out here in the forest. All his life, his meals came from the wall unit. They were prepared and carefully balanced to provide all that was needed by his body to stay healthy. He doubted that he would find a wall unit anywhere within the forest.

After hours of wandering he began to feel the real pain of hunger. The feeling was new to him and he disliked it. His mind told him how unfair the voice was being, remaining hidden and not helping him did not seem the best way for him to learn things. Finally, he began experimenting with different leaves. He tried to ignore the taste as he chewed them and sent them into his stomach which cried out for more with each leaf he ate. Then he found some berries and to his surprise, these tasted good.

The berries taught him his first lesson. He had been so happy finding something he enjoyed eating that he gorged himself. Before long he was sick, throwing up most of what he had just ingested. He wanted to cry, but did not know how. The way had taken tears from him years ago. Instead, he collapsed beside a hollow tree, buried his head in his knees and waited to die.

Nearby rustling woke him. He did not intend to sleep, but his body shut down on him. Now, someone or something was nearby and its movements in the bushes had awakened him. He searched through the gloom to find the source of the sound, trying to keep as still as he could. A large animal with black fur and clawed paws stood on the opposite side of the berry bush eating the berries. The creature terrified him. He had never seen a wild animal before and knew absolutely nothing about them.

It angered him as well. It was eating the only thing he had found fit to eat. He sat glaring at it, willing it to go away and leave his food alone. The creature ignored him and ate its fill before slowly turning away and walking into the forest gloom. As soon as kaben nine could see it no more, he scurried to the berry bush hoping to find that the creature had left him something to fill his empty stomach.

The creature left quite a few berries behind and kaben nine soon lost his anger. He did not eat as much as he had earlier, just enough to end the feeling of hunger. The next thing he had to contend with was the temperature. Apparently, the forest had no climate control unit to keep things comfortable.

He set off into the forest again looking for shelter. As he walked he wondered about the animal he had seen. He wondered if all the animals in the forest ate berries. He doubted this. Sooner or later he imagined he would come across something that would consider him a good meal. This thought prompted him to search for something to use as a weapon. He settled on a stick about three feet long and used it as a walking staff.

During his travels, he found a river and decided to follow it for a while. He traveled upstream, searching the banks for a suitable place to call home. The forest abounded with all manner of berries and nuts along the bank of the river. The river itself provided water. He thought his life would be relatively easy if shelter could be found nearby.

After a couple hours of following the river, he found an area that traveled through a gorge. The waters of the river were quite violent here and very little ground could be found on the river's bank. He traveled inland a short distance until he located a place where he could climb up to the top of the gorge. Keeping the river in sight, kaben nine continued to walk, eating berries and nuts as he traveled. He only ate a handful at a time, just enough to keep the pangs of hunger away. Finally, he found where the river fell into the gorge. A fifty-foot high waterfall roared into the rocks below, calling him to admire the power and beauty of nature.

Kaben nine could not deny the call. He found a place along the gorge's edge to rest and watched the waterfall for over an hour. It was difficult for him to continue his search for shelter after that. He had never experienced anything like this in the city. Finally, he decided that more great things awaited him and he moved on, again following the river.

Above the waterfall, the river widened. In some parts it became very shallow and would be easy to cross as it snaked its way around huge rocks that nested in the river's bed. Across from kaben nine, the terrain rose into the foothills of a larger mountain range that he could just barely see through the pines. The terrain on his side of the river remained relatively flat, though the woods were thick with underbrush. Before long, the underbrush prevented him from moving along the bank so kaben nine backtracked until he found one of the shallows and crossed the river to continue his trek.

The wilderness was still new to kaben nine. He had no idea how to read the signs left behind by others. He did not even notice the footprints left behind in the mud. His attention was focused on the hills he traveled beside. It did not take long for him to find a cave up the hill from the river. It had a roof and would provide some shelter if the weather turned. He climbed to it and explored as far as he could on the light from the sun. Although most of it was hard rock, unfit for any semblance of comfort, he did find a small area where the floor was sandy. He returned to the mouth of the cave wanting to gather some food before resting.

That's when he heard the voices. Kaben nine hid in the shadows of the cave and searched the riverbank for the source of the voices. Two men dressed in Hunter's outfits moved along the bank of the river.

“The settlement isn't far,” kaben nine heard one say. “It's best to keep quiet from here on. We can probably take out half of them before they realize what's going on.”

Kaben nine remembered the one hunt in which he had participated. At that time, the inconvenience of having to be in the forest overshadowed the purpose of the hunt. A kaben had run. They went after it and hunted it down, playing with it like a cat would a mouse. He knew these two would do the same with any that survived the initial slaughter. He also remembered the crude weapons that had been trained on him when he delivered the four kaben under him to the other settlement. They would have no chance against the Hunter's armor and photon rifles. His first thought was to try and warn the settlement. He knew this would just make the hunt longer. The two Sartons had to be stopped.

Kaben nine frowned as he took stock in his own situation. He thought about what he might have to give him the advantage. Before he could come up with anything useful, he had to leave the cave to keep the two Hunters in sight. He quietly stalked them, hoping he would think of something before it became too late to act.

He still carried his stick, though that gave him no comfort. Then he remembered the voice. She promised to keep him alive. As he moved closer to the two Hunters, he wondered if that part of her promise had started. He hoped it did. Kaben nine was also familiar with the Hunters armor. He had worn it himself. From long range, the crude weapons would be useless. Close up would be different. He knew where the weak straps were. All he needed was a sharp rock to make the Hunters very vulnerable.

Kaben nine slowly climbed down the hill to the river, keeping the two Hunters in sight. If he were quiet, they would not hear him and if he stayed behind them, they would not see him. Kaben nine depended on those two disadvantages of the armor. He stayed just within the brush-line as he followed them, searching the river bank for a sharp stone.

When the Hunters stopped, kaben nine knew that he had to act. He only had a moment or two before they would attack the settlement. Kaben nine picked up a stone and moved until he was almost beside them. He had not found a sharp stone, so he had to make due with his stick. First, he wanted the photon rifles in the river.

Once he was as close as he dared to get, kaben nine tossed the stone into the river. Both Hunters turned towards the splash, photon rifles at ready. Kaben nine rushed from the undergrowth and hit the closest one as hard as he could behind the Hunter's knees, sending him toppling into the second Hunter. Only one of the rifles made it into the river. The other fell on the bank within reach of both Hunters.

Kaben nine dived for the rifle, but one of the Hunters got it first. As he struggled to his feet, he felt the photon shell rip through his left forearm. Kaben nine's mind exploded in a haze of red pain just as the words "kaben scores two," flashed through his mind. Feral. That would save him. He was an animal, cornered and injured. A high-pitched shrieking snarl exploded from him as he charged the Hunter that desperately worked to recharge the rifle.

The Hunter was strong, but surprised by the charge. Kaben nine hoped to knock him off balance, but only succeeded in climbing the hunter enough to wrap his right arm around the helmet. As kaben nine twisted the helmet, the Hunter slipped on a stone, causing them both to fall into the shallows of the river. The helmet was jarred loose and kaben nine sunk his teeth into the Hunter's throat, biting with all the strength and desperation he could muster.

A gurgling sound, like that made by a partially blocked drain foreshadowed the crimson spray as the Hunter's throat finally yielded to kaben nine's teeth. The boy immediately turned on the second Hunter who slowly cowered away from kaben nine's blood-soaked growl.

The scouts from the settlement had arrived, drawn to the battle by kaben nine's feral cries. They surrounded the Hunter, keeping well away from the boy as they did so. Kaben nine waited as they ordered the Hunter to remove his helmet and place his hands on his head. Kaben nine recognized him and his neatly trimmed blond goatee. He was the head of the settlement Hunter's regiment, the greatest threat to those that lived outside the way.

Without warning, kaben nine attacked him. The Hunter tried to fight back, using the dagger all Hunter's carried on their belts, but the over-sized shirt the boy wore took the brunt of the slash and once again, he locked his teeth on the throat of a Hunter. The Hunter managed to score a long slash along the boy's ribs before his throat was liberated from his neck.

The settlement scouts watched in stunned silence. When kaben nine moved to return to his cave, they gave him room, though one was assigned to follow him. Kaben nine did not care. His vision was a blur of blood sprays, and pain clouded his thoughts. He never could remember how he managed to find the cave again and then, collapse on the sandy portion he called home. When he awoke, sweaty and feverish, he found his wounds tended and a plate of food and skin of water waiting him.

He ate the meal and placed the empty plate and skin on the rocks at the mouth of the cave and returned to his new home. It would be days before he regained enough strength to venture out of the cave again. Each time he woke, fresh food and drink awaited him. The settlement elders had decided that he had been sent by the Mother to watch over them. The tents where the women met and sewed became filled with tales and legends about kaben nine. They made him new clothing which was left for him along with his food.

As the seasons passed, kaben nine became more in tune with the wilderness around him. During his stay in the cave, five more Hunters approached the settlement, only to find their fates matching the first two. Kaben nine never actually saw the people of the settlement after that first day. He knew they were there. He knew they guarded his cave when he slept. He knew they provided for him when he could not provide for himself. Finally, he knew they were learning from him as he learned the ways of nature.

Two years later, one of the settlement children sat near him when he awoke. She was dressed in a pink skirt and blouse and had blond hair with a touch of red in the highlights. Kaben nine stared at her, his eyes wide. He had never seen a girl wearing clothing before and the sight mesmerized him. It was as if the clothing added an aura of magic and mystery to her small frame. The child did not speak but kaben nine could see the awe reflected in her sky-blue eyes. She gave every appearance of being as impressed with him as he was with her.

She crept a little closer, slowly, then held out a stuffed bear with thick black fur that matched his hair. The nose and paws were bare and dark brown. Kaben nine grinned at the little red tongue that hung out slightly beneath the bear's nose. He accepted the gift and found it soft and pleasant to hold. He had not spoken since he arrived here and did not remember how, so he smiled and hugged the bear tight. The little girl's face lit up like a spring morning filled with flowers and sunshine. Then she quickly scampered from the cave.

That night, the voice returned. Kaben nine had suffered illness and pain. He knew cold and loneliness. He also learned how to survive on his own.

"You are ready," was all the voice said as kaben nine lay in the darkness holding the bear that was given him.

He barely remembered the voice just as he barely remembered his life in the city. As he drifted off to sleep, he did know that the purpose for everything that had happened over the past two years would begin when he awoke. He hugged the bear a little tighter and smiled. He was ready.

Moments later the girl came back. Kaben nine remained still, wondering what she would do. He knew who she was by her scent and did not feel threatened by her. He heard her move closer, then felt her as she lay down beside him. He let her put her arm under his neck and cradle his head on her shoulder. Kaben nine thought this to be a gift from the voice for completing his training and accepted it as such. The comfort of the girl's shoulder seemed the perfect way to end his old life and begin the tasks that faced him. He drifted into a peaceful sleep hopefully wondering if he would receive more such gifts at the completion of each task.

©2009 Tanner Artesz


  1. "kaben scores two" woohoo! That is so awesome! My favorite line =]

  2. Yes, enjoying this tremendously. So glad you're posting it. I love it when a character admires the beauty of nature and rips someone's throat out in the same chapter. Not that I've necessarily encountered that before, but really, what more can a reader ask for???