Jandrax 63

III

The dilwildi stayed with me throughout the day and his brethren from the trees dropped down by ones and twos to inspect me. I laughed insanely at their antics and wondered if my mind was slipping from being too long alone. They were friendly and inquisitive creatures who got into every part of the gig and all of my belongings, save one. They would not approach the rifle. This I could not understand since they had not seen it used, nor could I understand my revulsion from meat. Finally I dismissed the dilwildi’s actions as a dislike of the smell of gunpowder and my revulsion as a stomach too long accustomed to raw fish.

For all my rationalizations, I could not dismiss the presence I had felt.

I slept most of the morning, making up for the night, and when I woke the dilwildi were still with me. I felt a nameless restlessness and a desire to explore.

Leaving the gig, I limped inland, avoiding the glade where the dead herby lay. For hours I walked, eating from time to time of the fruits available. Siskal and lal were both in fruit, though they never fruited at the same time near the colony. Here, I thought, would be the ideal place to move our settlement, but no sooner had the thought occurred than I was dumbstruck with grief as I pictured the destruction of the paradise by my brother hunters.

I had gone about two kilometers when my way was blocked by a rock ledge overgrown with brush. I did not know how far it extended in either direction, so I tried to climb over. My antler cane slipped on the first rise and tore away the turf.

I viewed the exposed material with amazement.

Neither rock nor soil, but flaky rusted metal. At first I thought this was the remains of something lost during the colonization, but our artifacts would not have gone to rust so quickly. Whatever lay here predated man’s arrival on Harmony. I surveyed its length and breadth in wonderment. It could be the wreckage of some air or space craft, but I thought not. Once, we are told, this planet’s ice caps must have been smaller and at such a time the sea level would have been higher. This, I felt, was the remains of some gigantic sea vessel, lying where it had come to rest on what had been the bottom of the sea.

I circled the wreck, if such it was, and continued inland. The dilwildi accompanied me, flying in intricate patterns above me. Always one or more of them flew just above me or waddled beside me. Occasionally one of them brought me fruit. My guides, for so I thought of the ones who stayed near me, eased my path by pointing out game trails and twice led me to seeps of clear, cold water.

Still it was not an easy journey for me and my leg ached abominably by mid-afternoon. I sat in a sunny glade and brought together the makings of a fire, determined to go no farther that day. I piled a pyramid of kindling and took out my flint and steel, but the afternoon was warm and somehow I lost interest in making a fire. I put the flint and steel back into their packet.

Suddenly, I was scared. First the meat, then the call to the interior, and now this. My will no longer seemed my own. How had I concluded so readily that the overgrown ridge was a ship? It seemed more sure than a surmise. Somehow, I knew. more tomorrow

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