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In the world of Nideon

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Ongoing 1781 Words

Matsias

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Ura carried Matsias all the way back to the Truuit's trailer. She held him tightly and kicked at the door until a stunned Key opened it. Then she hurried inside and deposited Matsias into a chair.

As soon as Ura let go of him, Matsias made for the door, but his leg wouldn't hold him, and he collapsed to the ground. Ura hurried to pick him up and Matsias pounded her with his fists again. "You let them die!" he yelled, "We could have rescued them! You let them die! You let them die..."

As Matsias trailed off, Ura, unusually gentle, lifted him back into the chair. "I didn't have time with the enforcers coming. So I saved you."

Matsias looked up at her. He didn't have enough energy left to cry. He game a small nod.

"I'm sorry."

"Ura," Toak came forward. He spoke in Thisizha, but Matsias was pretty sure he said, "what on Nideon is happening?"

Matsias didn't understand Ura's response, except for, "leave Ethion now."

She walked back to the door, and her husband stopped her. "Ku'uxa ijuku Matsias doctor."

Ura turned and looked him in the eye. "Ku'uxu leave Matsias Ethion."

"Azay'ikaa ara'aus uthu leg."

"Azay'ikaa ara'aus uthu life."

For a moment, the whole trailer lay in a tense silence as each of Key's parents wordlessly held the other's gaze. Matsias had a feeling Ura would win the argument. Like the Pelan, Thisaazhou were matriarchal, and the women usually made the final decisions.

He was right. He didn't see what passed between them, but Ura left the trailer, and a moment later, the truck started up. Toak and Key helped Matsias to Key's bed. Now that he was no longer focused on his parents, his leg felt like it was on fire all over again. Toak cleaned and bandaged it as best be could, but every bump of the trailer made it throb.

After a few hours, the bumping got worse, and Matsias had the feeling they had gone off the road. The trailer stopped. Ura came inside and spoke with Toak in Thisizha. After a few minutes, Toak came into the room and took from Key's closet a pair of loose, drawstring trousers in a pale yellow color and a red tunic with floral embroidery on the neckline. Toak helped Matsias change into the clothes, which were a little big for him, as Key was several inches taller than he was. "You'll have to wear these for now," Toak told him, "In the next few days, I'll make some others that will fit better."

Ura appeared in the doorway. "We'll need your ID card," she told Matsias in Zhohu.

"It's in the pocket of my jeans," Matsias replied as he painfully settled back onto the bed.

After she found the card, she paused and looked up at him. In a quieter voice, she said, "We'll need your headscarf too."

Matsias looked down. His headscarf, or what remained of it, was still wrapped around his hands. Nevertheless, the idea of parting with it was different.

"Matsias..."

"Just... give me a minute." Ura seemed impatient, but Matsias tried to block her out, just as he tried to block out a new flood of tears. He muttered a prayer to the All-Knowing under his breath. Then with careful, delicate movements, he unwrapped the purple fabric from his hands, smoothed it out, and folded it the way he had done after taking it off every night since he was nine. His headscarf contained all of Pelan history, and even if he never saw it again, it deserved proper respect. He handed the pieces to Toak, and Key's parents disappeared from sight. A moment later, he heard the trailer door opening.

"Key!" Matsias called, and she came into the room. "Will you open the curtains?" he asked.

Key gave him an unsteady look, but she walked to the window and pulled the curtain aside. Mat could see figures outside, but he couldn't clearly see what they did. Ura hadn't thought to pick up his glasses when she had collected him. "What are they doing?"

Key looked at him warily again, but then described what she saw. "Mom's got a metal bucket. It's got your clothes inside." She paused. "They're burning them." For a while, Key said nothing more, and Matsias didn't ask. Then Key said, "It's done. She's trying to scatter the ashes."

A moment later, they heard the door open again, and the sound of metal against the table. Ura came back into the room with Toak behind her. She looked Matsias up and down. "We ought to cut your hair."

"No." Matsias clutched at the black braid that hung over his shoulder. "Please. It's the only thing I have left."

Toak put a hand on his wife's shoulder and spoke in Thisizha. Then he turned to Matsias. "You look like you could pass for our son."

Key nodded. "Lots of people in Illegate used to think Mat and and I were siblings. Even when he wasn't dressed Thisaazhou."

Ura frowned, but relented. "Fine," she said, "we've been here long enough anyway. It'll have to do." She left the trailer and the truck started up again.

Toak gave Matsias medicine for the pain in his leg, which helped the first day, but after that, only took the edge off. As they neared the border, Toak gave him something to help him sleep, and Matsias relived the fire again in his nightmares. When the drug wore off, and the boy climbed out of his dreams, his leg felt stiff and heavy, and as if a thousand knives had been thrust into it. The trailer had stopped. Matsias listened for sounds in the other room. He heard nothing.

"Hello?" he said softly, then louder, "Hello?" He could feel his heart hammering. It was difficult to breathe. Footsteps came down the hall, and he imagined an enforcer coming into the room. He tried to strategize, to determine what he could do if that happened. But he could barely move. The slightest twitch made his leg feel like the knives had been twisted in deeper. When the door opened, Matsias screamed.

"Hush, hush." As a the figure in the doorway drew near, Matsias could see it was Toak. He quieted the boy, then held a glass of water to his lips. Matsias gulped the water down, and when he was done, Toak placed the empty glass on the nightstand.

"Why are we stopped?"

"We're in Atlinthaia," Toak told him, and Matsias breathed a sigh of relief. "That's the fastest we've gotten across the border," Toak added, "You're our lucky charm. We got to the hospital a little while ago. We've been waiting for you to wake up."

"utsay eednaxa afna." Matsias winced. He hadn't even realize he'd spoken in Epaluno until he saw Toak's confused look. "As the deer runs," he translated, then closed his eyes to think of the Zhohu equivalent. "None too soon. I don't think I can walk."

Toak carried him into the hospital, and from there, transferred Matsias to a wheelchair. The pain was almost unbearable and every jostle made it worse. The doctor who saw him was a middle aged man who spoke in Shugbo. Though Matsias wasn't fluent, he was on better ground than he was with Thisizha, as he had tried to learn the language at ine. And concentrating on the conversation kept his mind off his leg.

"What happened?" The doctor asked. His voice was curt and clipped.

Toak looked at Matsias briefly, as if expecting him to answer, then said, "There was a fire. A beam fell on top of him."

The doctor carefully unwrapped the bandages around Matsias's leg, and Matsias bit his lip, determined not to cry. "When did this happen?" The doctor's voice was even more clipped than before.

Again, Toak paused before answering. "About three days ago."

"And why wasn't he brought in then?" Matsias thought the doctor's glare could have rivaled his mother's.

This time, Toak spoke in Matsias's native Zhohu. With another brief glance at the boy, he said, "We were in Ethion. None of the hospitals would take him."

Now it was the doctor's turn to pause. His eyes widened, and Matsias held his breath. "I'm sorry." He said this directly to Matsias, also in Zhohu. "I doubt I can save your leg."

"I understand." Matsias tried to make his voice sound as level as he could. In reality, he was in enough pain that the thought of losing his leg was almost a relief.

"But..." The doctor picked up a pad of paper and scribbled something on it, passing it to Toak. "I do know where you can get papers."

When Matsias awoke, he was unsure for a moment where he was. The room was decent sized--bigger than either the room he had shared with Lamel or Key. But it was sparsely furnished--two beds, two desks, two dressers. He couldn't see clearly without his glasses, but he had grown used to the small flashes of lightning from Key's quartz sculptures blinking at him from across the room, and this room had none of that. Everything around him was dead.

There was another person in the room, on the other bed. From the distance, he couldn't quite tell whether or not it was Key. What if it wasn't? Mat's heart started to beat fast. Who had brought him here and why? It got harder to breathe. He wanted to cry out, but didn't want to draw the attention of the person across the room. He stuck his fist in his mouth to keep himself from yelling.

"Are you alright?"

Matsias jumped as the other person spoke. He was standing now, and he had moved close enough that Mat could see him clearly. It was a boy, about his own age, in jeans and a white shirt with a starfish on the breast.

The boy put his hands in the air at Mat's sudden reaction. "Whoa, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you." And it came flooding back to Matsias. He was at Faraday, in the room he shared with... Reed. And that's who had been sitting on the other bed. Matsias was perfectly safe. More or less.

Matsias sat up and tried to act casual. "I'm all right. I usually have trouble sleeping my first couple of nights in a new place." He grabbed his glasses from the dresser. "And I didn't recognize you without my glasses."

Reed nodded. "Makes sense. Took me about three hours to drift off myself. You coming to breakfast? I'll wait for you."

"Nah," Mat said, "You go ahead. I'll catch up."

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