As soon as she was able to move they left the makeshift shelter. The boy had insisted. Oztrakii were all over the harbour, he said, and they’d be found for sure if they stayed where they were. So although her body and head still ached, and her heart wept, Gheera agreed to go to the special hiding place that he had prepared.
Of course he was right, she admitted as she fumbled her few belongings together. It was far too dangerous where they were. Even when the CroNullas had controlled the harbour basin, the north side had always been unruly. Now that the CroNullas were finished and hell had been let loose, anything could happen.
Finished. Such a final word. The CroNullas were finished. Gheera found it almost impossible to believe. They’d seemed so mighty, so all-powerful, and now they were nothing, only a memory. Wiped out by the barbarian tribes. The CroNullas had always ruled the harbour basin, at least that’s the way it seemed to young Gheera. She knew the stories, the legends and myths. Who better? Gheera the Scribe, that’s who she’d been for years, living within the walls of CBD, the famed CroNulla capital. For years she’d written down the myths as told to her by Yrec the Yarncarrier.
She knew of the Silence, the time after Nuhklar’s seering breath kissed death into all that still dared live, when people cringed in tunnels beneath the smouldering city. She knew of how the first CroNullas had crawled from those tunnels, led by Jarrah the White Eyed, and built their tiny walled city of CBD from the ruins of a once far bigger city now all but swallowed by the fogs of time. She knew the names of every Sheboss, every Yarncarrier, every General, every battle that had been fought in the long struggle that had finally led to Cronulla glory. All of it was in her head.
South to the Bulli Pass, north towards Newcastle, and west to the mountains that had once been blue, over this area the CroNullas had ruled through a series of forts and outposts. They’d established order in an unruly land, keeping the dreaded Oztrakii at bay, and providing a kind of peace that had not been known for a long time. But now they were gone, their once great city no more than smouldering ruins. Gheera could still smell the smoke drifting across from the other side of the harbour, although all had become silent there.
She felt Boy kneal beside her. The young tunnel boy had become her friend in the old city, read the diaries with her, and in the end had saved her from certain death. She felt him next to her. He didn’t even have a name, never needed one for he’d lived alone beneath the city. She’d called him Boy once, and the name had stuck. Gheera felt him lean across and take the small case that contained the diaries. Instinctively she clutched at his arm. They were special to her, the diaries, very special. Look after them, she almost whispered, but then felt his hand rest on hers and realised she needn’t worry. Of course he’d look after them. They were special to him too.
‘Come. We must go.’
Gheera rose, pain jabbing at her with every movement. She turned her head, as though looking around, but saw nothing of course, her eyes completely bandaged. Even had they not been she still wouldn’t have seen anything. The soldiers had looked after that with their burning stakes. The memory still snapping in her mind, Gheera at once reached up to the bandages and began tugging at them.
‘No!’ Boy shouted.
‘What’s the point?’ she shouted back. ‘I won’t see again.’
‘Leave them.’ The boy’s voice was firm. He grabbed at Gheera, and for a moment their hands and wills locked together.
‘Leave them!’ Boy held Gheera’s hands tightly. He was much stronger than her now, although it hadn’t always been the case. Even so, she fought to free herself, her fingers straining to claw at the hated bandages and the hated blindness that sneered beneath them.
‘I’ll never see again,’ she screamed at him and the blackness. ‘We both know that.’
‘Time!’ Boy gently insisted. ‘Give it time.’ Gheera heard his voice and felt his face close to hers. She felt his body too, and the strength that was now in it, a strength that could be her’s as well. ‘Time.’ His grip did not loosen as he whispered the word. ‘You will see again.’
How often he’d said that. Each day for the last week Boy had carefully bathed Gheera’s eyes and smeared them with a special ointment he made from various ingedients, before wrapping them once more in bandages. What exactly was in the ointment, Gheera had no idea, only that it stank to high heaven and stung her eyes whenever he applied it. Useless muck, she felt certain, a waste of time! But for some reason she allowed him to attend to her each day. Blind hope.
‘Gheera will see again.’ Every time he bathed her eyes he repeated the claim, and although Gheera laughed at him, he always sounded so sure that she found herself believing too. At least wanting to believe. Blind faith.
Gheera sighed, and gradually allowed her arms to drift downwards, away from her face. When they were at her side she then slumped forward, sank her face onto his chest and cried. Boy folded his arms around her, and slowly the two of them rocked back and forth.
‘Is it morning yet?’ Gheera tried to feel the time of day with her face straining towards the sky.
‘Not yet. But soon the sun will pull itself from the sea,’ Boy answered. ‘We must go now while the darkness is with us and the fog still on the water.’ Gheera allowed herself to be led away.
A small canoe nodded at the water’s edge as the boy led the girl across the rocks. They moved quickly, despite her blindness, for she trusted him. Soon they were in the boat, she in the front, the boy behind with the paddle. He pushed quietly away from the rock ledge, gently dipping his paddle into the water, first one side, then the other. In this way they slid out of sight.
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