day 14

The twitching started with his fingers. Uncontrollable spasms that felt like little jolts of electricity. Then his toes started, and before long his hands and feet joined in.
“Any minute now,” Manfred thought, it will get to my arms and legs and the bruiser in the hall is going to hear me thrashing about and there won’t be a thing I can do to stop it. Unless…” There was the tiniest possibility that he had a bit of paper on him. There was always a stub of a pencil in his pocket – part of an eco scout’s basic kit. If he could only write a note…

The furthest he could reach with his hands was the length of his fully extended fingers. He tried to stretch them further. Fabric bunched up under one hand and under the other he could feel the brim of his hat. For the time being there was nothing he could do with either of them.

Then the door opened again. This time there was no point feigning unconsciousness. A pale skinned man with a face like a ferret came in with a brace of candles. He put them down on a ledge then shut the door behind him.
“Started, has it?”
Manfred made no attempt to reply.
Ferret face grinned. “ Better get us some company. Can’t have you goin’ through this all alone, eh.” He opened the door stuck his head through and let out a whistle that could be heard two streets away. “Oi. Tick, get down to the bar and tell Griff his friend’s woken up.”

Tick must have been both obedient and fast. In no time at all Manfred could hear footsteps creaking up the stairs, striding across the landing and stepping into the room.
“Oh dear, my young friend, you seem to be in trouble. How fortunate that I came along.”
The twitching was well established in Manfred’s arms and beginning in his legs. They were violent spasms and he knew that before the drug worked its way out of his system a good number of his bones would be broken.

“I’m sure you know the seriousness of your condition,” Griffin continued, “ It would be a terrible thing to let it go on much longer. Luckily, being a resourceful man I have about me some healing potions that could relieve your symptoms –and the price is not unreasonable. All I ask is to be given some news of a petty criminal. A young lass, hiding out in the salt. She has something that belongs to me and I very much want to get it back. I want to know where she is, who’s in charge of her case and I want to know what lies she’s told you.”

Manfred was sweating with the force and the relentlessness of his uncontrolled movements. His eyes wild with pain, he tried to speak, but his jaw rattled against his skull and the only sound he could make was a broken groan.

“Grunt twice if you want to stop that jerking around.”

In the small part of his mind that was still capable of producing thought, he knew he should refuse. He would refuse. He would not give in.
His body had other ideas. It groaned, twice.

“Fordyce, a glass of Rakki for my friend here to wash down his antidote and celebrate his good decision.”
Ferret came back with a tumbler half full of a frothing green liquid and held on to it as Griffin made an elaborate performance of tipping in a drop of this and a squirt of that from vials he pulled out of his pockets. Griffin then pinned Manfred’s hands behind him and Ferret poured a fair proportion of the drink into its intended target.

“This gonna take long?” Ferret asked.
“In a hurry?” asked Griffin. “Thought you’d want to stay for the show.”

Manfred felt a warm sweetness flow into his veins. Wherever the sweetness reached, his nerves and muscles relaxed into a bath of golden honey. It made him smile.

“ I like honey,” he said, slurring a little as he tried to move the words out of his awkward lips. “I love honey. We had beehives when I was a kid, they belonged to my uncle the beekeeper, but he used to let me watch when he opened the hives. The nurse is a honey. I like the nurse too.”

“Yes. Tell us more about the nurse.”

By the time the first light of dawn edged through the window, Manfred had almost talked himself out. He’d told them about all the plants that grow in the salt and all the animals that live in the plants that grow in the salt. He’d told them all about his brothers and his cousins and about his days at the enviroscience academy, all in the greatest detail. When directed, he recalled finding the girl lost out on the salt and recounted their journey back to the checkpoint and the psych hospital. He told them more about Commandant Jax and Scout Co-ordinator Quattro than they really wanted to know and much more than they wanted to hear about Nurse Jasmine. As the sounds of early market carts began to rumble through the streets the river of words subsided to a stream and then a trickle. Then the words turned into sounds and the sounds morphed into snores. Manfred slept deeply and dreamlessly.

“ Tell me one thing,” Fordyce asked his occasional employer as they made their way downstairs, “Why didn’t you give him the talk drug at the start? Could’ve saved a lotta time.”
“Instinct.” Griffin said to him, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“He had enough to say. “
“He had nothing to say worth a spit.”

At the corner of the street, after the correct amount of cash was passed from one hand to the other, the two men went their separate ways. Fordyce headed west to his home in a poorer part of the delta. Griffin, deep in thought, walked to the ferry wharf.

Twelve hours later Manfred woke up with an unspeakeable headache and no idea where he was or what had brought him there.

day 14

Evelyn Bach

Booragoon, Australia

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Some cracks and inconsistencies, but no point going back to make changes now – I’ll soldier on with this and make adjustments later. So, on we go!

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