Chapter 8

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I lie, body wasting, soul exploring. They sit me up and wipe me off and prop me up, eyes a watercolour, manufacturing beautiful lies from a vacant mouth.

I enter their minds, I watch the broken village, I tell truth, I heal. When they sleep, I enter their minds and interrogate them, Nori style. While my body sleeps, I wake to myself, free from flesh. I learn.

ON TRUST

I awake...

And look down at my body, naked, pale, a slug in the moonlight. It peers through the no-roof, curious. Wei throws a burly arm over my breasts, I can feel the hot blood under his skin like a chemical burn. From his right, Jamie stirs, opens her eyes sleepily. She looks crossly at the arm and then sighs, as if resigning herself to something. Sits up, pulls the stiff blanket back over me. She peers closely at Wei, as if willing him to wake. When he doesn't, she slips out, returns with a small bowl. She looks more solid than I've ever seen her.

I feel small, cold paws on my cheeks, squeezing gently so my lips part, a sucking fish face seeking mercy. Gently, she spoons a few mouthfuls, tenderly wipes the green rivulet trickling out my mouth. That's what happens to caught fish, they give up their water.

Yes, yes, yes I hear the inner voice say, more, give me more, but it's distant, so far away...

HISTORY LESSON

I awake...

I'm sitting on the Kaimanawa. His flanks feel sweaty so we've come far together. His blood burns too but it's different, more like the enduring heat of molten lava, sticky globules of horse flesh stuck to my bare thighs. We're on a hilltop, green, that overlooks the oceans. Two clashing oceans rush to meet each other, like spirits under the surface, rolling in a deadly embrace. Behind them, like avenging angels, fire and smoke flood the sky. Despite the primary colours, it's nuclear and cold.

I hear a voice, look down. It's the Ne, still in his ruined form. Only when I hear his voice, firm, resonant, do I realise the earth is screaming, wrenched. There is rumbling, explosions. I fancy I can hear humanity cry. This is what created the pakeha-Nori rift.

"It has begun," he says. He grabs my horse, turns him around with a jerk at the soft mane. Still perched on this pinnacle, bright white at my back, I see the sensor nets flicker inland, disappear, flicker once more, draw energy from the conflict, settle. A haze in the air shows their squat placement.

We stay there. I don't feel hot, even though the air is close and murderous ash chokes the ground. The earth pivots around us, we're the axis, an unholy trinity of pakeha, beast and Nori. I watch the aurora b­orealis – a permanent stain on the sky. I watch us die, creation in reverse. First the people, wandering past, they sicken, sores sucking at their souls. Then the birds start dropping from the sky, a toxic harvest. This pinnacle seems to be the place that calls to life. The animals come. I watch herds of the Kaimanawa stampeding, running off the edge. Hedgehogs next, tiny spines wrapped around their fat little bellies as they roll to their doom. The Ne tells me it is called Cape Reinga. I call it Cape Death. My tears roll. They want to slip off the ridge of flesh that contains them but can't. The ash has formed a harsh mask to stop this, Nori style.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING

I awake...

To see the man with the white hair that they call Lucky. He is kneeling at my still form's feet. I wonder what prophesy he is here for, what words he thinks this hibernating fish will burp up today. I've been in his head. Lucky - he's the unluckiest bastard alive. If there is a snake to be trod on or a crevice to fall down, Lucky will find it. An unlikely scout, he always survives to bring back a tale of danger and warning to aid the tribe.

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