4. The Deer

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            For some reason, Felix and Dethany abruptly left, nearly bolting up the stairs and not even looking back to offer good tidings. Felix wrapped his arm around Dethany in what seemed like a protective way as he shot strange looks my way. I did not know what he attempted to shelter her from.

            I looked at Charlie who gave me a timid smile. Perhaps it was more apologetic than shy. I was confused. Had they not wanted to understand my people and our customs?

            "It's just a lot to take in at once, Tane. They'll be back, I promise. You just have to let them get used to the idea."

            Our eyes met. "You did not leave."

            "No." He put his hands into his hair, burying his fingers there. He looked away from me, finding the wall much more interesting. "I guess I didn't." Charlie stood up and offered his hand to me. "Come on. You must be starving."

            I was not. My people consumed a porridge-like mixture of the necessary portion of nutrients and liquids once every three moons. A human week, give or take a few hours. I wouldn't have to eat for many days.

            I stood on my own, waiting for him to lead the way. He showed me up the stairs and back into the pale room that seemed to be comprised of machines and devices. I was curious, but silent.

            There was a small square machine with two slots on top of it. I pressed down a lever on its side and listened as the sound of growing heat immediately greeted me.

            "Hey, don't press that unless there's bread in it!" Charlie exclaimed, lunging forward to rip its cord from the wall. I looked at Charlie. He was a rather spastic human. "Just don't touch any of the appliances for a while, okay?" I regarded him in silent assessment. He instructed me to sit down in one of the two chairs at a small table against the wall.

            After I'd taken my seat he began removing objects from one of the larger devices. A light came on inside of it every time he opened the door. I smiled, entertained.

            "Tell me, Tane," Charlie began, clearing his throat before continuing, "What's your story?"

            I tilted my head. "I do not understand."

            "Your story," he repeated as he took two slices of food and laid them down. "You know, who you were and how you got up to heaven—"

            "Fismuth," I corrected. He was a slow learner.

            "Yeah, Fismuth. You remember some of your life here, don't you?"

            It took a while for me to accumulate an answer to his deceptively simple question. Charlie began piling other pieces of food on top of one of the first slices of food. I was beginning to understand. It was a food base of some sort. Charlie looked at me over his shoulder when I did not answer.

            "What are you constructing?" I asked, trying to peer around him for a better look.

            "If I tell you will you tell me your story?" I nodded. "It's a sandwich. I'm guessing you don't have sandwiches in Fismuth."

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