That searing pain in my head wouldn’t go away. There was nothing I could think of that would cause it, nor to help alleviate it. It pounded in time with my heartbeat, slow, unsteady. I could no longer feel the ground beneath me, feel my arms as I tried to push myself up against my darkening vision. There was nothing I could do anymore. Maybe this was that strange thing they called dying. Maybe my life would flash before me like they always said it would. Though, I could no longer recall who they were. Friends, family, perhaps it was something I read a long time ago. I pushed my numb hand into my eye, giving myself anything else to focus on but the pain. But the pain was all encompassing, overtaking my senses, my thoughts, my functions, until it was all too much for me to bear.
There was that sudden realization, being overcome with such strong emotion when I grasped I wasn’t dead. I cried at the world, in relief, in anything else I could think to cry for. Until I found the strength to sit up and wipe the tears from my face, I cried. That pain in my head was still present, but it didn’t thump with my heart, didn’t pound until I thought I was going to go crazy. I took in everything through my tears I continuously wiped away. No longer was I on the ground slowly dying, but on soft cloths raised from the ground alive. A door open to the wilds and the scent of seawater and kelp floated through it.
I touched my head, feeling the bandages adorning it, spots soaked through with what I could only assume was my blood. My fingers brushed something hard against my soft hair and I paused. I found that bravery deep in my stomach and ran my hand along the object, feeling how that wide base against my head lessened the further I went away from it, at that weird twist near the sharp tip. There was a similar one of the other side of my head and I was certain they had never been there.
I stared at my hands in shock, horror, of what they had felt. I wasn’t sure if I could accurately imagine their shape, their color, but they were solid and no matter how hard I pulled they never came off. I jumped in shock, hitting the back of my head against the wooden wall when I saw a person out of the corner of my eye. I curled up in that corner the closer he got to me, carrying something I couldn’t make out in his hands. He knelt by the raised platform, setting the tray on the floor, and reached a hand toward me. “It’s alright,” he said. “I mean you no harm.” He grabbed one of the small bowls from the tray and outstretched it in my direction. “Are you hungry?”
I left my corner, my safety, long enough to grab the bowl from his hand. “Thank…Thank you,” I said, looking at the shreds of white meat in the bowl.
He stared at me with aquamarine eyes, and I shrunk further into that corner. “Do you have a name?”
“Ez…E-zol-len,” I said syllable by syllable. I wasn’t confident it was mine, but it was the only name that popped in my head. It felt right, like it was something made to fit me perfectly, wrap around me in a warm embrace. “Ezollen.” I scooped up some of that white meat in my hand, tasting the ocean and smoke as it hit my tongue.
“I’m Pili,” he said, busying himself with something else on the tray. “Can I change your bandages?” I eyed him in fear, confusion, trying to work up something to say to keep the silence from stifling me. Something wrapped itself around my leg and I froze, my heart thundering out of my chest. I glanced at the thing that attached itself to me, a smooth snake-like thing ending in a triangular point. I dropped the bowl, starting pulling at the thing to pry it off me. “Hey, hey, stop,” he grabbed my wrists. “It’s okay, it’s yours.”
“It’s…mine?” I asked. He nodded. “No…it…” I winced as the pain in my head started to get worse. He let go of my wrists, brought his hands slowly to my head to unwrap the bandages. Pili slathered some sort of cool cream tinged with blue on parts of my head before wrapping it again. “I don’t—”
“It’s alright,” he smiled, picked up the discarded bowl and shreds of fish that fell out of it. “I’ll get you more food. Focus on resting for now.”
After he left, I investigated the thing wrapped around my leg. I didn’t believe it could be mine, but it connected to a spot on my lower back, and it wouldn’t come off if I pulled on it. I didn’t remember having this either. I was certain I wasn’t supposed to have things attached to my head and back. I tried to think back if there were ever a time when I didn’t have them, instead the harder I thought about it, the more my head hurt. It was blank, the only memory I could find was my name, and everything that had just happened with Pili. My tail unfurled itself form around my leg as I curled up on my side. I slept some, the pain only relieving when I was asleep.
Waking up was the hardest thing for me to do. The blanket I had been given was soft and kept me warm even when the cooling sea breeze drifted in. I wanted to lay under the blanket asleep for the rest of my life. Pili woke me up, though, bringing with him food and drink. I ate what I was given in my little corner, still wary of Pili. I couldn’t remember anything, I wasn’t sure I could fully trust him. I didn’t feel malice from him, but I was in a strange place.
“Do you have a tribal name?” Pili asked. “Once you’re well enough to travel, we can help you get home.”
“Tribal…name?” I asked, handing him the empty bowl. “I don’t…I’m…” I held my head in my hands against the throbbing. My stomach started to feel like it was swimming the harder the pain stabbed me in my head.
He placed something by my lips. “Here, drink this.” I parted my lips, and he tilted a liquid into my mouth. It tasted sweet like honey or ripened berries. “It’s okay,” he helped me lay back down, “just relax. Close your eyes, this might help as well.” I did as I was told and felt a cold, wet cloth placed over my eyes and forehead. It sucked the pain away, and I fell asleep once more.