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(ten years earlier)
It sure felt different up here. Kititit would have said, before, that of course he’d been in the mountains. After all, he lived near that waterfall, and what else did the water fall down if it wasn’t a mountain? But after making his way up and up and up the road for the funeral and seeing what it was like, he’d have to find another word for the heights near home.
Actually, he felt different in a couple of opposite directions. The air didn’t seem to quite do the job air was supposed to do, and that made him feel a little woozy — except the air was so completely transparent that he felt, at the same time, wider awake.
Maybe those two effects, pulling in different directions, had something to do how the old fellow had acted just before the wind took him — giddy, laughing, almost drunk. Kititit might have thought it was always that way, but some of the others at the funeral seemed surprised. When Kititit’s time came, he’d kind of like to go like that.
Good thing the beast seemed to be feeling the thin air less than he was. Why would that be? Did the first beasts, before the Weesah found any, come from up high somewhere? Was there more grass and bushes in the mountains, back then? Or was there some different reason altogether? Well, if nobody knew, he could imagine it however he liked.
Hmmm. Look at that — a path heading off to one side. He couldn’t see too far along it. And he also couldn’t see any trace of wagon tracks, or cycle tracks for that matter — just scuff marks that might have come from feet, or maybe just from puffs of wind.
He could head that direction for a while. Maybe there’d be water. They’d passed the last stream a while ago. And maybe, just maybe, nobody had ever gone that way, or not for a good long time. . . .
Yes, he could go a little ways down that path. Just to see what he might see.
[and the next one, back in the present timeline . . . .]
It had been quite a while since Honnu thought about the tales Kititit used to tell the fisher folk around the fire. But it was with a shock of recognition that he looked out the window to see water tumbling down a cliff above the road.
He had never imagined that water could take such varying forms, or catch the light and throw it around as colors, or hang in the air. And the sound! At home, water lapped like a beast drinking, or hissed on the sand, or dragged pebbles in a grumble, or crashed when the surf was high. This water roared, and not in one voice, but in a chorus of voices.
Kititit sat back and laughed at Honnu’s reaction. “Thought I was making it all up, did you? I’ve known this waterfall since I was a lot younger than you. I’ve even climbed up it, in hot season when the water dries up and you can find places to grip. Almost managed to fall down again, all the same.”
It would take a Weesah, with their long arms and legs and fingers, to climb that fractured stone surface even if the water dried up completely. Honnu shivered at the idea. But the mighty music of the water drove the thought, all thought, out of his mind. He let it fill him.
Terrill stirred beside him. Would his friend think his wonder was childish, or provincial? But Terrill’s face showed the same awe.