Fatin of the Ajuru – Lady Iris and Lady Itzel – Home comforts – Friends and family – Ready to hunt
ARRIVALS AT THE GATE
Rina Prescott reporting
The arrival of new people at the gates of Algernon University never fails to excite us with stories of far away, in distance or in experience. In the memory of your reporter, that of Mrs. Fatin Tennant must hold first place as the life most unlike
our own. Mrs. Fatin Tennant is the wife of Mr. Carl Tennant, whose sister is Miss Alexandra whom you all know from earlier articles as the founder of the Algernon Rifle Club. She has joined her husband on our cold English shores from the tropical regions of Sudan, where her tribe roamed the banks of the White Nile in South Sudan. Mrs. Fatin was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Her first impression of England was, unsurprisingly, the climate. We could all do with a bit of extra warmth, so Scientists, you have a job. As it happens, the loud noises of our industrial civilisation do not bother her, nor her adorable son named Raage, who sleeps right through it. The hardest part of her new life here is the British detachment. As she put it, ‘So many people, and they look so alone.’ In our defence, I can say that Mrs. Fatin does enjoy the warmth and kindness of those who do overcome their reservations. You will be pleased to know that Mrs. Fatin’s tribe, named the Ajuru, do not practice cannibalism, and that those tribes who do are looked down upon as unsophisticated. Mrs. Fatin is trying to improve her knowledge of English, so do not hesitate to talk to her, it is quite safe.
I am Fatin of the Ajuru. I write these words so people can learn of my life. I also need to learn the words because I now live with my man Carl and my son Raage in England. The people in England live in houses, but not I, Carl, Alexandra, and their father Philip. We live in a dirigible, Lady I. She has her name from two women. One is the mother of Alexandra and Carl. Her name was Iris. She was shot years ago by bad men who tried to take their things. The other woman was called Itzel. She helped Philip when he lost his leg. Carl was not happy to hear of Itzel, but he is easy now. He does not talk about it. It is like cooking with hot stones under ground. Do not walk on it. Do not dig with your hands.
I love Lady I. Carl and I have put things from my home in our cabin. We can look out through the window and see the world outside. Everything looks small when Lady I is flying high. Raage looks happy when he is by the window and looks out. Maybe he likes the sight, or maybe he is happy because he is full of milk. Our cabins are in the back. We have the big cabin because there are three of us. It is like our tent in Sudan, but we don’t have to take it down when we move. It moves with us. Carl and I sleep in a soft bed. Raage sleeps next to us in his own bed. Sometimes, I take him into our bed so I can hear him sleep.
Alexandra is in the cabin next to us. She has two beds, one above the other. She sleeps in the top bed and puts her things in the bottom bed. She has many things. It looks strange to me to have more things than you can carry. She says that many of the things were in their house in England. When you leave for a long time, and then come back, your things are still there. That is not the way in Sudan. You only have what you can carry and when you walk away, what you leave is for the forest.
Nazeem came to Lady I a few days ago. He is a witch doctor. He wants to make us believe he knows things. I make him believe that I am stupid. I don’t believe him. I don’t know if he believes me. Carl says that he did find Mr. Riley without looking hard. I love Carl, but he believes many things that he shouldn’t. Nazeem does not sleep like us. He sits in the hold of Lady I and closes his eyes. Sometimes, he talks about fire and air and earth and water. I like Nazeem even if he is a witch doctor. I feel in my heart that he means us well. Still, my heart was wrong about Raage and told me he would be a girl. I want Nazeem to be good. He is fun.
Mr. Riley came to Lady I when we were in Cairo. He smells of death. He had to hide with a dead man for three days. Even now he is clean, Riley still smells of death. He scares me. His eyes are cold. Alexandra says that we help him to keep everybody safe. Riley does not care that people are safe. He wants something else. Riley was hurt by bad men, and now he wants to hurt them. I knew a man like that. Men from another tribe burnt him and cut him to make him tell them things. Then, he tricked them and ran away. We found him and bound his wounds. All that he wanted was to hurt the men who had hurt him. Then, he forgot that we were not those men. He tried to fight Geedi the Hunter, but Geedi was too strong. He was in our tribe only for a short time. Elder Hanad said that he was sick in his head, and told him to leave. The man then tried to kill Elder Hanad. Nuune, Odaawa and Geedi took their spears and killed him. We left for the next camp that day and never returned to that place.
In our small tribe, there is now a man who maybe is as sick in the head as that man was, back home. We can’t make him leave because we need him to stop the bad men who want to hurt us.
Lady I now flies over Sudan. We look for the men taken from the tower in Paris. A man called Slate makes them do bad things. We need to find them and take them back to England. I don’t know what bad things they do. Carl tried to tell me, but I don’t understand. They try to learn something bad. It could kill many people at one time. It scares me, but Carl tells me not to worry. Everything will be fine.
Sudan is where my old tribe is. In my heart, I see them walk, sing, making camp, and I miss them, but I will never go back to my tribe. I am not the Fatin I was. I know things. I have my English clothes. I drink English tea. I eat English things. But I miss their faces, their smiles. I miss talking to them, face to face, not in my head. But if I go back, I will never fly with Lady I again. The bridge is the best place in the world. I take off my shoes when I am at the wheel, so I can feel Lady I running. I can feel her breathe in to go up, breathe out to go down. Lady I likes to run through the air, and play with the clouds. Carl says she is very fast. When I ask her to go fast, she eats much. When my tribe travels, we walk slow to walk far. Running is for hunters, or when something hunts you.
We are hunters, but people also hunt us. They have tried to kill Alexandra twice. They will try again. Riley killed the woman who did this to Alexandra. He made her tell him who told her to kill Alexandra. Alexandra didn’t want to say more. I didn’t want to ask more. Alexandra is a good woman, but she has done bad things when not doing them would be worse. There are times when you must. Raage’s water runs clear, because he has never done bad things. Every time you do something bad, sand or dung or blood is thrown into the water, and it becomes dark. When you do a good thing, fresh water is thrown in, but the water never becomes clear again. I know that my water runs dark in some places. I have not been kind sometimes. But there is no blood on my hands.
There is blood on Carl’s hands. People are not wrong to be afraid of him when he is angry. When the other tribe took me to be their wife, Carl came and killed many of them with his guns. I have never been more afraid in my life, but he is my man, and sometimes, you need someone to fight for you. I am glad that it is Carl.
Alexandra just gave me a cup of tea and told me that we are going down to look at a place where they have been before, a mine where they dig for the stones that Lady I eats to fly fast. The last time they were here bad men tried to kill them. Why do we go to these places? Stupid to ask. We go there because we are the hunters. Those who do not hunt kudu because the lions can eat them, do not eat kudu, but only roots and leaves. I will go to the bridge now and see if there are kudu, or if there are lions.