Helped by Rodan, I finished my meal. The texture, the smell and the taste of the food - with the loss of one of my senses the others seemed to have intensified to the point of overwhelming me.
Rodan began to laugh. "I'm glad I didn't bring you anything more substantial to eat," he told me.
I began to laugh as well, at the same time wondering what was happening to me. That my other senses would be heightened was to be expected, but should the effect really be this intense?
"We should be going," he said when I had finished eating.
Go, I thought. It would be nice to feel the outside air on my skin again. I wondered what time it was, and whether the sun would still be out. I longed to feel the sun on my face.
"Don't worry," he said. "Everything will be fine."
I tried to get up, but my knees buckled under me and I would have fallen if he hadn't caught me.
"Sorry," I said. "I can't come. I can't walk, you see." It was quite embarrassing. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
Again he began to laugh, and I found myself laughing as well. And then, at the back of my mind, there was a memory, something I hadn't thought about in a long time, something about laughing in spite of my fear.
Fear, I thought. What was there to be afraid of? Nothing, surely. If Rodan thought I needed to go somewhere, I was sure he was right.
Laughing in spite of my fear, I thought. A man, laughing. A man, juggling handfuls of fire. Him. Suddenly I felt cold.
"Was there something in my food?"
"What?" I could feel his confusion - and something else as well. Fear?
"Why did you bother anyway? It's not like I'm going to put up much of a fight in my current state." Keep thinking clearly, I told myself. Don't allow yourself to be drawn under again.
"Merran, that's nonsense. I didn't put anything in your food." He hesitated. "It's rather hard to explain."
A man, his back leaning against a rock, looking into the sun. You're going to hurt your eyes that way, I thought.
The next moment my vision was gone, as if a door had closed in front of me. At the same time the fog lifted from my brain and I was able to think clearly again. I still felt comfortable, but the unhealthy euphoria had gone. "Try," I said.
"I can't. I'm sorry."
Then what he had said began to sink in. "We? You mean you're coming with me?"
"You don't have to do this, you know. I must admit that I'm deeply grateful to have you with me, but I don't want you to put yourself in danger."
I heard him move away from me. "I'll get your spare uniform. Are you sure there's nothing else that you'll need?"
"Quite sure," I said, thinking of the stone in my pocket.
The same scene, again. Now I noticed that the man's wrists were in shackles, his arms pulled taut by the chains attached to them. His lips were cracked, and sweat was dripping from his brow. The next moment I was facing him, a damp sponge in my hand. I moved so that I covered as much of him as I could with my shadow, and I began to wet his lips with the sponge. For a brief moment we looked each other in the eyes.
"You're scared, aren't you?" I asked him, when he didn't reply. "Like something bad is going to happen if you don't come with me."
He was quiet for what seemed like a long time. "Yes," he said then.
"Is someone making you do this? Are they threatening you?"
He began to laugh. "No, it's nothing like that. It's just hard to explain."
"Well, keep your secret then." I started to get up, leaning heavily on the table. "Let's go, before my courage leaves me."
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