Chapter 18:


The Stray Princess

Four full moons have come and gone, soon the fifth one will appear in the sky. During this time Chia got used to live in this village. Being the only dog around comes with its privileges like being loved by everyone, getting continuous belly rubs and food almost every time she asked for. She gained weight enough to make her ribs stop appearing at her sides, she was healthy again.

“Tall dogs are so great” She thinks, her heart is full of joy and its totally grateful for having found all these people in her time of need.

Every night she is allowed to get inside the girl’s hut, she and her father made a new bed out of hay just for Chia. When morning comes, she moves around the town sniffing the ground, looking at the chickens or the pigs and sometimes following humans when they are doing their duty moon’s tasks. The girl has learned new things like how to use clay, to cook, to give maintenance to the hut’s structure and to collect corn and cotton from the fields that are near the village, this indigenous group has many fields used for agriculture production most of them are designed just for food. If they knew how, they could even start selling to towns or cities part of the products they cultivate, it could be a small brand but all those subjects are unfamiliar to them.

One of the things that get most of Chia’s attention is the melody that the girl plays on a tiny ocarina that she made when she had to do the moon duty related with clay. The girl was really excited when the clay expert taught her how to create the ocarina and how to play it, this is the only musical instrument they have made of clay, the others are made with wood like flutes, panpipes or drums, which also use the skin of pigs to create sounds. The girl is still learning how to make a proper melody but her chest is full with pride for creating her own instrument.

“Maybe I could become an ocarina expert” she told Chia one day while practicing near the corn fields.

The dog didn’t judge the clumsy way the sound came from the clay circle and stayed by her side because it was fun to hear. The girl has grown really attached to her instrument and has been able to always find a place and a time to practice. Her father always forbids her to be outside the hut once the streets are lit by the torches, but she is on that rebel adolescent age and one-night she sneaks out to play her ocarina while her father sleeps. The sound of her footsteps woke up Chia so she decides to follow. In order to not be very loud, the girl walked all the way to the sunflower field, sat on a small hill and started playing. That night the melody was soft and gentle, Chia sat on the grass near the girl who smiled without taking her lips off the instrument. That night illuminated by a moon in the third quarter phase had other lights that weren’t the stars. Small dots turned on and off moving around the flowers and floating over the grass.

“So, this is how they are created” Chia thinks, she is totally convinced that those small dots are actually stars that are created by the flowers that have the shape of the sun and that soon they will fly to the sky and stay there forever, seeing this landscape and hearing the melody that the girl is playing makes her tail wag without noticing. She stays in place stunned by the beauty of the night, then one of the tiny lights comes closer flying, it passes in front of her eyes and moves towards her nose. It was a reflex what happened, she fully opened her mouth and with it grabbed the light, she chewed it for a short amount of time and swallowed “Huh, it doesn’t taste as different as a black dot” by that name she refers to flies and other insects that she’s not able to differentiate.

The sound of the ocarina increases and decreases quickly as the girl starts laughing with the instrument still touching her lips “What are you doing? Those are only fireflies” she says and a big smile appears on her face.

Chia has never thought about it, but she likes when humans smile. Dogs are not capable of laughter and if they show their teeth is in an aggressive manner, but when they pull back their lips and let their tongue show, it appears as if they are smiling. Surely this action is somehow related to their ability to move the eyebrows, by analyzing the reaction of humans or by trying to imitate them. Living creatures learn from imitation because this is the purest form of survival, parrots repeat sounds they don’t understand to get closer to creatures that could feed or protect them or to get away from beings that could hurt them, human babies learn to imitate their parents and with this method they obtain language, culture, ethics and beliefs, sadly it also comes with prejudice and other harmful opinions. That night Chia tried to imitate the girl’s facial expression and it was a success, the girl felt in love with Chia’s smile.

“I didn’t notice you have missing teeth” She said rubbing her hand against the animal’s right cheek “You look just like Gran Gran” she giggles “And I love to watch her smile”

They came back to the hut without anyone noticing and from time to time after that day, she escapes at night to practice her ocarina skills, sometimes in the sunflower field and others in the cotton field, she tried once in the corn field but at night it absorbs the few light that there is in the area and with the breeze moving the leaves it feels like if people are hiding there in the darkness, so it wasn’t a relaxing experience, instead it was one full of anxiety. Each of these times Chia went with her to explore and to hear her melody that got better day by day.

The girl loves having Chia with her even if she has to pick up the feces she leaves behind, gladly the dog never does it inside the hut because she understands that there is the place where she sleeps. Chia does it in different areas, some of those have tall grass so some of the turds have never been found, but in places that people use often they are very easy to spot. There are only 3 people that take care of all the needs of Chia: The girl, her father, and her grandmother. They are in charge of washing her at the river with everyone else using soaps made of pig fat and some plants, making sure that she eats at the same time as everyone in the village does, and of course picking up her feces and throwing them into the latrines using a shovel made of stone and wood. Once the egg production was lower than usual, the people in charge of the chickens that month were scared that they maybe were sick, but at the end they found a hole that went under the fence and was hidden by a bush, Chia dug it and was sneaking to the place and stealing the eggs that she was capable to take with her muzzle, she liked raw eggs since the first time she tasted them in that basket that the hairy man left at the forest. But here even if it was the same food, she is not allowed to eat it, so the girl had to scold her, even if she didn’t understand a word or why the perfect hole she created was being covered with dirt again.

The village has no problem with eating meat but is not something usual, they prefer to leave it for special occasions. It’s not wise to kill a chicken to eat it one day, when she can lay eggs to eat every day. Their diet is mostly grains, seeds, some tubers and fruits, for this last one mentioned they don’t have trees near that produce them, but they know a place where some fruits grow in the wild. To obtain some of those fruits they must prepare for the trip and hope that they arrive before the toucans, the parrots or other animals that eat them.

“Psst psst!” Today the girl’s grandmother arrived early to the hut and is trying to wake up both of them, she is standing at the entrance moving the fabric to one side. Chia wakes up almost immediately and moves her ears up in an alert position, when she recognizes the woman her reaction changes, lowers her ears and goes back to a laying position.

The man opens his eyes “Mom? What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I need you both to come with me fast”

“Less talking, more moving. Wake up my granddaughter” She leaves and waits outside.

The man gets up and moves his daughter “Little sunflower, my mom needs us outside” he whispers.

“Uh? Gran Gran?” The girl is still sleepy and her words come out in a weird tone, but even so her father is able to understand her.

The father and her daughter leave the hut but not before the girl could grab her ocarina, the sun hasn’t come out, not even the dawn has started and there are still stars visible in the sky with a moon that is almost full.

“I think that tonight will be time for a new moon duty” the girl thinks as she rubs her eyes “I wonder what I will get assigned to” a small pain in her abdomen appears, is not much but enough for her to perceive it “Hmm… Can we eat something first?” She asks.

“We’ll go after, trust me” The grandmother says.

Chia sees them leaving and decides to follow, Green Mango hasn’t come to visit since last month but yesterday in the afternoon he appeared and decided to spend the night with them, but even with all the movement and noise he didn’t woke up and stays still with his eyes closed sleeping over a log.

“Come quickly” The old lady moves her right hand. She tries to move fast but her age stops her, so she starts giving her back little punches with her hand “Oh, this old back of mine. It just never stops being so annoying” She carries a small white bag made of cotton just like everyone’s clothes and from it she takes a couple of green leaves, puts them in her mouth and starts chewing “Tsk, being old is so painful, now I can’t just walk around without carrying some of these with me”

The girl knows the plant that her grandmother is chewing, is one the grown-ups chew when they feel pain in their bodies and lately her grandmother has been doing it a lot. She has never tasted it and when she once asked why, her father only said that she was still too young.

“Where are we going?” The girl asks once they start walking to the old lady’s side.

“Oh, it’s a surprise” She answers “You see, every twelve moons we have a full cycle, right?”

“Yes, I like when we have a full cycle because we eat so much food in the celebration” The eyes of the girl sparkle with excitement, this is one of the traditions that are still alive before the colonization era and it’s really similar to a lunar year.

“Well, every seven cycles or so we have some visitors” The wrinkled face of the old lady shows a sincere smile.

“Oh! What? Are you sure mom?” The man shows surprise.

“Of course, I am! I’ve been counting the moons and checking on the field. I’ve been doing this same thing for decades!” She gets angry at her son.

“Oh yes, sorry mom” He turns and looks at his daughter “Isn’t it exiting? Last time you were sick and couldn’t see them… well, you were also very small and maybe couldn’t remember if you did”

“Ho! Ho! That’s why this time we are going before everyone else, I haven’t told anyone so the field is all ours” The old lady laughs “Well, just until the ones on sunflower moon duty find us”

“Oh? So, are we going to the sunflower field?” The girl feels more exited and tries to find clues in everything they say.

“I’m not telling more” The grandmother covers her mouth with one hand, then smiles and gives a little wink.

Soon they arrive to the sunflower field, dawn is starting and the stars are disappearing.

“So, I assume now we sit and wait?” The man says.

“Yes, I’ll be on that hill over there. You young ones play if you want” The old lady starts walking to a slightly elevated area with grass.

“You can play on the fields with Chia my little sunflower, I’ll stay with my mom” The man says as he extends an arm to help his mother.

“So, that’s all?” The girl asks “How much we will have to wait? Why don’t you tell me anything?”

“Because it wouldn’t be a surprise! Just wait until the sun comes out” The grandmother yells.

“Okay… let’s go Chia” The girl and her dog enter the sunflower field, in the area where the plants aren’t so tall, still they reach the girl’s knees and the dog’s jaw. The girl uses her free hand to touch her abdomen in circular motion, it hurts a little so she hopes to come back soon and eat something “Well, good thing I brought this with me” The girl grabs her ocarina with both hands and starts playing it, the dog looks at her with her big brown eyes as a gentle melody fills the air.

“It sounds very well” The father at the distance whispers to his mother “She is very skilled”

“Or maybe she practices a lot” The old lady says. None of them knows that her age is giving her insomnia, so at night she moves around the village when she gets bored, thanks to that she has noticed her granddaughter’s night activity and sometimes follows her and hears her play while hiding behind trees or grass. The girl has never noticed her presence, Chia on the other hand found her a couple of times, forcing her to find another place to hide or retire to the village.

The wind blows, it’s not very strong but the force is enough to carry with it yellow petals that start flying in the air around the girl, her long black hair moves in the same direction and some of those petals get stuck in it. Chia sits on the ground; her fur also moves with the wind and some of her hairs simply float away. The beautiful concert lasts around an hour, the sun appears in the sky and the younger sunflowers start facing it, the girl stops playing, she is getting bored and starts walking towards her family and Chia follows her.

From the hill her grandmother claps and starts pointing at the sky.

“HERE THEY ARE!!” She yells, but the distance and the wind doesn’t let her be heard clearly.

Her father starts pointing at the sky too, and then with his hands tries to tell the girl to turn around. She doesn’t get it at first but then she decides to look what’s behind and turns around.

The sky is filled with thousands of butterflies with a gold and black pattern on their wings, they start descending and stay over the flowers. The girl starts running, totally amazed at such sight, Chia felt concerned at first but when seeing how the girl reacted, she decided to run by her side. At the distance her father was helping her grandmother to get up and they start walking and entering the field, the air filled with so many bugs doesn’t let them see where the girl is. The girl keeps running looking at the sky with her arms open, Chia jumps and grabs one butterfly with her mouth and chews it.

“Huh? They taste like the sky dots” The dog thinks as she remembers the flavor of the fireflies.

Then it happens, without any notice and when the girl’s smile travels from cheek to cheek. An unbearable pain hits her in the lower part of the abdomen, it hurts so much that her right leg paralyzes as if a cramp has taken over it. She falls to the ground and lands on her knees, her hand opens and the ocarina that was resting in it flies away some meters and crashes against a rock on the ground, the instrument gets totally destroyed but the girl doesn’t notice. She closes her eyes and covers where it hurts with both hands, the wind blows again moving her hair and while it does with petals and butterflies flying around her, she starts crying.

Chia looks at her, she can feel that the girl is going through a difficult moment so she decides to get closer to cheer her up, then she sees that in the girl’s white dress a red stain starts growing. The dog doesn’t need to sniff her clothes to perceive the scent of blood, this worries her a lot so she starts moving her tail with an anxiety that evolves into barking.

“I need to find someone that can help her” Chia thinks “I know!” She leaves the place running at great speed and arrives to the area where the bearded man is and starts barking to him “HELP! HELP!” She says, but they don’t understand.

“What’s the matter?” The man asks “Where is my daughter?”

Chia bites the lower part of the toga he uses and starts pulling, he feels a void in his stomach and leaving his mom behind he goes after the dog. He moves his head in every direction and sees his daughter crouching on the floor.

“My little sunflower!” He yells.

“Dad, it hurts so much” she tells him when he arrives, her voice is shattered with her crying.

He notices the red stain that covers her clothes and the palm of her tiny hands, he starts sweating.

“Oh dear, oh dear” The man with muscles so big that he could split a log in two, now trembles with fear and looks as weak as a newborn baby. He grabs his daughter with both arms, is the only thing that he could think of, now if he could only find someone stronger than him that could help with this predicament “MOM!” and so he yells.

The old lady was looking at the flowers and the butterflies when her son left running, she tried to go after him but her speed is not what it used to be. Then she sees him coming back, carrying in his arms her granddaughter.

“Mom, help!” The man’s eyes are covered in fear and some tears appear “I don’t know what to do”

The old lady gets closer and examines the girl, all the blood startles her for a moment but then she understands.

“Oh, my poor baby” The old lady searches inside her bag and pulls out a leaf “Please chew on this” She puts the leaf on the girl’s mouth “Let’s take her to the river” she says to her son and he nods.

“Gran Gran, what is happening?” The girl asks as her jaw moves with the leaf inside it, she doesn’t even notice that this is the first time that she’s allowed to chew the leaf.

“Shh, Shh my sweet baby” The grandmother says peacefully trying to calm her down by rubbing her head “You are growing”

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