Mick's Rejects

The fiction no one wanted


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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 6 – part 1

Through a combination of fast forwarding and over a week of watching, Lisa gazed upon Brad’s progress in wonder. He not only grew in fitness, but in size, developing an impressive physique resembling a man in his prime.

“Play!”

Day 42…

Brad leaned out over the edge of the bridge with his hands clasped behind his head. He did the first 12 with ease, coming up and turning his head four times fast each time. Without warning, Teyata bounded aside, forcing him to adjust so that he didn’t overbalance. He looked to her for an explanation.

“You can do them by yourself now,” she said.

He smiled proudly to himself. Teyata entrusted him to do that which men of the old world would have found impossible. Even if he slipped, he had reached a stage where he could have caught hold of a girder and climbed back up.

His world rolled with the leaning back of his body, taking in the vista of the river, the bushland and the pinkish orange morning sky. The sun had risen less than a half hour ago, making it about six am, by his estimate.

Training under Teyata had changed his perspective on life. About a year ago, this bridge would have had constant traffic for commuters going to the city. In a few years, that would have been his lot too. Here and now, he leant out over the edge of a bridge at least 2oo metres above the river. He smiled to himself, unable to think of anything more exhilarating.

98 he counted in his mind.

With the rising of his body, he saw Teyata again, still reading. He saw her in a new light too. This had been her life since she became a merge mutation; to her; a lifetime. She progressed just as impressively intellectually, as he did physically. They made it a point to have a small amount of free time everyday to read the Bible. Brad listened to her read, only having to help her with difficult names of people and places. Afterwards, Teyata fired a multiple of questions. Brad delighted in answering her queries on the teachings of God, making his perspective on the Lord also different.

99.

He began to wonder if he had misread God’s intentions. True, he hoped to find other people in the mountains, but he could literally be the only man on earth. Could God have preserved his life in the bunker for the sole purpose of meeting Teyata and telling her about Jesus? It didn’t seem so important to reach the mountains anymore. If God used him to lead only one person to salvation, then it was worth it.

100 he counted triumphantly.

He slapped his hands down and stomped into a crouch. Pivoting, he turned, giving a last look at the panoramic splendour God created, seemingly, just for him.

“Thank you, Lord,” he whispered.

Turning back, he took a moment to admire Teyata as she read. Lately, she looked more human than feline. He could only think of her as a woman; attractive outwardly, yet even more so inwardly.

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 16

“Fast forward,” said Lisa.

She looked on, not wanting to, but at the same time, unable to tear herself away. His legs appeared as if they might buckle during the session. Like before, he stopped for breaks, finally doing his hundred.

“Pause!”

Brad froze, stooped with his hands on his legs.

Lisa breathed easier. She knew this teenager lived to be 58, so why did she feel any attachment to a man long dead? He would leave her, just like her husband and son did.

“No,” she told herself.

Things had changed now. Ian might be the new man in her life, at least she hoped. If nothing else, he acted kindly and supportive. Would he abandon her too, if he knew what kind of wife and mother she was to her family?

Probably. 

Best to leave that information to herself and enjoy his company for as long as she could? And what about Brad? It wasn’t fair to say “he abandoned her too.” Yes; he’d die; he already had; that wasn’t his fault.

She stepped up to Brad’s frozen holographic face.

“Brad, I have to tell you something… “

Tears welled in her eyes.

Why did she find it difficult to speak to him? The unseeing eyes didn’t judge her.

“I’ve… been a bad wife,” she sobbed. “And I ignored my son.”

She reached out to touch his cheek. “I’ve started to think of you as a son.”

Did I just say that? 

“Yes,” she said with conviction, “I do.”

Her hand passed through the image without resistance. She needed something more tangible, and therefore turned to the skeleton on the examination table. Gripping the bony hand fondly, she went on.

“Can you forgive me?”

His silence didn’t offer the solace she needed. At least his presence meant he hadn’t abandoned her.

“Play,” she whispered reluctantly.

Brad resumed the rubbing of his legs.

“Follow me,” Teyata said.

She lead the way over to the middle of the arch, but lower down. They stopped either side over the top of the semi’s trailer; approximately five metres below them. Teyata dropped through the gap, catching hold of the girders.

While suspended, she looked up.

“Now do 100 of these.”

She commenced to pull her chin above the girder and back down again.

“Chin ups,” said Brad.

“Yeah,” said Teyata, curling her body.

She kicked at the apex of her swing, landing lightly on the girders opposite Brad.

“Now you do it.”

Brad made to move.

“You don’t have to jump down; just do them,” Teyata said.

Brad climbed down into position. At least the hardened flesh of his hands gave him an iron grip without perspiring. He started to raise his chin to the bar, as Teyata ran off. She returned moments later with his Bible, and sat at the edge of another opening nearby. With legs dangling, she started to read.

Brad dreaded it when his arms grew tired. He had already fallen once on the trailer and didn’t relish doing so again.

With a grin, he recalled Teyata’s words about remaining focused. Straining, with teeth cracking, he did 13 repetitions after being ready to quit at 12.

***

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 15

He smoothed his towels out evenly over the edge girder and laid on his back. With his hands clasped behind his head, he began a rigourous routine of sit ups.

“Not like that,” Teyata said. “Give me your feet.”

Brad offered them, only to have Teyata grab them and wrench him around so that his back faced the open expanse of the river. She sat on his lower legs with Bible in hand.

It hurt to have her sit on his shins whilst resting on iron girders, but he refused to grimace or cry out.

“Now, I want you to do those things you just did,” said Teyata.

Apprehensively, Brad stared over his shoulder.

“You’ve got to do 100,” said Teyata.

Brad gaped.

“Isn’t it exciting? I can count that far now.”

He leant back with eyes closed, straining. The effort seemed ten times harder than conventional sit ups. A sense of dread filled him as he became aware of a sense of weightlessness. On rising, Teyata slapped the top of his head.

“Open your eyes. The point of you doing this is to make you concentrate. It will make you put in a proper effort. A sense of danger will do that. Besides, a manine hunts from above as well as sleeps there for safety. I have to get you used to being up here so you can do things on your own.”

“You’re leaving me?!”

“No; I’m teaching you. The best leader is one who teaches those under them to do without them. If I can’t do that, then I would have failed you.”

Brad leant back again, feeling nauseous with fear, then rose again.

“I can’t give you 100 of these.”

“It doesn’t matter if you have a break after every three of them. I’m not moving off your legs until you’ve done 100.”

She lowered her head to her reading, dismissing him.

“I’m sorry I taught you how to count too,” he said as sourly as before.

“Get busy,” Teyata said in mid sentence.

He started off strong, managing to do 20. The growing ache in his stomach muscles eventually overpowered his sense of dread, just as Teyata suggested. She droned on with her reading as he managed to only do a few at a time between lengthy breaks. A little over an hour elapsed when he finally finished.

“That’s a hundred,” said Teyata, holding out her hand.

He gritted his teeth, straining to curl up enough to reach her. She didn’t lean forward to assist him. When his palm met with hers, she wrenched him to his feet.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

Brad placed a hand on his stomach.

“Sore.”

“That’s normal. A few days from now, the pain’ll pass. Now to strengthen your arms and legs. Turn around.”

Brad did so, nearly overbalancing as Teyata climbed on, locking her legs in front of him.

“Squat,” she ordered.

“100?” Brad asked, fearing the answer.

“Yes; with the same rules as before.”

Lisa watched the ordeal for a time, then found herself looking away as she saw Brad’s legs quiver. Surely to balance on a narrow girder needed even more effort with the added burden of Teyata.

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 14

“This can’t be happening,” gasped Lisa.

Her scan of Brad’s remains showed a man of 58 years; in excellent physical condition. For the first time, she caught a glimpse of the man he was to become.

He ran over the crest, listening to Teyata still reading disjointedly, although faster.

“You’re getting quicker,” Brad blurted.

“So are you,” countered Teyata.

Leaning forward, Brad lengthened his stride downhill, slid the last two metres sideways, then bounded onto the road. Not taking a moment to catch his breath, he skipped from the rails and landed on top of the pylon, then sprinted back up. When he reached Teyata again, she was still reading.

She closed the Bible and stared meaningfully, then nodded her approval.

“You understand that you have to do everything I teach you everyday.”

“Yeah,” Brad said, perspiring, but not out of breath.

It suddenly occurred to him that his hands and feet didn’t burn now that he had stopped. The sap of the barlus flower protected his feet as he ran and his hands from scuffing on the sandstone pylons. According to Teyata, he had reached a stage where the affects were permanent, and therefore he didn’t need to apply any more of the sap.

Teyata slapped her hands down and sprang to her feet.

“Let’s work on your agility.”

She dropped between the girders. In horror, Brad reached after her only to see Teyata dangling above the semi’s trailer.

“Now do everything I do,” she said, looking up without concern.

She snaked out an arm to catch hold of a girder and fluidly repeated the process, one after the other like a gibbon. Her route took her all the way to the other side of the road, then back. Kicking with both legs, she vaulted up through a gap and landed in a crouch near Brad.

“Go!” she said.

Brad dropped through the gap as Teyata did, catching hold of the girder. His hands let go involuntarily. He fell onto the trailer, landing heavily on his heels briefly, before falling onto his back. Badly winded, he clutched his abdomen, struggling for breath.

With the sun at her back, Teyata’s silhouette with swishing tail, stared down from between the girders.

“I’m going to have to make you stronger first; get up here!”

Brad straightened and twisted from side to side to alleviate the pain, then hopped over the edge of the driver’s cabin. He slid from its angled face, alighting smoothly onto the road, then sprinted for the bridge’s handrails. Like a ball, he seemed to bounce from the rails and leap onto the pylon, then loped effortlessly up the arc to meet with Teyata.

“There’s two things you’re going to need,” she said, “Strength in your arms and a stronger stomach.”

“A stronger stomach; why?”

“It will add to your anilitee.”

“Agility,” Brad corrected.

“Yes. I saw exercises in the holographic books. Do you know any?”

“Yeah.”

Brad took out the towels from his pack and began the walk down the spine.

“Where are you going?” Teyata demanded.

“It’ll be safer on the ground.”

“Do it up here. You have to get used to heights.”

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 13

He made a rapid shuffle down the incline and managed to hear Teyata reading from the road. Clambering on top of the pylon, he began his ascent, barely going at a fast walking pace. He shuffled quicker going down, then had to return. To his dread, Teyata turned the page halfway up.

“Start again,” she said without raising her head.

Brad looked down the arc, taking two quick breaths.

“I’m sorry I’m teaching you how to read,” he said sourly before going down.

When he alighted again, Teyata landed beside him.

“I didn’t hear you following me,” Brad said.

“I’ll teach you that when the time comes, but for now, you have to learn stamina and balance. Watch me.”

Teyata spun on her heel and slapped her hands on the pylon, vaulting into a crouch on top. She sprinted up the length of the arch, down, then returned, by Brad’s estimate, no more than 30 seconds. She bounded from the pylon and crouched on the bridge’s handrail.

“Momentum is the answer, Brad. Now try it.”

Something’s got to kill you he told himself.

Brad could never leap as high or as far as Teyata, but he knew he should emulate her movements. He ran a step, slapped his hands on the pylon, then kicked both feet from the handrail. His feet ended in a crouch just short of the pylon’s crown, where he strained with every fibre of his being to gain the top.

“Better,” said Teyata.

Brad tried running up the incline as fast as he could. It’s steepness reduced his movements to a slow jog, but he had to admit, it made for better footing.

“Good,” said Teyata running past.

She deftly ran and skipped from the angled girders inside from the edge. Even so, she moved as fast as Brad would have ran in flat ground. Taking her place at the crest, she sat cross legged again. She managed to read a few sentences before he reached her.

“When you can sprint up and down over the arch, then I’ll teach you more,” she said watching him pass her, before resuming her reading.

Lisa watched for a time, then grew bored. Brad continually ran… and failed. After a few times, Teyata allowed him time to rest at the pylons before starting again.

“Fast forward!”

Days passed with the rising and the setting of the sun. It seemed Teyata hunted their food, then put Brad to work with his training, beginning with a run back to town, then laps over the bridge’s arch.

Watching in fast forward made it possible for Lisa to see Brad’s progression. He seemed to run more upright; swifter.

Curiosity got the better of her, compelling her to stop at Day twelve.

“Play!”

Waiting at the pylon, Brad fidgetted like a prancing horse as Teyata raced up the spine and took her usual place.

“Okay,” Teyata yelled.

Brad jumped onto the handrail in mid stride and sprang free, twisting in the air. His hands slapped down on the pylon as his bare feet stamped into the side just under the top. Legs bunched and forearms corded as he all but flung himself on top, and without pause, he broke into a sprint up the girders.

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 12

“Use all your senses,” Teyata reminded.

Brad silently sniffed, taking in scents notably vegetable, separating them from others he couldn’t identify. He recognised sounds too of creatures he had encountered either directly or indirectly…. distant.

“There’s nothing here that can hurt us,” said Teyata, breaking the silence. “Are you hungry?”

“Not after that feed we had yesterday.” Brad looked down at the river. “I could use some water though.”

“Take the loud stick with you.”

“It’s a rifle.”

“Then take the rifle.”

Brad slung the weapon. “I’ll only use it if I have to.”

“You’re learning.”

Brad turned, facing down the arc of the bridge’s spine. Shuffling forward, he lowered himself into a crouch and cautiously made his way down the incline. With great relief, he vaulted down from the sandstone pylon. Determined to instill the discipline of always hearing, smelling, and watching, he proceeded down the single lane road for the bank. He made it to the water’s edge without incident and drank deeply. It made him a bit queasy.

Why didn’t I feel sick last night when I drank from the river?

The chewing of the red petals from a few hours before, must have lined his stomach with counteractive medicine. He resigned himself to chewing one of the red petals in his sack when he got back. Jogging back up the road, he stopped by the sandstone pylon and looked up at the enormity of the task.

“Don’t come up,” Teyata called down. “Run to the next town! When you get back, we can start your training!”

With a nod, he broke off at a healthy pace.

Teyata fast forwarded the several kilometres Brad took to make it to his town. He only stopped there briefly as a large half starved doge with hackles raised accosted him. It seemed to remember the danger of a pointed rifle barrel and backed away. Brad slung the weapon and returned to the bridge. He climbed the pylon and gripped the edges of the girders as he made his way to the bridge’s crest.

Teyata sat cross legged, struggling to read his Bible aloud. He picked a route to stand behind her as she screwed her face in frustration, unable to make out the next word.

Brad leaned over her shoulder, pointing.

“That’s…”

Teyata hissed. “I want to do it myself.”

In mock resignation, Brad raised his hands; pulling back.

“Besides; I have to teach you now. Get down to the road and I’ll tell you when to start.”

“Start what?”

“You’ve got to run over the arc of this bridge and back again by the time I’ve read these two pages.”

Brad stared over the edge, experiencing a sense of vertigo. Even if he survived the fall into the river, the sharks swimming idly beneath its surface would surely finish him.

“If I fall; I’ll die.”

Teyata had her head buried in the Bible.

“Then don’t fall,” she said, not looking up.

She began to read haltingly, oblivious to Brad gaping. Several words into her reading, he realised he had to move.

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THE MISSIONARY – Chapter 5 – part 11

The wind picked up, bristling Brad’s skin. Teyata leaned into him.

“We’re going to have to huddle up for warmth,” she said.

Normally, Brad would have taken it as another excuse for her to sleep with him. A mixture of the chill night and the fact he might fall to his death while he slept, made him inclined to agree with Teyata’s suggestion. They stared at the star filled universe for a long period of companionable silence.

“How do the males of the old world pledge to stay with their females?” Teyata asked.

By her tone, Brad understood the question as innocent.

“You mean marry?”

She gave an absent nod.

“Well the man and the woman stand before God and make promises that they will stay together. Then the man and woman give each other a ring to wear for life.”

Teyata screwed her face. “Is that all? Male manines have to give their females a basp nest. It proves their bravery, and how much they want the female because sometimes the basps sting the males to death.”

Brad imagined a basp was a merge mutation of bee and wasp. He shuddered at the mix.

“Did your male give you one of these nests?”

“Yeah. Rorbin had a few stings, but he slept that night without a whimper or using the kanallis flower.”

“So you’re divorced now?”

Teyata shrugged.

It seemed she merely left Rorbin, but then it amounted to a divorce. Without a formal ceremony for their union, she didn’t need one to break away from her male.

Brad placed an arm around her and drew her tighter to himself.

Lisa watched for a time as they held each in silence, watching the night sky. She would have fast forwarded, except she absorbed the serenity that came from their companionship. After a time, she too began to nod off in her chair, succumbing to dreamless slumber.

***

 Lisa awoke with a jolt, half sliding from her chair.

“Ow,” she said feebly, straightening her neck. “What time is it?”

“Five-o-two am, Professor Gudgeon,” said the computer.

She checked the corner of the still running projection scene. It’s orange numbers indicated virtually the same time. Teyata and Brad, laid huddled together on top of the bridge’s span, still sleeping. Only Brad shivered.

Lisa laughed to herself. If she experienced pain from sleeping in a chair, Brad would certainly feel it after waking up from sleeping tightly curled on cold iron. The projection’s night sky had faded, taking with it, the stars. They would wake up soon. Instead of pausing the scene, Lisa went into her kitchenette to make a coffee then returned in time to see Teyata stir.

Day 6…

                 Teyata fluidly rolled to her feet, disturbing Brad. He awoke with a loud grunt, cut off by Teyata’s hand slapped over his face.

“Never make noise before you’ve checked your surroundings,” she whispered close to his ear. “The first to make a noise is the first one discovered.”

Brad stifled his groans as he set his hands to the girders and rolled himself over to rise on his knees. Like Teyata, he watched in silence for anything untoward. He knelt almost back to back, facing the way back to his town, while his companion faced the road from where they came.

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