Another squawk, filled his ears as the magpie appeared, puffed, ejecting its quills again. Brad groaned through his gritted teeth as he slipped around the other side of the tree. He swung his sights to his eye as quills peppered his arms and chest, this time making him drop the weapon. It hovered in front of him, squawking with the bloating of its feathers.
Brad attempted to raise his arms to shield his face, when a mixture of grey and white descended from the tree. Teyata collected the bird in a puff of feathers, and bit into the back of its neck, ending its squawks. She chewed and swallowed as she took in Brad.
“They’re good eating. Do you want some?” She asked.
Brad turned aside from the Teyata’s blood smeared mouth, dotted with tiny feathers. He dry retched twice then looked up. Teyata shrugged, then took another bite, cracking the fine bones in her teeth.
“Help me,” Brad croaked, too pained to move.
It took a moment for Teyata to realise his predicament, then began to laugh. She laughed so hard that she fell to her back and batted the dead bird in the air. She juggled it with her feet until her laughter waned, then she snatched the carcass from the air in a spray of feathers and rolled onto her side.
“Just get them out yourself,” she said.
Brad reached with a trembling hand and gently tugged, snapping the quill off in his fingers.
“They break off.”
“Use your claws to dig them out,” said Teyata.
“I haven’t got claws; not with me,” Brad said, referring to knives.
Teyata abandoned her meal and walked intently over to Brad. She stopped in front of him, staring into his eyes, then gripped his cheeks. With claws flexed, she pulled his cheeks apart and felt along his gums without harm.
“And you don’t have teeth either,” she said, pulling away. “Other animals get the quills out with their teeth.”
“Have you been following me?”
“No,” she said simply, “I’ll help you this time, but I have three rules for you while you’re learning.”
“What; you’re going to teach me how to survive out here?”
“Yes. I know from the holographic books how weak the men of the old world were.”
Brad furrowed his brows.
What could she mean? There were many tough men in his time; just that he could never be one of them.
“The men of the old world lived in big houses, they grew their food and dug pipes for water. In the winter, they made skins for themselves to keep warm and instead of running, you drove in cars. It seems you men of the old world adapted the environment to suit yourselves. You must learn to adapt to your environment instead… or you will die.”
“What are your three rules?” Brad asked.
“First; you must obey me without question, or I will leave. Some tasks will make you tired, and quite often you’re going to feel pain. If you cry out; I will leave.”