Teyata paused without committing herself further.
“And what’s your third request?” Brad asked.
“That you teach me to read.”
Brad gaped. He didn’t anticipate such a request.
“I have watched the holographic books. Men of the old world used to read from the books on the shelves in the book house.”
She had to have meant the library.
“I want to learn like they did,” she further explained. “They used to read for hours. Inside, is teaching on everything.”
“Good; take off your skin.”
“What; my skin doesn’t come off.”
“Yes, this skin,” she said, batting at the flap of his shirt.
It took him the better part of two minutes to remove it from the painful quills. His world swam as he pulled it free, slightly snagging on the projectiles.
Teyata hunched in front of Brad. She flexed a single claw and pressed in a quill filled wound on his chest. Brad winced with a sucking of breath. Teyata glared at him in warning, forcing him to diminish his anguish to the screwing of his nose. With a nod of approval, Teyata dug her claw deeper, moving it back and forth, until the quill worked itself free.
“That’s one,” she said.
He felt nauseous as he looked at the task ahead. By his estimate, Teyata still had to dig out three dozen quills.
“Everyone knows better than to go near a machidna tree when they are nesting,” said Teyata, working out another quill. “Pain is the best teacher. You won’t do this again.”
Over the course of the next hour. She dug out the quills. Brad became very conscious of his many wounds, yet at the same time, started to shiver as the night air plummeted in temperature.
Teyata tilted her head; her nostrils quivering.
“I have to leave you for a little while. Don’t worry, there’s nothing dangerous here.”
She loped off out of sight in seconds. Brad tried to sit down, but the flesh around his wounds tugged painfully, restricting him to the slightest movements. A few minutes, he paced over the rock, almost crying out as he stooped to pick up his rifle. Shortly after, Teyata returned with a yellow armload. She dropped bent tulips, resembling bananas at Brad’s feet.
“These are barlus flowers,” Teyata said.
“Banana lillies,” Lisa corrected.
Apparently later generations, renamed the species.
Teyata held one of the flowers up to Brad’s chest and squeezed. It’s clear sap seemed cold to the touch as Teyata rubbed it over the affected area. He whimpered, receiving a resounding slap across the face. No malice reflected in her stare as she continued to rub without pause.
“You’ve got to learn how to heal yourself.”
Brad felt the pain abate, melting from his being, allowing him to slip on his shirt without any discomfort.
“Barlus flowers also help to stop infection. I’ve brought a couple extra ones in case the pain wakes you up in the night.”
She shrugged, then spun, running a few steps before launching herself at the dead tree. Her wiry claws clacked as she hooked on and scrabbled her way onto the only sturdy bough overlooking Brad’s ledge. Nestling in a fork, she crossed her forearms and lowered her head, ready to sleep.