Brad took up the barlus flowers and squeezed one. Its sap dripped like honey onto his chest, which he smoothed over with his hand. As it did the night before, he felt the pain melt from his being.
Teyata scooped a mouthful of offal from with the carcass and greedily devoured the offering, sucking the blood from her hand.
“Eat,” she said. “We’ve got a lot to do today.”
Brad dipped his hand inside the splayed ribs and tugged a bloody handful free. He slowly brought it to his nose and smelt the meat. It didn’t seem foreign to any other raw meat he’d handled before. Tentatively, he dipped his tongue and attempted to swallow the blood. His throat refused to accept the liquid; instead causing him to turn aside and retch.
“You’re going to have to eat,” Teyata said.
“Can I cook it first?”
Teyata shrugged. “Don’t take too long.”
Brad trotted off a few steps, collected dried grass then returned. He pushed aside the blackened sticks, finding smouldering sparks beneath. Placing the grass on top, he blew hard. Teyata watched, still chewing as smoke swirled into a thin, then thicker tendril. All at once, a small flame erupted, growing as it spread from the grass’ core. Brad then added sticks, which crackled as the flames grew.
Teyata leaned closer, then extended her hand into the flames.
Brad barely opened his mouth to cry out a warning, when Teyata growled, recoiling and flapping her arm.
“Never put your hand in a fire,” Brad warned.
“It stings,” said Teyata.
Brad squeezed sap from the remaining plant onto her hand. Her nostrils quivered distastefully at the scent of burnt hair. She rubbed on the sap and held up her hand for inspection.
“There’s no permanent damage,” Brad said. “You’ll be alright.”
He threw on the largest branches last. A few minutes later, the fire took hold and generated a lot more heat. Brad took hold of the dead animal’s leg and dragged it closer.
“Teyata, I don’t have my knife with me, so…”
She looked at him blankly.
“I meant I don’t have my claws with me, so would you mind cutting off the leg?”
Teyata took hold of the foot in one hand. With the other, she slashed through the thigh, meeting resistance at the bone. She flattened her ears as she raised her hand with all claws extracted, then struck savagely, breaking through.
“Could you skin it too?” Brad asked.
She fumed, then complied, taking the skin away with precision cuts made with her fingers. When she finished, she tossed the skin aside and handed Brad the joint.
He held the foreleg over the flames. Fat bubbled on the flesh’s surface and dripped into the flames, hissing. It gave off a pleasant aroma, reminding Brad of a spit roast. It must have affected Teyata too, as she stopped eating, staring with nostrils quivering and mouth slightly open.
Brad sharpened a stick and skewered the meat, before resuming his roasting of the leg. He held it over the flames for a total of twenty minutes then dropped it on the rock slab. Using the stick, he stabbed and tore off a shred of the cooked meat. He chewed and swallowed, pleasantly surprised.