Patternmaster | Chapter 8 of 26 - Part: 1 of 8

Author: Octavia E. Butler | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 6099 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Four

A FEW DAYS AFTER Teray had decided to run away, he saw the Clayark. It was like a sign, a warning. Teray had taken several learning stones out far from the House to study in the privacy and solitude of a grove of trees. He had been so involved with the stones that he had neglected his personal security. There had been no trouble with the Clayarks within the sector since the day he left school, but still there was no excuse for his carelessness. To let a Clayark almost walk upon him unnoticed …

Normally, any Patternist wandering away from the buildings of his Housemaster’s estate spread his awareness like a canopy around him. The moment that canopy—perhaps a hundred meters around—touched a human-sized creature, the Patternist was warned. Fortunately, Clayarks possessed none of the Patternists’ mental abilities and had to depend entirely on their physical senses. Unfortunately, the Clayark disease, which so mutated human genes that it caused once-normal mutes to produce children in the familiar sphinx shape, also placed the minds of those children beyond Patternist reach. Only Clayark bodies were vulnerable. As Patternist bodies were vulnerable to Clayarks. Teray drew back farther behind the tree that had thus far concealed him from the Clayark.

The creature was a male, now standing on three legs and eating something with the fourth. Teray found himself watching, fascinated, comparing the creature to Laro’s figurine. He had never had such a close look at a live Clayark before. And now that he was aware of the creature, aware that it was alone, it could not possibly act quickly enough to hurt him. But it was armed. It had the usual rifle slung across its back, the butt protruding over one shoulder so that it could easily be seized.

The creature threw something away, and Teray saw that it was an orange peel. Doubtless the Clayark had been stealing in the groves of Bryant, a neighbor of Coransee who raised fruit. The Clayark also had something that looked like saddlebags strapped across its back. The bags were bulging, probably with stolen fruit.

The Clayark was like a life-size version of Laro’s figurine—well-muscled, tanned, lean, human-headed, and almost lion-bodied. It moved with the easy grace of a cat and wore a flaring red-gold headdress to make up for its lack of a mane. Being furless, it also wore clothing—the skin of some animal fixed about its loins, and another skin wrapped about the torso, probably to ease the strapped-on load.

But most unlikely were those forefeet that served also as hands. For Clayarks who bothered to wear running gloves of the kind that this one was now putting on, the hands remained supple and humanly soft. Clayarks who did not wear gloves developed the heavy callouses that caused the legendary clumsiness of the species.

Suddenly intensely curious, Teray checked the area once more, making certain that the Clayark was alone, then rose and stepped clear of his hiding place. A moment later, the creature saw him. It froze, stared at him.

“Kill?” The voice was deep and harsh, but undeniably human.

“Not unless you make me kill you,” said Teray.

“Not kill?” The Clayark sat back on its haunches like a cat. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” said Teray.

“Boy? Schoolboy?”

Teray smiled grimly, reached out and contracted the muscles of the Clayark’s right foreleg. The Clayark gasped at the sudden pain of the cramp, half collapsed, righted itself, and glared at Teray in silent hatred.

“Man,” said Teray. “So don’t do anything foolish.”

“You want?”

“Nothing. Only to hear you speak.”

The creature looked doubtful. “Your language … not much.”

“But you understand.”

“To live.”

“If you want to live, you’d better stop stealing in Redhill. The Masters here are already after your people.”

The Clayark shrugged. On it, the gesture seemed strange.

“Why do you raid us? We wouldn’t kill you if you left us alone.” He knew the answer, but he wondered whether the Clayark knew it.

“Enemies,” the creature said. “Not people.”

“You know we’re people.”

“Enemies. Land. Food.”

It did know, then, indirectly at least. Clayarks always needed more land and food. They bred themselves out of whatever they acquired almost as quickly as they acquired it.

“You had better go,” said Teray. “Before another Patternist finds you and kills you.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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