A Pair and a Stone

“It’s been three years since we first left the village. We’ve traveled all over the world. We’ve overcome so many trials… But I’ve glimpsed into your future. And… I’m not in it.”

The penguin cast its gaze down the arrow shaft and beyond the arrowhead between him and the tiger stalking through the jungle’s undergrowth. Behind him is his life partner, holding the precious stone that he had given her so long ago. She’s clutching it tightly as her anxiety mounts with each step the tiger makes in their direction.

The arrow takes flight and sails true, sticking into the top of the tiger’s shoulder. It leaps backwards in surprise, then turns to bound away.

“Is it gone, Patrick? asks the penguin with the stone, her fins clasped over one another as if wringing her hands.

“Yeah,” he replies, lowering the bow. “We’re safe again, at least for a little while. But we need to keep moving, Penny. It’s only a matter of time before the tiger’s courage grows too large again.”

She nods, then turns to continue in the direction they had been traveling. “The new village shouldn’t be much farther, right?”

Patrick slings the bow over his back and follows after her. “We should be getting there any time now.”

She nods while continuing to walk on. “When we left the village, did you ever imagine us evading a tiger of all things? Orcas, sure. I knew to expect that. We were actually far luckier than we had any right to be.” She becomes distant as she thinks about the loved ones they had both lost.

“Tiger?” Patrick asks, looking up to the treetop canopy as a monkey leaps from one limb to another. “Not specifically, but I knew there would be danger beyond what we’d known before. But there was more hope in that unknown danger than there was in staying in a village with the knowledge that resources were running out. It was either stay and slowly die off through starvation or leave in pursuit of a new future.”

“But three years have already come and gone. I hope this village is more than just a pipe dream.”

“If it’s not, we’ll start our own village.”

Penny laughs. “With just the two of us? Are you mad?”

“I’d be mad to think I needed anyone else.”

She smiles and turns, backpedaling as she talks. “The trip has had it’s ups and down for sure. Do you remember the elephants that protected us from that pack of hyenas?”

“That’s a hard thing to forget, Penny, but I appreciate you not allowing me the opportunity.”

She smiles brighter as she recalls more. “Or how about that decaying rope bridge that we had to cross over that valley? We were soooooo high up, it was making me dizzy.”

Patrick just shakes his head, knowing that it doesn’t matter what he says, she’ll continue talking like he’s continuing the conversation. He smiles brightly as an idea occurs to him. “You know that’s not the original promise stone i gave you, right? I lost the original in a card game a few years ago.”

“And the waterfall! Oh, I just lov–wait, what was it you said?”

Patrick smiles broadly. “Just that I liked the elephants too.”

She narrows her eyes at him, suspiciously. “I thought I heard something about a promise stone?”

He looks around and past her as they are nearing a cliff. His sure grow wide as he looks past her, then points and runs. “We’re here!”

She turns to follow his excitement as he stops at the cliffs edge. Below, a giant wall wraps around an enclosed city. Plumes of smoke twist away from smoke stacks the dot the infrastructure and the sound of car horns almost be heard on the wind.

Patrick cants his head as he looks down and she walks up to stand next to him. “This is not what I was imagined,” Patrick says begrudgingly.

Penny looks down and then turns to meet his gaze. “If your future is to be down there, in that… then I can’t be in it.” She turns to walk away from the cliff.

He cants his head in the opposite direction while watching her walk away, then hastily wobbles up to walk beside her.

She looks down as his fin wraps around hers and she turns back to meet his gaze again. He takes her other fin with the stone and brings her fins together. She looks to her clasped hands and back up to him as he nods.

“I only care about one future,” he tells her. “And that one revolves around me, you, and this stone. Everything else is just filler.”

Her eyes begin to twinkle as he turns back to the jungle and looks back into the jungle. She rushes closer and loops her fin under his before looking out ahead. She smiles. “At least this time we know what dangers lie ahead of us,” she says, turning to meet his gaze. “Shall we go?”

He nods and they step back into the jungle.