Two days on, Cal and Able had ridden through the dense scrub forest and come to a village. It was a sorry sight, dusty and disheveled, little more than a collection of shacks in a clearing. The people of the village took little notice of the strangers’ arrival. But it wasn’t long before the dustfish began to garner attention. It had floated alongside Able and Cal as they rode the pede through the scrubs, lazily swimming through the air, content to follow them, like a dog. As Cal had suggested, Able had modified the fish’s helmet to seek out material for new mistakes, and the dustfish would occasionally veer off the path and drift down to the ground, pushing at the dirt. Cal and Able would stop for a break and Able would dig through the dirt to find various pieces of potentially sentient material. Then the little group would be on their way again.
It was children in the village who first began to approach Able, following him at a distance. Cal had gone off to barter for supplies and Able found a comfortable spot in some shade and began making new rollys. The trick to making a rolly was to press the raw materials into something that had a purpose, but just not much of one; to make it curious about things in the world, while retaining a need to stay close to Able. The rollys were just a balance between a desire to explore and a desire to be close to “home.” But even given such simple purposes, Able found that each rolly still had a somewhat distinct “personality,” some more apt to wander than hang around. One of the new rollys, one with stripes, took to rolling over to the group of four children watching Able intently, and bumping into their feet and then chasing them when they backed away. After a time, the children find the rolly very entertaining and they laugh and dodge as the rolly chases after them. All the while, the green buzzing and the dustfish orbit Able while he sits on the ground and mashes together the pieces that the dustfish had located, manufacturing new several mistakes.
At one point, one of the children, a girl of about six or seven years, approaches Able and shyly offers him a bit of bread. Able smiles at her and takes the offering, thanking her. He breaks off little bite-sized pieces and feeds the dustfish, which gobbles up the bread voraciously. After seeing the child look on in awe and smile, Able offers her a piece of bread and gestures to her to feed the dustfish too. She gingerly holds the bread out to the dustfish and the creature gobbles up the bread, nipping her fingers lightly in the process. She screams in delight and pulls her hand away and covers her mouth and then laughs. “Not so bad?” Able asks. But then the girl’s face drops and she runs away. Able looks over to the girl and the other children, peering around the corner of a nearby building, having hid themselves away again.
A shadow falls across Able, and he turns and looks away from the children only to find a large beast in front of him: a two-legged lizard, covered in orange scales and stripes with a massive jaw that is currently very close to Able, sniffing with hot, wet breath. From the back of the lizard comes the gravely voice of a man.
“They seem to like your little mistakes.”
Able is frozen in place before the giant lizard. It barely registers with him that the man seems to know something about what he is doing—knowing that he is making mistakes. The green buzzing turns a threatening orange and with a high-pitched zing it begins circling the man and lizard, diving and swooping. The man swats at the buzzing with a heavy gloved hand, possibly irritated, though it is impossible to tell as his face is covered with a kerchief and a dusty pair of circular steel goggles. He lets himself down off the lizard and comes to stand by Able. Bending over, he picks up one of the rollys that is busy bumping in to his heavy leather riding boots. “Nice design,” he says, turning the striped mistake over in his hand. The little rolly coos with worry. “I’m not gonna’ hurt you.” The man says to the mistakes and holds the rolly close to his face to inspect it further. “Somebody teach you how to do this?” he asks Able.
“Um. No. Not really.”
The man ceases his investigation of the rolly and the dark black lenses of his goggles focus on Able. “No or not really?”
“No. Um. I figured it out myself.”
“Huh.” The rider bends down a little and hands the rolly off to Able. The striped rolly, greatly relieved, gave a whirring shudder. The rider looks over to the hiding children and they instantly disappear behind the building. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a little club.”
“I guess so.”
Standing again, the man puts one hand on his waist and the other on the lizard’s giant head. “Doing that kind of thing can get you a lot of attention, you know. And not all attention that you’d necessarily want.”
“Yeah. I’m not sure you do, little man.”
“Gef!” Cal calls from ten yards or so away. Able and the rider look to see Cal running toward them. “Gef, you ol’ tumbleweed. There you are!”
Read the whole thread: Brother Dustfish