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Reposted 16 September 2012

Stranded Angel
Autumn 1936
Part 14
A story by Simon Barber & David Reese Dorrycott & Fredrik K T Andersson
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, a character by Freddy Andersson,
(including characters from his comic strip "Silver Angel")
& featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon Barber's Songmark Academy stories.

Stranded Angel
Autumn 1936
Part 14
by Simon Barber
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, from Freddy Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip
  with Kama, Jan Van der Veldt, Black Lotus characters by Freddy Andersson;
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Art by Simon Barber & Freddy Andersson

In the village that looked out Northwards from the coast of Main Island, a puzzled feline was looking around wondering where things had got to.

“It was all right here,” Angelica complained, while Kama looked up at her with interest. “All the fish I’d left out to pickle. And I’d got everything ready to make us some Lutefisk for Christmas.” The traditional preserved fish was bleached with lye extracted from wood ashes; that lunchtime she had awoken to find not only the barrel of fish missing, but her fire-pit cleaned down to the bare stones. She had been collecting the ashes for days; of all the things she had in the hut they were the least likely to get stolen. The locals were hardly likely to have done it; she had not even scented a pickled fish anywhere in the village, and every morning barrels of fresh fish were brought in from her night sailing. “Who could have taken it?”

The kitten giggled, pressing her head against her adopted mother. Angelica stroked Kama’s head-fur, distractedly. “It’s Thursday. If we were home in Sweden we’d traditionally have pea soup today, with pork.” Her tail twitched. “Good thing Ada’s not coming today. She couldn’t have any. Not that we have any for ourselves…” She looked up at the grey skies, heavy with rain. Having a kitten to keep warm and fed was changing her, she knew. Whether she liked the changes, she was hardly sure. Back home, it was traditional for October to be the month for moving house; at least she had kept that tradition.

“Missy Popoluma?” She heard a voice behind her; it took a second or two to realise she was being called, with her newly adopted name. Turning round, she saw the village Priestess, Miss Pohovic. The grey mare was dressed in her traditional outfit of grass skirt and flower necklace, her fur combed in the patterns marking her rank.

“Honoured Mother?” Angelica still found the title hard to remember; her family pastor back in Gothenberg wore rather more clothing, even in Summer. “How can I help?”

The mare smiled, gesturing for her to sit down. “It’s more, how can I help you. That is my job, after all.” She fixed Angelica with a penetrating gaze. “It must be hard for you. Everything you had when you first saw these lands is gone. The aircraft you so love is out of reach – and even your name is changed. Oharu told me much when she laid down that burden to pick up her new tasks, and I have looked long into the fires myself.”

“Well.” Angelica continued stroking Kama; the kitten purred and curled up in her lap, relaxed and trusting. “I haven’t had a choice. But it could be a lot worse.”

“You always have a choice,” the Priestess held her gaze. “You could have headed out to Casino Island, found a job in the tourist area, wired to your home for funds. You still can. You can abandon your hut to the cold winds, leave Kama where you found her, throw your Tailfast locket on the fire. Just … make very sure that nobody else finds it. It is the key to your spirit.”

Angelica’s paw went up to her Tailfast ring, the left-handed twist of fur kept safe in its shell locket. Having a twist of naked fur would soon wear out, so Spontoonies used shells as lockets. “Well – yes. I could do that. I could jump off a cliff too – but I’m not going to do that, either.”

The mare smiled. “We watch you, of course. Many Euros who come to these islands wish to stay, but very few are allowed to remain, and those only on Eastern and Casino Island. In a good year, many more tourists may set paw on Spontoon than live on Eastern Island; we wish to keep this land for those who are born here.”

“And how about me?” Angelica looked at her searchingly.

A grey tail swished. “You are Angelica Popoluma now. Mama Popoluma is your Mother, Kama your daughter. That is what is written in the books in Meeting Island, if anyone asks. Should you marry Ada here, she will become a citizen too. Just as Oharu was permitted to stay by grace of the Spirits, they chose you to remain – and until they decree otherwise, their will binds you.” She hesitated. “But you may still go. You would be missed.”

Angelica nodded. Although it might not be part of the supernatural binding, she realised – in its effects, her curse had just got a lot worse. And her lutefisk was still missing.

Over on Casino Island, Lingenthal’s Continental restaurant had switched from its summer luncheon menu of tall iced drinks to hot coffee and cakes; it was the only place on Spontoon where bratwurst and “curry-wurst” was to be found in the off season. Lutefisk and Rakorret were decidedly not on the menu, though sauerkraut (which many thought of as a vegetarian equivalent) prominently was. That morning, three canines were sitting around a table in a sheltered corner of the garden a long way from prying ears even if the listener spoke German.

Professor Schiller sighed, the wolf sitting back as he stirred his coffee and looked hard at his two field investigators. “Boys, boys – what am I going to do with you? This altar you’ve been looking at all week – I know it’s a fake. Do you think I don’t check? And you know enough to have spotted it in one minute flat. You’re supposed to be spotting the local sources of the World-Spirit for me. Tell me, just what are you doing for your wages?” He bit into the “Kaisertorte”, savouring the sweet fruited pancake.

Max looked virtuous. “It could be made operational in about half an hour by someone who knew enough to make it in the first place, Herr Professor. We wanted to spot who was doing it, so we had to keep it under surveillance to see if they showed up to finish the job. It wasn’t a normal Native-built altar, the whole tradition was quite wrong. If there’s someone on Main Island starting up the sort of thing we’ve seen in places like the Marianas – our watching brief says we should know.” Of all the colonies they had lost in 1918, the Marianas Islands were one that they did not want back, due to certain discoveries that had been made there. The Japanese were more than welcome to the place, Max thought with a shudder. Not all knowledge gained was to one’s advantage.

“Thin. Very thin.” Professor Schiller tapped the table sternly like the schoolteacher he had once been. “I expected better of you. Moritz, give me a different explanation. Make it a better one.”

“Professor. We didn’t go back to the North Coast because what we found there – is onto us. They can spot us further off than we can detect them coming. Until we’re equipped to handle such things, we cleared out.”

“And you with medals from the War,” the Professor chided him. “They don’t hand those out for running away.”

Moritz sniffed. “Set us to watching the military, then. Compared with what’s on this island I’ll take my chances playing chase-tail with the NKVD round Siberia - all Winter if you like. Yes, I got my medals in the last one, and not posthumously either. We were in armoured cars in Russian Poland all through 1917 – reconnaissance machines, thin armour, but a good turn of speed. Our Captain, he’d give a bottle of schnapps to any crew that came back with good observations and all the ammunition they set out with; he’d tell us our job was to report and get home alive with the information. Not to fight it out. That’s for others to do. Dead reconnaissance troops tell no tales.” He looked at his chief defiantly. “And that’s what we are – reconnaissance.”

“If we end up spending the rest of our days bouncing off the walls of a rubber room after seeing whatever Herman, Klaus and Martin saw last year in Transjordan, we won’t be much use to you,” Max added significantly. “Klaus used to sing in a choir, back home. Now he only screams.”

The grey wolf steepled his fingers and looked at the two canines, his ears down. At length he smiled.

“Very well. I regularly believe six impossible things before breakfast, especially when Berlin send me our latest directives as to what to find evidence for.” He gave a sigh, thinking of the latest fashion, the “World Ice Theory” with its succession of ice moons crashing onto Earth over history and erasing continents in the Atlantic and Pacific. The directives had ordered him to find conclusive proof of its validity. “But now you can tell me – just what DID you see on the Northern side of the island that had you conducting such an energetic “tactical withdrawal”?”

Moritz froze. He suddenly knew he had been outmanoeuvred; despite his outward appearance as a jovial and slightly otherworldly academic, the Prof could go in a revolving door behind you and come out in front. “Well, Sir,” he began slowly, realising just how it would sound “there was this little Native kitten..."

And a bucket.” Max added in hollow tones. “She had a bucket.”

Professor Schiller sighed inwardly. This was going to be a long day.

As the sun rose the next morning, just across the waters on Eastern Island others had started a long day of their own. Although breakfast was normally a communal affair for Songmark, with special Tutors’ permissions a hard-pressed dorm could draw emergency rations from the stores and eat it elsewhere if time and circumstances demanded it. At six in the morning, four third-years were in the workshops by the seaplane sheds holding an early conference. Their first class was in two hours, but there was a lot they could before then.

“I can see how they don’t encourage us to breakfast out,” Belle looked at the old tin in her paw. “I know there’s local Pacific brands of mixed vegetables in the market, they can’t be that expensive. Instead – we get good old meat and vegetable “Stew, Maconochie, Military contract M1918-45572”, same as ever.” The rabbit stuck her tongue out; like most “Euro” rabbits from families who could afford it she had been brought up to enjoy meat, or at least digest it. Had she been raised a vegetarian, her body would have stopped making the digestive juices to break down animal protein soon after she was weaned off milk, and she would become violently ill if she had eaten any. Not that she would have wanted to.

“We could have bought in our own food, and kept the old tins for other emergencies,” Carmen offered. “You never know when you might need what’s in a cache.” With the exception of Sacred Island, their dorm had secretly buried sealed shell cases full of emergency funds and clothing on every island in the chain, and she suspected other dorms had done much the same. Just a hundred yards outside the Songmark gates she had a cache of “Camp Coffee” in case the Althing ever converted to being Mormons and banned caffeine.

Prudence brandished a paraffin blowtorch. “Ey, lass. For once, us needn’t et it cold.” Privately she thought the old military ration quite palatable; there was very little meat to be had on Spontoon, apart from chicken which was a rare treat at Songmark. “Best get it down thee. Better hot than cold, any road.” She pumped the pressure plunger of the torch, primed it with a spoonful of petrol and lit it. The torch popped, and settled down to a steady roar as she played it over the opened cans in the small forge in the corner of the workshop.

Ada Cronstein hefted a three-foot alloy bearer bar, her snout wrinkling. “That forge is good enough for hammering out old horseshoes. We’re going to need something better to replace this. Who’d have thought it? The Silver Angel’s not six months old and this happens!” The engine bearer was a magnesium alloy casting, little heavier than a wooden part of its size. Unfortunately it had not lasted as well as seasoned oak might have; the once silver-grey metal had dulled and was covered in a mould-like oxide layer that flaked off like dandruff as she rubbed at it with a finger-claw. Under a magnifying glass the surface looked “sandy”, with prominent metal grains standing out proclaiming that the structure was breaking down with corrosion.

“Aye. Happen that’s t’ problem.” Prudence nodded. “Brand new featherweight alloy, tested fine in the labs, nah doubt. Fine in a land-plane. Silver Angel’s Stockholm built, and books say as how Baltic’s not reet salty. Mix in full salt water and tropical heat, though but…” Her ears dipped. Corrosion was a complex problem, and was always likely to throw in unwelcome surprises. Just adding twenty degrees of heat could double the rate some alloys succumbed.

Ada frowned, putting the offending bearer down on the bench next to the precise plans they had made of it. “We can’t fix this. We can’t send off to Sweden either, all our money’s gone into producing that portfolio. And we can’t wait to get paid either. Angelica won’t be happy if she comes over for a visit and finds her aircraft in bits.” She sighed. “I’ll have to tell her sometime.”

“She’d be less happy if we’d ignored it and the engine fell off in flight one day,” Belle pointed out.

“We have to make a replacement part from scratch,” Ada declared. “We don’t have this grade of alloy in stock to work with, and we can’t melt it down to re-use it like it was bronze. Only Superior Engineering has the magnesium casting facilities around here, and we can’t afford them.” She sat down deep in thought. “The one good thing is, it’s not a critical sized component, or we’d be stuffed. There’s room to play with under the engine, a clear six inches before we hit the cowling; just as long as it’s got all the bolt holes in the same place and can take the weight, we can make the new part out of anything suitable. It’ll be heavier in steel, but we might have to live with it.”

Prudence smiled. “We’ve steel enough for a battleship, in Songmark stocks. Let’s get cracking. But first,” she switched off the blowtorch and scented the meaty aroma rising from the tins with evident pleasure. “Breakfast!”

The other three waved their mess-tins with varied degrees of enthusiasm (French army surplus, for reasons known only to the Songmark Tutors, and purchased as a job lot in the earliest days when the school had to improvise with whatever came to paw) and gathered round their leader. Third-years were supposed to be good at making do with whatever was available – even Maconochie stew.

Over on Main Island, another day saw Angelica waking to the sounds of the village around her. She yawned, and slowly opened one eye.

“It’s been two weeks now since the Hoopy Jaloopy festival,” she told herself. “That was it. I thought I was being pessimistic. After that, the social calendar is … empty.” Although the village bustled with life, there was only the everyday existence of tilling garden-patches and catching fish for the fire-pits and the cannery. It suddenly struck her that the locals were pleased to see the tourists for more reasons than money. What if instead of tourists Spontoon had a silver mine like her family, providing the same wealth? The social calendar would be even emptier, and she had to admit some of the stories of the tourist trade were definitely entertaining.

Angelica rose, throwing off her covers and contemplating her matted fur and the cold fire-pit. As before, the stones were carefully swept clean of wood ash, though there had been a paw-deep layer the night before. She decided to ask if Mama Popoluma was coming in while she slept, and cleaning up. “Just when I need it for preserving the fish. It’s not ten weeks to Christmas,” she cast a wry glance at the clean pit. “That’s the next thing to look forward to – and I’ll have to catch a lot of fish before then.”

Wincing as the brush caught in her salt-caked fur, she groomed herself before stepping out of the hut. Even though she had been adopted, she refused to wear the oiled fur style the Natives used; that would definitely be a step too far. Having the patterns brushed into her by Oharu as she declared her and Ada Tailfast was bad enough. A Tailfast locket was all right; lockets were civilised, she thought as she stroked the silver one with her real parents’ picture inside.

“Ho!” She turned to see Monoteha, the Otter looking sleek and cheerful despite being on the same punishing night shifts. “No fishing tonight – is Flower Spirit ceremony. Folk say thanks for your tribute.” Behind her on the road, there was a rumble of diesel engines and three of the flat-bed lorries the Municipal Authorities used came into view, pulling laden trailers piled with what looked like peat.

“What tribute?” Angelica’s nose twitched, scenting them on the wind. She scented the diesel engines, and a rich earthy scent like forest soil.

The otter nodded towards the beach. “All Popoluma family, make some cowries gather old plant wastes, seaweed, rotten fish and wood ash,” she noted. “Take to collection place on main road every morning. End of each season, big new power plant near Vikingstown, he give back compost for garden plots, gifts to flower spirits.” She waved to someone behind Angelica.

Angelica turned to look towards the beach. Three of the older Popoluma kittens were staggering up the sand carrying bundles of cast-up seaweed nearly as big as themselves. Kama came trotting up carrying a lidded bucket now emitting a grey dusty trail, and her pet bouncing along behind her. Even the sea cucumber had a pound or so of seaweed wrapped cats-cradle style around its front tentacles.

“So that’s where my wood ash got to.” Realisation dawned on Angelica. “I had some pots of fish out there too. What happened to them?”

Monoteha wrinkled her nose. “Fish go stale, throw it out. Good to compost with crop wastes, not good to eat. Have fresh every day instead!” With that she bade her farewell and went to greet the drivers with her usual boundless enthusiasm. From what Angelica could hear, the compost was to go mostly on the village garden plots, with some ceremonial bucketfuls to be scattered around sacred groves in the jungle.

“My lutefisk.” Angelica’s tail drooped. She watched the happy kitten presenting the pail of ashes to an elegant grey wolf in a very Euro boiler-suit, who bowed respectfully and weighed it before making notes in an account book. “So that’s where it all went to.” She would have to have words with her “daughter”, she decided – or their Christmas meal would be short a few essential ingredients.

Over on Casino Island, the late sunshine warmed a glass-roofed penthouse as one of Spontoon’s less usual species relaxed to digest he information she had just received. Public records from the Althing and a discreetly funded enquiry at the seaplane repair workshops had produced some of the answers she wanted - but posed rather more questions.

“So.” Black Lotus reclined on a long couch, her black scales hissing against the cream leather. “The aircraft is registered as belonging to Miss Popoluma, not Miss Silvferlindh. One would think she sold it. But Miss Popoluma – exists, on Main Island. She is listed as a Spontoon resident and yet – has no other records.” Neither the schools or hospitals knew anything about the feline who fitted Angelica’s description. Although Mama Popoluma had a large and expanding family, only one had a Euro first name, and that one had suddenly appeared from nowhere in the records.

A forked tongue flickered as Black Lotus considered the facts. Angelica had not changed her name by marriage; she was still Miss. Becoming a Spontoon resident citizen was a very difficult thing these days – since the mass tourist trade opened up, the islands had tightened their policies considerably. Twenty years ago things had been very different.

“Miss Angelica Popoluma. She did not change her first name. Clumsy. It is not a Native name. With dyed fur and a full change of name she would have hidden far better.” She thought for a few seconds. “Could she know, that she is in danger?” The naga smiled, and would have raised an eyebrow if she had one. “No. She would have moved to another village, and perhaps claimed to be a Polynesian visiting from another island.” The pearl-smuggling operation made use of locals from the parts of the Nimitz Sea further from the rule of Law centred on Spontoon; furs from the Kanim Islands, Orpington or Dioon tended to be less willing to call the police at the sight of obvious smuggling and easier to stay bribed.

She turned to the figure that had been standing silently, his green scales shining in the glow of the heat lamp. Tametaha was a Native of the Kanims, one of the reptilian folk who had first settled this part of the Nimitz Sea centuries ago, and stayed on in the area after the disaster had depopulated Spontoon itself. Unlike the absent Jan Van Der Veldt, Tametaha could explore Main Island freely. “Go to her village, and enquire.” She did not say “discreetly”, that was already understood. “The locals are protecting her. Find out why. And look out for any other … observers. They will be competent, you may assume. Hsien has proven very successful over the years, where most in his trade are now merely very dead.”

The green water-lizard bowed, and left without a sound. Black Lotus turned to the documents on her table, feeling the caress of smooth pearls as she moved. It had taken a long time, but Angelica’s family had traced their wandering daughter to the Spontoons by tracing which of the dumps of fuel and components set up for her round the world trip had been visited. Hawaii had been the first unused stop, she knew from Jan – and Spontoon was the obvious place to start enquiries.

“One hundred pounds sterling for information, and the same to deliver her securely to a port heading home,” she mused. “Securely. They may have realised she is not eager to return.” Presumably, the full reward would be to get Angelica onto a ship or airliner with a one-way ticket back to Sweden. “Most ironic. Miss Angelica is likely to leave Spontoon against her will no matter in whose company she travels.” The tip of her tail twitched. “Could we but arrange for Hsien to take her – and rescue her ourselves, to restore her to her family. Double our money – and collect good points with the local Authorities, provided Hsien is in no … condition to denounce us. An interesting notion.”

The obsidian-black snake closed her eyes, and began to calculate possibilities. Jan would be back in a few days, and he was expert at the more muscular types of plan. Baron Von Krokk was a problem here, she had to admit – the Cayman had a twisted sense of honour, and though he would rob or cheat a fellow criminal without hesitation he would definitely stop at handing them to the Police.

Her other eyebrow would have risen as she considered that problem. Suddenly she have a cold hiss of laughter. “Should we be captured smuggling, we face a court with fines and prisons. Should Hsien be caught at his work – he does not.” It no doubt reassured the tourists that certain crimes were almost entirely absent from the public court records. Not because they never happened – but those particular criminals would never be heard of again.

Black Lotus nodded contentedly. She began to plan just what would be in the first telegram heading towards Sweden.

Some days, Spontoon in mid-October looked perfectly suitable for tourists. The days were shorter, but in good weather a fur could probably enjoy a few hours bathing in a sheltered cove, courtesy of the warm Nimitz Sea Current.

Unfortunately, there were other days that would leave any tourist less hardy than a polar bear running for shelter. More extreme were the nights when a Polar storm bounced off Vostok and collided with the warm currents, generating the sort of storm sensible folk stayed home in.

Unfortunately again, there were some who had to earn their living from the stormy waters regardless. The turbulent currents actually brought up more fish than calmer nights, as the boat Angelica Silvferlindh (Or Popoluma as the locals called her now) had endured the pounding waves to find out. The time was about half past five in the morning, an hour and a half before the grey dawn light usually touched the islands on a day such as this.

Angelica helped secure the fishing boat then staggered up the beach, her oilskins clinging to the soaked fur beneath, her lithe figure revealed by the driving rain and wind that wrapped the waterproofs tight around her. Under the oilskins her fur was a soaked mat; she could feel the icy trickles running down everywhere. For a second she stopped and smiled. “Just like back at school in England. But after a hockey match at least we knew there’d be a hot shower to come back to.” She shook her head. In her exhaustion her mind was numbed; she had been about to head out on autopilot to Mama Popoluma’s longhouse – but she had a freshly built one of her own now. It would be cold in there; she had been out all night and not risked leaving the fire-pit burning unattended.

She winced. It had been bad enough having burned her supper and Kama’s the night before, without risking setting fire to the new home the whole village had turned out to help build for her new family. Suddenly she stopped again, blinking as she wiped the water out of her eyes. There was the faintest glow of light from the window, even this far into the small hours. She slapped her streaming wet muzzle, trying to wake herself up and think. “Who could be there? Kama doesn’t light fires – anyway she went over to Mama P last night.”

She found out as she cautiously opened the door; her paw brushed a tripwire attached to the tail of a familiar canine girl sleeping in a snug nest of blankets by a fire-pit that still gleamed with embers.

“Ada?” She blinked, looking owlishly wide-eyed as Ada awoke. It would be a week until she could feel any attraction for the Songmark girl whose Tailfast ring she wore. And though Ada had said her Tutors had grudgingly allowed her those nights on Passes, this was not one of them.

“Angelica! You’re freezing! And soaking wet!” Ada blinked, rising out of the blankets as she woke. “We’ve got to get those wet things off you.”

“I…” Angelica’s ears and tail were drooping flat with exhaustion, her teeth chattering with a bone-deep cold that had been creeping over her all night.

“Hush, love.” Ada pressed a finger to her lips. With that she peeled off Angelica’s oilskins and thick Norwegian woollen fishing jersey. “Everything’s ready.”

In her exhausted state Angelica had not noticed the lidded metal bucket in the firepit, banked up with warm ashes and embers that must have been prepared before midnight. She knelt, shivering violently with the cold, while Ada pulled out a steaming hot sponge from the bucket and began to bathe her with it.

“Ahh…” she shuddered as the canine worked fast, squeezing the hot clean water into her fur then wringing out the cold salt into a second bucket ready to receive it. In five minutes Ada had washed her from head-fur to tail tip, the warm water cleansing the seawater from her fur. Some mornings Angelica had woken with the dried salt matting her lustrous pelt into mats and spikes till she resembled a hedgehog rather than a smooth-furred cat.

“And now – what you need is sleep. I’ll watch over you.” Ada pulled out a big, coarse towel and rubbed her dry vigorously, stroking the fur smooth and flinging the towel over a line near the firepit when she was done.

For a few seconds they knelt facing each other in the dim red glow of the embers. “Ada. It’ll be weeks before I’m … interested. You know that.” Angelica felt the Tailfast ring in its locket round her throat as she looked at the girl who wore its other half. From the look and scent of her Ada was extremely “interested” even if it was six in the morning.

The canine trembled. “I know. I won’t touch you, I promise.” With that she opened up the flap of the blanket pile. “It’s still warm. In you go.”

Had she been less desperately tired Angelica might have thought about arguing the point. But she slid her freshly washed form into the still-warm sleeping den that Ada had spent her night’s body heat on warming for her. The blankets were soft, clean and scented very lightly of canine musk.

“Mmm.” She opened an eye a minute later to see Ada wrapping the damp towel around herself on the far side of the fire-pit. “Come on. Don’t be silly – you’ll freeze there.”

“I’ll be all right. It’s only for an hour, I’ve got to be gone by then.” The canine’s fuller figure seemed no protection against the draft sweeping through the palm-thatched longhouse as outside the rain hammered down. The longhouse’s traditional thatch was not a hundred percent waterproof, but a corrugated iron roof was just too noisy in the wet Spontoon climate.

“Ada. Here. Now.” Angelica threw her blankets open, letting the precious heat escape. With an odd whine Ada moved towards her on all fours, hesitantly looking at Angelica.

“It’s all right. Even if it’s not the end of the month. Think body heat.” Angelica patted the blanket, an odd sense of relief surging through her as Ada wriggled in. “It’s not long till dawn, we both have to sleep.” Outside the sound of the rain in the darkness cut the longhouse off from the rest of the world. Angelica relaxed in the warm blankets, her fur soaking up the warmth from them and from the canine lying next to her, shivering with more than the cold.

“I don’t mind, like this.” She wriggled round to face Ada in the semi darkness, only a few embers still glowing. She nestled against her, fur pressed to bare fur. She felt no desire at all for Ada right now, but knew that would change in half a moon’s cycle. For the first time she found herself making plans for that time. Smiling, she stroked Ada’s nose in gratitude, and fell asleep.

As usual, Angelica woke up just after lunchtime feeling as if she had been put through the mangle. “Night hours are for the owls and bats,” she declared, stretching as she felt her dreams slip away. For a few minutes she just lay back, relaxing in the blankets. Her paw explored the sleeping pile, confirming she was alone. Only the canine’s fresh musk remained as a parting gift. She frowned. Oharu had cautioned her that unless her curse was fully removed, it would soon become more than one or two nights a month.

Dressing, she spotted a bowl of breadfruit mash that someone had thoughtfully left to keep warm by the firepit. Ada again, she smiled. Kama had retreated to Mama Popoluma’s hut the evening before, and both the kitten and her bizarre pet were no doubt trotting around the village somewhere sowing alarm and astonishment to hapless tourists. Yawning, she strolled out to see. Most folk had finished their mid-day meal and were busy on their usual chores around the boats and longhouses; she waved and greeted her new neighbours.

Suddenly she stopped. On the beach high above the tide line were two sets of tracks, as if a cart had run up and down for a hundred metres or so. There was no such cart to be seen, and the trails started and stopped abruptly as if whatever made them had vanished into thin air. “What was that?” She wondered aloud, scratching an ear.

“Ho, yes!” She turned to see Mama Popoluma, her adopted “Mother” in the village. “Missy Ada she borrow little aircraft from her English friend, last night after dark she come. Warm she hut at midnight, then she back to Songmark first grey light. Must be back at breakfast she say, or plenty trouble.”

Angelica’s heart skipped a beat. She knew of only one aircraft small enough to have made those wheel tracks; Adele must have borrowed their friend Amelia’s “Sand Flea”, flown it from Eastern Island in the dark with almost no instruments, landed on the unlit, unprepared beach and then flown it back just before dawn in the driving rain. “She’d have had to … break out of Songmark, without a Pass, and get through to the airport. And break back into her compound afterwards. All that and more, for not even a kiss. She risked her life just to warm me.”

Her paw went to her Tailfast locket, woven of her fur and Ada’s own, now blessed by the priestess Oharu. She shivered, feeling her heart beat like a drum.

“Is this Love?”

Spontoon Island webpages ©2011 Ken Fletcher
All rights revert to the contributors - their collaborative contributions
are ©2011 Simon Barber, ©2011 David Reese Dorrycott,
& ©2011 Fredrik K T Andersson - rights reserved include story characters.
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