Chapter One: Nootau
Bury Me in My Best
Plip plop. Plip plop. Again and again. Bright, shiny tears fell from the black sky.
A steady stream of cold that chilled a person to the bone. The kind of gentle storm that made a person weary because it would soon rage and flood the world, leaving nothing in its path. Maybe that was for the best.
The humans and Beings of the world didn't deserve it. Not when they treated those who needed protection the most the way they did.
Maybe the rain would never stop. Another great flood, testing the world. This time the gods might finally deem them not worthy.
Even now the winds rose, howling and crying. Like they knew how to fill the void in Nootau's heart. Their cries echoed his. Another time he'd raise his voice and sing with them, but now was not the time.
Now was the time to say goodbye. He'd come specifically for that reason.
The ground had become soggy and hard to walk on because of all the rain. Each step needed careful consideration or Nootau might slip, then he'd end up face first in the mud.
Or a grave.
One step in the right direction and he would join Ahanu in the ground.
They hadn't even bothered to fill in the grave once the rain started. Not like he had expected the guards to care, not with how they treated the walkers. Decency meant people needed to have empathy. The people who worked the camp had none of that. Not for walkers.
Beasts like walkers didn't deserve kindness.
Not according to the world's governments. No, the world needed to fear them. Hunt them. Kill them or register them. Preferably the former. Put the really dangerous ones behind wired fences so they couldn't steal their faces. Hurt others.
As if Ahanu could've ever hurt anyone.
Not a gentle two-spirit like him.
Somehow until now Nootau hadn't believed he was really gone. The message from Ahanu's parents had only said Ahanu had been in an accident and the camp managers wouldn't return the body. Only by stalking the camp's back entrance did Nootau even know where Ahanu was being buried.
The sight of his best friend's broken body forever burned into Nootau's memories. As were the laughing guards driving the cart.
Something broke inside Nootau at that moment.
Part of Nootau wanted to join his best friend. No longer would he hear Ahanu's laughter, the hitch in his voice when he got excited, or how he'd sigh when Nootau shared his adventures across the states. Those stories were all Ahanu had once they'd taken him away to the camp.
Day by day, week by week, year by year the only time the light in Ahanu's topaz eyes sparkled was when Nootau shared one of his many fuck ups during his travels. Only then did Ahanu's voice flow freely, unrestrained, joyous.
Now it was lost forever.
His body tossed down into a shallow hole like some half-eaten carcass not worthy of a proper burial. Nothing to remember Ahanu by, not even a marker. Just a hole.
Ahanu deserved better than this. No one should be discarded like trash.
Because of that, the sky cried, grieving for them both. Shedding the tears Nootau could not. No matter how his body shook. No matter his rage. No matter how much he screamed.
Nootau slipped into the grave. It only came up to his knees, but the water had already filled it up a couple of inches. He knelt down, running his hands over the cotton wrapping covering Ahanu's body. This would not do.
He got his arms under Ahanu and picked him up, holding him close and ignoring the smell. A tornado whirled inside him, battering against his chest, begging to be let out but Nootau swallowed it down.
He laid Ahanu out the ground then scurried out of the grave. He hefted his friend's body back up, slipping in the mud. Nootau landed on his knees but managed to protect his precious bundle. Slowly, so slowly, he pushed back up on his feet. He turned his back to the camp.
Ahanu deserved a proper burial. Dressed in his very best. Ready for his final hunt. Given a proper grave and farewell.
Because Ahanu wasn't a beast. He had deserved empathy and love. To be treated with dignity and compassion. All walkers deserved at least that.
Wrong. All wrong. I shouldn't have to bury him. Nootau's arms tightened around his friend as he walked away from the camp, cradling him closer. Ahanu should've never been in Camp Stone.
Now the only thing Nootau could do was bury him, because the walkers only came out of the camps one way. Dead. Supposedly not so if everyone believed the government, but Nootau knew better. Walkers were sent to the camps to rot to old age and die. Ahanu had been much too young. Death shouldn't have called him yet. Something about this whole 'accident' explanation sounded off. Not letting his body go for a proper burial, even to his tribe, rang warning notes in Nootau's mind.
He should ignore them, stay far, far away. Had better reason to than anyone else not to come. But he always came for Ahanu. Always. He would not let him down. After he was done, Nootau had one thing left to do. One little thing he had to check. Then Ahanu's spirit could rest easy.
I will bring you the peace I could not in life, my friend. It is a promise on my last breath.