Thursday, March 7, 2013

Word Carrier: Domestication

by Heidi Kortman -

Douay Bede sat in the corner of his cell, facing the box with the quarr his mother had brought him.

“Your name is Pangur Ban,” he said in a firm voice. He had to speak loudly enough to keep the kit’s attention, but without such force that someone could overhear and interrupt. That would be disaster.

“Pangur Ban, I am Douay Bede, and you are mine.” Scratching noises came from the box. He raised his voice. “You are mine, Pangur Ban. I am Douay Bede, who will shelter you from storms and bring you to food-filled places.”

The kit’s scratching grated on his ears, but he might not need to endure it long. “Pangur Ban, the box is small around you. I am Douay Bede, your domesticator. It is I who open lids. Pangur Ban, you are mine.” The kit tried again to widen the ventilation hole with its serrated claw. Once, twice, the claw extended to its full, increasing length. The last quarr he domesticated before coming to the Abbey grew to be over five feet from nose to tail tip, and weighed seventy five pounds.

Now. “Pangur Ban, I am Douay Bede, and you are mine. There is a spider here for you to hunt.” He’d spoken the name seven times. It should be enough. Douay Bede reached out and opened the lid.

The quarr leaped up. It pushed off his left shoulder, then twisted in mid air to spring off the wall. Its claws found purchase on the textured stone, and the hunt was on. Bouncing from wall to wall Pangur Ban climbed the corner. He reached out his right front paw with claws retracted, and batted at the thick web near the ceiling.

The trencher-sized orange legged spider emerged. Pangur Ban sang his hunt call, a long tone deep and resonant like the bass notes played on a cello. The spider raised its front legs and displayed its fangs. Pangur Ban’s ears went back, and he swatted the arachnid down.

Douay Bede climbed on top of his cot.

Pangur Ban dropped from his perch, and slapped his paw, claws out, on the spider. Internal fluids spurted. The quarr shook the carcass from its claws, then cleaned its paw, before crunching down the prey.

Douay Bede unknotted his belt. It was almost time for step two. He began to re-shape the belt end.

Pangur Ban stretched. He lifted his head, scanning the web at the ceiling. His ears flicked. The quarr scampered toward the ceiling again. Supporting himself on his rear paws, he reached out both forefeet and scored through the tough web, exposing a glistening mass of nearly mature eggs.

Douay Bede shivered. He’d been living and sleeping this close to that? Pangur Ban sang as he ate, the tone rising and falling in a rhythm that somehow conveyed satisfaction. The quarr dropped to the floor with a solid thump, and prowled. Into dark corners, under the table, and finally beneath the cot. Time for step two.

Douay Bede let the end of his belt brush the floor. The raveled ply spread out like spider’s legs. If he could get Pangur Ban to play, his domestication would be almost complete.

The quarr’s thick foreleg and broad paw shot out from beneath the cot. Douay Bede flipped the belt up, moving it. The thin mattress rose under his foot as the quarr tried to crouch in a space almost too small.

“Pangur Ban, come out.” He moved the belt again. “Come out to me, Douay Bede, and play.”

With a fluid rush, Pangur Ban emerged. Silvery white, his scales caught the light coming from beneath the door. His tufted ears flicked forward and back as he stalked the improvised toy.

Douay Bede snapped the rope upward, to settle on the table. Pangur Ban sprang. Crouching on the table top, Pangur Ban slitted his pupils narrow. Douay Bede moved the rope to land beside him on the cot. Pangur Ban extended himself in a leap, landing heavy. He sat tall, making soft pizzicato sounds.

Douay Bede reached out. The quarr’s eyes followed his movement, and he yawned but did not bite as Douay Bede stroked him between the ears. “Pangur Ban,” he said. “I am Douay Bede, and you are mine.”

Pangur Ban stepped into Douay Bede’s lap. “Maybe seventeen pounds, and this young.” The quarr rolled onto its side and blinked at him. “Left eye green, right eye purple.” The scales along its body bore swirling spirals that coiled to the right. His parents had given him one of the best, quickest, longest lived, and protective. The quarr reached out. “No claws with me. I am Douay Bede, and you are mine, Pangur Ban.” Domestication complete.

Douay Bede lifted the quarr, and stood. “Mother, Mother—what a publication gift.” She’d want her box back. He set the well-fed animal into it, and retied his belt rope before he gripped the box handles. “Ride, Pangur Ban.” He took three steps, then paused before the door. How would he open it with his hands full?

Pangur Ban slashed out, shifting the weighty sliding door to create a narrow gap. Douay Bede wedged his foot into it. Then, he twisted and pushed with his left elbow until he could sidle through. “You’re almost too heavy to be carried like this.”

Pangur Ban twanged at him, then bumped the underside of Douay Bede’s chin with the top of his head. The hallway was empty, and Douay Bede settled into the stride he’d have to substitute for a run. If he hurried, he could still have time with his parents.

He emerged from the tunnel. Off to his right, his mother and father were standing with Brother Charles. “Pangur Ban, come out.”

Instead of leaping down, as Douay Bede expected, the quarr reached up, and pulled itself to his shoulders. “You’re really heavy.” Douay Bede closed the lid of the box as he walked forward. “Father, Mother, thank you for the publication gift. This is Pangur Ban.”

“Well done,” she said, and leaned, smiling, against his father’s shoulder. His father wrapped an arm around her, while adjusting his hat with his other hand.

“That’s my boy.”

It was the most praise Douay Bede could expect. He shifted his weight to face Brother Charles. “These, Brother, are my parents, and this is Pangur Ban, their publication gift to the Order.”