Terry Henry Walton Short Story Wednesday
Gene and Fu’s Epic Journey to the Crimea
Gene and Fu left Petersburg with a huge bag of food and household items that Gene carried nonchalantly over one shoulder. It weighed twice as much as Fu, but he didn’t care. They were going someplace warm, because Fu was cold in Petersburg.
The Werebear didn’t even question the journey. Once Fu said she couldn’t get warm, the decision made itself.
Gene wasn’t sure how to get there.
“Where is Crimea?” Fu asked innocently as they walked. Even though Gene shortened his stride, Fu still skipped and hopped every third step to keep pace.
“Head south. Hit Black Sea. Turn left, find Crimea,” Gene replied.
She looked at him out the corner of her eye.
“I don’t know,” the big man admitted. Fu smiled and giggled.
“I think it will be okay,” she suggested.
“Of course!” the big man bellowed in his heavy Russian accent. “We are together, Evgeniy and Fu, Fu and Evgeniy, as it shall always be.”
Fu smiled and tried to adjust her hand. She could only see her wrist. Gene’s fingers could wrap around her hand twice, but at least it was warm. Gene was always warm.
Her personal bear rug. She’d been a servant, but no more. Gene saved her from that life. Sometimes she wondered how she deserved the adoration of such a man, but stopped when she realized those thoughts wasted time. She accepted it, without taking it for granted.
Gene needed so very little from her. He only wanted to love her. The big man, older than she would ever know, had never been in love. The sparkle in Fu’s almond-shaped, big brown eyes drew him to her, made him feel different, self-conscious.
He worried that he was too big, too gruff for such a delicate flower.
She worried that she was too fragile for a man with strength like his. He picked her up and carried her like a child, but she never felt childish. And he was gentle.
“Why you love me, Gene?” she asked in her lilting accent.
“Because you are my Fu,” he answered simply, unsure of the question.
“Gene,” Fu said, prodding him in the chest with her tiny finger as she relaxed in his arm with her head on his shoulder.
“You make me feel,” Gene started slowly, looking down at the ground as he plodded forward, step after step. “I feel everything better, colors are brighter, air is cleaner, birds sing louder, world is better place with Fu in it.”
“I like being in your world, too. You make me feel safe. I never felt safe before I met you.” Fu looked away and pointed to the ground.
He put her down, adjusted the bag over his shoulder, and they kept walking.
South. Always south.
The heat came whenever they walked away from the river, bearing down on them. Gene gave Fu all the water, but his need was greater than hers. And then they ran out, somewhere northwest of Moscow as they were trying to skirt the city, looking for a series of lakes, Ruzos, Gene thought they were called.
Fu collapsed. Gene’s head swirled. He yelled at the sky and screamed at the hard, dead earth. He changed into Werebear form and struggled against the greatest enemy he’d ever faced. His love was dying and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
He moved her about with his massive snout until he could drape her over his neck. He grabbed their bag, light because there was no food or water within.
Gene started to lope, on three legs as he held his unconscious wife in place with one paw, taking care not to dig his claws in. Being in Werebear form cleared his head enough to use his heightened senses. Water. He could smell it.
He turned in that direction and ran as fast as he dared, Fu bouncing on his neck and shoulders. He knew that she would be bruised and sore, but water was life!
Gene saw the green of vegetation, hiding within a dip, a valley through which a stream flowed where a small lake had formed. Gene slowed to negotiate a bank, jump across a ravine, and plowed into the clear water without hesitation. Fu fell from his neck and sank below the surface.
A human Gene swam below her and brought her up for air. He faced her head down and slapped her back, driving the water from her lungs.
She sputtered as he nestled her into the relative cool of the small lake. Gene dipped his face in and drank. Fu’s eyes fluttered as she came back to the present.
“Drink, my lover, drink. Good water,” Gene said roughly, his hair matted to his head from the road dirt.
Fu sipped at first, then drank more. They relaxed in the water. Gene held his hairy arm over her head to block the sun. Her delicate and porcelain features brightening from their trek under a harsh sun.
They waded ashore where a naked Gene built a small lean-to using the bag, its contents dumped on the ground. He returned to the lake with the flasks, filling them all, while drinking fully in quantities that only a Werebear could hold.
“I don’t mind, but where are your clothes?” Fu finally asked. Once Gene’s head was clear, he knew that he would have to backtrack a few miles to find where he’d changed form. The three legged tracks through the Fallen Lands would be easy to follow.
“That way,” Gene said, pointing. “I get them and come back soon.” He leaned down to kiss her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself to him.
“Don’t leave me,” she whispered. He nodded and lay down next to her, handing her a flask so she could keep drinking. Caressing her hair with a meaty hand, he didn’t remember falling asleep.
When they awoke, it was early morning. Dawn’s approach lightened the eastern sky. Gene and Fu drank and then bathed in the lake. They moved upstream to drink some more. Gene picked up Fu and carried her in his arms as he ran through the darkness on his way to recover his clothes, his Were-enhanced vision helping him see the way.
It took less than thirty minutes to run the five miles to where his clothes had been abandoned.
He dressed and bowed for Fu as if they were on parade. She clapped before he picked her up and ran back to their camp. Gene didn’t see an elevation from which they could learn where they were, but it didn’t matter. The sun rose in the east, which meant that the small river leading from the lake was heading south.
They packed their stuff and headed out. There had been no fish, but there were tracks in the muddy shore. Gene thought they were from a deer, but they could have been a wild boar. He trusted their scent more than their tracks, but they were old.
The first day of their new lives was spent hungry, but at least they had an unlimited supply of water.
Gene didn’t risk crossing the open Wastelands again. He stayed near the river, following its meandering track.
South. Always south.
The third day and Fu’s ribs were growing more pronounced against her skin. Gene knew they had to find food. He was starving, but he knew that Fu would eat first.
Terry Henry always ate last and finally Gene understood why. Everyone needed somebody to take care of them. Terry’s love was for all mankind, for the humanity he fought to save. He had taken on the responsibility of bringing back civilization. That meant sacrifice. That meant eating last.
Gene was a Werebear, a solitary creature who fought to live, not to take care of someone else. That was, until he met Fu.
Sacrifice for others, even something so simple as eating last. It made sense. If one provided enough, then everyone ate well. If there wasn’t enough, then the leader failed.
There wasn’t enough. Gene was failing Fu, but she hadn’t complained. She trudged along, smiling when Gene looked at her. When they found the tracks. Gene set up a camp and moved downwind so that his prey wouldn’t smell him.
He wanted to change into Werebear form, but there was always a risk that the animal would take over. Once that happened, the human Gene would be gone forever. He couldn’t leave Fu out there, so he stayed in human form, picked up two rocks to brain an unsuspecting animal.
Gene counted on his unnatural strength to give him the edge. He tracked the animals, looking for where they found shelter. Roe deer. Not much bigger than a dog. A small family.
Survival of the fittest. Gene didn’t hesitate. With one throw, he took out two of them and the second rock nearly took the head off the third animal. He hurried into the glade, snapping their necks, frowning with the act. There wasn’t enough for both of them, but Fu could eat well for a week.
And so she would. Gene ate the minimum he could to maintain enough strength until he found a better source of food.
Fu sensed the Werebear’s unhappiness as he cleaned and cooked the small animals. She ate in silence, knowing that she had to, knowing that he had done what he had to for her.
“We will survive, my Gene,” she finally said. “I want you to know that I’m not cold anymore.”
Gene looked at her and with tears in his eyes, he started to laugh. He stood and started to dance, Russian style, but without music, his arms crossed as he dipped and kicked his legs out, yelling ‘Ha’ with each movement.
After two more weeks of traveling down the river before they stood on the shore of the black sea. Gene had speared fish and a great wild boar that sustained them. Fu found root vegetables and edible greens.
It took both of them to sustain each other. Gene understood the harmony of their partnership. What he would do for her, she would do for him and together, they were far stronger than they could ever be alone.
Gene picked Fu up and swung her around in a circle. “I already like it here,” he told her in his heavy Russian accent.
“Khorosho, i ya tozhe,” she replied in Russian. Good, and me, too.
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