"Here, you want my meat?"
All the Croods immediately stopped fighting for scraps to stare at Guy. Gran and Eep both dropped the bone they were mauling each other over. Guy sat there, all eyes on him, holding an untouched fish out to Ugga. What was he doing that for?
Ugga offered a small smile, her eyes alert and unsure. "S-sure... Thank you... sweetie."
She accepted the alien offer politely, choosing to stare at the fish uneasily once Guy turned his head.
Guy leaned back, trying to ignore the strange stirring in his gut. Eep cautiously crept up to him, her large eyes apprehensive.
"Everything alright?" Now it was Guy's turn to be nervous. Had he offended them? What if they ate him? He still woke up to see Gran staring him down hungrily. Ugga would always assure him that, while he'd bulked up since they got to the plentiful boughs of Tomorrow, he was still far too skinny for Gran's tastes.
"Did I do something wrong?" He asked meekly, hoping to add as little awkwardness to the situation as possible.
"It's just... No one ever gives away food." Eep explained, interlocking her fingers with his. "Are feeling okay?" She prodded him in the chest firmly, unintentionally knocking him backwards slightly.
"You're not getting sick are you?" Grug's question came immediately, instinctively pulling Sandy behind him.
Guy didn't know how to answer him. He had heard of sickness, and he'd been sick back when he was really young, but he didn't remember much about it. He knew something wasn't right though.
His stomach rolled uncomfortably with each breath, making unhappy squelching noises. Ugga gently brushed a stray hair from his face.
"I think I'm just tired," he smiled at her. His voice was softer than usual, like the rustle of the newfound wind. He cleared his throat softly, Belt looking up at him in concern.
"You're sweating." Eep gave him another look, one that looked really familiar, one he didn't like. She daubed his forehead with the back of her hand. "Guy, maybe you should-"
"I-I'm fine, I promise." He stood up quickly, knocking Belt off his lap. Eep dropped her head, a look of concern in her almond eyes. "I think I'm gonna go to bed."
"Before story time?" Thunk cocked his head, never once noticing that Douglas had stolen the last half of his meal. "Guy?"
But he'd disappeared into to leafy brush.
He tried not to look back at them as his stomach twisted again. He took deep breaths, heaving in and out. Slowly, he dropped to the soft, cool earth and curled up into a ball, drawing his arms around his belly. Belt, who'd somehow followed his in total silence, grunted softly and shook his shoulder with his long, gangly arms. Guy smiled as he pulled his tiny companion into his arms, enjoying the comforting warmth from his fur over his flesh.
"I'll be fine in the morning, little guy." He muttered quietly. Belt gave a small, sleepy yawn in response.
And with that, the two allowed the rhythmic swaying of palms to lull them both to sleep.
A grin of triumph spread across Eep's face as she watched he enormous bunch of banana's, which were previously hanging just precariously enough on a nearby branch, topple to the ground. She examined her kill, only one or two bananas had been damaged by the rock she threw. About three more were squished in the fall, but putting it next to the raw pork and mangoes she'd gotten, this was still plenty of food for breakfast.
She smiled as she went along her way, noticing all of the strange flowers and trees that she and Guy had named in their time here. The sun touched her new shoes, the feathers gleaming in the light. Guy had helped her make the material, but she'd decorated them herself, a fact she was especially proud of.
She hadn't seen Guy all morning, which was odd because they usually watched the sunrise together and then went hunting. Grug and Ugga had their hands full with Sandy, who was (as Guy called it) "cutting" a new tooth. Her savage baby sister was emitting growls of irritation that made even Gran cower in fear.
She sighed, hoping Guy would take her to some new place he found, maybe they'd go and tease some of the carnivorous plants or something. That'd be fun.
She smiled as she walked back to her family's campsite, envisioning all kinds of new things to do with her day. They'd been in Tomorrow for a whole summer now, and it seemed they'd only done a fraction of what this strange, new world had to offer.
She was just watching a beautiful blue pirahnakeet roost when a small, furry mass tackled her and knocked her off her feet. The pirahnakeet squeaked and flew away.
"Belt!" She seethed at the furball, "What are you doing!?"
Belt grunted and jumped around frantically, trying to illustrate something. It a lot looked like the "charades" game that Guy showed them yesterday. Belt pretended to grown and rub his stomach, sticking out his tongue.
"Wait, is something wrong with Guy?" She tried to muffle the note of panic rising in her voice. Belt never left Guy's side, it could be an emergency.
"Alright, where is he?"
Belt climbed up her back and pointed his claw to the shoreline. Eep nodded, and they were both bounding through the forest as fast as Eep's body could take them.
To say he felt terrible would be an understatement. In fact, he was pretty sure he would have to create a new word to explain how bad he felt.
He was propped up against a tree while Belt went to fetch one of the family members. He looked at his reflection in a nearby puddle, and he hated what he saw.
His hair stuck to his face with cold sweat, and his skin was as pale and waxy as the ashes from burning leaves. He shuddered in the torrent of chills as his stomach angrily moved inside him. The water in his mouth tasted bitter and salty.
He tried to draw himself up when Belt and Eep came crashing through the bramble, but failed miserably when his legs gave way beneath him. Eep immediately went to work searching for a pulse and looking inside his eyelids for some reason.
"Oh man, you're really sick." She gently caressed his face with her hand. She grew nervous from the warmth under her fingers.
Guy tried to form words, but his mind was hazy and his mouth wouldn't listen to him. His stomach roared within his flesh.
Everything felt foggy and humid, so very unlike the temperate climate that Tomorrow offered. His insides twisted when he breathed. Eep's concerned face swam into his vision.
"Back... Up..." His words came out sounding sharp and cruel.
"Guy, I'm trying to he-" Her maternal urges vanished when Guy made a disgusting noise with his throat. He puffed up his now-emerald-colored cheeks and dove frantically for the bush.
Eep tried to appear sympathetic, she really did, but she had to shy away as Guy vomited onto the soft earth. The smell alone was so overpowering that Eep began to feel sick herself. But now wasn't the time for that, Guy needed her. Should she take him back to the family? No, that'd only cause them to panic. She grimaced at the memory of the paranoia filled week spent locked in their cave when their neighbors dropped dead from the common cold. No, this one was on her.
Guy remained on all fours, heaving into the underbrush. Belt stood guard by his side, if Eep got too close, he would shake his head. This went on for a few moments, then Guy slowly removed his head from the brush. Belt helped him back to get back on his haunches. As soon as the sloth grunted affirmation, Eep bounded forward.
"Are you alright?"
Still an alarming shade of green, Guy shook his head. He clutched his stomach with a groan. "I think I ate something..." Belt gently wrapped himself around Guy's shoulders.
"You don't think you've been poisoned do you?" Eep recoiled in spite of herself. A family she once knew lost their son to poisoning from a mushroom. Eep had cried at the burial, which Grug had only allowed them to attend from a distance, she didn't want to go to another one.
"Alright, c'mere." With the strength of her father, Eep hoisted him up in her arms. Gently, she folded him into an embrace, waiting for his flesh to cool. Guy allow his face to drop into the crook of her neck. He shook involuntarily, his body trying to expel whatever had envenomed it's delicate system. Sweat dripped from his forehead onto Eep's shoulder. Every painful gasp or whimper was met by a soothing shush. His stomach woke from time to time to rumble at them ominously.
Eep looked over at the nomadic boy, whose moistened brow was furrowed in distress. She had never seen him look so... so dead. It terrified her to know that her mysterious guide was still susceptible to illness. He was only human, after all.
"You want me to tell you a story?" Eep finally offered after a few hours of restless sleep for them both.
Guy raised his head, a small smile plastered of his white face. "Sure."
He pulled himself closer to her, the way he used to do when his mother would tell him stories when he was a child. He forced himself off the memory when he recalled, with a fresh wave of sorrow, the horrible gasp for precious air, followed by the squelch of tar.
"Alright. Back before us cavemen, before Tomorrow, and long before the End, there was a big, dark sky."
Eep began making up the story, but she could see Guy's brow give a thoughtful twitch as his brain played it out.
"And in this sky, there was a big Sun, bigger than any sun we've ever seen. He was so bright and pretty, that everywhere he went, the dark would run away. His power was strong, so he was safe. But he was also very lonely."
Eep imagined a giant, Grug-like, sun sitting in the darkness. Guy raised his eyes to her, silently urging her to continue. Be let's eyes were already the size of the flat, round stones on the beach.
"When he was walking one day, he began to notice that where he step, little bits of light were left behind. And they started getting bigger and bigger, and then they looked back at him. The big Sun was so happy, he didn't have to be lonely anymore."
"Did the little sun's have names?" Guy asked her, his eyes lighting up slightly.
"Yeah, the big Sun gave them all names. Soon, there was so much light, the dark had to gather far away. And when the dark left, the big Sun saw a big, solid thing. He called in the World, but forbid his children from ever going there, because if they went and liked it there, he was sure they would leave him in his old age. The little Suns could only watch as the World lay beneath them, so lonely."
Guy yawned softly, but gently nudged Eep to show he was still awake and wanted to hear the rest of the tale.
"Then, one little Sun, named Earth, went down to the World. Despite the warnings, she decided she wanted to stay, as the big Sun knew she would. When she touched the World, Earth became the first person."
Eep was so thoroughly engrossed in her saga, she failed to notice that Guy's eyes had started to sag. He pictured a small sun, Eep-like in every way, breaking apart from her father's rules.
"When the big Sun saw that Earth was gone, he got very angry, and said that Earth was no longer his child, and that she had to stay on the World. In her sadness, Earth broke apart into a cloud of tiny lights and swirled away. From these little lights, more people were born. From these people, came more people. More and more, the children of Earth, who followed the light on instinct."
"All that remained of Earth was a small, dim light. She wanted to go back home, but she couldn't. So, she flew up into the sky, and became the Moon. Sadly, all the other Suns were forbidden to talk to the people, and the people didn't know why. So now, every day, a sun comes down from above to give the people hope. And to tell them that, maybe some day, Earth will be allowed to come home."
Eep finished her story with a flourish. Guy had fallen asleep on her, a large grim on his face. She looked at the sun, it was already midday. Not much chance of exploring today. Belt gave Eep a look of grateful adoration, then bedded down beside him young master. Eep smiled to herself, her own eyes becoming heavy.
She stretched out, keeping Guy curled up against her. "Goodnight, Guy." She whispered to the boy in her arms.
And, as she drifted off, she was almost sure she heard a sleepy voice whisper back, "Goodnight, Earth."
When she woke up again it was dark, the night was lit by the thousands of suns in the sky. Her family was all clustered the fire on the beach, she noted that Guy was no longer wrapped in her arms.
"Hey, you're awake." Eep shot up with a smile, Guy's face loomed above her. "I was beginning to worry you were gonna sleep for rest of the night."
"You had me worried," She gave Guy a look. "Don't ever get sick again, okay?"
"I promise." Guy patted his stomach gratefully. "I think it's out of my system now."
"Good," Eep smiled and stood up. "Hey, why didn't you want me to sleep out the night?"
"I wanted to show you something first." Guy wrapped his arm around her and pointed upward.
Eep followed his gaze, and she was sure her own face lit up. Up above her, wreathed in a halo of shining suns, a full moon brightened the night.