Quiet. Above our clearing, a flock of black birds flies together, this way and that with the wind, so high that they become as small as bugs. The girl rubs her hand on the grass to rub off the semen. Now she points, and I see where my semen hangs like a tiny rope bridge between the poppies aways off. It went farther than I realized; she and I laugh at this.
It gets even quieter now. Far away, on the wind, comes the noise of the settlers, having a good time around their fires. It’s the noise of many voices, and the pounding of a wooden drum beating, and the tune of a bone flute. It’s the noise of children and dogs. Now the wind changes direction, and the noise goes away. The girl says, “We need to go back down to Hob’s hut now, so that he doesn’t get back and find me gone.” She says, “You can put your penis back in your clothes,” and smiles.
She and I stand up, but my legs are still shaky and weak. “Come on,” she says, and takes my hand in hers, and hand in hand we walk through the flowers and through trees and down the bare hill of stumps. All this time I think of nothing but her hand, our fingers intertwined. I feel better than I ever have in my life. We go down the hill, past the mud and bees, with rot in the stumps and in the air. The flower perfume on the girl draws the bees to us, so I’m constantly swatting them away.
We go up the rise with the little thicket of trees, then down through the reeds, and thus come to to the hut and the pigpen. We were up on the hill for a long time – it’s after noon and the sun is lowering in the sky. It’s gotten cold, so I pull Hob’s son’s clothes tighter around me, since he’s neither alive nor does he need them. The girl opens the gate and tells me to go back in the pen, so that she can find more food for me before Hob comes back.
I do this, and sit on the hay and think about a lot of things. The girl goes away to look in the white teepee to find stuff to eat. I think of how she shut her legs so I couldn’t rub her vagina, nor her breasts, and how she said no man can touch her.
Now I understand everything.
At night, she’s in the hut all alone with Hob. He’s bigger than her, and he makes her do things. He puts his penis in her and has sex with her. No. No, it’s worse than anything I want to think about. Maybe he makes her rub his erection with her hair, like she did with me – the thought of this is even worse still. Hob doesn’t want her to have sex with any man except him – he’s scared her, which is why she wouldn’t let me put a hand on her. Now I’m upset. Why, it’s like she doesn’t own herself – she’s Hob’s!
I think about how it isn’t good for her that she’s kept all the time by a man that’s as evil and crazy as Hob. He’s older than the trees; he killed his son in this world, so that he can only see him in the other world. In the other world, where the Urk-kine sit on shagfoals, beneath the cave-roof made of little boys’ bones, where Hob makes his son go, so the spirits in return give Hob the thoughts that he can make his strange path-song. It’s so bad that it can’t be put into words. I can’t let the girl stay here anymore. I’ll make her go with me far away, and walk, and journey onwards, and not settle. It’s not right for people to settle. There’s no good in it.
By the white teepee across from the pigpen I hear the girl – she’s still looking for food. I think about how it would be if we ran off together. I don’t think I’d be good at foraging on my own, but the girl’s smarter than me and she can forage many things for us like my mother did. This thought is so good! We can walk across the skeleton-woman bridge, and then across the world, me and the flower-scented girl. When she’s away from Hob and isn’t scared of him anymore, I can make her take off her clothes and open up her legs as far as they’ll go.
Inside my clothes, Old Will only tingles a bit, as he’s still too weak to stand.
Now I smell flowers; the girl has come from the hut by the wall around the pigpen and through the gate. She has poultry and bread. She kneels and puts the food down on the hay so I can see it.
I don’t look at the food, but quickly say everything I’m thinking about. I say, “It’s no good for you to stay with Hob. You and I can go far away, just the two of us, and forage so well that we’ll want for nothing.” I take her hand and hold it tight, and say, “I know that you don’t want to gather wood for Hob forever, nor cook his meat. You’re not having good times with Hob, that’s why you want me to stay and make things better, like you said.” She’s quiet now, but nods her head “yes”.
I say, “If you come with me and travel around the world, you’ll have nothing but good times.” I keep talking like this until I can’t think of anything else to say, and now it gets quiet as time goes by; she doesn’t say anything. Oh no. I think I said something bad. She’s not going to come with me. She’s going to make me go off all alone and not see her anymore. I’m full of fright; it’s so quiet in the pigpen now.
She looks at me. She smiles.
“Yes,” she says. “Yes.”
This is better than I thought possible. She says we can leave in the early morning hours before dawn. She says, “If we’re going to be walking far, it’s probably a good idea to fill up our bellies before we do. I’ll come back before dawn with more and better things to eat than you’ve seen. We’ll fill our bellies, after which we’ll journey a long way off, just you and me.”
She says, “I’m going to go now, because Hob will be back soon. One more night of lying in the pigpen, and then you’ll sleep with me.” She bends over and licks my cheek and my mouth. I lick her face back, where the taste of semen is strong, dried on her cheek. She stands and smiles. “Before dawn,” she says, and goes out the gate, shuts it, and is gone.
The sun becomes low in the sky, and I eat the poultry down to the bone. Hob’s come back here, and I hear him and the girl speaking quietly in the hut. Hob says something, and the girl laughs. That’s good, because I figure the girl wants Hob to like her, so he doesn’t think she’s planning on going away and never return to him.
I smile at this. It’s great that the girl can lie to Hob. If she’s smart enough to do this, she’ll probably be smart when it comes to foraging food and finding it for me. Through the reeds, across the river, the sun’s become so big and low that its heat makes the world’s edge smoke. The river’s so still that I can look on the twilight sky of the other world there beneath the water, where other birds fly silently.
Now the poultry is all gone, and the sun, likewise, is gone from the sky. Now there’s only darkness, and chewing on bones.
Because there’s nothing to see, I can hear better. The sound of a rat running across the hay of the pen. The sound of the river that says, “quick-lick, quick-lick, quick-lick” away in the dark. Now there comes a faraway noise like the settlers as they walk by the river. They’re all laughing, and must be doing it loudly for me to hear them at all, they’re so far away. Above and distant, I can hear the sound of someone playing a bone-pipe, and a drum beat, and they’re singing strangely, like the girl did to me. The wind comes and goes, so I can’t hear all they’re singing, but there’s one song I hear.
Make a fire and make it hot
And bone he’ll be, and bone he’ll be
The path is long, but we are not,
And by the valley go we…
There’s more to the song, but the settlers go far downriver, so that there are many huts between them and I and I can’t hear their song or their drums or their bone-pipes. Off downriver, the village’s many fires make a little red light in the sky, on a high cloud in the night. I put one hand and then the other in my clothes, to cover up my penis and warm my hands, and I shut my eyes. There’s nothing at all…