HHD 02: “All lone set I…”

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All alone I sit by my mother’s foot. My people aren’t around – they’ve gone far away, beneath the trees and across the hill; they’re gone, and they’re not coming back here anymore. The grey dirt on my hands and feet is dry and hard; because of this, I can scratch it off in little bits. The dirt that I pushed around my mother’s foot is likewise hard now, and bits of it are coming off. I see her toes, and now in the dirt that falls from them I see an imprint of her toes. Mother.

Now I have another thought, in which night comes and I sit by Mother’s foot with nowhere to go. I’ve been with my mother always and I don’t want to go away from her now, and yet the hunger in my belly says otherwise. I sit there a while and don’t know if I should go or stay.

I stand up, then walk away and come back, then sit, then stand up and walk some more. I jump on the dirt, and hit a tree and tear up grass, and say many things to Mother’s foot. I sit and don’t move, and off in the dark is the noise of a fox in the grass and of the wolves across the hills. I’m afraid and even hungrier than I was before. I take a shit by a tree, between the roots – it’s watery.

Sunrise comes and my belly’s empty. I say, “Foot, stay here. I’m going away to forage , after which I’ll come back with food for us.” Now the foot is quiet, as if to say she’s heard this before, but she’s never seen it happen. I walk slowly away from her, and after passing several trees, I stop and look back, and there’s the foot. I lift my arm and make the sign for “all’s well”, and walk on.

The trees are getting closer together and the briars are getting thicker. I follow a path around the briar, where I look back and don’t see the foot, but I can still find it by smelling for my shit, and I’m not afraid. I walk on through the trees and briars and so forth.

The way I remember it now, it was when I came upon the red berries that the rain began to fall; it fell hard like all the sky-beasts were taking a piss. I quickly stooped down into a hole in the berry bush where there’s a cave formed by the briars. There I sit, dry, and eat a lot of the red berries. Outside my cave the rain falls hard, yet inside it is quiet and dim, and my belly feels good. Now I rub berry juice off my chin. I shut my eyes, lick my hand, and listen to the rain.

Now for a time no thoughts come, and then everything becomes strange. I am no longer in the briar cave. I’m beneath some trees, and all is dark except where the white-wood stands bright. I don’t understand how it got dark so quickly or how I got here. I’m frightened as I look around and see a shape standing between the trees. It’s my mother. She sprawls with one hand on a tree, and looks at me. I am so happy that I walk closer to her, and I can now see her legs; one of them ends in a bloody string with nothing below the ankle. I look from the stump to Mother’s face. She looks vexed, as if she hates me. “Where’d my foot go?” she says.

At this, I scream so big and loud that it throws me up in the sky and out of the dark, and I fall back into the briar-cave, where it’s still light. This happens instantly, and I don’t understand how. I don’t hear the rain as it’s gone a ways off, and I stand up, stoop under the [entry] hole, and come out of the bush.

It’s wet everywhere, and there are many puddles on the ground. The water brings up the smell of the earth and the grass, and it’s a good smell, strong and fresh.

I can’t smell my shit. The rain has washed away my shit and I can’t smell it. My shit where the tree is; where the foot is.

I run one way around the bush and then the other so I can see where the grass is flattened and therefore which path I came here by. Now I see that it’s rained so hard that the path I took has been obscured because all the grass is flattened. I run beneath the trees and smell nothing but grass. Now I run this way and that, by tree and briar, and yell for the foot, and yell for my mother. I run all around, down in the ditch, up the hill with moss thick on the stones, and here I fall in the dirt, and I don’t know where I am.

I don’t see the foot anymore. Likewise, the red-berry bush is gone; I can’t find it anymore. This is how I come out of where I was, and I walk for many days and nights, and the whole time I’m walking I don’t know where they are.

I walk on open grass and jump over a stream. I walk through trees, with dry leaves all around my feet, and I find a circle of mushrooms growing on the grass – they’re dark on the underside, which means they’re good to eat. Awhile goes by and I find nothing at all, and I walk on and still don’t find anything; a couple of days pass this way.

I walk to where the grass is so high I can’t see above it, and I find a dead bird. I’m so hungry that I eat it, but it’s filled with maggots. Now I throw up and shit down my legs, and another day and night passes, and I walk.

Through many winters now, my people say, there’s been little food for us to forage, that times are hard for those of us who walk and that they’re going to get harder yet. After each winter there are more settlers and fewer nomadic peoples, so that there aren’t many of us now. For someone all alone like me, it’s an empty belly – there’s no helping it.

Once I came upon settlers in my travels, with their pointed-top huts of hides on branches, sitting high on a hill. There were less than five huts. I smell their fire and the meat they have cooking on it, which makes me hungry.

I walk up the hill, and a little way up I see a man on top of it, and he sees me with puke and blood on my face and shit on my legs. He says, “You look like a pig’s ass. What do you want here?” and so forth; his way of speaking is strange, with many sayings I don’t understand. Another man, with a bigger belly, comes to the top of the hill for a look at me. Below his belly he has a little penis, like a baby’s.

Now I tell them that my mother is dead and that I’ve been cast out by my people. I say, “I just want a little something in my belly.”

The men look at one another, and now Little-Dick bends over to grab a spear. “Here’s something”, he says. “How’d you like this in your belly?” The other man picks up a stone, which he throws hard at me. The stone hits my leg, and the edge of it tears the skin below my knee and it starts bleeding. I make a noise and fall down; my leg hurts really badly. The man picks up another stone and says, “Go away, Shit-Ass. I don’t want to smell you around here anymore”. The man with the big belly lifts up his spear to throw it at me.

Now I stand up with pain in my leg and walk awkwardly down the hill like a sick dog. Behind me, the man throws his other stone but misses me, with the stone falling quietly on the grass. I walk as quickly as I can and don’t look back, and that’s it – that’s the whole story of my time with the settlers.

I walk on slowly, dragging my foot behind me. When nightfall comes, I find a pear tree. The pears are still hard, and I can only eat a little bit of them. I look at the injury on my leg and see that the blood is dried with grey dirt and shit, and that it’s stopped bleeding; that’s good. I lie by the tree and shut my eyes so that nothing can see me. I think of nothing.

Sunrise comes – time to walk. My leg’s now healed enough to walk on but it still has a prickling pain in it. I walk on and on, and now around noon I come to a bunch of white wood trees in a clearing, with long black grass and trees around. Standing out from the grass is a big old stone with markings that look like worms and spiders scratched on it. I shut my eyes and am so scared I can’t breathe.

My people say that there’s no good in making markings. Markings take their shape from trees and dogs and so forth and say, “This is ‘tree'”, “This is ‘dog'”, yet they’re nothing but markings. If a man looks at them his thoughts all become crazy, so that he can’t understand what’s real and what’s a marking. I’ve heard it said that many markings are so old that they were made by Urks and people of that kind back in the Ice Age. Now the Urk-kine are no longer in the world, yet many say they are the little people below the hills, deep in their caves, where they hide to catch those of us above. It’s not good to look on markings.

I close my eyes and take another way around the open grass and the stone. I trip on a root and scratch my face on briars, but I don’t open my eyes until the stone is far behind me.

I come out of the trees, and walking up a hill with the sun like fire behind it, I see the pigs, and I run down now and the pigs become logs, and here I am now, sitting on them, with no other times to remember.

I scratch the scab on my knee and look up in the sky. Night has come as I sat thinking, so I can’t see the sky-beasts now, yet I can see their little eyes, bright up there in the dark. I’m cold all over, and I lie behind the log, out of the wind. I shut my eyes, so that the darkness will come to me as it has come in the world.

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