Section 10: “Now is an other…”
Now another strange time comes. I hear a noise, and think it’s my mother, hopping on one foot through the trees to find me — I open my eyes to look at her but I don’t see her. There’s only the pigpen, quiet at night, and the noise is coming from behind the wall with the gate in it. I stand up to walk to the wall in the light of the moon, which has climbed high in the sky while I was unaware. Now I’m by the wall, and I look across it.
All around the rise, the reeds have become white and sharp, like ice in the moonlight. Walking in the grass, bent over, is Hob, and a boy walks by him. Like the moon and the reeds, they’re white, and everything is white, and I see now that Hob’s face isn’t black anymore except where the black is rubbed dark into his eye-sockets, so he can’t wash it away.
The boy walks by Hob, and the hair on his head is black and cut short. I see that he doesn’t have hair on his chin or face, so I think he’s even younger than me. Out of the reeds now, their white shapes walk up the rise to the little thicket of trees, and Hob walks hand in hand with the boy. The moonlight falls whitely on their backs and their asses, which whiteness goes into the trees and shatters to pieces in the shadows of the branches, where I see no more.
For a long time I look at nothing, and now I sit back down in the hay. I think that boy is Hob’s son. I think of my mother, leaning on the tree and saying, “Where did my foot go?” It’s a strangeness of the night. The night makes it so we can see spirit-dogs and dead people. The hay is warm. The night presses on my eyelids now, such that I don’t have the strength to hold them up. And warmth. And dark.
Section 11: “Cold now in feet…”
My feet and hands are cold now. I try to open my eyes but they’re held shut with eye-snot, which I now scratch off so I can open them better. Daylight has come, but it’s a grey day. There are so many sky-beasts that they make just one beast so big that it hangs across the whole sky. The old wind blows hard, and it howls here above the pigpen.
Now I smell cooked fish. Now I smell apples. I smell flowers.
“Come,” she says, “here’s some food. Where do you want to go today?”
I eat the apples and the fish while she kneels quietly beside me. I stand up to take a piss. The old wind is so strong it will carry the smell of my piss far away, so I can piss on the pigpen wall without being afraid that Hob will find me. My penis is big, but it gets smaller as the water comes out of it. I turn and see that the girl is looking at my penis and smiles to see it.
“Today we’re going up to the valley’s end,” she says, “above the animal pen up on the hill. From there we can see the river village and many other things.”
I put my penis back in my pants. “Yes,” I say, “this is good,” and so forth, but I feel myself blush. She stands up to walk by the gate. The wind pulls at her long, bright hair, so that she has to pull the band of aurochs hide around it down tighter. It looks so good, flying in the wind. “Come now,” she says. “Come up to the valley’s end.”
[We go] between the reeds and through the thicket of trees, and now down in the marsh and the mud, where the stumps are all black with rot. The girl follows a path in front of me, so that she doesn’t step into the mud holes (neither do I, as I’m following her), and by this route we come up a big hill that runs up the valley’s end. Around us are stumps, and the open sky is above us. To the west is the hill with the building on it, where I can smell ox and pig and hear the noises they make, because the wind is coming from there toward me.
As the girl and I are walking up the hill, the wind makes many dried leaves run at us, all across the grass. End over end they come, very quickly, like many little animals running before a forest fire.
We go up and farther up and look and see that we’re above the hill with the building on it; we then go up yet farther. In the building all the aurochs and pigs are lying down, and the pigs are lying by the dirt wall, to hide from the wind. I follow the girl and say nothing because it’s hard to catch my breath and the wind takes everything we say aways off from us. We walk up and up, toward the treeline, which rises up all black above us there by the valley’s end. The girl walks in front of me, and the wind rubs her flower scent in my face.
We stop by the treeline and sit down on a stump, and for a long time we’re so out of breath we can’t speak. I look at the building below us on the hill there, where the herd-keeper, all little, comes from the hut in the center of the building’s inside circle. He walks between the aurochs, across the circle, and comes through the gate by the circle where there are pigs and chickens. In his hands he holds a container which is perhaps full of wheat seeds, which he throws to the chickens for them to eat. Now he goes back inside the wooden hut and is seen no more.
I turn to the girl who sits by me on the stump. “How old is Hob?” I say.
She looks at me, and now looks aways off to pull at the aurochs hide around her wind-blown hair. She says, “Hob is older than me and you and someone the same age as you [put together]. He’s older than any man I’ve ever heard of.” I reply, “It’s strange. It’s not good that a man can be alive for such a long time.” I say this darkly, so she may know I don’t like Hob. I want her to come to dislike Hob, so she’ll come to like me more. Yet she only smiles, and looks across the valley, and says nothing.
I say, “I saw Hob and his son, by the light of the moon.”
She turns to me quickly, looks at me hard, and speaks in a whisper. “How is this?” she says.
I tell her all that I saw; she doesn’t reply. I say, “It’s like those strange times when I see the shagfoal and see my mother. It’s a vision that comes at night when I shut my eyes.” At this she nods to tell me that what I’m saying is right.
She says, “At night, when we shut our eyes, we go to another world, where the shagfoals are, and where dead people are, and many strange things like that.” She says, “It’s this other world that makes more strangeness still in the story of Hob and his son.”
“Why, how’s this?” I say. “How can a story as strange as this become even stranger?” The girl looks at me and doesn’t smile. Her face is expressionless. She looks in my direction, but it’s like she’s staring at something a long ways off.
She says, “The settlers were going to make Hob put his son to the axe – if he didn’t, Hob and his son would be cast out, and die. But Hob didn’t want to kill his son. He thought and thought about this, and there was only one thing he could do.”
I say, “What was the one thing?”
She says, “This is the strange part. Hob puts the boy to the axe, so he’s dead. But no one knows if he was killed in this world or killed in the other world. No one but Hob knows which one it was,” she says, “this world or the other.” This is something I can’t understand. I look at her and say nothing.
Now she says, “If Hob kills the boy in the other world, why, he’ll still be alive in this one. And if Hob kills the boy in this world, he’ll be alive in the other one, where you saw him and Hob by the light of the moon, like you told me.”
This is the hardest thing to understand that I’ve ever heard. I don’t say anything; I just look a long ways off, towards the village by the river. The settlers are doing a lot of different things, by the look of them. They’re hanging up bright skins on their huts; and people are quickly walking around many smoking fires, all around, this way and that. I think it’s a good time for them, but I don’t know why.
The girl gets up off the stump now and walks slowly, idly, in little circles, kicking at dry leaves with her foot so that they fly everywhere. Her little circles get bigger and bigger and she goes farther and farther away from me, until she comes to the edge of the woods that rises up behind us. I think she’s going to turn back toward me, but oh! Oh, she walks beneath a big dark tree where I can’t see her! I’m all alone, with tree stumps all around me, beneath the terrifyingly empty sky.
I stand up quickly and run for the trees, the way I saw the girl go. I yell, “Come back here! Where’d you go?” and so forth, but she says nothing, and I come into the high, dark woods and stop to look around. There are trees everywhere, and more trees behind them, and many dark paths go through here. I try to hear the noise of her little step on the leaves, but it’s all quiet – she doesn’t make any noise.
I smell flowers now, through the trees in front of me; I walk softly in the direction of the smell, and I come to a fallen, rotten tree, and I can’t smell flowers anymore. But… ah. The wind makes the scent come over here, stronger, all along the path to the west of me. I have yet to put either foot on this path before I hear her singing, as if from a long ways off.
“Oh, how may I find a mate,”
the traveling boy said…
The smell becomes stronger as I’m running, quickly, on the path, with my feet landing loudly on the dry leaves beneath them. Above this I hear her song float softly from the top of the woods.
By shadowed tree, up valley’s end,
near earthworm’s hill and all…
I come by the briar bush, where I turn to follow the smell. It’s like hunting for food, and the thought of this is strange and good in my belly; my blood flows through me quickly. The leaves fly all around my footfalls like many dried-up birds.
“And lie with her before I find
me either old or dead…”
Now the smell of flowers is everywhere, and my penis becomes erect, so that it rubs roughly on my clothess. The sound of her song is louder, like she’s not far away. By shadowed tree, up valley’s end…
I see a ray of sunlight in front of me, where the smell and singing both grow stronger, and I run this way. By earthworm’s hill and river’s bend…
There’s a clearing in the trees, all bright with sunlight, from which comes her voice and her flower-smell; I figure I’m not far behind. And there they lie, the two of them…
I walk out quickly through the dark, high woods, and stop in the clearing, surrounded by a circle of trees. I’m breathing hard and loud, but everything else gets quiet. The girl isn’t here, but the flower-scent is, and I don’t understand how she…
I look down. All around my feet and across the clearing are flowers; many red poppies, bright below my knees, as if I’m walking in blood. There’s no noise. There’s no girl. She changed completely into flowers.
A noise. I’m frightened. I back away quickly and oh! Many petals from the poppies fly up like a bunch of butterflies, and the girl sits up from where she was hidden among them and laughs at me.
I walk through the flowers to where she sits, still laughing with her hand on her mouth and her belly shaking. It’s really good to see her, but she made me frightened that I couldn’t fid her, and I’m upset. I say, “It’s not nice of you to hide and to make me run. Do you want me to look like a baby?” and so forth. The more I talk, the more upset I become, so much so that I spit as I’m talking.
Now she puts her hand on my penis, through the fur of my clothing, and holds the fur all around my erection, so I stop talking.
“Sit down,” she says, and pulls on my penis so that I sit down by her in the poppies. My legs are shaking, because the bones have gone from them into my penis. It’s as if my thoughts go down from my belly and are now all held between her fingers there.
My clothes make a little hut. She wants to see my penis, and she pulls the fur clothes back off from it, the way a man will pull the skin off an animal that he’s caught and run to ground. My penis is standing in the cold air of this clearing, dark and hot, and now she wraps her fingers around it, and her fingers are even colder, but this is good. Her hand goes up and then down, and inside of it my penis’ skin goes the same way, and oh, it rubs so softly, and her fingers grow warm.
Now I put my hand beneath her clothes so that I can put my finger up her vagina, but shuts her legs hard and catches my hand between them, all soft and strong and sweaty. “No,” she says. “If you don’t take your hand off my vagina, I’m not going to rub you any more.”
I do as she says, but now I ask, “Can I suck your breasts?” She replies, “No. No man can put a hand on me. Just lie back in the poppies while I pleasure your penis.” I lie back, so that the poppies are up high like some strange bright trees around my head as I’m looking at them from below. I lift my head, so I can see what the girl is doing.
She bends over, and leans her head so that her long bright hair hangs down like vines there all around my penis. Now she takes a long, thick bunch of hair in her hand to wrap in her fingers around my hot erection. Oh, she rubs me with her hair, all up and down, all quick and hard so that it pulls and is likely to hurt her head, but she makes no sound, only rubs and rubs, and the rubbing’s good, and the thought of it is better yet, her hair is so soft and bright in the sun, and the strength of it moves up my erection, slow like a snail, from my ass, through the width of my penis to the tip where it prickles good, and now a drop of pre-come comes out of it, like the dew that comes on the grass at dawn, and she’s rubbing faster, harder, and I’m imagining that this isn’t the rubbing of hair in her hand, but the rubbing of hair around her vagina, and oh, and the thought of this goes quickly down my belly, up my penis and oh, and the girl is holding harder so that it hurts but a good hurt, and harder yet to stop my semen, but it is now, and now, and now, a stream of semen falls on her cheek, in her hair, and wets the aurochs skin around her head, and more, and more, on my legs and down her fingers, wetting the grass and white on the bloody eyes of the flowers and oh, and Mother. Mother.