Monday, March 21, 2011
He walked out of the lodge and into the snowy predawn. He was feeling flushed, and his chest heaved from his exertions. Small drops of blood fell from his mouth, leaving crimson circles in the snow. He saw footprints, and noticed that they led toward the closest stand of trees. His eyes narrowed as he looked at the dark forest. He had never felt this way before. Never felt this alive…this driven to complete a task, a task that was not his own, but another’s. He had no choice but to hear the voice and obey. He closed his eyes for a moment to gather himself and allow the rush of adrenalin to course through his body. Finally, at just the right moment, he raised his head toward the moonlit sky and from his throat came a long mournful howl dispersed by short static yelps. The sound, which originated in his chest, was a proclamation of many things. He was telling all who would listen that he would vanquish all of his foes and that there would be no quarter given. Nothing would stand in the way of his assignment, whose pull was stronger than any of his natural inclinations. He ran toward the woods, following the tracks in the snow. In the dark forest he found a ridge among the trees. He climbed to the top and raised his nose into the air. His sense of smell had never been this acute. In fact all of his senses had come alive. Every fiber of his being was on full alert. The scent of the deer reached his nostrils as did the smell of the hare, but his focus was no longer on his stomach and how to fill it. That would come later. Right now he was searching for a different kind of prey. At that very moment the forest breeze brought the scent that he had been looking for, and leaping off the ridge, he began running through the brush. Coming to a stream of water, he halted momentarily, his nose sniffing the air. The scent was faint but he was sure of the direction, and crossing the stream he turned left. He raced beside the flowing water, leaving his prints in the snow with each step. He caught a faint whiff of burning wood and slowed to a walk. Somehow he knew that this smell was compatible with the smell of the one he pursued, but how he knew that he did not know. The scent was strong now and he walked away from the stream into the brush. A few yards later he stopped instinctively. Lowering his head he peered down into a deep ravine. The smell of burning wood and the scent of the woman were strong here, and he saw a faint glow of light piercing the darkness. Satisfied that she was safe, he lay down in the snow to keep watch…a silent sentinel…with a wooden cross hanging from his neck.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
In the ravine Menepahta stood to her feet. Her whole body felt stiff and chilled to the bone. With only filtered moonlight to guide her, she walked through the shadows of the deep creek bed in search of wood for a fire. A short time later she found what she was looking for. The rotten log was about a foot in diameter and it crumbled easily in her hands. The outer bark was wet but by digging inside she found it to have a dry powdery inner consistency, perfect for starting a fire. She rolled the entire log over to her cave and in a few moments she had scooped out a nice pile of soft tinder. Walking in a crouch through the creek, she gathered an armload of limbs about the thickness of her finger and smaller. She laid these next to the tinder. Getting on her knees she crawled inside the cave and positioned herself beside the pile of wood. Reaching her hand into the leather pouch at her waist, she took out her fire starter. This consisted of dried pine needles and cotton fibers, a charred cloth, a flint stone, and small piece of steel. With trembling fingers, Menepahta pulled at the cotton fibers and mixed it with the needles until she had formed a small object resembling a bird’s nest. Into the nest she placed the tiny charred cloth. Setting the nest on the ground, she took the flint and steel in her hands, and holding them close to the char cloth, she scraped the flint against the steel as sharply as her shaking hands would allow. Sparks flew and landed on the cloth, which started smoking. She quickly grabbed the nest and holding it in her hands she blew gently on the smoking char. A tiny flame flared up and began spreading through the cotton nest. Setting her flaming bundle on the ground, she quickly began covering it with the dry powdery tinder from the log. Above this she fashioned a teepee with the pile of twigs. A few moments later she watched as flames from the fire flickered higher and higher, illuminating the interior of her small shelter. She ventured out again and found larger limbs which would make nice hot coals. Back in the cave she sat down and stretched out her hands and feet toward the fire. She was glad that the cave contained most of the smoke from the fire. This would make it more difficult for her pursuers to find her. As her feet warmed and she painfully felt feeling return to them, she said a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. He who gives fire and brings warmth to the earth was worthy of her devotion. As the heat from the fire chased the chills from her body, Menepahta stared into the flames and thought of Jacob. She closed her eyes and tasted the salty tears of her soul that rolled onto her lips.