While walking to the village, he veers in the direction of the chasm and the old woman’s body . . .


When he reaches the forest edge where the rocks begin, he hesitates to go forward. Then he moves through the ferns and brush and comes out onto the ledge where the rocks drop away below. Piecing his way around the opening he finds the slope that leads down to her cave.

            Climbing down, he finds the remnants of her body. She is mostly bone with some thick flesh left clinging here and there. She still wears the knotted covering that was too small for him, and her all bone legs stick out the bottom with small hunks of meat still covering her heels. In the places where there is still flesh, he sees the white worms. The smell is powerful. He bends over her for a moment and then pulls back the woven covering at her neck. There, lying against her skeletal chest he finds the small pieces of stone that he had found before on the others.

            He takes the pieces of stone tied by sinew from her neck and looks them over and goes inside the cave and to the black spot in the middle. There he finds spent pieces of wood like the trees he burned in the forest. He picks up the wood and sniffs it. It has the smell he knows and he drops the charred wood to the floor and begins looking for more around the cave. But that is all there is. The food has been eaten by other animals who left old droppings in return.

In the corner he finds tinder, and lifts that onto the rock. He holds the stone pieces from her neck out before him and separates them on the sinew. Then he makes a fire in the tinder.

He pauses to look at the woman one more time in the fire glow. Then he walks toward the trail. After several paces, he stops and returns to where her partial skeleton lies and lifts her off the ground – her underside still moist. He places her inside the cave beside the flaming tinder. Then he goes into the forest and collects wood. After that, he takes as much of the dry grass as he can find and makes a bedding out of it. Rolling her onto the grass, he stacks more atop her rotted corpse, followed by thinner branches and then bigger ones until he finally has a pile taller than himself. He then pulls a flaming branch from the fire and reaches in between the larger branches and lights the tinder.

            When the flames come, he waits at the mouth of the cave until the heat and smoke become intense. The smoke has a new smell to it and pours out yellow and thick through the branches. Fire then escapes from the mouth of the cave obscuring her pyre. He feels a breeze from it and the heat sends him back up the chasm wall toward the forest. He pauses once more and returns back to the trail.