After the sun has fully lifted itself above the flattened gold savannah, Pyramie wakes up in confusion and bumps his head on the slanted slab above him. . .


But it is not his head that hurts, rather his hands that fester open in the cool cave air, and he sits there, still beaten from the day before, examining his gashes packed with muck and grime and blood. He begins pulling out the large pieces of dirt and vegetable and stone that have settled there. He tears some of the grass he twisted for his pouch and pushes out whatever filth his fingertips cannot reach.

The wound stings when he does this. He removes as much as he can. But the gouge is still filled with grit. Looking around he notices Acka’s fresh corpse lying in the sun. The flies no longer swarm her so thickly, but on a section of skin he sees tiny white worms writhing on her gore. He lifts himself slowly, careful not to touch his throbbing hands to the rocks, and climbs up to approach her.

The climb is hard, as he uses only his feet and elbows. It takes him a time moving as he is, but when he gets over the shard that had partly blocked his view he sees her in full.

He looks into her dull eyes. There was once life there; now there is no more, but all over her body the white worms feed. The creatures nurture themselves with her death. They writhe in her feculent flesh making wet muddy sounds together in her. They can help him in life. The Hunters put these on their wounds.

He then plucks some worms and pats them into his palms. When he fills them, he climbs back down to his bed and unravels his pouch of berries careful not to drop the worms from his palms.

He then lays the berries onto a flat place and uses the leaves to wrap his hands to keep the worms in. Then he lies still and drifts off into fear-wracked sleep that he will not remember later.

He awakens and eats the rest of the berries. When the moon rises above his den he pokes his head out over the central rock to get a view. Then he returns to the forest to collect berries and to drink. In the forest, he makes several more pouches so that he will not need to return for more and gathers leaves and twisted grasses to cover his wounds. He cannot figure how to make a vessel that will hold water for any period of time. In the village they use a spring, and when they carry water they use bound skins and dried fruit casings or empty eggs, but he does not have these things now. And so he returns to the same spring and drinks and eats.

When he is full of water and berries, he goes back to his den and sleeps again. Then something wakes him.

The sun rises and he pokes his head out beside Acka’s body and sees one of the Hunters climbing back down alone in the dry morning air on the same ledge where he crushed Kakoaw. The man moves slowly, his head bleeding and his arm hanging limp beside his dirty body. Carrying the sharp stump of a broken spear on his good side and two human braids tied by grass on the other, the man heads for the steep trail to the village. This was the same Hunter Pyramie saw before through the ferns, but the Hunter who was with him is nowhere to be found.

Pyramie now waits for the other one to come. Off and on wind-shifts push Acka’s smell down into his dwelling. Her death smell is richer. It has lost the sweetness of life and smells of carcass. He remains where he is, fighting the urge to vomit. When the wind shifts again and blows away the smell, he turns over and tosses berries into his mouth from the pouch he made and basks in the sun.

Soon he watches the line of Gatherers move out of the village trail like ants in a row followed, led, and surrounded by Hunters who fan out across the savannah in patterns of war. They do this for Pyramie. He is now a danger to their Way and the Gatherers must be protected.

Today they perform the simple routine as usual. But later, when they would normally eat for the second time after they filled the proper number of baskets, there are shouts from above on the promontory. Then the drum rings over the golden grass and seems even to echo off the skies and sun itself perched high above the whole.

The Gatherers assemble before the Hunters at the savannah edge. When they are all together, they walk quickly back to the head of the steep trail to return to the village.

After they disappear the drum ceases and Pyramie follows some faint noises that drift down to him from the promontory. There is quietness for a time, and then he hears the last high-pitched screams of the dying man who flops onto the central rock beside him in a crunching sound of broken bone and life and pain.

Shoots of blood come out of him in a red vegetable pulp that splashes against the rocks and onto Acka’s back, knocking off white worms—feeding others. The man’s body comes to rest, after a bounce on sharp rocks, to where Pyramie cannot see. Behind the man’s body a length of his innards and intestine rains down from above, coiling into a slop before the wind gets hold of it pushing it out over the rock field like a long snake full of crimson venom.

The sound is wet, clumpy, and Pyramie moves his head to look out at the man.

The broken man has his arm bandaged over with fresh leaves and dried grasses twisted together. He is the Warrior who returned with the braids slung over his shoulder. Pyramie turns his neck to look up by the altar on the platform by the rostrum. There he finds nothing, and then buries himself as deeply as he can in his rock dwelling, afraid that more men might fall on his behalf and afraid for the night to come.