Pyramie’s hands hurt and he removes the green leaves that begin to smell . . .
The stink is sharp, and when he sniffs he pulls his hands away from his nose. He sniffs again. The little white worms are larger and speckled brown now.
He flicks as many of them out of the wounds as will go and retrieves more worms from Acka’s body. Her stink is not the same as his. There is a rotten-berry taint to the way his wounds stink that is pleasant next to her fatal smell. Her eyes look hazed white and cloudy. Her humanness fades into death – into the carcass she has become.
The carcasses of animals get eaten and picked clean and degrade into the moist earth. She follows the cycle. All follow the cycle. But her odor is intense under the sun. And he struggles to pick over her for the worms that have eaten her least and are still white, not speckled with her pieces. With these he refills his hands that itch but look better.
The crooked edges of the troughs where the vines dug into him are clean and rounded over more like human flesh now. Once he packs the wounds, he ties them with the leaves he took the night before.
The sun moves to the other side of the promontory and darkness fills the savannah. The night fires glow in the sky. The trees hum with insects and a slight breeze rolls over the grasses. Pyramie hears a painted canine barking in the distance. He slips into a half-waking sleep – only part aware of the world around him. In that state, the different noises and colors become his dreams.
The barking moves closer until the dog trots onto the rocks, calling out sounds that Pyramie hears in dreaming. Then the canine screams a high howl and barks again and goes silent. The sounds of pulling and biting fill the dwelling.
Pyramie raises himself to peer over the rocks and looks at the painted canine rolling in what remains of the Warrior. The canine is orange like fall leaves with black and white spots all over. The very tip of its tail stands long and white glowing oddly in the almost full moon like the worms on Acka. Then the canine stands up from rolling in the gore and sniffs the air. It turns and picks at the carcass, tearing hunks of man flesh with bone, slurping them down with a noise that sounds like pleasure. Its teeth glimmer in the night; its black, thick beard matted and wet.
Pyramie climbs down and back into his dwelling and tests the weight of the stone-headed club in his hand, ready to hit the canine if he must. It hurts. He lies there listening to the lone dog frolic in the dead man’s remains until the dog goes silent again. Then Acka’s body jumps upward and tumbles down toward him.
The body moves again violently and slides farther down the rock in his direction. Pyramie holds the club in front of him in the moonlight. The painted canine follows the body into the top of the dwelling and then stops short under the light. It breathes deep with its nose in the air, then makes a sound like a yawn and disappears onto the rocks. Suddenly, the canine stands growling in the opening behind Pyramie. Pyramie grips the stone-headed club and stabs at the dog where it stands under the moon.
The dog grabs the head of the club and shakes, ripping it from Pyramie’s hand. Then the painted canine comes forward and bares its large teeth and black-bearded jaws. Pyramie draws as near to the wall as he can, but the painted canine darts back out of the rocks and runs around to the other opening where Acka lies. Then it rushes to Pyramie as if it is playing a game, dropping low to its chest with its paws thrust before it. Pyramie stands in confusion, and the canine shoots in from the dark and licks his face with its huge pink tongue.
And Dogo drops onto his back and rolls side to side with his belly up and his legs curled, grunting. Pyramie scratches the dog’s belly and then squeezes him. Then Dogo shifts onto his feet in an awkward roll and climbs up on Pyramie, licking him everywhere.
He pushes Dogo down and the dog runs in a circle, looking happy. They play with each other until the dog settles in beside Pyramie. The two remain like this for a time, until Dogo stops panting. Then the canine faces out toward the higher opening where Acka lies.
“What is it?”
Dogo walks up the rock toward Acka’s body. He bites Acka’s breast.
“No,” Pyramie shouts, slapping Dogo’s hip. Dogo turns quickly, baring his teeth. He then returns and takes another bite, standing over her body like he would any meal.
“No.” Pyramie slaps the dog’s haunches and grabs the stone-headed club and pokes Dogo in the ribs. Then he raises the club to strike him.
“No,” he says again. Dogo barks and growls, then leaps up and out of the hole and into the night above. Soon come the sounds of ripping and tearing and growling as Dogo eats the Warrior and his parts that lie scattered over the rocks.
After a time the night grows quiet and Dogo walks up and curls beside Pyramie; he has blood on him. Pyramie holds him. They lay like that, both breathing together. The dog’s large chest expands with Pyramie’s, and he falls into his first calm sleep.
But when finally he sleeps, off in the distant night, a howling echoes out over the savannah. At first it is the quiet resonance of dog calls that travel back and forth beneath the stars. Then more dogs pick up the song.
Dogo’s ears move as he half sleeps. The next set of barks makes his large ears focus into the distance with a purpose. His movement wakes Pyramie, who watches the canine. Out on the savannah the barks get louder and Dogo pokes the boy with his nose. Pyramie stands and surveys his dwelling.
Without waiting any longer, he picks up the pouches and the wound dressing and ties them onto his waist before he hoists the club over his shoulder. The dog’s agitation has made him agitated too. When he raises the club, the handle pushes some of the worms into the gash in his palm and he can feel them wiggle. Then he picks up the leaf flower he made for Theo and climbs out on the slick rocks past Acka and stands beside Dogo, who is making low yelping sounds and sighs. Together they head toward the ledges where no one goes.