Dogo walks toward the savannah trail leading to the village now darkened by night. . .
“No!” Pyramie says and waves to the dog. “Now!” He turns toward the ledges.
Dogo reluctantly follows, with an eye on the blank void of savannah. Together they follow a gray and crusted rock shelf with white drippings and red smears running crosswise against the vertical and thrusted grain. Ashirah climbed from the earth’s womb here and forced these rocks to twist upward when She came and started man’s time.
Some of the rock flakes off and covers the smooth bedrock they walk along in thin chips that crunch and crack under their feet. At a certain point, Dogo stops following Pyramie and the boy has to pull the dog by the fur. They reach the beginning of the grass where the ledge angles low enough so that they both can climb up together. There, the dog begins climbing without coaxing from Pyramie, eager to escape the howling of the painted canines closer on the savannah.
They climb until they are in among the trees. From there, they move toward the place where he escaped from the Hunters. But the dog is afraid to move.
“You are a coward, Dogo. Come!” says Pyramie. Dogo reluctantly follows.
Soon Pyramie stands by the tree where he cowered from the Hunters. He sniffs the air. It smells fresh, like ripped stalks and the ripe water pulp of broken shoots. Venturing no farther into the dark clearing, he puts his hands back and leans on the tree. It is cool and dry. There is no breeze, but the forest makes a silent noise as if the Mother goddess moves it with her breath. Pyramie listens beyond the slight hum for sounds that are out of place. He shuffles his feet on the matted stalks and waits.
Dogo chews a cut frond. Pyramie turns to watch and sees the dog standing on a thick mat of broken, mauled, and cut ferns and greens. As far out as he can see around him everything that is not hardwood has been hacked and stomped to the ground. At eye level against a tree on the other side, he recognizes the outline of a man. Pyramie holds steady and watches him. The man’s head is pulled back tight against the tree and his hands cover his own eyes.
It is the Hunter from earlier. Pyramie walks closer and sees a lump in the Hunter’s stomach. Closer still and he sees the man lashed to the tree. The hue of his blood has darkened where it dried. The little animal from before is stuffed into his open stomach with its tusks pointing out. Then someone whispers in the forest, and Pyramie backs away closer to Dogo, who growls beyond the dead man and out into the trees where the noise comes again. Pyramie sinks to a crouch with his back to the tree. His breaths come heavy. He holds onto the dog.
Time passes. Pyramie cannot move to knock the stinging bugs off his body that suck his blood and itch his skin. And his toes curl downward into the greens as if he is holding on to them with his feet.
In that position, he urinates. Too much time passes for him before the morning light begins to penetrate the forest. As the sun raises itself off the savannah the dead man at the other side of the opening becomes more visible.
Birds sing. Animals clamber above. Pyramie focuses on the man. And though he does not remember his name, he knows that he is a Hunter from the village. He remembers that two Hunters had come after him and only the one carrying the braids returned.
Then the whisper comes again somewhere out in the forest. Dogo’s ears swivel and point. The whisper says, “My hunting grounds.”
It is now full light. There are no more whispers, but in the distance comes the soft sound of snapping twigs as something moves away from the edge of the clearing. Dogo hears the noise and quietly begins growling. He moves forward but does not run away.
The dog looks back toward the savannah, then licks Pyramie’s face and lies down in the early rays of light. He relaxes. Neither of them has slept, and once Dogo falls asleep, Pyramie too closes his eyes.