When the night fires glow in the sky he When he is certain the man is gone, Pyramie moves back to the mossy area, where Dogo remains. . .


There he sits on one of the darkened rocks and eats from a pouch. He removes the soiled leaves he wears and flakes off the dry mud and puts on the Follower’s animal skins. When he finishes, he watches the place in the golden grass that leads back to the trail, thinking that at any moment Meckle might make his way up it. He is ready if he does, but he is growing tired.

Then Dogo’s ears stand. Pyramie sees this.

He whispers, “We will hide.”

He rises and drags his things with him and hides under the edge of the thick leaf wall. Once under the leaves he calls for the dog, and Dogo slides his body beneath the outer leaf hedge and comes to lie behind Pyramie, resting jaw head on a small mound of dirt. One of the thorns there pokes his skin and he bites it. Pyramie laughs while he waits, listening and watching for any movement outside. But he is uncomfortable. The brambles are digging into him.

Beside him, he eyes the obsidian blade he just took from the Follower. Dogo gets restless. He whispers to the dog, “Stop.” But Dogo keeps squirming and Pyramie nearly has to lie on top of him to prevent him from rustling the branches. They remain like this for some time.

It grows dark and Pyramie tries to fall asleep. Insects walk over his flesh. He winces and slaps himself. At times he cries, but his exhaustion is too great and he drifts away.

In the morning he wakes with his leg tangled in some of the bramble. There are thorns against him and he picks up the obsidian blade and cuts himself free. Then he takes the water skin and drinks long and deep until his thirst is satisfied. He only has a little water left now and will have to get more soon. He parts some of the leaves on the live wall and looks out to where the gold grass stands. But nothing is there.

He waits more, and then returns to the bramble and begins cutting away some of the branches inside the wall so that he can move around. When he makes enough room so that the bramble no longer presses against him he begins to cut a trail straight back and away from the outer leaf wall in the direction where he killed the animal.

It is slow work because there are an almost endless number of branches. Every now and again he reaches a stout trunk that he has to cut into if he is to continue. But Pyramie cuts away the stalks and branches crafting a lane many times the width of his body and a full head taller than his own height.

He continues cutting a path farther through the mass and tangle of leaves and branches, stacking the brown cuttings and shoots beside him, sweat stinging the wound the Follower gave him. When he reaches a thick trunk that stands in his way, he cuts into it with the jagged obsidian from the dead Follower. It is too thick, and he cuts his way around the trunk in a half circle, opening up the height so that the roof hangs well over his head. Once around the trunk, he continues in the direction where he left the dead creature and the stone-headed club the day before.

He hacks until he has worked open one of his hand wounds, then a little longer before he gets to the down slope. When he reaches it, he cuts only what he must to move freely. He finds the creature covered in flies along with the club and drags them both through the mud until he reaches the foot of his small trail.

He takes the excess branches and binds the creature’s hind legs apart, as the Hunters in the village do. He then pulls the creature uphill to the heavy trunk. There, he tries hoisting it up by lashing it to the trunk with vines. But the beast is heavy, and when he lifts it he must pin it with his chest against the trunk and reach up to tie the cords to the high branch.

It takes him several tries before he makes the creature hang there by its bound legs. He cuts its throat, and lets it bleed out down the hill and into the mud trough below and returns for several of the baby creatures. He then takes the small one and does the same with them. When they are empty of blood he cuts off strips of meat and eats. The younger ones have softer flesh and he cuts the pieces from their flanks and chews them along with meat from her haunches.

Now Dogo whines beside him, standing on his hind legs and calling out to Pyramie in mock speech. Pyramie laughs and throws him pieces of meat. Then he sits looking at the dead animal with its tusks.

“You are a bush demon,” he says. He looks at the babies. “Baby bush demons.”

He is satisfied with the new name that he has given to the animals. He is also full and begins cutting again. He cuts a trail through the mud trough and up the opposite hill to the leaf wall so that he can reach the water with ease. Then he walks to the flowing water and fills the water skin and washes himself.

He finishes when the darkness begins arriving, and returns to his bramble. He climbs through the trough and uphill. There within he tries sleeping, lying in the dirt with Dogo beside him keeping him warm. But he cannot.

“They are going to kill us,” he whispers. “They are here with their spears.” His bramble dugout is darker than night, and he stares into the blind nearness that only increases his terror. In the black he cannot see Dogo, whose breath he feels. The insects climb in and walk on his skin.

He pulls a fat bug from his face wound. He feels one gouging under his rotten dressing and into his hand that is nearly healed. They click in the night and hum and buzz and he cries. The insects were never like this in the Gatherers’ quarters. Dogo growls at them and itches in a circle, thrashing and bumping Pyramie, who cannot see.

Then there is hissing somewhere nearby and Pyramie dreads to move for fear of being bit. There is only the fear, and cramps in his bowels and tightening of his neck and hard breathing on his chest and feeling nauseated from the terror that holds him like the darkness.

He is crying now, with Dogo howling at the stingers. Then Dogo yelps and runs off and out of the bramble, leaving him there alone with his terror.

Now he imagines his trail covered with killing bugs and snakes and horned creatures – many more than could ever be. They crush him in his sweat and tears. Dirt clings to his face where his tears fall. Then he calls out for people who are dead; not even their memory returns, only their word that dies in the black thicket.

“Dogo!” he cries. “Dogo!” Something crashes through the dried brush and branches. He has not time to wonder what it is before it enters the opening and bumps him in the blind night and licks his face.

Pushing his head down beneath the dog’s chest he sleeps, exhausted, thinking of the village.