In the morning Pyramie stands alone in the darkness. . .


He looks back over the desert and sees the coming light. Then he looks down at Theo and watches her face change. He feels pale and weak beside her. She holds the skins bunched beneath her cheek and is peaceful. He knows that word and what it means now. Then he falls beside her and touches her dark hair. She wakes and smiles at him in the dim red light from the desert and the sound of ocean roll, and he kisses her cheek and forehead and nose and mouth and chin. He draws away and does it again and she laughs at him, pulling him down toward her.

            They remain in the morning dark. Over the ocean the clouds spread flat and begin to catch the first light.

             “Do you know what name it will have?” she says.

            “No,” he says.

            “Will we have a hut or will we lie out in the open like this? I think we have gone far enough.”

            “No! We will start our tribe, but we have to make a dwelling farther on. They can come here.” She looks at him. He stands and says, “I will get food.”

            He goes out to gather the food, leaving Dogo behind. “Stay.” But then returns for the dog. Theo remains lying in the animal skins at the edge of the trees by the ocean. When he leaves her, he runs to the river and follows it back inland. There he finds the bushes with berries and plucks until the pouch is full. Many of the berries have passed their time, but there are plenty enough for them this day.

            When he finishes gathering, he watches Dogo’s ears perk and his hair stand along the back. Then Pyramie holds the obsidian spear high and watches in the bushes for movement. There is a noise and a furry dark creature that is holding something in its hand comes out. He does not have a name for it.

Dogo pounces on it before the creature can move. The animal screams, showing its white teeth and pink nose. But the dog pins it to the ground as Pyramie stabs it in the chest. The animal dies and Pyramie begins to prepare it for slaughter when Dogo runs away back to the ocean faster than Pyramie has seen since Nonna stabbed him. Pyramie chases the dog. He runs up the riverside into the tree stand and hears the dog yelp. There are screams, and then a sound of pain.

            He runs harder.

            The dog is pinned to the ground, crying. Theo is opened; blood on the skins and arms. There are two Hunters. The Hunter beside her writhes – speared in his groin.  The other holds the purple life cord above her belly, dangling it off with a blade in his hand. She is making a death sound. The Hunter turns to see him on the dune. He stops when he sees the silhouette. And Pyramie, without his weapons, leaps off the dune and mauls him shouting deranged shouts, gouging him, tearing. The man moans, now without eyes, and yells till the voice breaks when Pyramie crushes with heels his arms and legs, and jumps up, squishing out the wind and gore in the motion of a violent wave. Then he turns to the man who crawls with the spear that she put in him. He is terror. Pyramie lifts him on the spear like prey and shakes him.

The Hunter talks in a language all his own pain. The spear creaks under the weight, while Pyramie brings him to the ocean’s edge, yelling, and drowns him pinned to the sand in the water roll. He stands there shouting at the drowned man in the waves and then shouting at the sky.

            He returns to Theo and makes animal noises that echo on the waters when he looks at her dead face. But he cannot bear to look into her eyes. She is no more. He cannot have her. He clutches her face with his fingers. It is still perfect, untouched, no blood. Then he looks up from her mouth to her eyes that are alive. Connecting with them he starts to shake in his tears, dropping them all over her face. But she is gone. And he remembers his child’s pain and sobs beside her as he knows that the remaining flicker of life is leaving. Then he hits himself and tears his clothes and stabs the pulped man again, gritting his teeth, fingers clenched and bones cracking. He is breathing hard and fast and his vision becomes strange. Now he clutches his chest from the pain there that shoots into his shoulder. He is on his back and the sky is blurred and then he is gone.

It is dark when he rises off the dirt. He sits up. Everything is dead. The ground sticky with bloods mingled. Then he moans. A soft moan, continuous, that rises in and fades out with his breaths. He stays as he is on the ground, moaning, until the sun lifts itself from the desert floor again. Then he cries more when he looks at her eyes, dead in the morning light.

He has not eaten or taken water and he is dizzy and his skull hurts. And he cannot leave her here like this with the insects and the animals. So he stands and walks over to her. There is nothing more he wants than her, but she is gone, lying on his animal skins with the new life that would have been his.

            When he thinks of this he cries like he did the first day he ran from the village, sitting on his knees beside her. His eyes are burning. He has his fingers in the sand, and then he pours the sand in his hair, rubbing it into his head and face where it sticks to his cheeks with his tears and his sweat, and her blood on his mouth and chin from the drool.

            He cannot bear to look at them, and he wraps them together in the animal skin and walks upriver until the water is sweet and he throws her in, convulsing, and sees them float toward the ocean.

He waves his hand to her body that will never return. When she is gone he falls at the edge of the river and lies there on his side with one arm and his face pressed against the dirt, watching as the water goes to the ocean. He sees clumps of green grass and branches and insects float away. After a time, he pushes off the ground and sits upright.

            Then he returns for Dogo. He lies as if he is asleep. His eyes are closed. “Wag your tail,” he says. “Wag it,” and he cries more bitter tears. He cannot stop them. When he reaches out his hand, he cannot touch the dog. He knows the dog will never get up again. He will never help him when he is afraid or help him to get food. But he has to do something for him and he removes the spear that pins him to the dirt and then does the same for him as he did for her, wrapping the beautiful canine carefully in the animal skins. Pyramie’s eyes are bloody and stinging and he wheezes with sad, brute sounds that no one makes, his tears dripping onto the dog’s roll. He throws Dogo into the sweet water current and watches him float away to the ocean.

When he finishes he moves out to where he feels the ocean spray, but does not see Dogo enter it. Instead, Pyramie falls to his knees and remains. He falls asleep there listening to the surf on the sand and remembering the things that hurt him. Then he wakes in the night, and lies listening to himself breathe and listening to the ocean and crying.

            In the morning, he looks over the waters. A pure cloud hovers above the center of the deep and seems nearly to merge with it in the darkness standing in the emptiness that travels forever. The sun does not penetrate there yet and Pyramie watches the formless shapes converge and the flashes of night. The waters separate as they fall from the clouds and take form in his eyes.

He looks down to the rolling ocean and sees a slime-skinned creature dragging itself from the foam. He watches it – pale blue and white, struggling, pulling itself, forming troughs in the sand until the next wave falls and pushes it farther up shore leaving it stranded where it squirms still upward toward the dunes. The creature is writhing and making noises with its mouth. It seems to be meant for the ocean, its home, but is continuing up shore regardless toward the desert. He grabs the small creature and throws it back into the surf. The creature struggles and slips below the waves. Then he wades in after it, searching about frantically. He cannot find the thing and returns to the shore and falls into the sand.

            “Dogo, why did I have to leave her? I could have killed them!” He takes the knife off his thigh and holds it to his stomach. “I want it,” he says. But he does not do it. He calls out instead, “Throw me back. I want to go back.” He is crying between the times he grits his teeth in anger. “Throw me back!”

            He talks to the cloud that hovers over the waters and then turns from the ocean to the stand of trees.

            “You do not kill me because you cannot!” He screams. “I am no one, and you cannot kill me! I am a curse!” He cries louder and louder. The wind does not out-sound him. He steps hard on the earth, leaving his impression and sprints back to the spot where they died. It is a sacred place.

            There he takes one water skin and then another. He takes the remaining animal skin. He takes his large obsidian spear. He puts the knives back on his thighs and lifts the stone staff that Theo carried. He rips the spear from the dead refuse in the foam, already eaten by the red creatures that pinch. He wraps it together with the Follower’s staff from Theo and the stone-headed club in the animal skin.

            Then he takes the blood from the dirt where she had lain and covers his face with it in streaks. He plucks all the berries from the trees. Those he cannot carry and does not choose to eat he throws into the water. Then with the skins, he takes the sweet water and binds the bundle to his back.

            He takes off running into the day through the trees. The sun is behind him and falling into the ocean. He is sweating. He drinks while running. There is a breeze across his chest that cuts through the heat, cooling his body in the sun. Ahead, darkness falls, but he can feel the heat of the day on the orange-red rocks he follows through the wilderness alone. Beside him, he feels the cool of the river running off into the ocean. It is sweet down there where it mingles with the rocks that in spots show blue spirals. But the sweetness angers him now and makes him move faster.

He embraces the hard desert; he embraces the heat and the tightness in his chest from the deep breaths. And he embraces the ache in his legs and the thoughts that he has and the suffering. This is what he has they cannot take. 

            When the sun is low the rocks end, and the trees thin. Then it is full dark and he keeps moving with the night fires above him and the sand pushing through his toes. It is still hot from the sun. He does not slow. He moves off through the desert in the blackness. There are animal cries ahead of him and he grips the spear tightly and looks to where he heard them. He pushes harder when the sand is deep and difficult. Then he falls down a sand hill and curses the earth in runes. He strikes the ground, shaking, and moves up over the next mound and down. Against the night sky, he sees the sand hills dark above him like an ocean wave. The night is painted with color streaks, and he thinks of Dogo and pushes on. He tries hard not to let the other thoughts come to his mind. Then he runs off faster in the desert night with the heat from the sand and his sweat dripping through his skins.

            The sun begins showing itself before him and he travels toward it in the desert. He is walking because his legs and his arms and his head hurt now that he has run out of water. The sun sets fire to the day, and he sweats in beads and streams that taste like the ocean and his head begins to pound.

The sand burns his naked feet. In the night he had walked away from the river, letting it coil out far to his right because he hated the idea of its sweetness. He did not want to get used to the sweetness. The desert was all that he wanted, the desert and its pain, but without water he is dying and he heads back toward the river. He finally sees the trees by the water and he runs. When he gets to it he drops his burden and falls into the slow-moving warm waters, drinking as he goes under. Theo’s blood washes from his face and drifts away in flakes, feeding the fish.

            He drinks and takes water for the skins and then follows the river to where it enters the forest. There he passes the trees and stops beneath the hanging black bushes to eat the last of his berries and moves on. He passes shattered trees and rocks washed out from rain and river current in diluvial times. There he kills an animal and eats it raw without slaughtering it or draining it. He tastes it until he is full, then moves up river and runs along the bank, pulling his way through the tangle that forms near the edge. An animal is roaring in the distance. The trees begin to thin, and in the opening Pyramie sees the mountain where Ashirah is standing above him.

At its bottom he sees the heavy cliffs of gray, some of which have caved onto the green forest canopy. At the crest, clouds hang, and he sees the rain.