When the night fires glow in the sky he crawls to her hut. In the dry mud and brambles stands a crack in the wall that he looks through. . .
He places his eye to the crack, but in the darkened opening where the family sleeps it is hard to see. Many times he asks her to come out, but she never will; she is fearful of the Leader.
He whispers there until he hears a noise within – a tapping, some breaths – suddenly she stands in the crack, grinning. He jumps away and bangs his head on an overhanging roof pole. Putting his hand to the spot he looks up at the rafter as if it struck him.
“Thing!” he curses.
Then he hears her giggle, beautiful like the flowers beside where the water falls and the berries grow free. There is nothing more he wants than her, but his impulse is languageless. No one gives him the words. The Gatherer mothers and fathers never speak of it. What Pyramie knows instead is that Theo is like a gift he must steal time to see. He found Theo some seasons ago in the outer garden. He had only seen her before at the head of ceremonies or slaughters.
That day when he pushed his way through the thicket he found her on a rock among flowers, laughing. An Elder had just left her having taught her talking words. Pyramie was afraid, but she was not. The feathers she wore with animal skins were so different from the leaves he must wear. She later told him that Ashirah did not mean him to be a Gatherer because he was nothing like them.
Now Theo giggles again inside the hut and breaks his path of memory. She whispers through the wall. “You are clumsy.”
He whispers back, “I am not.” He is angered now; embarrassed, but excited.
She says, “Can you kiss?”
He hates when she says the things he does not know. “I kiss all the time.”
“Then kiss the wall, and I will kiss the wall and through it we will kiss each other.”
A moment goes by. “Have you kissed it?” she asks.
He does not respond and she becomes frustrated. “You don’t know what it is.”
“You do not.”
“Of course I do,” he says, getting close to the fissure so that his words are louder.
“Who do you kiss then, Gatherer?”
“I kiss Dogo.”
“You probably do kiss the painted canine. Now look through and I will show you.”
She shows him. “I am the first person you kissed,” she says.
“You are not.”
“I am, and it is important. You love me.”
“I kissed the wall,” he says.
“You do not want to then?”
“Then you have to find me tomorrow and kiss me and make it so it does not go away.”
He thinks for a moment, confused. “Come out here now.”
But before she responds he hears a noise behind her in the opening. Something in the darkness moves.
Then they hear the voice. “Theo!” It says. She freezes. So too does Pyramie.
“Theo! Who are you talking to?”
“No one, daddy.”
“Do not lie.”
Pyramie backs away from the opening. On the second step, he bumps against a pillar where none had been before. His heart wobbles.
Terreo walks around at night. He is the Warrior. They say he never sleeps. Many believe he is powerful because he has been with Ashirah. He climbed the high place where no one goes and found her. Because of his bravery she made him a daemon for his people. They say because of this the Others would not fight him when he took the field. They gave their daughters to him instead. They gave their land. They gave their gods.
The Gatherers fear him also. If they violate the way they are taken for trial. When they are found guilty, Terreo takes them to the altar for sacrifice.
Pyramie witnessed a slaughter on the last full moon. The Terror pinned the doomed Gatherer to the altar. With the ceremonial blade he pulled out the intestine. Blood frothed the rock as he skewered the entrail on a barb at the edge of the drop and heaved the Gatherer over to be unwound.
Terreo now grabs the boy by the neck and hoists him to the level of his eyes. His body goes limp. The Terror walks him to the front of the hut, feet dangling. The Leader waits, angry in the starlight. Little Theo lingers beside him with tears on her cheeks and her hair out of braids. Pyramie sniffles too. He tries to stop.
“Why are you at my daughter’s wall?” the Leader demands.
Pyramie cannot answer. He vomits.
“Will you clean that from this ground?” the Leader says.
He shows Theo no attention, but she shouts again and pulls his leg. “You said!”
The large man looks at her and considers. Then he says to Terreo, keeping his eyes on his girl child, “Let him return to the Gatherers’ quarters.” He turns to the boy Gatherer. “What is your name?”
Pyramie does not speak. He tries not to vomit.
“Speak. Say your name. Speak!”
Pyramie tightens, moves his arms, and says, “My name is Pyramie.”
“Let him go.”
Terreo drops him.
Pyramie runs away, wiping his eyes; feeling hate for the Leader and Terreo.