This is a short story cut long.
FIRE BURNING IN THE WIND
Heat became hot. Sea rose. The Wind increased in strength. Heat became visible in the very air. With the heat came the sneaking, violent Death. Land turned to sea bed. The whisper of the wind turned to the roar of the Storm. Stone deserts of the world, once called cities, was crushed to dust. It was said that many did not leave their habitats in time. This, I know, is difficult to comprehend, but know that this came to pass in a time when humanity was as countless as ants in the ground. They, each one of them, it seemed, ruled their one private hill and convinced themselves it was the whole world.
The stone desert that the sea didnít take, took time. Everything disappeared in green and brown. In mud and dirt. And blood and vomit and decaying corpses. Disease and corruption ruled so terrible, so brutal, that no one could resist. Those who were not taken away by the water and the wind, they were drowned by another kind of flood. They were torn asunder from without, from within. Humanity didnít feel like kings of their hill anymore. Fire burned in the wind anew...
The young girl stumbled down the slight slope. In a cloud of dust. Dry dirt whirling in the air. She fell and rolled down to the bottom where the terrain righted itself. The maimed body stayed still on the ground, between mounds of dried up, yellow grass.
It lasted a while, her relative absence of life, before she managed to raise her head a little. Then a little more. She smelled a scent in the air. Something that attracted her. In the very air that was hot, arid and quelling. A scent attracted her, undefined, as good as forgotten.
She dragged herself forward, dragged herself away. There was hardly any recognition, hardly at all, when long weeds of green grass seemed to be raised up around her, infinite juicy and green. She had smelled it and heard the sound of it, the water, long before she actually saw it. She hardly had the strength to crawl the last few meters, to the small pond and the crystal clear water. A sharp, fast movement or two, that she didnít remember doing and she looked down, into the water mirror, on a busted, red colored face. She bowed carefully down. Sore, swollen hands splashed water in her face. It did hurt, but made her feel better, fresher. She washed herself on the side of the head with fast, instinctive moves and fresh blood ran into the clear water, made it filthy.
After a while, she had no idea how much time had passed, she had managed to stand on two legs. She stayed there on the spot, looking down in the water. It was clear once again. There was no sign of the blood and the dirt she had washed off herself.
She pulled back, without any idea of how to count the passing time. She turned around and began to seek out, seek back to, her own tracks. Follow them up the hill, over the plain. Then... She didnít do more than blink, that was how she felt, and even more time had gone by without her remembering anything. The grass started to be greener and juicier the higher in the terrain she climbed. It felt like climbing, an ever steeper uphill towards some unknown, unreachable place.
Her head started to hurt again. Blink... Flash! The ground seemed to sway, the green grass to blacken, before her eyes. Blink. She lay flat on the ground. The night embraced her on all sides. She shivered. A short flash of it was all she got. Morning. She couldnít tell if it was the first or second morning. Or the third or fourth. She remembered a surface, a water, a face, but not when, not where. Sometimes she didnít recall anything of the step before this, this moment now. She struggled to hold on to the thoughts, one single thought. They always seem to evade her. The only thing she did remember, it dawned on her, was that she didnít remember.
She suspected that she hadnít walked in this parts before. That she never before had been remotely close to this place. It felt unknown, foreign. The grass that stretched so high above her, around her. After a while it dawned on her, that she remembered what she didnít remember. The realization was somehow comforting. Everything didnít weigh so heavily on her after that.
Lines stretched unreal out beyond her. She didnít really see them. Not with the two eyes. Just inside the head, her head. Tracks. Ruts someone had called them. Those tracks left by a wagon. By wheels that allowed wagons to be pulled. Pulled by snorting, suffering bulls. She realized she had to followed tracks. She needed to.
Thirsty. Skin that dehydrated the second the thought crossed her mind.. Tongue swollen in the mouth, her mouth. The sore throat. Sun stretched down and consumed her. What wasnít already consumed. The self disappeared, only the self remained. Shehadwalked far, so far, when the forest grew around her fragile form, embraced her. The sun didnít, couldnít reach her anymore. It reached for her, stretched its tentacles, its shining rays, down between the treetops, but to no avail.
Downwards, she sank downwards, along a dried - out river. Good! She found herself digging fervently and reached humidity and half set mud. Smeared it over dry, cracking skin, couldnít persuade herself to drink it. Not yet. Didnít know how long she could afford to wait. Drove herself on. Rivers, even dried out - rivers, led to water. She had heard this often enough... wherever she had heard it.
Good, good, it tasted so good. She found a water and had to blink, blink. The vision did not disappear. Water, water. The river came flowing from the opposite side of the little more than a big pond, twinkled in the twilight sunshine. She threw herself into the small pond. Slurped life giving liquid, drank huge gulps. An instinct, a memory, made her cautious. She halted the drinking orgy a good while before she had too much. She felt incredible. Hungry. So hungry. She dried herself around the mouth with a dirty hand, dried the hand on the worn down pants. Colorless pants. This had to be her only one. She couldnít remember another and absolutely not a third or a fourth. Tears made long lines in dust covered cheeks. She looked at herself, looked at herself in the water mirror again, the way she (may) had done once, not so long ago. Tracks. Wheeltracks. She remembered that in flashes, virtually nothing else. Round things rolling away. Carrying little houses over even and uneven ground, bumpy forest treks, overgrown roads. Quivering fingers carefully touched skin by the hot wound by the temple. Immediately dizzy she sank to the ground by the pond. Water. Thirsty. She drank. Slept.
Day again. She crawled an awfully long stretch to some thick branches of bush and sought out ripe berries. Ate them with a greed and a hunger that didnít come close to shock her. Hid from the sharp light of day. Crawled back to the pond and water. Cleaned the wound again. Drank. Slept.
Next morning she stood on her two feet. Steady and with just a slight dizziness. Her view was clear (like the water), and she knew this was really the morning after the last. She remembered the night. It was a crystal clear image in her mind. The overwhelming impact of the forest made her stand rigid for a long time, but it wasnít in any way such that she felt fear. She knew what fear was and this wasnít it. Just the memory of it provoked a reaction in her. A memory, as far away, as all the others. Why couldnít she (remember)?
This was far from fear, she felt, standing rigid in the deep forest. This was something else all together.
Hunger gnawed in her and drove her on. She needed food. A vague emotion that didnít disappear gave her a notion that this wasnít anything new to her. She had starved before. Also in the forest, the huge strange forest, when she had followed those who... hunted. Only followed. Sucking up impressions from a world seemingly so scary, hearing the adults talk about it.
She remembered! They had left her with other women and told her in a strange voice that it was nothing to fear on this place. The huge man hadnít been able to keep his eyes from anxious wandering. Nothing had happened. But... according to them it didnít matter. They were there the forest people, the creatures haunting the human sleep. It wasnít this forest, she knew that. Absolutely not. There were spirits in the forest, they had told her. And vengeful, restless ghouls, that sought young human souls...
A resolute glow ignited the eyes, the insecure, seeking look. She sniffed in the air. It felt completely natural, like the right thing to do. Without her ever thinking about whether it was right or not.
She climbed the nearest tall tree and started on her eager scouting. Her heart hadnít beaten many times, before life in the forest started to come alive to her inner and outer view. She saw rabbit and she saw fox, chasing the poor rabbit. Hints, flashes of game. Food! Deer, big and proud. Gracious Roe. And they all had in common that they kept far away from her. Heart sank in her chest. Yes, the kind of disheartening she felt just then, fitted that description. Someone had thought her to read and write. This she knew, because she realized immediately how wasted, completely useless, it was in her predicament.
She threw herself from the tree and started chasing the rabbit with everything she got. Leaves and branches hit her face and body when she quite immediate was compelled to leave the forest trail and enter the wilderness. Leaves and branches stung her. The rabbit disappeared almost immediately. She continued to circle long after she had given up on the chase. She saw nothing, nothing at all. On the forest floor there was nothing to see, nothing to gauge. The animals had long since taught themselves to keep their distance from humans.
After a while she sank exhausted to the ground, in spirit as well as body. She more crawled than walked from the spot. Both angry and discouraged. She had to enjoy berries and berries only this dark, too. But the day after and day by day after that even they became hard to find and she had to widen her search to ever wider circles. And in her need she started to dig for roots, sample them and carefully taste everything she did run into. Some samples made her ill, others did not. She tried new ones evening by evening, morning by morning, meal by meal. After some time she couldnít measure, it subsided her hunger, even if it didnít still it. She ate morning and evening, on these two times only. Ate. Rested. Learned. Or moved around. Or sat still. She sat still for many hours each day. At night she gathered strength. The long days she spent studying the movement of the rabbit, how it trekked and paused inside the quivering forest. She didnít hunt it. Not at all. Learn, taught herself, slowly, surely, burning with impatience, its habits. How it moved and moved as one with its environment, the ground, the trees, the bushes, the air. She studied the predators dance, their song, the way they moved in on their prey, and she shuddered. Shuddered in eerie anticipation. Night brought impatience and troubled sleep. She heard prolonged howls and didnít know whether they were real or not.
She could never really be certain that any of this really happened. In a way she experienced as real, it seemed to her that everything happened for the first time.
One day she stood by a pond she remembered from several former recent visits. ęLaterĽ, ęafterĽ, the pond where she had washed the blood from her face. Everything became more clear, focused, to her from then on. She studied the young girl in the water surface mirror. She was so thin. The clothes did hardly fit her anymore. It didnít matter, she felt, so ragged they had become. She fitted them better, by tying, sewing, the rags together, where she felt it was necessary. Also in this effort, she improved after a while of trying and failing. And thought they fitted her better now. She enjoyed the fact that she felt so much lighter she felt, how easy the air reached the body, how the skin itself seemed to be able to breathe better.
In twilight, one twilight, the gray and heavy, she managed to close in on a rabbit. She attacked it, but just as she was about to grab the damn thing, it jumped eloquently out of her reach. It disappeared like smoke and she was left in a frenzy with fists hammering the ground.
Sounds from the forest first made her listen with all her senses, and then she rose with a vary, wondering look. She stood like that for some time, like bewitched, and listen to a ruckus nearby. The Hunger won over the fear and she sought for the place of the snarls and hysterical screams. She sniffed and sought, but found nothing. No blood, no bone, no signs of remains or struggle.. No rabbit. She had to go to sleep hungry this dark, too.
She awoke with a start sometime during the night and lifted her head, where she slept in her nest up in the tree. She heard wolves or near - wolves howlhowl and she froze in the night heat. She didnít sleep much after that. After a while she gave up trying and started to break branches into sticks and practiced sharpening them with flat rocks.
She did sit up with a start. She remembered this much from one moment to the other, before instinct took over. Listening, she heard only her own rapid breathing. She looked up, staring, beyond the trees and the surroundings. The moon climbed swollen and stumbling over the forest. This sight created a strange resonance in her. Its rays reached her through thick treetops, thin, silver like, like needles of ice and fire. She was convinced she heard all the sounds of the forest, but continued listening, without being conscious why. Why it felt so important.
Then... she heard it. Consciousness, what she somehow had... lost, finally fractured the last bit, and the echoes, the pieces, collected itself, the tide washed over her and the wave was stronger than what had left her. She heard it. She heard the howl of the owl. Bits of... yes, she remembered what it was... ice gathered in her stomach. She fumbled her spear, tightened her fingers around it, a tight grip. Slowly she felt the burden of it, the lack of burden, and a smile cracked the young face.
It was a marvelous thing, what a person saw, when looking beyond what was right in front of oneself. One saw what was right in front so much clearer. She knew she needed meat. She wished to live. The rest of the night she used for concentration. Preparation. Build her anger. Awake what might remain of the forest gods. She painted her body with juice from berries, smeared dirt and mud all over herself. Filled the night with screams from her inner self. And the echo returned as the howl of the owl.
Very early next morning, before the first light, she followed rabbit tracks. Quite often the quick view of all the small animals in the forest, threatened to interrupt her search. She wouldnít allow herself to be distracted, where she walked and run and tripped. Her eyes moved restlessly back and forth, up and down, attempting to register every single movement. Feet drummed against the forest ground, while the sun without her really seeing it, moved across the sky. While she closed in on one single rabbit in the uneven terrain.
She was nearly frozen, but not paralyzed. So simple it was, to move. So... natural. Her face was rigid in her concentration, but not the smile, the one from inside. She flowed forward, seemingly without straining herself. Each step was a light, strainless, natural succession of the last. Her tiredness rested, until she could allow it in herself.
The rabbit began to circle. Finally! It closed in on its spawn. She realized this, without really thinking about it. And something was... wrong! The behavior of the she - rabbit became wrong. Not wrong. Right. What happened became wrong. In this... context. So many words. Had she really learned all this, or was she merely remembering. Remembering from a distant memory. Thoughts. They became fleeting, pointless.
The young human female rushed forward. She understood in a flash of raw knowledge. She had no problem understanding. The sight came to her in a vision before she actually saw it, the near - wolf bitch that impatient and hungry pushed a paw into the whole in the ground.
NO! A fundamental rage rose from the deep, from the human being. No, the game belonged to her! It was hers. She threw herself forward. The near - wolf backed off a little, unused as it was with aggressiveness in the two legged predators. Not far, not long. It attacked with a paralyzing snarl. The two legged one drove her spear through the heart, pushed the four legged bitch backwards with volatile, irresistible force. A steaming mouth bit around her arm and she felt teeth scraped the skin. They hit the ground, rolled over each other over and over. She fought herself to her knees and stabbed her lethal enemy time and time again. The once so human face consorted in black rage. But the bitch was already dead. Her last movements had been merely cramps. Even in death, far beyond death, the four legged beast had fought to kill. The young girl, the two legged beast, slowly relaxed and her facial features softened. She picked one of the sharp stones she carried with her, used it to slice open the chest of the beast. Then she pushed a hand inside it... and pulled out the still beating heart. Her mouth opened wide and she took a big bite, tearing the big muscle apart. Blood flowed down her throat, within and without. The meat tasted delicious. The blood even better. She couldnít have imagined how delicious it was. How it made her feel. Her blood, it boiled and flowed through the veins. She caught the lame, frozen rabbit mother with her stare, through the red fog. Snarled triumphantly at the lamb straight in front. The small animal fled and left the young at the predatorís mercy. The female howled in triumph. She was alive and she would continue to live, live long. The howl of the human beast resounded like fire through the wild, through the forest, the earth and the air.
Begun 07-04-1998 - 107. night 12053
Third year in the time of the Crimson Tide.
Completed 1999-06-23 - 183. Night 12054
Fourth year in the time of The Crimson Tide.