In the Wake of the Great Western Beast
That night she sighted gossamer tendrils of fire waving in between the trees, and began constructing a jagged, irregular path toward the light. The fire was a tiny, effervescent hub in the midst of all the embanked dirt and dusky, wooden trees—legitimate fervor enclosed within, sound and all but an implication of its true vividness immured from the external world, only a lambent glow escaping to travel out. She sensed insects moving toward the scene like she was; they flew through the paralyzed night air and marched over the landscape in loosely regimented hordes. The insects would be respectfully ignored by all parties. When she got to the fire it would be necessary for her to engage in social exchange so as not to be immediately defined as enemy, and routed, or worse, killed, or worse.
There was no easy way to announce herself, but options that put less urgency onto those around the fire were marginally preferable. In hope: they already knew she was approaching through the forest; they had heard her footsteps; they had seen her figure; they had deemed her unthreatening enough to allow her to come this close, and closer. She was not unthreatening, but it was better for everyone if they believed that she was. She had thus far been unable to count them. They were very quiet, perhaps in apprehension of her nearing. The moon was only a thin tear in the sky overhead. It was moving in the direction of the river.
They expectedly stood when she entered the clearing where the fire had been cultivated. She insinuated herself among them by offering up recent game.
The Objective Is Disclosed
“Right. Traveling on your own for some time now, et? Lost a home or left it? Or left it in ruins of your own making? Wouldn’t put me in any sort of ethical bind by elucidating—I’ve got no spare skin to put into any games that belong to you, no offense. Any case, you’re small and you travel lightly, in all senses of the expression, meaning that you won’t be any kind of liability or millstone for myself or Alberik over there, right? You won’t be. Et? I’m a materialist. What that means is I only believe in what’s really there. One of us—any of us three—keels over, founders, falls by the wayside, deflates, stoically marches off a cliff? As soon as that man—or woman, as of now—isn’t moving, isn’t getting back up, he or she is gone, yet? Permanently. Ontologically. That goes for me too. You can hold me to that, et? And his or her belongings can no longer belong to himself or herself because he or she has categorically vacated the premises. Up until exactly that point barter and bargain is still in effect, though we all try to be reasonably friendly. Et, Alberik? I’d think it’s certainly superior to foraging alone—especially a young woman on the smaller side as yourself, if you don’t mind me being forthright. Not that I’m demeaning your dogging ability. That was a welcome surprise, if a little hair-raising. You understand. Yet. You get it. Anyway, the tracking. Either you already know, or you’ve been itching to finger-read my sulci through my scalp. Right. We’re tracking—you understand the difference between ‘tracking’ and ‘dogging,’ right? It essentially falls to me to explain all of this because Alberik decided a long time before we met each other that there’s no such thing as conversational weight and consequently that it can’t be shared equitably, so why bother. It’s fine; I’m not of the resentful kind. Just attached to my daily dose of truth-in-jest. We’re tracking the Nomophantodon on its long march over and across the Western Forest. We have been for some time. You heard me correctly. Yet. You do know? What it is, I mean. Et? Oh alright. Few months back I wouldn’t have believed you, would’ve thought you were pulling a sack over my head, but—what was it, Alberik, a month ago?—Alberik and I came across a village—I guess you would call it a village—of cave-domiciles where not a single child, mother, or man could report recollection of a single mention of the thing. And get this: we moved on and within half a day came across tracks—guess none of them ever left town, or maybe it’s the ones who did never came back, et? So I do believe you. Are you younger than you look? We’re following it for more than one reason. There are never singular reasons behind these sorts of things. There are many groups throughout this forest, you know—a lot of them much more populous than our little band. I’ve heard tell of throngs of gadrauhts, laochs, even cuauhmets moving in pursuit of the creature in nearby regions. Personally, I don’t think anyone thinks they can kill it. It’s entirely possible that the Nomophantodon is immortal; I would wager that nothing crafted by pale hominid hands would be able to pierce its hide. Guess it’s possible that some castellan on the roam unironically thinks he can take it down, if he were ever able to get his army close enough. That’s a big ‘if,’ et? I’ve never been under any such illusions. No shells, scales, wool over my eyes. I just want to see it in person. Set my eyes upon it as the sun sets its mythic fire upon the sky. Maybe touch it. Maybe try to sink a knife or a polearm into its hide. If I can. And I’ve invested so much in the journey. Lost so much, you understand. Uprooted me. Deterritorialized me. I’ve made it my grail. You could say that, yet. Alberik—I don’t know too much about his motivations. Don’t know much about yours, for that matter, so the two of you are nearly on level ground. He’s a quiet one. Yet. But he’s dependable; the type where you never have to worry about accommodating the potentiality where he doesn’t fix his task when yours depends on him fixing it. Watch out for the little drop off ahead. We’re going to maneuver around. I just wish you spoke more, Alberik. Et?”
Put Another Way
“Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.”
They Set Up Camp
She foraged dutifully for dry wood, striking down the impulse to confirm whether either of the men were watching her in order to verify that she was indeed working, or for another reason. A state of confidence in her ability to contend with any unprompted aggressions they might ostend toward her did not mean she was wholly free of uncertainty. She was naturally inclined toward permanent vigilance, especially toward human beings. These were the first human beings she had encountered in some time. She entertained a mental perspective of their party as microfauna, perhaps in search of a sufficiently bountiful source of water. The Nomophantodon, regardless of its current location, diminished them, cosmically, on account of its own prominence.
They used severed vines to tie themselves to tree branches, in apprehension of the sinewy amphibian prowlers who were known to make their way inland during the nights in this region. She wondered if Ryker was aware that Alberik seemed to know his navigational decisions before he declared them. She made sure to always let the men carve and distribute, to avoid showing her own blade. Even if they probably knew, given her initial peace offering—the sack of deboned rabbit husks.
“Now that we have a new companion,” said Ryker, “We can begin to trade atavistic and spiritual tales in earnest. May the best man—or woman—win!”
Definition of Ryker
You notice that the face is at war with itself, the hardness of toil and labor nullified its alliance with the weathering of age and now the two no longer complement one another but embarrass and discompose. The whole face is discomposing—the whole face is decomposing, but so is everyone’s; but it can be more painful to honestly look such a face (in the face). You can’t tell for certain whether there is sadness mixed into the canvas somewhere, or whether the juxtaposition of other qualities encourages the mind to conclude sadness. Either way, you feel a bit sad, looking at him, occasionally, for the odd moment. Then it passes. You know deep down that he probably experiences sadness—if he experiences sadness—in the exact way that you do, when studying him. His footsteps in the brush are plangent. He reminds you of what your brother might have become, if he had been granted the chance to age. Does that scare you?
He looks as though his joints pain him when he moves, but he moves regardless. He marches. Always marches. He sometimes has tremors in his hands that cause him to drop what he is carrying. Nobody has brought it up (including you), presumably because it would be his own responsibility to do so. You deemed that just at some point without cogitating deliberately on the issue. He does an impressive job of keeping his clothing relatively clean, as well as his skin, though you have up until this point never seen him bathe. You expect you will, eventually.
You find yourself dressing him down, out of what is a totally nonsexual curiosity. His body would be purely functional, his organs full and vigorous. He seems to be emotionally in his element standing on the tops of rocky outcroppings. You wonder what he was like, when he interacted with the cave-dwellers, if he spoke to them the same way he speaks to you. If he speaks to Alberik the same way he speaks to you. Compared to yourself, or your idea of yourself, he is uncommonly civilized for someone roaming the forest, yet he is respectful of the ecosystem in a manner you believed to be inaccessible to civilized individuals. His face is kind. He must cut his own hair. His accent is minimally invasive, restricted to only a small set of disturbed phonemes. It’s utterly impossible to imagine him drinking or smoking, though it is certainly possible that he may. It’s utterly impossible to inquire about his home without being impelled to divulge information about your own. You know some things: believes in an afterlife; is unafraid of encounters with sizeable lizards; has at one point been a father.
In Which the Girl Experiences an Acceptable Kind of Fear
“Saw a bear out in the woods. Relatively big.”
“How many legs?”
“Six. At least.”
“We’ll strafe west. Get closer to the river.”
List of Things Which the Nomophantodon is Not
The Nomophantodon is not that which holds the sky aloft
The Nomophantodon is not malevolent
The Nomophantodon is not powered by natural gas
The Nomophantodon is not heartbreak, America, or anything equally vulgar
The Nomophantodon’s steel caterpillar treads are not less than 6.26 meters in width
The Nomophantodon is not non-Euclidean
The Nomophantodon is not agriculturally insignificant
The Nomophantodon is not a McGuffin, nor is it an instance of Chekhov’s Gun
The Nomophantodon’s idea of courage is not so different from ours
The Nomophantodon is not political, and shame on you if you ever thought it was
The Nomophantodon is not referenced (at least not explicitly) in King James VI’s Daemonologie (1597), nor is it referenced (at least not explicitly) in Arthur Prior’s Formal Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955)
The Nomophantodon’s pincers are not its primary means of attack
The Nomophantodon isn’t going to be the end of the world, if you ask me
“What I’m getting at is: what is the least that can belong to a living person—not shared, right—for that person to qualify as an individual? We talking a brain and a spinal cord? The brain alone? Et? How much can one lose and yet remain whole?”
“A long time ago, I knew someone who was two people—a little girl and a little boy sharing a body. Their mother told us that they were twins who had rejoined inside her. Before the birthing. I thought that was backwards—that twins begin as one being, when they’re within, and that they must have not succeeded in separating from each other before the birthing. They never successfully became two. When they died, I heard about it—two spinal cords, two brains.”
“How old, when they died?”
“Young, still. Maybe seven.”
“Seems like they were each individual personalities?”
“They seemed like it.”
“Right. So we have evidence, up to a certain point, yet? That point being a brain and a spinal cord. Maybe it’s less, even.”
“I don’t know. I only remember what I saw.”
“Fair. What do you think, Alberik? The minimum needed for psychic individuality. Consciousness. All that.”
“The capacity to feel deprived.”
Definition of the Girl Herself
Girl because she is still lithe and strong and quick, not because she is premature or prepubescent. Girl because accepting womanhood is an equivocation for accepting motherhood, which is an equivocation for taking root and becoming stationary, permanent, extending in vertical bidirectionality as a tree, taking on nature’s inherency. She has known women like that, and she has loved them, but she is not as they were, at this point in time, and if she is to some future day become like them, such a metamorphosis is concealed perfectly behind some fourth-dimensional curtain, and therefore cannot not be accounted for or factored into decisions present and world-stoppingly pivotal in their presentness. If nothing would promise to ever change for her, she would run and sneak and throw herself apocalyptically from cliffsides onto still waters and laugh and scream savage jubilation at the night and hide away food for the winter and ice for the summer and fire from the Gods—
Image of Crocodiles
The small village, an untethered satellite which had managed to become stuck on and sink into a tributary at some time during its wafting through the ephemeral forest, was structured centrally around a single watermill, about the height of tall man with another half of a tall man standing atop his head, which was no longer in use. The three of them unfolded as they entered the demesne: Ryker far right, Alberik center, Maya on the far left. She was the first of them to come across a body: a bruised, ugly corpse missing fingers, pierce-marks discharging thick webbing, a head wound which probably had been the decisive blow, indentations suggestive of a mace or mace-adjacent bludgeoning weapon. She signaled to the others and they proceeded, cautious and alert.
The houses were small and spare semi-trapezoids built out of the ochre wood of the massive trees which towered toward the sun and dwarfed below them everything save the great Nomophantodon, which was carrying forward as if by inertia somewhere in the distance. Maya pushed through a door and was met with a greenish, mouldering meal, and cutlery on the floor; there were florid stains on the miniature pitchforks, clotting on the wood base. No residents.
“Been a battle here,” called out Ryker from far to the right when she had escaped the hollowed house. “Found any food that’s kept?”
Maya responded in the negative.
Some paces later: another corpse. Eyes noticeably smaller than the last, with high cheekbones and a pallid, capillary-streaked face. Sections of skin dyed blue. This one was armored in dull cobalt, which had been shorn open around his midsection, as if someone had managed to skewer him precisely between the abdominal plates and blast his lower viscera out the other direction. The wounds had been suppurating. Unlike the last body, however, this one was twitching around the pectoral area. Softly, she applied her knife, and opened the ribcage. The inner sides of the curling bones were red with cruor—from the front of the heart protruded two aortas, one fully formed and the other only partially; the two spouts alternated in glopping up short hemoglobic splashes.
Closing in on the center, where the great big wheel was arrested in the stream. Sunlight refracted up from the water gorgeously, and there was a nice breeze. At the end of the little wooden bridge to the watermill structure lay an injured woman, propped up against the side of the building, with broken arms. She began to move uncoordinatedly when she caught sight of the three of them coming toward her. Maya looked to Ryker, who was looking at the woman. She was probably a few years older than Maya herself.
To Maya’s confusion, Ryker said “It’s going to be alright, et?” The woman said that her name was Thaïs.
Ryker asked her what had happened to the village.
“Gauls more like Ghouls—raiders painted in woad ’scended on us. It weren’t like any I’d seen before, in the wildeswald—eyes were sunken, and bleedin’ blight. It were a sickness to them, like plague-form manifest. Everything’s been uncommon after the passing of that great huge thing past winter. They stormed us in automatic testudines with peltae and poleaxes and carried some off, but they tossed most in the river. I dragged myself over to the mill when they were gone and couldn’ notice me here. To see if any of them were still living, down there. If they were living and in need. I don’t know how I’d help them if it were—I can barely move anymore, and it’s too difficult to get up.” Her voice was soft.
“Can I touch you?” said Ryker. When the woman nodded, he pressed down several times around her shoulder joints. Maya was perplexed by the projected implications of what seemed to be happening.
“If I’m ’live, there could be others,” Thaïs uttered. “The raiders weren’t so thorough by the time they’d got most of us. And they were with some sickness—even I could tell.”
Alberik, who had been standing over the three of them, departed to explore the remaining buildings.
“Right, well first things first we’re going to fix your arms,” said Ryker, “Maya and me.” Maya stared at him in consternation. Even if she healed, the woman would be weak and parasitic for some time. Ryker didn’t seem to care. Then they went about re-socketing her joints. Maya held the sockets steady as Ryker wrenched the limbs into place. The woman breathed out soft screams. It took several minutes.
They consolidated with Alberik on the way out of the village. Thaïs certified that there was no food left worth taking. Maya observed Alberik cleaning recent stains off his knives.
Meanwhile, Maya is considering that Thaïs’ thighs and breasts are much fuller than her own—a much more voluptuous figure. This would be advantageous to her; in terms of consumption, most people are likely to eat those parts of the female first, for practical reasons of accessibility and efficiency. Where those of Thaïs are evidently tender and filling, her own breasts are small and high, and her thighs are thin and tawny from running hours a day. She wonders whether it would be appropriate to thank Ryker in some way. If he knew.
Definition of Alberik
An unbreakable alloy frame coated in molecularly-binding liquid skin—catalyzed upon initial oxidation once model is released from the assembly into the greater compound. Allow the model to settle for 5 to 10 hours before attempting to touch, as external temperature may reach temperatures of over 450K before superficial cooling can take effect. Once fully adhered, the solidified skin will soften and become indistinguishable from standard tissue. Both secondary and primary external reproductive organs of either sex (or neither/both) may be induced to develop at the user’s discretion.
Internal structures are predominantly vitreous; microscopic fiber threading constitutes a protective cage around each vat-grown organ, decreasing the probability of internal rupture and/or functional collapse of organs when the model is externally traumatized. This feature has been tested against ballistic weapons up to and including M870 Modular Combat Shotgun and B&T APC9 Pro-K Sub Compact Weapon from a minimum range of 20 feet, as well as various vehicular collisions. Current research indicates that the maximum weight that can be loaded onto the model before irreversible damage begins to occur is around 4,000lb, for a duration of no longer than 35 minutes. Nervous system resembles standard, but efferent division between the somatic and autonomic systems should be regarded as strictly arbitrary, given that the nerves are individually programmable, and may be customized by location, access to certain structures, or any other criteria.
Also programmable for the model are the ethical and aesthetic inclinations, religious venerations, metaphysical presuppositions, curiosities, and other cognitive motivators. New models come preset with a database of over 100 virtues (Nichomachean model), or the user may code his own. It is recommended that introspection be relegated to minimum settings if major cognitive alteration is induced, in order to prevent anti-socialization. However, preliminary testing has indicated that the probability of major psychical malfunction for any reason—internal or external—is less than 3%.
“My given name at birth was Albertus II. Albertus was my father. He was a great and respected man. During my childhood they adorned his name with honors.”
An Ornithopter Is Sighted Over the Trees
The sky was a warlike orange.
“That’s important isn’t it? Isn’t it significant?”
“You don’t think it’s important?”
“It could be important eventually, but it certainly isn’t important right now.”
“What is it then?”
“An ornithopter which we’ve sighted above the trees.”
“You don’t think that’s meaningful? You don’t think that means anything?”
“An ornithopter flying above the trees?”
“I’m not really seeing what you’re getting at.”
“I think it looks really pretty up above the trees in front of that warlike orange sky,” said Thaïs. “Those spinnin’ propeller-blades… It were like fine flower petals combined with iridescent insect wings all ’holstered together into a helix. It’s gorgeous. I’d like to see a sight like that every day.”
The four of them trickled down a declivity to the low grounds along the river’s edge, moving gingerly between humongous rhizomes which burst forth from the sloping ground. They traveled along the bank for a time, carrying thin spears which Alberik and Maya had fashioned just in case they were to spy any trilobites that had gotten themselves stuck in the shallows. The hypnotic whine of the ornithopter faded beyond, but after some time it was replaced by the sight of geobukseons crawling across the current. At the center of the entourage was a larger ship, a ziggurat made buoyant, atop which several figures interacted, though much too far away to hear. They hid in the brush until night came, and did not set any fires; the only light came from the gasoline torches fastened to the top of the ziggurat, where a single person had been chained in a reproduction of the Vitruvian Man. His screams evaporated into the cool night air, and though she could not see the colors in the darkness, Maya knew that his blood was pouring down the steps of the edifice and into the dark water. They took turns keeping watch until morning.
The next day she set traps and came back to their camp with three rabbits, though none of them had much meat on them. None of the others had been lucky enough to catch anything at all. They were running out of food, now, going day by day. She watched the shadows of the trees moving across Ryker’s face. At one point he started to shake until spittle came out of his mouth and he held tightly to the stone he was sitting against; the rest of them enacted the custom of refraining to remark.
Later, Thaïs said to her: “It were really impressive how you caught those rabbits. My brother was able to do that, it used to be. I was thinking that maybe you could show me how to. My arms aren’t so strong yet, and I’m having pains in the cubital tunnel, but I maybe might be able to tie together knots or whatever it is you do to catch ’em. And I bet you’d ’ppreciate someone else helpin’ you with it.”
“I probably couldn’t teach you how,” replied Maya.
Supplements That May Help to Prevent Cognitive Deterioration
Ashwagandha, Bacopa Monnieri, Cordyceps, Curcumin, Ginkgo Biloba, Lion’s Mane, Tyrosine.[This thread is a stub, you can help by expanding it]
Covertly Aberrant Psyche
“Should I bring Thaïs with me to scout the bluff?”
“You should do whatever you want.”
“I already do.”
“But what I’m asking is, would it bother you if I did? Would it make you upset? Et? I’m just asking because I’d like to know.”
We mustn’t forget about the Nomophantodon. The creature continues to tread across the forest whether we ignore it or not, and it would be much more intelligent to pay attention, because it isn’t going anywhere. It has been suggested that by preoccupying ourselves with the Nomophantodon, we put ourselves into some sort of bondage to the creature, make ourselves its slaves. I acknowledge that this may be true, but then I ask: what other option do we have? What other path could we take, could we have taken? We’re inevitably going to come across the trail left by the Nomophantodon, no matter which direction we’re moving in, and once we find ourselves on the edge of that trail there is little we can do but follow it to its inevitable denouement. At this point, we’ve tried everything: we have attempted to leverage our own symbolic authority over the beast, by tethering it to names of our own creation, as though fixing the referent of some phrase would truly define it for us, as though we could enslave it semantically and then knock its knees out from under it; we have attempted to battle it, to worship it, to unify with it on the astral plane; we have achieved nothing through these endeavors. It still moves inexorably forward, and we are towed behind it like discarded toys. Even as we live out our short lives, as we arrange and violate our marriages and repair our guitars and hallucinate wildly and stop at windows to view our reflections overlayed with whatever machinery churns inside and return to school at the end of the summer, the Nomophantodon continues on, and we pursue it, whether we admit to that fact or deny it in all our amassed impudence. So you see: we are not the masters here. But despite all this, I beg you, I beg you, I beg you; please do not cease to remember what is undeniably still here, somewhere just beyond the horizon, mind-flattening in its magnitude. We cannot allow ourselves to masquerade ignorance as self-determination. We must never, ever forget about the Nomophantodon.
At which point Ryker said, “Right. So before I met you, Maya, Alberik and I had been traveling alone for—what was it, four months? Three? Right. Yet. Been traveling on our own for three months, just the two of us as a duo. I’ve known Alberik for a year and a half abouts, now. For the first year—well, more than a year, if it was three months—we had a party of five total. Yet, one more than our party now. Except it all wasn’t quite so equitable, as two were children. Yet, kids. Little larvae. You know. Probably lost a lot of kids when your village was sacked, et? They throw ’em in the river or did they take them with them? Fucking flower wars. I’m sorry. Sorry for cursing too; I don’t usually curse, usually, under normal circumstances. The two little ones were my daughters. Yet. Eight and ten. Probably won’t say their names. It would taste funny. We also had my wife with us. What a trooper she was, et? A real trooper. We came about Alberik when we got—well, I won’t say where, actually. Hippocratically bound, in a sense, you could say, et? Confidentiality. It’s a respect thing. Don’t mention it. Alberik has done a lot for me, over the last year and a half. Where was I? Right. So we all got to know each other real well, and we were making good time, tracking the Nomophantodon. In those days we still had a lot of the supplies we’d brought from where we came from on us. Very different part of the forest—trees were a lot lighter-colored. The trouble materialized when we found out that we had to go through part of a mountain range in order to keep up the pursuit. The tracking, yet. An art to tracking. Yet. Well, we got a good part of the way up, except then it started to get cold. And craggy. Whoever’s aegis we’d been operating under up till that point had apparently expired, and Alberik and—and my wife, yet—realized that we were going to have to adapt to the climate, so to speak, and there weren’t really so many options for how to do that. You’d say that’s accurate, Alberik? Good. Well all of the adults came to an agreement, and we sat the girls down and explained to them—explained to them that anyone who keels over, founders, slips on a specious sheet of ice and cracks his or her head open on the stony ground, receives a knife through the carotid artery cutting off blood flow to the brain and so on and so forth is for all intents and purposes expelled from social existence and becomes a non-thing, of which non-person is a subclass. And after that there’s a nice large, complete body, et? Even kids are sort of large when you consider them as esculent material. So I took each of my daughters in turn—and I told Alberik that I wanted to do the killing myself for both, because up until they were gone they were still my daughters and I loved them more than anything in the world—and took the life out of them. And that’s when my wife became animalistic, and Alberik had to hold her back while I tried to reason with her about how there was no point in losing it now, and how I’d absolutely felt like desolation personified while I was doing it, and how I’m not strictly a utilitarian, but there was no morally superior option offered in the situation we were in, because if we had let them eat us instead they probably wouldn’t have made it down from the mountains regardless. Yet, well that’s the thing, too. She consented to it, before we did it. She agreed. I don’t know. I thought she was more like me than I guess she actually was, fundamentally. No way of knowing that sort of thing, et? Not until something happens to show you what’s past the veil. But to close off, my wife wouldn’t let up, and was trying to injure Alberik, and we had to demap her too, ultimately. The whole process was awful. I’m sorry. Yet. It’s hard, yet. Alberik remembers how difficult it was. But after that we had quite a lot of food. Ate essentially every part of them. Would last us through the remainder of the mountains and some time after that as well. Didn’t mean to make you cry, Thaïs, I hope you know that, et? My girl. It’s alright. Right.”
Do you know what love is?
No one has found the fulcrum.
“We’re all much more different than we are alike. We have nothing in common.”
“That’s untrue; we’re all tracking the Nomophantodon. We have that in common.”
The Horizon Collapses Perfectly Inward
They tie her to a tree, arms bent backwards around the round trunk. They nearly have to dislocate her arms again in order to fasten the wrists together in the back. Ryker offers Maya the opportunity to kill the woman, but Maya says she doesn’t care much who does it either way, so Ryker is the one who cuts her throat. The blood makes a stripe down the middle of her body. The body is apportioned into three dinners, and the other parts are collected to preserve for later. Ryker is shaking and vomits once during their meal, but Maya understands that this is not a result of some philosophical apostasy. She asks him if he is sick, and he answers yes, he is sick. Alberik produces a disyllabic sound that includes the voiceless velar plosive and the repetition of the close back rounded vowel, says something about prions. While she does not recognize the word, Maya understands why, essentially, Ryker is sick, and has been for a while. She thinks about the past. Meanwhile, the forest continues on, like waves, in eternity.
Will Dempsey is currently a graduate student in Philosophy at Brandeis University. Before moving to Boston, he has lived in Northern Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri.