“Chlol, chlol. Tchau muon tchitli tlul.” The man sitting across the fire spoke. My assistant, Adrian, looked at me uneasily. He was new and had not yet fully grasped the language of the Akzametl, the Edge-Folk, so called for living at the edge of the great forests.
I leaned towards
“-The… Animal-Folk live.” Adrian and I shared a look. The Empire believed the great forests were uninhabitable. “Ti tu
“Tcha! Tcha! Tzhilitchlici tcha takli!”
“No! Not at all! The Animal-Folk are not animals! Ti tu
The man paused. He cocked his head and stared hard at me. This was how his people expressed thought.
My assistant looked at me for translation. I hesitated, the Akzametl were rarely unsure of themselves, something that made them hard to work with and one reason why the Empire was not so favourable of them. “He says that no, the Animal-Folk are not people. The Animal-Folk are the Animal-Folk.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. They could be just the run of the mill ape for all we know. But do you notice how Jaktl fiddles with that marking on his right hand? It’s the symbol for Akzatliquatkitlihaucan. Here he his both death-bringer and life-giver, as opposed to the Mountain-Folk beliefs. That is why his symbol is black, but the hourglass-figure representing woman. The Edge-Folk must fear the Animal-Folk. Perhaps we may have to do a search for these Tzhilitchlici, then. See why they are neither called animal nor human, but rather both.”
“Chlol… Tuli-Kitlaunli hacamoun.”
· · ·
My youngest son, Kyran, appeared behind the door-frame. He looked up at me, staring but not speaking. He was a good boy, if a little shy. I looked to my wife and she nodded to me. I smiled and took my son’s hand as I took him to his room. He crawled into his bed and there I sat down and as per ritual, I began my tale:
“In the far away lands, across the Edge where the Dragons lie, there is a woman. Her name is Chaliqi. Every day and every night, this woman collects a bundle of Golden Wheat. In the morning, she mills it by the
Kyran shifted in his covers. A sign for me to stop.
“Is the Dark Snake the Demon-Foe, father?” he asked. To the Akzametl, the Dark Snake brought Life to this world. To the Empire, any belief other than theirs was heresy and witchery. Lies were considered a sin and yet to tell the truth was worth your life when the truth was unwanted.
“The Dark Snake took life, son. The taking is life is forbidden, is it not?” I responded.
My son nodded his head, and then asked, “But what about the woman? She stole from the Dark Snake!”
I smiled. My son, the ever thoughtful one, who never lets any thing go by him. I answered, “Some things… Some things are not as they seem. Think on it, Kyran. Tomorrow, give me your answer.”
· · ·
“I will search for the Tzhilitchauchlici, Adrian. Dammit! Wipe that grin off your face! You know why I am going. Just… take care of Kyran, and little Aria, will you? You may wish that I find them, but I don’t. I hope that damn forest kills me.” I said. I resented the bitterness in my voice, even though I did not show it.
A sailor called out, exclaiming that it was time to depart. Silently, I picked up my personal luggage and carried it aboard to my cabin. My only thought was of despair in how the ship was full of men of no moral obligations. Men just like the one that raped and murdered my wife.
· · ·
Metihauca, a female guide stopped and clicked. The llama carrying my luggage groaned while stopping. “Tcha nlili kqlimacklit.” She would take me no further. The Akzametl had been reluctant to allow a Miktli, a Guide, to show me a safe passage into the forest. The Miktli were a wandering tribe, a rarity to have in abundance in any area. Their maps and guiding were the best in these lands. To have one in service was a great honour.
I may have worked with the Akzametl for a time, but not to place any sense of honour. I was merely a diplomat. But these men knew death. They have seen my hair pepper and then grey as we have worked together. They have heard my tales of my son growing of age and my daughter receiving her first bloody flower. We share stories, the tribes-people and I. They tell of their hard winters and barren summers, I tell of mine. I watched as Jaktli’s son procured the demon’s spots and I told how to cure them. And they knew. They knew that this time, when I stepped off the ship and travelled to their village, that there was something different. A wife of Jaktli gave me the bitter tea that they drink at a death’s service. When I requested that I would ask in which direction to find the Animal-Folk, Jaktli held his hand on my shoulder and said that the dead will meet no bitter end. A meaning which, as long as the grieving drink of the bitter tea, those who have died will find happiness in death. I believe he meant to drink of the tea when I left to my journey into the forest. And then they assigned the Miktli woman to guide me. At times for those old and weak, a guide will show them to a place they desire, sometimes to the coast or mountains. A place that they had a relation to. Most headed towards a place of ardour or personal meaning; I headed towards my death.
It is my time to die.
The Miktli woman leaves.
· · ·
The air is thick and dank, the air of a tropic-forest. The ground is dark and rich; each step brings the scent of rot and leaves. There is a lack of light; day and night are the same. The stars, the sun, the moon, they are all eclipsed by the towering, damp trees.
The world is slick with humidity, pressing with life and death presents itself everywhere.
A root catches my foot and I stumble. It is hard to stand; my legs and arms are weak with hunger. My mind reels with the world and I turn to my left and vomit. I remain there, prostrated and ready to expel more fluids. My eyes slowly force themselves to focus upon the bush in front of me. Nauseating unfocussed thoughts slam against the small inch of focus in my mind and I vomit again. Tears leak down my cheeks in pain. A slam of agony forces my body to eject as much liquid as possible. My very mind is being tortured—stabbing, wrenching pain. My voice is hoarse as it lets out a howl of suffering.
· · ·
Pain is my first thought.
I open my eyes to find myself on the forest ground. A leg is in front of me. I jerked, and then stopped. While the pain in my head is a never-ending force, movement causes my stomach to rebel. I slowly turn towards the rest of the body sitting beside me.
A woman. She is naked, her breasts have never seen a support and her body remains natural without the deformation of clothing. She holds a few scars, the main one on her left leg—not deep, but she will keep it for life. Her hair is lengthy, the hair on her legs like down. She is obviously unwashed, the hair matted together. Her eyes are hard and shock me with their ferocity. They dart to me and to the forest. I see that her skin is taut, not fattened by everyday consumption of meat, but the hardiness found by living in a world of harshness. I realise that as I stand, a waft of a musky sweetness comes from her. This woman is something I would call nature. I realise her beauty and the magnificence of her being. I realise that I have found life.
Then I realise that I am naked.
I move to cover myself and she turns swiftly towards me. Her muscles taut and she lurches forward slightly, ready to spring on me in case I flee. She glares at me, giving me a harsh noise. Taken aback, I pitch backwards. In catching myself, my chest exposes. Her eyebrow raises and she grins, not showing off her teeth. Her canines are sharper and more pronounced and when she grins, they show a sense of dangerous play.
I remain still. She coos a little and looks away. I pull myself in; the lack of clothing brings an odd light feeling on my skin, as though I am missing something.
After a while, a man comes, just as natural as the woman. He is older than her and has greying hair like me. He holds more scars than her, one across his cheek and his back and arms are riddled with them. He is muscular. He too has long hair and a beard. He makes a soft yet loud call to the woman and she answers back. He throws a satchel to her, who in turn hands it to me. It is soft and contains water. I drink.
· · ·
I am in a throng of these natural beings. Every so often, one sniffs towards me and looks me over. Usually they give a sort of chuckle to themselves and go about their business. Sometimes a younger male will make a threatening gesture.
Looking around, they appear to have a social order. There’s the requisite alpha male and female which lounge near the centre, giving barks to various workers. A group of children play watched by unisex care-takers. Gatherers come with berries, nuts and other plants of use. Sometimes they wander over to what appears to be a doctor of sorts to get an order for some plant. Hunters come by, holding spoils of strange birds, small hogs and what looks to me as a tree-rabbit. I can see guards up in the trees and I am sure that there are more that I cannot see. From what I noticed, there is no distinction between male or female. Men take care of children and they hunt; women gather and guard. One young male hunter came in with a slashed leg and ever since he has prepared food and medicines. I believed that he would have lost the leg and be left out to die, as is the cruelty of nature. However, the doctor bandaged and placed salves and a poultice on the leg. For the past few days, two of the women have kept by him, sleeping and cuddling next to him. His leg is fine and he appears to only wait for the gash to heal.
I have remained in their camp for several days and the woman who found me has come and gone, her place is as a scout. At least that is what I believe. I can find no real language, just a series of noises and motions. I have tried the Akzametl language and some of them merely gave their chuckled coos and others gave me a look of confusion. I have found that the woman and I can communicate, but I do not understand how—or at least not entirely.
On the first night, I awoke starving. I had long since ran out of food and water during my trek through this forest and was long-needed of a meal. The woman had been sleeping beside me, something I found disconcerting given my lack of clothing and that I am a man of moralities. I do not go sleeping with other women, not since I found all I wanted in my late wife. She started and when she saw that I was awake, she nuzzled closer to me, trying to get me to lie back down. I nudged her away. She made a noise, one I suspected of annoyance, and left. She came back moments later with a bowl of nuts. I ate them, but ever since then, I’ve noticed a series of unspoken conversations between her and me.
I have found myself sleeping with the woman every night. It seems as though how these people keep warm. There is nothing sexual or intimate, but there is this odd sense of togetherness. I realise that this is what it is to be in a pack. We are joined as a unit, everyone participating in a duty to which they are fit and none are to be left behind. I do not know my place in this, I am unfit to be a hunter and completely unused to their customs to be allowed to teach their children.
· · ·
It is a warm night. I lie awake, listening to the sounds of the forest and those that live here. Next to me is the woman, who I call Che. She awakens and nuzzles closer to me, latching on. I move myself to be more comfortable. My wife and I never slept like this, but I never knew why. This sleeping is warm, comfortable, and secure. Che and I are one, together underneath the canopy-tops.
She slips into a light sleep, dosing and slipping awake enough to give a noise of comfort. I brush my hand across her back. Her skin is soft and warm. The air around us is a casing of our scent mingling. There is a male musk mixed with her sweeter, more feminine smell. I nuzzle my head against her’s. She moves upwards to lick at my ear. It startles me; this is the first of this type of action. She makes a light growling and holds one of my arms as the other brushes against me in a movement to kiss my lips. I move more forcibly away.
Then her smell hits me.
It’s entrancing and sweet, a strange attraction.
There’s a faint strength of spice in it, something familiar. It’s intoxicating.
I lean inwards, towards her. The smell of her, the feel of her skin, the taste of her all pulling me in. I cannot pull away.
I do not pull away.
All the time, this deep inner part of me takes over. My actions, my wants, my Che. My mind no longer functions as logic and rigid thinking. I no longer remember the lessons taught as a child about morality or the works of the all-father. I no longer remember my wife or children; they are all a world apart to what is a dream. My mind and this deep thrumming part of me exchange.
I am the animal.
I am the wild.
I am the nature.
The original point of it was to say that there is more than one way to live, there is more than one way to think. He was supposed to leave, wander and die into the forest. But now I'm not so sure... he might live on, he might not. The thing is, he is no longer the stuffy archaeologist from the Empire anymore. He's now this wild thing in the middle of a gigantic forest. He doesn't even HAVE a name. The one character in the story to not have a name, and it's the main character. I don't think he really needed one. He was just a random man from the Empire (Britain, essentially; and the place where the tribes are are obviously the Aztecs and Amazon rain forest).
It's not a happy ending. The thing is, he left all these people behind to mourn and cry over him. He LOVES his daughter, but he left her in his own misery. His son and assistant hate him (Kyran is less likely to admit that). His wife was raped and murdered. The own man's way of thinking and views were destroyed; he had sex with some RANDOM feral woman for no REAL good reason. Whether or not he dies physically, his life is destroyed and dead.