And it started slow and harmless, a curiosity of noises. It weren’t nothin but the sounds of nature and a summer breeze humming in the trees. We had a rhythm of life that kissed the earth and breathed the clouds; swingin easy in the seasons and rollin with the tides.
Isaac farmed and hunted durin the light, while I kept the cabin and tended to our child, Noah. The nights were long and hot and we’d stroll out to the long grass to make love under the stars while the frogs and the crickets sang. It was the way folks should live; timeless and full of joy but like the frost to the flood, things change.
One night on the porch all lay silent of a strange. No sounds to be heard save the swayin of grass under clear, dark skies. As quick as it came, the natural returned, as if nothin to concern. Over the next few moon’s it happened more so, but on the third, a deep rumble from the trees marked the start. A rumble and a silence, not long, but not nothin. The rhythm had changed and unease was now here.
A sunset later Isaac came runnin from the forest, with blood on his face and bringing kindlin and two fine br’er. Not even Noah’s hunger cries could distract his rabid words, rabbitin about a cave he’d found deep in the dark and the bones at its mouth. Deer and bear n’ all sorts he’d found, bones all gnawed.
As the br’er boiled he began scribblin, using the pencil and paper he’d traded for hide, deep into the night he marked the demise of the creature in the cave. At first light he woke me with a kiss and tripped over his shadow gettin into the trees. Little Noah couldn’t walk proper, but he’d pick himself up and stumble wildly followin his dadda outta the room.
As the sun swung, I lay Noah and sat on the porch listenin for a sound of his return, every noise I heard I thought to see his joyous smile as he strolled from the trees draggin his kill, but it were never him. As the day worn, I started to ignore Noah’s cries as the fear began, the darkness came and nothin. The night calm was loud as nature held its breath. Then, like a summer rain on a stiflin day, Isaac appeared.
Stumblin at first, then runnin, he cried for me to get in. I began to run to him, but then looming. A beast of horns and muscle, with arms and legs ten times a man, tearin the trees, it charged. Our screams a requiem as the moonlight touched the death in Isaac, his eyes fadin as we were torn apart. The silence clawed at my throat and drowned my eyes as the beast turned, headin back to the dark. In my numbness I heard the rhythmic air of deep exhalation, the mist blood grunt of demise. The rustlin of the long grass, a sense of a world just pretendin, a momentary imaginin of a beast of legend and nothin more.
Within the silent haze Noah began to scream so I went to him and whilst holdin him tight I drowned the stars in tears. I woke as the sun rose above the forest and Noah was silent watchin the black birds circlin above, intendin to claim their reverence. Isaac wasn’t mine no more, he was now nothin but nature’s way.
After a while they came with their wagons and sorrows, ‘It’s a damn shame, Isabella’ they’d say. With rifles they sought revenge and only quietened after skinnin a grizzly. Apparently only a bear had the malice or might to slay him. I remained silent as they made themselves at home, brewed coffee and cared for Noah. They’re kin, but the truth was not for their ears or I would not be for Noah. A grizzly is a truth round here, where legends are for church and nature’s will is second to God’s.
They buried Isaac where he lay and uttered from the book which made ‘em close their eyes or look to the sky. That night they drank moonshine and told stories of Isaac that slipped tears and laughter. But soon as the sun came, theirs were rumblin’s of tendin to crops and journeys home. As quickly as they showed they were gone, it seems moon and stars cure all and sorrows least when life demands more.
So it was but me and Noah, alone with the forest as the rhythm decayed and the sky was roofed in grey. We had food enough to last the cold, so I read to him through the long months and he looked at the sky and listened. By the time of first thaw he should’ve been talkin’, but since that day he still hadn’t said a word. He was comin up to two years and not even a whispered a ‘ma’.
I borrowed a horse from the McKinnon’s few miles downriver and I ploughed the land ready for the season. For a couple of years it went by, readin, farmin and raisin Noah as best as I could, but no matter how hard I tried, nothin was right in that boy. Eventually he spoke, but it was echoed with a loneliness that was deep down in him.
Every summer when the crops grew, he’d spend hours in the tall grass and sit in the patch that lay fallow. He’d stare into the forest with intent in his eyes, but no matter what the reason or the will, he never set a foot into that dark.