After removing the six metal flanks from the firepit and burying all seven of them behind the cabin, as Albey decided what he could not maim with a thrown stone would likely maim him before he got the chance to slice it to ribbons, Albey laid down a carpet of needles, a mantle of sticks, a crust of more needles. He built the tower, filled it with tinder and thin stalks of wood – he’d decided to call these trees burnwoods, as they caught fire quickly and burned hot until nothing remained – and capped it, as he did before. Another stick was stabbed through the structure like a spear through a fish and spun between his hands until a fire smoldered from the friction, and he stood eight sticks against the tower before getting up and fetching his meal to be cooked. All four of the fish were still present on the spear, as nothing had dared to so much as approach the territory of this murderous human fiend, this angel of Death draped in a tunic of brown leather dirtied a sooty ashen gray. He cooked the fish evenly, holding them just above the flame to grant a nice smoky taste to their meat, and did not bother to gut them nor scrape the scales before eating them. The taste was ghastly, as it likely would have been if he had gone through the trouble of cleaning them. Albey never liked the taste of fish meat, but the flavor of starvation is enough to push any ‘man outside the bounds of his good sense. When he was done there were many scales stuck between his teeth. They irritated him greatly. Albey broke the spear into four unequal pieces, tossed them into the fire, and watched them blacken and burn, the flames dancing in his eyes.
The fire began to die, so Albey piled on more wood.
The fire continued to burn, the heat stinging Albey’s face. He did not back away, only added more fuel.
The fire began to die again, so Albey fetched some rotten wood. It smoked, but did not immediately catch, which was good. He wanted this to last into the night, preferably into the morning, because there was little chance he would be gaining entrance into the cabin today.
“Burn the door to cinders and kick it in with my foot… what was I thinking?” Albey mused, not in the slightest bit amused. “The only lumber in the area are the burnwoods; the cabin is surely built from their logs. The whole thing would be incinerated. It wouldn’t matter how much food, drink, clothing… it would not matter what supplies might wait for me inside, they would all be gone. I would be just as damned as I am right now, but without the hope of being saved.”
Albey cleared his throat and spat into the fire. The mucus, foamy and white, sizzled against the glowing charcoal.
“Would be more realistic that way, I suppose…”
The fire continued to burn, the rotten wood continued to smoke. Albey grabbed a small handful of healthy sticks and piled them on top of the rotten ones. The smoke increased tenfold, the branches on top blackening, and then a great flame burst forth from the crevices in between. The heat stung his face, the smoke clawed at his lungs.
The fire continued to burn.
“What am I to do, then?” he demanded after a time spent loosely hugging his knees. “Shall I simply sit here like a fish waiting to be pulled from the river, burning fallen wood until the forest is barren like this clearing? Shall I then chop the trees and clear the island, burning all of them? Or should I simply set fire to the endless wood and hope that it stops at the river, or better yet, watch as it crosses over! Yes, that would be very fitting, the lone survivor of the holocaust that was the Battle at Jericho Tower shall scorch the world ablaze just to watch it burn, for he cannot bare to be alone. For he is weak, he is a fool, he is–”
Albey sighed heavily and let his chin fall to his chest.
“I am so tired… oh my friends, if you could only see me now… how disappointed you would be.”
Somewhere far away Albey heard the rancid cackle of Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a, the ‘man in white enjoying the spoils of this wretched War he waged tirelessly against The Triad, the victory he relished when one of them survived and came to him asking to be dealt with, for it was nobody’s fault but Albey’s own that he was stranded on this island with a house he could not enter, a home he could not claim. There are two options to choose from whenever a decision must be made, one guided by love and one guided by fear, and Albey chose fear, again and again. He tried to perish with his comrades at Jericho Tower out of fear of losing them, but they did not allow him to make that choice… so what did he do? He made it the very next opportunity he got. He killed the raccoon out of fear of being attacked, he buried it out of fear of having to look at it and be reminded of what he did, and now, sitting in the dirt next to this roaring fire, Albey chose only fear, again and again. ‘I will never get into the cabin, I’ll die alone with nobody to bury me,’ – there was no love in these thoughts, there was no hope for a better tomorrow, there was only fear, lowly, draining fear, and he was right. If he kept giving in to this terrible mindset he would continue to fall, down and down into the dark, deep abyss of misery and woe, never to be swallowed, only to be left alone by an apathetic Commons until he finally died and his skeleton was picked clean and left to rot in the dirt, never to be buried because there would be nobody around to bury him. Albey the Mad Poet buried his friends, but nobody would bury him. Exactly as he deserv–
“Enough!” Albey shouted, his breath throwing a stutter into the fire’s dance. “Enough of this, you pitiful fool! Up on your feet!”
Albey rose quickly to his feet. His Balance was shaky at first, then he came to a standstill.
“Good,” Albey confirmed, looking all about himself. “Good… now…” A sigh. “Now what?”
The birds continued to chirp, the crickets continued to sing, the squirrels chuttered to their mates, and the wind continued to blow. The wheel of ka spun unabated, undeterred in its sacred path towards the clearing which waits at the end of the path down which it rolls. The one we must all find, in one way or another.
“I know not what I must do… but I cannot simply sit here. I’ll lose my mind, I’ll toss myself into the fire.” Albey turned to face the cabin, its chimney towering high above its mossy roof, its door sealed shut as tightly as ever, its straw mat mockingly welcoming him inside. “I know not what I must do,” Albey then repeated, strutting towards the forbidden house, “but I know exactly what I’d like to do.”
Albey grabbed the straw mat and turned back towards the fire. He did not fold it, did not roll it, did not give it any more energy than needed – his anguish was not the mat’s fault, but the mat was not helping any. The mat only served to remind Albey of the difficulties at hand, it did not offer any help but only succeeded to hinder, and for that the mat would perish.
The black letters bearing its mean-spirited greeting quickly lost all legibility as the smoke filled what little space existed between the weaves of straw. Albey watched the mat blacken for a moment, then decided to turn away. He knew not what he must do, but mayhap there could be a way to learn. Mayhap all he had to do was listen.
The firepit to his back, Albey the Mad Poet set off into the wood, headed for the twin torrents of the waterfall.
This has been the fourth subchapter of the second chapter of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~