The silty surface of the splash pool ripples with turbulence from the crashing of the twin waterfalls. It is early in the day – Wednesday, a day of Balance – but not early enough for the nocturnes to still prowl the endless wood. An audience of squirrels and small birds of vibrant plumage have gathered in the trees to watch the ashy ‘man climb the slick crag, a bit of entertainment to aid in the digestion of their hearty morning meals. It seems healthier this morning, the ashy ‘man does, as though it’s getting enough to eat and drink, as though its internal plumbing is beginning to work properly again. They are happy for the human, although they do not feel their happiness in the way Albey does. They are merely attracted to the ‘man in a subconscious kind of way; they heard it trekking through the forest, whistling a mirthful tune, and could do nothing else but follow it at a distance. As it set foot on the submerged bridge between the falls they scurried up the trees, feeling no anxiety about it decking them with a riverstone the way it took care of that nasty raccoon (they knew in their hearts the raccoon deserved it; the bandit was rabid, it had gone rogue and taken many victims, all of them far too young to understand the fate which befell them), and watched with baited breath as it climbed up to the overhanging crown. The last time it attempted this climb it lost its grip many times and plunged begrudgingly into the water, but this time it did not slip. This time it climbed to the top in one go, as if its hands and feet studied the climbing techniques of the clever squirrels who never fall from their branches unless they’re slain, and when it reached the long boulder which split a spring into two rivers? Why, it stepped to the edge, stood there for a moment, and jumped, curling its knees to its chest and holding them tightly. When the ‘man landed it splashed up enough water to soak the many denizens perched upon the edges of the lower branches, and most of them fled swiftly to dry themselves so they would not stink worse than they do usually when the time for chuttering approaches later on.
Not all fled the scene, though. Some of the squirrels – and what few blue jays and cardinals had not yet lost interest – stayed perched in the burnwoods. They watched the ashy ‘man climb, they watched the ashy ‘man jump, and now they wish to see the ashy ‘man breech the surface of the rippling water and draw breath into its lungs. The other ‘man who used to live on the rivered island – huskier than the ashy ‘man, it was, with longer hair and a more interesting geometry about its body – only summited the waterfall crag once, but it did not jump from the boulder, nor did it ever set foot upon it. The husky ‘man crossed the river and climbed the side of the crag, far out of reach of the waterfalls’ spray, but it never came back down. It’s been a while since then. They hope the husky ‘man is doing all right, but in a way similar to their happiness (and now concern) for the more ashy ‘man: subconsciously, without knowing the emotions they feel. They still think of that husky human sometimes, still look out for it whilst they wander through the wood, still hope to see it again one day… although in their hearts they know they will not. The husky ‘man cleared the center of the rivered isle and built a cave with the many trees it felled, clearly it meant to stay there… but it still has yet to return to that cave. Although they can’t put it into words, the denizens know the husky ‘man will not be coming back from the climb it made. It’s been a long while since then. Too long.
So too has it been a long while since the ashy ‘man struck the murky waters of the splash pool, relatively long at least. There were bubbles when it first landed, as it drowned the air it rode down from the top, but they have ceased their popping. Mayhap the ashy ‘man will not return to the wooden cave, either. Mayhap the squirrels will have a new place to call home, a place far larger than a measly tree hollow, a domain large enough to raise a large family… or mayhap to build an army.
Yes, the squirrels shall colonize the wooden cabin in the clearing in the center of the rivered isle, they shall breed and chutter and breed some more, they shall amass a staggering horde, a great and mighty squirrelhorde, and they shall vanquish the chipmunk menace! They shall have the spoils of the endless wood all to themselves, they sh–
A single bubble, only visible to the eye of the few remaining birds, breaks the tumultuous surface of the splash pool. Then another, then another, then three at the same time, each larger than the last. The surface, so disturbed from the twin torrents cascading down from above as to be incapable of picturesque reflection, hosts a great froth of these popping air bubbles until finally a single massive one bursts forth like a bloated and waterlogged corpse left to bake beneath the sun. The brown head of the ashy ‘man – the poor thing must get cold during the nights, it has so little fur – follows this last bubble, and as it gasps lividly for air, the squirrels twitch their tails with excitement. Mayhap they shall not colonize the wooden cave, but still they shall breed. Yes, mayhap the time for chuttering shall come early on this day of Balance. Mayhap it shall indeed.
This has been the first subchapter of the third 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~