With water filling them the buckets were indeed much heavier than the rocks in Albey’s pockets. He returned to the cabin regardless and without spilling a single drop, save for that which dripped off the buckets’ undersides.
The preparations for the day’s expedition are not great in number, nor in the effort they require to be done. Still, they must be done for Albey to wander in the wood discreetly on the other side of the river. Mayhap discreetly is not the right word – Albey will be noticed by whatever animals (if any roam there, and of course they do; his furred neighbors on the island had to come from somewhere) lurk across the water. His smell will give him away from afar, just as he desires.
There is a reason for Albey’s bath this morning, a reason which transcends the simple (yet rank) odor of his ‘manstink – the ashy ‘man means to camouflage himself in the scent of extinguished fires. The scent of ashes, so acrid and bitter, will easily overpower what little ‘manstink still clings to him – even that which wafts from his nether regions, which are clean enough to sniff from a respectable distance, but don’t ask why he’s sure of this – effectively hiding his true scent from the noses of any denizens who may wish to stalk him down the line of time when (or rather if ) he grows weak and feeble. He knows not what the cabin’s prior inhabitant smelled like nor if the denizens of the wood had grown accustomed to his smell, but he does know the denizens are familiar with the smell of fire. They must be, after all; Albey has sparked a few (not including the one he sparks now as his hands spin a length of burnwood punctured into the tower of tinder) since he woke up here, and going solely off the bed of ashes in which he came to consciousness on the past day of Life, so too did the prior tenant.
“I wonder where they got off to,” he wonders to himself as smoke begins to rise through the spaces in the tower. “It’s quite hard not to.”
He sits back and watches the fire climb through the tower with a satisfied smile. A smile which fades tiredly away as his everflapping mouth continues to gab on and on.
“Part of me fears that I am the ‘man who once lived in the cabin, that Gobon has put me into a deep illusion, a gaol from which I will never escape. I shall keep dying and waking back up in this firepit, thinking it all happened the night before. The night which follows a day of Death, which always comes before each day of Life.”
A shiver and chill race up Albey’s spine to see which can first breach his mind, despite the glowing fire, the beaming morning sun, and the lack of a breeze in the air. They tie, both taking trophies of ignorance.
Beside the firepit is a great deal of powdery ashes which Albey shoveled from the pit and spread out like one would with flour before kneading dough. Across the firepit from the mats of ashes are the two buckets, and soaking within them are his tunic and trousers. When the fire is burning hot enough to inflame the rotting wood without the need for an oven of branches – it happens quickly enough, as the burnwood unfalteringly lives up to its namesake – Albey takes his leather garments from the buckets, shakes them free of the heavier water, and lays them flat in their beds of ashes. He then pulverizes them with his fists, caking them thoroughly with the dirty ashes, then flips them and does the same. Using two sticks to stretch the tunic flat, Albey then roasts it over the open fire like a dead fish until steam no longer rises from it, effectively baking the ashy scent into the tanned hide. He repeats the process for his trousers, shakes them both out, chokes on the cloud which flies from his ashen garments, then coughs out great black blobs of toil and ruin which he is grateful – so very grateful – do not present with even a hint of redness. Albey then puts on his ashen tunic and trousers, both once brown and now a permanent ambiguous shade of gray – and continues to cough as the smell invades his nostrils.
“I suppose I’ll have to get used to this,” as he chokes on paste-like phlegm. “It will be worth it.”
Albey the Mad Poet continues to cough as though he set fire to the scorched herbs lining the bowl of the smoking pipe in the cabin and inhaled deeply.
“At least, I hope it will…”
Hope turns to certainty when the coughing finally subsides. With his clothing done up, there’s only one preparation left to make.
The stone-blade dagger is sheathed between his trousers and his underwear. In his pockets Albey carries three stones, two in the right and one in the left, for if he misses his mark with both hands he’ll likely only have time for one final throw; best to make it with his dominant hand. In his left hand Albey holds a long and slender pole capped with a sharpened shank of stone fastened with string woven of grasses, and in the right he carries a hatchet with a similar blade. Albey treks south – his subjective south, that is – towards the T in the river, and when he gets there he lays down his spear and dagger and searches for a dying tree growing near the bank. He finds one easily enough, as this forest of needly burnwoods spares no shortage of lumber, and chops a large wedge in the side facing the water. The tree comes down easily when he pushes it from the other side, but it does not break where he chopped it; the roots simply give out, as rot often starts beneath the surface.
Leaving the hatchet with its blade driven into the trunk on the island side of the log, Albey takes up his weapons and crosses the river, and thus his expedition begins.
This has been the third 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~