The food jars are all washed, the water jars topped off, the firewood collected, and the fireplace coated in a thin layer of ash, clean of bulk. Now Albey sits with legs crossed beside the firepit, an ashy bucket to one side of him. Little else is left for him to do, so now the Mad Poet has resigned to cleaning a firepit he has no plans of hosting a fire with.
Almost resigned to cleaning the pit, that is; Albey sat down before the sun reigned high noon, and high noon has since passed. It passed only a short time ago, but still it has passed. Still he sits beside the pit, back hunched and chin in his hands.
“I’m jumping to conclusions again, am I not?” the Mad Poet asks the Universe. “I do not know what made that print in the dirt, it could have been–”
What? Anything? Technically yes, the maker of the big footprint does fall within the specific realm of Anything, but there is very little ambiguity about this. There is a print in the shape of a ‘man’s foot, but much larger than any human could hope to grow. Even the likes of Ram’rl the Unfallen could not hope to make a print that large, and that ‘man was the largest Albey had ever seen. One of the few the Poet could not grapple into submission.
Albey sighs. Closes his eyes. Opens them again.
“Mayhap I should meditate,” he reasons. “My mind is still clouded from the smoke I inhaled las–” and that’s when the gears click.
The day Albey meditated on the crown of the twin waterfalls – the day he was pushed off the ledge into the splash pool, no doubt by the race who made the big footprint if not the maker of the footprint itself – he drifted into a vision–
–and came upon a gray cloud which split into two, one half white and one half black. During his voyage last night Iuqon and Ram’rl came to him similarly; mayhap Albey does not need the herb–
–to hold council with The Triad, mayhap he needs only to close his eyes and focus deeply so he may travel so far within himself that his spirit leaves the Universe through the back door rather than the front.
“Or mayhap Gobon gave me the same sacrament during our little palaver, but in a larger quantity. The scent of the cannastralis was familiar enough when I first smelled it, and the scrawling on the jar warned against inhaling it in large puffs.”
Perhaps Gobon the In’Flu-Enz’a was the previous inhabitant of this terrible cabin, the slayer of all those animals whose meats are dried and seasoned with herbs and salts and sealed away in the jars on the shelves, the writer of the many books which line the third shelf beside the fireplace… bah, impossible. Such a shrew like Gobon could not hold his hand steady enough to letter in the way of the ‘man who went searching for the territory of the bigfoots and never came back. Gobon couldn’t lift a spear, let alone hurl one with any accuracy. He would not have the sense to barter with a reputable merchant for such would cost him prettily, and Gobon is the miserly type of ‘man who spends thriftily for the sake of hoarding his currency.
“If the fiend even has any currency to his name,” Albey spits. “He’s nothing more than those dreadful threads wrapped ‘round his back. Those and his little tricks.”
A flock of birds, black like a stormcloud, fly above the clearing. Albey cranes his neck to watch them go.
“Mayhap I shall smoke, then,” Albey decides, standing without using his hands. “I’ll indulge out here so the smell does not infect the cabin, and I shall take but a single toke, as to not waste any firewood.”
It seems like a solid enough plan, and so the Mad Poet puts it into action. He opens the labeled jar and takes a small nugg’ of The Flower, then swiftly caps the jar closed, returns it to the table. The crumbled nugg’ hardly covers the blackened bottom of the smoking pipe’s bowl, but that’s plenty enough. Pipe in hand Albey returns to his spot next to the firepit, sits down, and raises the mouthpiece to his lips. Pulls smokeless air. Lowers the bowl and laughs pathetically at himself.
“It seems I shall need a fire, after all,” realizes the Mad Poet, and so he gets enough burnwood twigs to make a small teepee, makes friction to spark a flame, and as the smoke rises above the ashes, he pulls a burning branch by its cooler end and stirs the bowl with the scarlet tip. The taste of the cannastralis, when mixed with the woody smoke of the burnwood embers, is not entirely unpleasant, though it’s many summers hotter than the cannastralis smoke alone. Hotter and harsher; Albey coughs the hit out as he tightly shuts his eyes and the curtain of reality is lifted daintily away to reveal The Void in all its bottomless wonder. Both Iuqon and Ram’rl come to him quickly without the escort of the black and white clouds. “My friends,” Albey speakes breathlessly into The Void. “It is so very grand to see you.”
“As it is you, Albey,” they say, smiling. “You request our council?”
“I…” Albey lowers his head. “I fear I may be giving into fear; the plan we discussed last night, I… have yet to put it into action.”
“For what reason, great Poet?” asks Ram’rl, puffing his chest out and folding his arms beneath it.
“I saw a footprint,” Albey explains to them. “A large footprint, the shape of ‘man’s but far too large to come from any ‘man.”
“A giant, then?” asks Iuqon gravely. “One of the niphlihim? The legends say they died out long ago, but I always suspected there were survivors.”
“No, the print was not that big,” Albey sighs. “Just large enough to spike my concern, is all. In the cabin there is a book–”
“Yes,” Iuqon interrupts. “We both know of the strange tome, the one which tells of the alleged ape’mans.”
“How is that possible?”
“You may not always see us,” Ram’rl the Unfallen lilts cryptically, “but you must always know we’re there. Always, Albey, with you in heart, in mind, and in soul.”
A warm smile takes to Albey’s face like the spring’s first thaw spreading across a frozen wintered land. “And for that I say thankya, comrade. I believe the ape’mans are real, and I believe they know of my existence.”
“The fall from the falls,” Iuqon nods.
“Indeed. If this print does belong to them, which it most clearly must, then the creatures know not only that I live, but also where I do my living. Who am I to believe they do not wish to end my time on this world?”
“If they do,” Iuqon says carefully, “what do you have to fear?”
Albey stares dumbly at Iuqon the Mage.
“He does not wish to perish, Iuqon,” Ram’rl notes obviously. “As much as I’d like him to join us here in the Plane, the Poet must remain in The Commons.”
Iuqon the Mage looks fixedly ahead, waiting for Albey to answer for himself.
“I… well I don’t suppose I have much to fear,” he finally admits. “Everything is as it should be, just as it always will be, so if I must die I shall, but… must I walk willingly into that Death?”
“Mayhap,” Iuqon ponders. “If that’s what must go down. You can fight it, though; ka is a wheel, it spins on an axle all its own, but that does not mean it cannot change directions.”
“Mage?” say Albey and Ram’rl together.
“There is no escaping destiny,” Iuqon proclaims, spreading his arms, “but yet fate is a fluid thing. It changes on its own just as the wheel of ka spins, but still action is required for change to occur.”
“Please,” begs Albey, “explain what you mean.”
“If you are meant to die at the hands of the ape’mans then you shall die bloodily at their savage hands,” Iuqon says plainly. “But if you show will enough to fight against them, then… well, it’s beyond my knowledge to say what will happen. All battles have a victor just as all battles have a vanquished. The creatures are out there, Albey, and as you said yourself, they know about you. As do you know about them; however, the playing field is not Balanced, for they know of your whereabouts.”
“As do I theirs,” Albey argues sternly. “They lurk in the forest beyond the spring atop the falls.”
“Do you know that for sure?” Iuqon argues back. “Have you been there and seen it with your own two eyes?”
“I have not,” Albey admits. “Yet.”
Iuqon and Ram’rl look to one another, smiling again.
“Then it seems you know what you must do.”
This has been the fourth subchapter of the fifth 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~