Over shade and shade we ploughed our lonely furrows. We travelled at night when the dark ones were least prevalent, when the universe swallowed them and hid them away. They couldn’t touch us then though I often heard their skittering, ebony talons tickling the ruined forest floor. We prayed for the moon to stay hidden behind the storm clouds, the intermittent lightning making us cringe in its stead. This was how we moved. This was how I made my way home to you.
The grasslands were a welcome break from the giant, decrepit trees. The shadows were there, of course they were, but governed by the trails they cast, their willowy fingers in direct mimicry of the fronds that fluttered around us, they were too weak to harm. They tried though. Oh, how they tried!
The mountains appeared along the horizon like the razor-toothed saw I’d left behind with half-eaten sandwich; we only carried the bare minimum speed being essential. Soon the massif threatened, then loomed, then engulfed. And even though I knew you and the other women just a slab of granite away, I like the others, trembled. We forgot the mountains cast the broadest shadow of all, a world of obliterated light.
The others pretended it would be like the night, that the shadows couldn’t touch us if swallowed by the greater whole. I argued them wrong, but they shouted me down. Exhausted, they waited, whereas I would not. I pressed on into the sliding shade, the sun slipping ever lower against the highest peaks. I ran.
I ran and clambered, struggled and ran again. Over gaping crevasses like ogres’ maws, climbing sheer cliffs slick like a mermaid’s slimy skin, I moved like a man possessed; I was a man possessed.
As the world around me grew darker, I smiled. I’d made it, the mountaintops in sight. I burst onto the plateau like a cheetah ready to bite its prey. That’s when I realised my mistake. Right there and then, as our house was almost close enough to pluck from the horizon, the sun sinking behind the distant ocean and casting the longest shadows of all, they took me. One, a gnarled oak limb, strangled. Another, a pile of rocks, lumpy and squat, pinned me to the ground. The others, the shadows of eagles, shades of hidden pinnacles and ever more took their revenge upon another man. That’s all I was to them just another.
They tore me to pieces as we’d torn their world, nature and all, into a billion shreds of what it should’ve been. I knew the world’s hurt then, and though it pained me to admit, I wished they’d tortured me more. I’d have deserved it. We all would.