Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”
He awoke with the sound of those words in his head.
He lay there and waited.
“Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”
His last thoughts before dropping off to sleep had been that those words must be a part of a dream that was coming over him with. But they had persisted. And they had awakened him. And now he had heard them again after coming awake.
“Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”
That made it three times.
The words – the voice of a woman - were not loud, but they were loud enough to be heard over the sound of the waters of the river as they rushed by the island on their way to the sea. The words were not loud but their timbre of urgency made them as clear as if they were being shouted. They were coming from some place a little into the woods – the woods that started immediately beyond the sparsely vegetated fringe of the sand where he had set up camp. He wondered if they were the voice of one of the Spirit Ones that were known to wander the world, especially at night. But they had a quality that made him doubt that. They sounded like the words of a normal woman. He even fleetingly thought they sounded to be the voice of the woman he knew, the woman he had had to leave behind. He put that thought out of his mind.
At the very least they were words that seemed to be coming from a real woman, not a spirit – or so he chose to believe – and that woman sounded as if she were not very far from where he was lying. The fact that the whole situation would probably have not made any sense to him if it had been daylight did not cross his mind. It was night and in the night things always changed. Things that would not seem real became totally natural and believable. That believability of events occurring in the darkness had been what had gotten him banished. He had believed what he had seen and had described what he had seen to the elders of his people hoping to get an explanation of what it had been that he had seen. Instead they had sent him away.
“At least” he thought with a certain irony “they can’t send me a way again. I am away.”
And then for a fourth time he heard the words “Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams?”
There was no moon; nor were there any clouds. The stars that danced in multitude across the sky provided a rather distinct, if somewhat subdued, light. He had long since sundown switched to his night eyes and the additional illumination from the stars was more than enough for him to see well into the thicket that covered the area from which the words were emanating.
There were slight hints of shadows from the starlight dappling the ground.
He rose from his fur lined dugout and stepped onto the sparsely vegetated sand. He took the largest of the skins he had been using for bedding and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was a clear and fair night but it was cold. The starlight seemed to emphasize that cold. As he crossed the fringe of plants and debris that marked the transition from beach to woods he heard the words again. He headed in their apparent direction. There was a rustle to his left as he entered the wooded area, and it was followed by another to his right and one directly ahead of him. Perhaps he had disturbed the hunt of a family of foxes. Perhaps it had been something else. But once they had departed the silence returned and he felt himself completely alone once more. Alone, he felt, except for the words. They sounded forth again and this time they were slightly louder. He was closer to their source.
The small trees and underbrush were quite dense. He had to push branches and small and limber trunks about to make his way through them. He wished that he had brought the adz to hack some of it out of his way. But he hadn’t and he wasn’t going to go back. So he kept thrusting himself through the underbrush looking for something, but not knowing what it might be that he was looking for.
After some minutes of struggle with the brush all the while hearing the words repeated the undergrowth began to become less dense. Then it began to become smaller in size. Then it opened into a clearing. It was not a very large clearing because at the side opposite from where he had entered there was a barrier of significant size. It was a vertical cliff of stone thrusting up from the floor of the clearing.
And there was a faint but clearly present glow coming from it.
And then the words came again. And they seemed to be coming from the same place as was the glow.
He went closer to the thing to see if he could see any more.
And he did see more.
At first he thought it must be some living thing – a nocturnal insect perhaps – that had moved as he had first approached the wall of stone. But then he saw that if he looked where the glow was coming from he saw the source of the movement.
There was an image of a woman inside the stone. And she was looking at him, or seemed to be looking at him – he felt the same connection he always felt when he was looking at another person – and she said “Why are you leaving me? Are you going to forget me? What about our dreams? And what about me? Tomorrow the elders will take me to the killing place. I need you to help me. I need you to save me. I need you back to take me from them.”
At that moment he recognized her. She was the woman he had left behind. The elders had forced him to leave with only his dugout and the bare necessities of survival. They had not allowed him to have the woman he lived with to go with him. She was to be abandoned. That was part of his punishment. It was viewed by the elders as a shared punishment. The woman had lived with the man who had come back from his night under the giant oak tree with the dangerous story of things he had seen. The woman therefore must have some part in the whole unholy affair. So they had been forced to separate. But he had not been allowed to tell her these things. He had been forced to leave immediately upon hearing the sentence.
But here she was looking out at him from within the stone. And she was speaking to him as she looked at him. This time the words were different.
“A piece of this stone will bind us. Take a piece of the stone.”
The cliff was a face of rock that was about ten feet or so in height. In much later times a geologist might have described it as a layer that had experienced a sheer – a mass of stone that had, for some tectonic reason been subject to such a force that it had shattered vertically and part of it had remained in place and part of it had dropped, leaving the sheer face of the fracture line. The layer that had been shattered in this manner had been a very large deposit of what that geologist might call flint. And it was from that wall of flint that the glow was emanating and within that wall of flint from which the image and the woman’s voice were being seen and heard.
There were also multiple shards of the flint lying at its base, strewn here and there in a totally haphazard manner. And they all seemed to have the same glowing property as the cliff.
He picked one of them up.
The glow pulsed from the cliff and within the shard.
“In this way we shall be together” he heard, or if not heard, sensed.
“We will be together and you will save me”
A bat skittered across the space of air between him and the cliff. In a moment it was gone. Then there was another, and another. Then there were many. They flitted down from the trees and brush at the top of the cliff and into the space between the man and the cliff and darted at the cliff only to shoot to one side or the other, or up again toward the trees and brush from whence they had come or down toward the ground, darting upward before actually making contact with the ground. Several brushed against his arms, chest and face, ever so softly as they harvested the flying insects that had been attracted to the glow.
As he continued watching the woman she had stopped speaking. And the glow gradually receded as if into the very heart of the stone. And then he was alone.
The insect attracting glow had gone. And the bats had departed, perhaps following the insects.