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005: Wandering Night

3888 BC

"Quit standing there. Help me stop the bleeding!"


Mother kept her hands on the open wounds, desperately trying to save my brother's life.


"Anaya," my mother shouted. "Fetch me more water and rags and some twine."


I couldn't move or speak. Nor could I look away. There was so much blood.


"Art's going to die!" She screamed.


I snapped out of my daze, but I gagged for a second at the site of the blood.


"Hurry, Anaya."


I stumbled to the entrance, holding my mouth with my left hand while pulling the curtain back with my right. The winter draft chilled my arms, and legs before seeping under my furs. It was dark and rainy. My bare feet splashed through the cold mud, sinking further with every step.


"Help us!" I screamed, running from hut to hut, trying to ignore that feeling that something was terribly wrong. "Someone please help us!"


The relentless downpour drowned out my screams. I was standing in the center of the village, spinning around in circles. When it came to me.


"I'm all alone," I whispered.


There wasn't a single torch or flame burning in the village, and no one heard my cries. The rain picked up strength, forming puddles in the middle of the court. As I spun around, each hut started to look the same as the others. I ran to the closest one and tore open the curtain, only to find myself staring into the dark shadows of an empty house.


"Help me," I cried into the darkness. "Please! Wake up."


I abandoned the hut and ran to the next one. But I was greeted by the same emptiness and darkness.


After searching several huts only to find them empty, I ran to the smelter. The clay pit was cracked in half. Dropping to my hands and knees, I felt through the rubble but found nothing but shattered clay pieces and cold pellets of copper.


"Where is everyone?" I muttered. The realization that I was utterly alone came over me, crippling me with fear.


"Mom? Art?" The tears now poured uncontrollably down my cheeks.


I looked for my family's hut, but I couldn't tell them apart. And once I found it, I ran to the front; only to find the curtain torn from the hooks and lying in the thick mud outside. Just like every other hut in Kurhass, it was empty.


I dropped to my knees and cried.


"Anaya," someone whispered.


I lifted my head and looked around, but the village was still abandoned.


"Anaya, help me."


This time I recognized the voice. It was my younger brother Art. But where was he? The more I looked around, the less familiar my village became. Every hut looked the same.


"Anaya," he called, clear as day.


I turned and saw a glimmer of light coming from the direction of the river. The air turned freezing cold, and a strong wind blew across Kurhass, freezing everything and its wake; but the small light near the river sparkled.


"Thank the gods," I whispered. "It was just a dream."


The small fire in the corner of the hut flickered in the night, but it was starting to cool down inside. More firewood would be needed soon, but I could wait a few more minutes.


It didn't take long for my breathing to calm and deepen, but fear of my brother dying never left my mind. Even though the images of the dream slipped further away with every second, the awful feeling of helplessness and loss remained. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake those feelings.


"You're cold, Anaya," I whispered to myself.


I didn't want to take off my blankets. When we slept, our beds took up most of the floor in our cozy little hut. Since my bed was the closest to the fire pit, it was my job to keep it lit at night. With the fire burning so low, the cold air has seeped into our hut.


When I stood up from my bed, I felt the cold air of winter on my skin. It didn't take me long to crawl to the corner of the hut and throw a few dried branches from the stack into the clay fire pit.

The branches slowly took flame as I crawled back to my bed.


Now that the wood had caught fire, it was again bright enough to see the inside of my home. The cracks in the clay wall were black with shadow, and the straw hanging from the ceiling glowed yellow under the new light.


But it was still cold as I pulled the thick fur blankets up to my chin.


I reached over to make sure my younger brother was still covered with blankets, but all I felt was empty bedding. I sat up in bed and leaned against the clay wall.


"Art?" I whispered, trying not to wake mother.


The sudden chill that crept over me brought my attention to the curtain. It was flapping in the wind, its bottom corner folded back on itself, creating a slight draft.


My brother had done it again.


"How many times must you do this?" I whispered under my breath.


Art had gone out to pee and left the curtain open again. As quietly as possible, I stood up. The crackling of fresh firewood, and my mother's snores; masked any sounds I made.

I looked back at my mother lying on her side, under three fur blankets. She was pregnant again, and my father was off on a hunt. She needed her rest, and my father explicitly told me not to bother her.


"Where are you, Art?" I whispered.


The first thing I had to do was close the curtain to the entrance, but I didn't want to seal him out there while he peed in the middle of the night. He was a sleepwalker. Once he'd gotten lost and nearly frozen outside of the hut. I walked to the front to wait for Art when an unusual brightness outside caught my attention.


I pulled the curtain back, revealing a ground covered in the season's first snow. Ignoring the cold air, I stepped outside.


"Art," I whispered.


He usually peed right beside the hut, but he wasn't here. I stared up at the sky, which sprinkled giant snowflakes across Kurhass village. There were cracks in the cloud cover that allowed bright moonlight to shine through, illuminating the falling snow. It was a beautiful evening.


When I looked back at the ground, I saw Art's footprints in the snow. They led straight from our hut and passed several others.


"Where did you go?" I whispered as I stepped in bare feet in the snow.


It was cold, but nothing I couldn't handle. I wasn't going to be out here long. As I stared at Art's footprints, I reflected on the last time he had wandered off at night. He had no memory of it; he had woken up thinking the whole thing was a dream.


That is when I realized how crucial this moment was. The snow was burying in the footprints. They were disappearing right before my eyes, and very soon, I wouldn't be able to see them at all. Time was running out.


"Art?" I called, not bothering to whisper.


I started slow, following the faint footsteps to the edge of the village. When the tracks lead out into the bushes towards the river Kur, I picked up speed. Soon I was running through the standing snow.


"Art!" I called out loud.


I ran following the footsteps as best as I could. When I made it to the edge of Kurhass village, I turned back to my hut, where my pregnant mother lay sleeping.


"My fur cloak," I whispered, wondering if I should go back and get it.


I looked back at the footsteps in the snow. They were rapidly filling with fresh snowflakes, and at any moment, they'd disappear entirely. There was no time. If I didn't keep going now, I'd never find his trail again.


"Father in heaven," I prayed, "please guide me to my brother."


The skies stayed dark and cloudy, but I wasn't discouraged. After stumbling through the dark, after the footprints, I came to the edge of the forest and the banks of the river Kur. My feet dragged now, slowing me down and numbing my feet.


The sound of the roaring river drowned out my calls, but I still shouted my brother's name.


"Art!" I called out.


I spun around, looking between the forest and the river as it curved around the bend. The worst thoughts entered my head.


"Did you go in the water?" I whispered.


If he had, he was already dead, but I couldn't believe it. I stumbled back the way I had come. My footprints were everywhere, and it took me a moment to spy a small set of tracks leading off to the side.


"Art?" I called out.


I was freezing. I shivered, and my chest hurt. I looked up to the sky, but large snowflakes blurred my vision. As I tried to follow the footprints, the clouds went dark again. I dropped to my knees and cried until the freezing snow burned my legs; and I had to get back up.


"Art!" I cried, dragging my feet, but the river all but drowned out my screams.


The cold was taking me at any moment. I could die, and that left me only one option. I had to run back to Kurhass and get help.


"If you do that, Art will die."


I covered my eyes with my hands, looked up to the sky, and screamed as loud as I could. As if the heavenly father was listening, the clouds parted again, and the light shone down. Art's footsteps were right in front of me, and only a dozen arms lengths away was my baby brother.




I ran up to him, dropped to my knees and wrapped my arms around him. He was hiding under a shrub, but the snow had covered his legs. Once I'd brushed the fresh snow off him, I wrapped my arms around him and tried to stand up. He was too heavy.


"Wake up!" I shouted it in his face, but he didn't respond, so I stuck my ear over his mouth. You're still breathing. Come on, Art, wake up."


I stepped back for a second and took a deep breath. As I looked at the footprints around me, it became clear what had happened. Art had slept-walked to the river; his steps were consistent up to the stream's edge. Then the prints became erratic and chaotic. He had woken up and stumbled around collapsing underneath the bush.


"Don't worry, Art," I whispered as I crouched down beside my brother. "I'll get you home."


Not. I knew I could because I carried him all the time when we played. But for some reason, I just couldn't lift him. So I grabbed onto his arms and dragged him. I was hunched over and awkward, but at least he was moving.


"We are going to get you home," I said as I dragged him back to the slope.


It was working. But soon my back started to hurt, and then my lungs began to burn, and after a few minutes, I had to drop my brother, stand up straight and stretch my back. Everything hurt, and when I looked around and saw that I wasn't even back in the woods, I panicked.


"This is taking too long," I said. I bent down and grabbed Art's hands, dragging him for a few more feet.


But it wasn't long before I dropped him again and stood up in pain. My hands were freezing, and my fingers were numb, and my entire body shook violently. At this rate, we were both going to die out here.


"If we're going to die, we're going to die together," I whispered.


The moon disappeared behind the clouds again. With both hands, I grabbed my tunic and lifted it over my head, exposing my chest and back to the bitterly cold winter. I wrapped the cloth around Art's hands; then tied it into a knot. Gripping my tunic with my back up straight, I dragged Art through the snow.


I moved with speed up the side of the hill, passing all the trees between Kurhass and the river Kur. But the frost took me fast; my skin burned as if it were on fire, and my loans felt like they were full of sand. But I was moving fast.


"We are almost home Art," I said, but my voice cracked. Hold on, brother. Just a little longer."


When I made it to the top of the hill, I stopped to take a breath, but the cold was too much. I shook so violently I could barely stand. The thin cloth covering my chest did nothing to protect me. In the last effort, I bent down, grabbed the knot tied around Art's hands, and dragged him down the hill.


Ignoring all the pain in my chest, head, arms, and back; I dragged Art right to the edge of Kurhass village. That was it…I was all out. I dropped to my knees. But huts were close by. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. I was so close to home, with no way to scream for help. Was this how Art had felt when he woken up near the river?


My shivering stopped, and my arms and legs started to warm up. But my energy was gone, and I could feel myself falling asleep.


"Holy Mother of Earth," I whispered under my breath. "Heavenly Father. Save us, please."


I dropped to the snow, next to my brother, but before I gave up, I tried to scream one more time. Nothing but a thin whistle blew through my lips.


"Whistle you fool," I thought to myself.


I closed my lips and whistled, and the sound carried through the night. Soon it was all anyone would hear, and it cut through the sound of the river. I rolled over and wrapped both arms around my brother. As everything faded around me, and my vision turned to darkness, I kept on whistling.


"Who's out there?" A man called from the village.


I couldn't open my eyes, but I never stopped whistling. It was all I had left.




I could hear the man's feet crunch through the snow as he explored the darkness around the edge of Kurhass. The moon must have hidden behind the clouds, for I couldn't see a thing. I tried to call out, but there was nothing, and when I tried to whistle again, my lips were too dry.


"Is anybody out there?" The man called again.


His footsteps; we're so close. But there was no way to let him know I was here. Knowing how desperate the situation was, I coughed and moaned. After gagging up enough spit to wet my lips I whistled one last time.


"Who is that?" The man ran to us and dropped to his knees. "Dear god, children, are you all right?"


The old man lifted me out of the snow before turning around.


"Help!" he shouted.


I tried to talk, to tell him to help Art, but words wouldn't come.


The old man took off his cloak and wrapped me tightly in a bear fur before scooping my baby brother up in both arms and holding them close to his chest.


"What's going on?" another villager shouted as he came out in the night.


"Help me get them inside, the man said. She's going to be okay, but the younger one will be taken from us tonight if we don't get him warm quickly."


I couldn't speak, but my vision was coming back. I could see people huddling around me; and feet trampling through the snow before everything grew bright; and I recognized the inside of a hut bright orange and yellow light of the fire was quickly replaced by the brown fur of a blanket.  It wasn't until I felt the heat of the flames, that I realized how cold I was. I started shivering uncontrollably. I squirmed and rolled around, trying to get warm, but nothing would help.


"Sit still," an old man whispered as he wrapped me tightly in the blankets.


In all my life, blankets had only warmed me up, but this time the tighter the blanket got, the colder I felt, and soon I was shivering as if no heat were left inside of me. A woman ran into the hut crying. I recognized her voice but couldn't see who she was.


"Rub the blankets," a voice whispered.


As the woman rubbed the furs around my body, I shivered and shook. I wanted nothing more than to tear out of the blankets and jump into the fire. That is when I looked over and saw my brother sprawled out semi-naked on a bear rug next to the fire.


One of the elder matrons sat, and fanned heat from the fire at him. My mind played tricks on me, and it looked like she was fanning flames on him. I saw the spirit of the fire move through the air and enter my brother's body. But then everything went dark and my mind filled with images of flames and waves. My fingers and hands started to burn; and itch.


"Calm her down," the matron whispered, as she walked up to the side of my bed. "Cover her skin with thistle oil and feed her the spirits."


They unwrapped the blankets, exposing me to the air. I struggled to break free but the matron held down my arms, as another girl whipped an oil-soaked cloth over my chest, shoulders, and arms. After a few seconds, the oil started to burn and I felt the heat of the room for the first time.


"Drink this,'' the matron said as she poured the contents of a gourd into my mouth. The ale was sour but the fire it put in my stomach made me feel better. After a couple of minutes of struggling, I finally calmed down; and breathed normally. The matron let go of my arms and I relaxed in the bear fur blankets on the bed.


My brother was still sprawled on the floor. Un-moving. The matrons had covered his entire body and Thistle oil, and they found heat from the fire over his body. Women and men prayed to the Sky Father and the Earth Mother.


Several minutes went by, and still, my baby brother lay on the floor.


"What if he doesn't wake up? One villager whispered to another.


"Why wouldn't he wake up?" I interrupted.


They clearly hadn't expected me to hear, because they turned away and whispered amongst themselves. That was the moment I realized my brother might not make it.


"What's going on here?"


My pregnant mother stumbled into the hut.


"Arda," said the matron as she stood up from the floor. "It's your children."


"Art," Arda cried when she saw her son on the floor. My mother dropped to her knees and grabbed his face with her hands. "He's freezing cold."


She looked around the hut, from face to face, until she locked eyes with me.


"Arda," said the matron, "they were found outside, nearly frozen to death."


My mother ignored her and came up to me. The look in her eyes was frightening.


"What happened Anaya?" She yelled, shaking me with both arms. "What did you do?"


"I'm sorry, Momma", I whimpered. "Art wandered off again. I tried to save him, but he wandered too far."


My mother was angry. That much was obvious. But she hugged me and stopped, which made me cry. She turned her head and looked at my baby brother, lying half naked and unresponsive on the floor. No one said anything.


"Momma?" Art whispered, before he moaned and turned his head to the side.


"He's waking up," said the matron.


"Thank you, Father," cried my mother as she went to Art on the floor. "Holy sacred Mother, please save my son."


I watched my mother pray to the gods, but Art didn't respond.


"Arda," said the matron, "you have to take him next to your skin. It's the only way to bring him back."


The matron lifted art off the bear mat and passed his cold limp body to my mother.


"Hold him tight Arda," whispered the matron.


The matron hummed a tune that resembled the prayer I heard before. While my mother gripped my brother tightly in her arms, The other woman wiped the thistle oil onto my brother's hands and feet, and later warm cloth upon his head.


"Momma," Art mumbled, and opened his eyes. "Where am I?"


"My baby," whispered my mother.


I crawled out of my blanket and joined my mother and brother in the middle of the floor.


"You two are the most precious things in my life, '' whispered my mother as she kissed Art and me on our foreheads. "Don't you ever wander off like that again."


"I'm sorry Momma," said Art in his weakened voice. "I woke up near the river, and I was so cold. I didn't know how to get back."


The matron knelt between me and my mother with a cup of warm beer.


"Drink this," she said. "It will bring warmth to your arms and legs."


Art took a sip before wincing and spitting up the frothy drink.


"You must drink it all," said the matron. "It will speed your recovery and help you sleep."


Once my brother drank all the beer, he burped, and passed the cup back to the matron.


"We'll leave you here to sleep for the night," she said, before kicking the rest of the villagers out of the hut. Even the smelter, who lived in the hut; and had rescued us, left with the others.


"Remember Arda," said the matron. "Give him as much skin-to-skin contact with him as you can to keep him from shivering."


Once the matron left the hut, my mother carried my brother and me to the bed and laid us down. Her big pregnant belly made it hard for her to get into the bed with us. But when she lay down and we were all settled under the bear fur blankets, she turned to her side and faced us.


"Anaya," she whispered, "why didn't you wake me?"


"Because you were pregnant," I answered. "Because father says you need your rest."


"You saved Art's life tonight, my precious child." My mother winced in pain before rolling onto her back; and then back onto her side to face us both.


"You're in pain mother," I said. "Father told me before he left to make sure you weren't bothered."


"I assure you, that is not what your father meant. Art could have died…you could have died."


"I didn't mean to run off. I thought he was outside our hut like last time."


"This has happened before?"


That I was probably in trouble, but there was no point in denying it any longer.


"He has wandered in his sleep twice before tonight," I admitted.


"Why on Earth didn't you say something to us?" my mother asked.


"I've heard the chief and elders talk around the campfire. They tell stories about wandering spirits that haunt the plains and can inhabit our bodies and poison our minds. I didn't want you to think Art was an evil spirit."


"That is nonsense," my mother said abruptly, "those stories are meant to warn you about the dangers outside of our village, not make you look for made-up dangers within."


"I'm sorry, Momma."


"It's not your fault," she whispered. "I always get this way when your father leaves on a hunting trip or trades with the other villages. I should have paid more attention to my children; instead of worrying about what I'd do without my husband."


"I promise I will always come to you," I said to my mother. "No matter what."


"Good," she answered. "And I promise I'll be here more for you two."


She rolled onto her back and groaned and discomfort.


"Mother," I said, "don't worry about us. I'll lie next to Art tonight. You get your rest. I promise I'll wake you if anything happens."


"Okay, my love," my mom answered before rolling over to her opposite side. "But if you two get up and wander away again, remember I'm carrying another child in my belly. Don't assume I won't trade you in."


I laughed before cuddling up to my baby brother and falling asleep in the warm bear fur blankets of the hut.


Episode 005
Wandering Night

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