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Episode 009
The Red Night


The Red Night

3733 BC


“Let me come with you, Father. I can help you find the elk herd.”

“I’m sure you could help, my son, but your mother needs you here. The family needs you here.”

“Luddy,” said my wife as she handed me her copper pendant. “Take this with you. The elders say it brings good luck.”

“Thank you Eva,” I took the little pendant and strung it around my neck.

“When Nook went searching for the elk, he took his son.”

“Nook didn’t travel west; he rode north.”

“Why does it matter, Father?” asked my son.

“We don’t know how far west goes. There are old stories about a stone wall at the end of the world. I could be gone for a very long time. That’s why you must stay here. Your mother and younger brothers and sisters will need you.”

I put my hand on his bony shoulder to reassure him. But I couldn’t help but feel he knew the truth. My son was growing up fast, but though he was strong enough in the heart, he was too weak to come with me. He’d gotten sick, and he’d never regained his strength. One day he was perfectly fine, then he spent one summer night with the goats, and the next day he had a fever. The elders couldn’t explain it, and told us we should be thankful he is alive. It broke my heart to leave him at home, but it was for the best.

“Your father’s right, Odis; we’re going to need you here when the fish come swimming upriver.”

Odis kicked the dirt with his right foot and stomped off. He was upset, but there was nothing I could say to make him feel better. He had to stay here. And I needed to find the herd of elk. With my son and wife standing next to me, I hopped onto the back of my horse.

“Easy does it, Sky,” I whispered to my horse, patting his neck.

“Take this, Father.” My daughter reached up and handed me a leather satchel. “It’s dried fruit and tal.”

She was too short to reach me, so my wife took the satchel from Leitha’s hand and passed it to me.

I smiled at her. “Thank you, my daughter.”

Nearby chatter caught our attention, and we looked to the group of villagers loading their supplies—sheepskins, leather satchels, and copper tools—onto their pack horses. They loaded their children on top.

“They’re leaving today?” I asked.

“The seer said they would have fair travels if they left today,” answered my wife.

“Another group is leaving Kurhass,” I whispered.

“People leave the village all the time,” said one of the elders. “Our brothers and sisters will settle along the river and find their own way. It has been this way since the dawn of time. Kurhass can’t house us all.”

“But the chief said more have left in the last four years than in his entire life, and it’s because the land is changing and the elk have abandoned us.”

“The chief is right,” said the elder. “But that doesn’t mean this isn’t all part of the plan. We must have faith in the Earth Mother to provide for us.”

I stared at my son and wife for a long moment. I knew I wasn’t going away forever, but I had a bad feeling that it would be longer than I had promised.

“Take care of yourself out there,” my wife said.

“Same with you. I love you. Both of you.”

With that, I turned my horse around and galloped away from the village. The warm summer weather was gone, and there were periods of cool winds and cold showers. A thin layer of fog covered the low fields, blocking the small rocks and bushes from our sight and forcing Sky to move slower than usual.

As the day grew longer, I continued my ride west. By the time the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the fog had burned off and the air felt warm again. So far, this was all familiar land, but I still rode to the top of each hill and searched the horizon for any sign of the elk herd. Every time I was disappointed. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

While Sky ate the grass on top of a hill, I reached into the satchel and pulled out a dry piece of fruit. It was sweet and chewy and gave me a little burst of energy. When we’d both had our fill, we continued our journey, riding as fast as we could go all afternoon and keeping to the low flatlands. There were small hills that gave a view of the surrounding areas, but I knew there was no point in stopping to look for the elk.

“Come on, Sky,” I said out loud. “Let’s keep going. We’ll stop when the sun goes down.”

Sky heard me, because her ears perked back, and we rode. When the sky grew orange and red, and the sun rested just above the horizon, blinding my eyes with its light, I pulled back on the reins and we trotted to the top of the nearest hill, where I dismounted.

“This will have to do,” I said to Sky, patting her on the neck.

While she ate the tall grass growing around us, I pulled out my blade and cut a small clearing in the grass. I kicked and dragged the grass apart then ran my fingers through the edges. When I lifted my hand, I saw tiny ants crawling up my arm.

There was nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night to the sensation of insects crawling through my clothes. I flicked the ants off my arm and walked several paces before combing the ground again. This time there was nothing on my hand. I cleared the ground of debris and broke all the dead branches off the nearest bush. By the time I had enough kindling to start a fire, the sun had already dipped below the horizon, leaving a faint red tint in the sky. Stars were appearing in the west, and soon it would be dark everywhere. With a warm fire now burning, I laid out my leather sheet and lay down for the night. The cold air was already flowing, but it was easy to get comfortable with a fire burning and my horse sleeping behind me.

“You’re a good girl, Sky. We might not have found anything today, but I’m sure we’ll have better luck tomorrow.”

I closed my eyes and fell asleep, nestled up against my horse. I dreamt of home and my wife and children. I could hear Eva’s laugh and see the smiles on my children’s faces. When I woke up in the morning, it was with a broad smile and a feeling of happiness. But the cold air quickly brought me back to reality. If Sky hadn’t been sound asleep, I would have been worried. I figured it must have been the cold that woke me up.

I sat up and looked around. The sky was dark, and milky clouds of stars stuck out above the horizon, but the moon was nowhere to be seen. I stood up and startled Sky, who lifted her head to watch me. As I spun around in a circle, it became apparent.

“The moon is gone, Sky. The sun will be up soon. We can go now or sleep for a little bit longer. It’s up to you.”

My horse looked at me for a second, then slowly stood up on all fours and took another mouthful of grass. Her chewing was loud in the cold night air.

“You’re eager to get going too. I agree with you. We should get a head start today.”

While Sky ate her breakfast, I took a piece of tal from the satchel. It was hard in the cold and broke off in clean chunks. I ate a few mouthfuls of the animal fat and berries before rolling my stores back up and cleaning the camp. When Sky and I were finished, the stars had faded from the sky. A faint blue light covered the horizon behind us.

“Are you ready, Sky? Maybe we’ll get lucky today and find that herd.”

We spent the entire morning riding away from the sun. The air stayed cool, and thick layers of fog covered the grass fields, but the white glow of the sun told us which way to travel. By the time the sun was high, the grasslands and rolling hills were gone. The world had changed, and it felt strange.

“Where are we, Sky? Is this the end of the world?”

The rocks here were sharp, and the grass had been replaced by thick moss. We slowly climbed the hill, higher than I had ever climbed in my life.

“I think this is it, Sky. It’s just like the stories from the communal fire. This must be the wall at the end of the world.”

The wind picked up as we approached the top, and I half expected to see a cliff falling off into the night sky below. However the world, it seemed, did not end—it continued on forever in the distance. I climbed off Sky and walked carefully to the edge. There wasn’t a hill to climb down. Instead, a great wall of stone went straight down to a river that snaked through the valley.

“How are we going to get down there?”

We followed the edge of the cliff for the better half of the afternoon before we found a place that allowed us to ride safely down to the river. Hundreds of geese bathed in the water there, completely unaware of our presence. I pulled out my bow and fired an arrow, striking one of the birds in the breast and scaring the rest into the sky. They squawked and flew away in a circling storm before disappearing upriver. Once I had retrieved the bird and cleaned it, I made a fire and cooked a nice meal for myself.

We traveled upriver, looking for a place that was shallow enough to cross. The trees here were thick, thicker than anything that grew back in Kurhass, and I didn’t recognize their leaves.

I looked into the bushes and couldn’t see anything. The forest was dark and frightening.

Strange noises came from inside, and I didn’t know if they came from animals or the trees themselves.

“I don’t like the look of that forest, Sky.”

She was worried, too; I could tell by the way her ears stuck straight up and the way she darted her head to the left, freezing from time to time. This was a strange place for both of us.

It felt cold here, as though the air itself was wet. As we followed the river upstream, the water grew turbulent until we came to the edge of a waterfall. The ground was too steep to ride Sky, so I climbed off her back and we walked, forcing our way through thick bushes.

She pulled back and refused to go any further.

“Come on Sky. We can’t stop here. We’re almost at the top.”

There was no moving her. I tugged on her reins, but she was far stronger than me and pulled back so sharply that she nearly knocked me over.

“Fine. I’ll clear the way for you.”

I pulled out my blade and cut the branches of every bush growing around the edge of the waterfall. The sound of water crashing over the side of the rocks was louder than a thunderstorm, and the mist left all the ground soaking wet. I tried snapping as many branches as I could, but they were too strong to break or even to slice through, and so I had to chop at them, which only dulled my blade. It took the better half of the afternoon, but I managed to clear a path for Sky. After pulling her up the side of the hill, we made it to the top, where a large pool of water filled the valley. The steep wall of cliffs behind us met up with the black water, and sitting in the middle were the geese.

“Have you ever seen such a sight?” I was amazed at how many birds were floating in the middle of the water. They were impossible to count. There were more birds in the water than there were buzzards in the night sky. And there, on the far side of the water in another field of tall grass and bushes, was a large elk.

“Sky,” I whispered. “I think we found the herd.”

I stood perfectly still and watched the elk drink from the water before it looked up and saw me. The animal took off into the forest and disappeared.

“We have to cross here.”

We walked up the side of the water and found a place shallow enough to cross. I climbed onto the back of Sky, and very slowly we walked across the water. At one point, the water came up to my ankles, its touch was so cold it numbed my feet. The grunting and snorting from Sky told me she didn’t like it, and several times she tried to turn around.

“No, Sky,” I said as I pulled the reins to the side. “We have to cross.”

Once we made it across, we stood at the edge of the forest. The plants growing here formed a thick wall that blocked the entire view of the forest. But as I stared into the bushes, I saw something familiar. It was the antlers of the elk. Very quietly, I slid off Sky’s back and pulled out my bow. I crouched low and waited. And waited. It felt like the entire afternoon had passed before the antlers moved. Luckily for me, they moved out of the bushes and not further in. The elk must not have seen me, and I knew it couldn’t smell me, for the wind was traveling downriver.

When the great beast emerged to its chest, I released the arrow. The arrow flew through the cold air and struck the animal right in the neck. The elk let out a shriek and bucked onto its hind legs before sprinting into the bushes.

“We got it.”

I stood up and tied the bow and arrow back onto Sky’s back. I knew it had been a direct hit and soon the elk would be dead. We walked through the tall grass to the place where the elk had been shot, and, sure enough, there were droplets of dark-red blood all over the ground. The trail leading into the forest was obvious. It was only a matter of tracking it, and judging by the amount of blood, the elk couldn’t have gotten far.

Chunks of fur were tangled in the bushes, a sure sign that the elk was struggling to keep its footing. The spoor now was thicker, and there was more of it. Once we stepped inside of the forest, I caught my first glimpse of the wounded animal. It was lying in the grass, waving its head frantically up and down as blood spurted from its neck. The poor beast was crying out in pain.

“We’ll wait here, Sky. It will die soon. No need to spook it. We don’t want to chase it into those trees.”

I leaned up against Sky and watched the wounded animal buck its head and cry, and part of me wanted to fire another arrow at it to put it out of its misery. But the prospect of scaring it away was far worse. So we waited and watched the life drain out of the majestic animal. When the elk finally laid its head down, I knew the fight was over.

“Alright, Sky, now we can go.”

But as we got closer to the dead elk, a strange smell caught my attention. It was a foul smell, reminding me of a cross between wet dogs and rotting meat. At that moment, Sky stopped dead in her tracks.

“What is it, girl?”

The elk was lying dead in the grass, and the bushes and leaves on the surrounding trees rustled in the wind. There was no sound of birds or buzzards. Even the calling of the geese had faded away. All that lingered was the terrible smell. But I was certain it was not coming from the elk.

Sky wouldn’t move. Her hooves were dug deep into the ground, and her ears stood straight up. For a moment, we both stood silent.

“Come on, Sky.” I pulled on her reins, but she only dug in harder.

When she pulled her head back and snorted, the branches beyond the dead elk cracked.

I froze, letting go of my horse, and slowly turned around. Every fiber of my being stood on alert as I scanned the bushes beyond. My horse snarled and took off running, leaving me standing alone in the woods. I wanted to call out to her but was too frightened to make a sound.

Very slowly, I reached down and pulled out my copper knife. Its blade was dented and cracked from chopping my way through the bushes. The dead elk was only a few paces away. Part of me wanted to step forward and claim the kill, and another part of me wanted to turn and run, but I stayed exactly where I was and didn’t move a muscle.

“Dear father in heaven,” I whispered under my breath. “Protect me today.”

As I prayed, I saw the slightest movement in the bushes. It was straight ahead. I saw nothing for a minute before noticing something new. Two brown circles stood above the bushes. They looked like moss or dried grass. It wasn’t until they sank beneath the bushes that I realized they were fur. And two eyes stared at me through a small gap in the bushes. They were far enough apart and off the ground to tell me that they belonged to a creature of immense size. Every hair on my body stood up at once, and a shiver ran through me.

A loud crack echoed through the bushes before a giant bear burst through with terrible speed and strength. It stood twice as large as my horse, and it moved faster than anything I had ever seen before. Its body was all muscle; its arms and legs towered over the dead elk.

The shock and speed of the animal frightened me so much that I fell backward into the bushes while sticks punctured my flesh. The great bear stood over the dead elk, looked at me, and opened its mouth. The scream that echoed from its belly shook the very earth around me, and its yellow fangs stuck out of its mouth like daggers. The inside of its cheeks rippled with its roar, as saliva dripped off its snout and onto the elk’s carcass.

“Mother, help me; Father, protect me,” I prayed out loud as I shuffled back. My throat was dry, and I couldn’t swallow. I gripped the blade tighter as the bear stared into my eyes. I kept crawling back through the bushes, never taking my eyes off it. It stood there, mighty, its paws were as big as the elk’s head, and its weight cracked the ribs of the elk. The snapping of bone echoed through the forest.

Still on my back, I crawled with my hands and feet and kept a tight grip on the copper blade, never taking my eyes off the bear. The bear almost disappeared from my view. I was almost out of the bushes entirely when I felt the cool waters on my hands. I was almost free.

“Thank you, Father,” I whispered.

But before I could stand up and run, the bear came crashing through the bushes with speed and violence. It hit me with all its weight, crushing my chest with its paws, sinking my body below the stream. The weight forced the air out of my lungs and broke my body. My ears popped at its scream, and its bottomless maw hovered over my eyes. Its warm, foul breath sprayed my face.

I tried to scream but couldn’t catch my breath.

When its teeth sank into my chest, the bear shook me left and right, dragging my body against the rocks. The flesh was ripped off me as I thrashed. The sky and ground and screams blended into one painful image as my limp body landed sideways in the water.

I took a deep breath but was unable to move. As my vision returned, I saw both underwater and above simultaneously. Everything was red and blurry. At that moment, I knew he had let me go. My blood was pouring into the water around me. I gasped for air, which hurt as though a hundred daggers were plunged into my body.

I could hear the bear breathing and snarling above me. I waited for him to attack again. When the splashing sound of his footsteps moved away, I breathed a sigh of relief. I might actually survive this.

I couldn’t move. I was frozen in fear. The cold water rolled over my body and numbed the terrible pain in my chest. I moved my head, looking down at my chest. The tears in my tunic exposed my torn flesh. Blood stained the water and flowed downstream. And the big hairy rump of the bear was walking back into the bushes. It was leaving me for dead.

Maybe it wanted to eat the elk before it returned to eat me. I knew I had to leave, but I was too afraid to move. It wasn’t until the current pushed me over that I realized I still could. I rolled onto my stomach with all my strength and pushed myself up. The pain was too much, and I let out a whimper.

The roar that came from the bushes struck deep in my soul. I had made a terrible mistake. The great brown bear followed the crashing and cracking of bushes as it came charging out again. Its mouth was wide open when it latched onto my chest and shook me side to side. My head whipped back and forth, and my arms and legs were tossed with such force I thought they were going to break off. When the bear opened its mouth and dropped me on the ground, it pressed his paws on my chest and sank its teeth into my head, cutting the flesh off my face and forehead.

This was the end.

I flung my hand up, stabbing the bear in the side of the neck with my blade. I could feel the muscles tighten, and sank my blade into the bear’s neck and face over and over again before it let me go. The current took my body, and I gave up. I sank beneath the red water and looked at the bear’s image above. But the water was moving me away from him, and before I could breathe in the water and let it take me, I fell.

I was in the air, falling with the water before splashing below. My legs hit rocks, and my body twisted. The current took me downstream. I had just enough strength in my arms and legs to keep my back down and my head above water. I floated for several moments, staring at the white cloudy sky.

When I washed up against the shore, my body ached. The rocks and sticks below kept me beached, motionless on the edge of the river for a long time. I was dying. I could taste the water in my mouth but was too weak to swallow.

I watched the sun move across the sky, aware of every breath I took. The pain in my face and chest pulsated in the cold water. More than once, I tried to move, but the pain was too great. Geese flew overhead, and birds landed in the trees around me. I could hear them singing.

The cold came over me, and I shivered. I was going to freeze to death. Every time I tried to move, my body pulsed in pain.

“Mother,” I whimpered. “Father,” I whispered. “Father, give me strength.”

My lovely wife and two children raced across my mind. The image of them playing in the grass grew so real that I thought I was right there with them. I could hear their laughs. I could see their faces and their smiles. When I closed my eyes, I was transported back to them. I could see my mother, father, grandfathers, and grandmothers. I was dying.

I laid there, dead-like, drowning in my pain until I could no longer see or feel a thing. Everything faded to black.

A faint whisper in my ear was followed by a nudge. A hand on the side of my face brought comfort. It was warm and familiar. Was it my mother or the Earth Mother? Was it my father or the Heavenly Father? I opened my eyes and saw a figure standing beside me. It looked down at me and smiled. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and drifted off to sleep.

I woke up to a horrible cracking sound in the bushes, and I remembered that I was terribly cold. It was back. The bear had come back to eat me. The bushes crackled, and the ground around me rumbled. I opened my eyes and saw that it was nighttime. My body shook with cold, and I gasped. The stars twinkled above me, and a shadow loomed over my head. A warm snout brushed up against my face.


I saw my horse’s face above mine, her warm snout nudging my face.

“You came back for me.”

I ached and shivered, but the sight of my horse gave me the strength I needed to lift myself up. She bent down beside me; her warm body brought life back into mine. I rolled over and cried in pain. There was no air left to scream. But the need to grab onto my horse was more potent than the pain and the fear. I pulled my left hand out and felt it tingle with numbness. I couldn’t tell where my fingers were or if they were still attached to my body, but I threw one arm over Sky’s back and crawled forward until I could throw my other arm over her as well. Kicking my legs forward, I managed to crawl onto Sky’s back.

“Oh, Sky,” I cried. “I love you so much.”

Once I was propped up against her, I forced myself up and onto her back. The feeling in my hands returned, and I gripped her mane. Once I was secure, she stood up and raised me into the air. She gently walked downstream, moving very slow. She could feel me, and I could feel her.

“Take me home,” I whispered.

It was freezing cold, and I shivered violently. Sky knew something was wrong and kept a steady pace through the night. The river was always on our right, and the high cliffs were always on our left, which meant only one thing: we were not heading in the direction of home. We were heading south. But I didn’t care, as long as we were putting distance between ourselves and the bear.

The night felt excruciatingly long.

From what I can remember, Sky rode all night.

When the sun came up, I was surprised to see a field of tall grass littered with sharp rocks and patches of trees. Their leaves were bright yellow, brighter than the sun. And the warm sunlight brought a feeling of comfort back to my body. As I straightened up on the horse, the open wounds on my body cracked and fresh blood oozed out. I gasped in pain and shock. Sky must have heard me because she stopped. As she ate the grass growing around her, I pulled out the pouch tied to Sky’s back and ate what little food I had left. Then I drank all of the water in my gourd. My hands were pale white.

“I lost a lot of blood,” I whispered to Sky. “We have to get home. Wherever that is.”

As I looked around me, I tried to get my bearings. The river was flowing south; I could tell that much from the position of the early morning sun. But the land looked strange. When I looked west, across the river, I saw brown shrubs littering the grass along the edge of the river. They were unlike any shrubs I’d ever seen back in Kurhass, yet they looked familiar somehow.

After rubbing my eyes, I got a clearer look. The brown bushes were drifting in green grass, and as my eyes focused, I realized what they were.

“The elk!” I cried as my voice cracked. “Sky! It’s the elk!”

I had never been so happy in my entire life. Kurhass was saved. I had found the herd.

“But where the hell are we?”

Sky’s ears perked up, and she lifted her head back. I petted her neck with my left hand, running my fingers through her thick mane.

“Sky, we have to go home and tell the others.”

I knew we had to travel east, and now that the cliffs no longer kept us in the narrow river valley, we could ride back into the grasslands. Sky knew the way home. I guided her up the hillside and through the forest of boulders and trees before entering the vast plains that we knew so well. We were further south than when we had embarked on this journey, but that didn’t matter. As long as we kept riding east, we would make it to the Great River.

All day, Sky rode through the grasslands. It was painful. Every bump hurt my entire body. I stared off into the grasslands and looked for anything familiar. We saw several fires burning near the river as we rode through the plains. People were living out here. There were times when I thought we should stop, but I didn’t know if they were friends or foes. We had to keep riding. By the end of the day, I was numb with pain and exhaustion.

We made camp in a low valley, next to a creek. Making the fire took longer than normal, and I struggled to gather firewood from the dried-up shrubs. Instead of collecting the dead branches, I set an entire shrub on fire and lay on the ground next to it. Sky was so patient. She knelt beside me, eating grass all night.

The next morning, we rode all day over low hills and through shallow valleys. The pain was worse, and when I looked into my tunic at my chest, I could see torn flesh, and a rotten smell overpowered my senses. I almost threw up all over the back of Sky. My heartbeat grew harder and more painful, and I retained no memory of anything after midday.

When I woke up, it was morning, and Sky was trotting through the grasslands. She constantly looked back at me, and I barely had the strength to lift my head. But, to my surprise, I was still slumped on her back. To keep from falling off, I twisted my arms in her reins. Both my hands were numb and dark purple, with dark veins popping out.

“I found the elk herd,” I said in a raspy voice. “But no one will ever know.”

Sky stopped and looked back at me. She was worried. I was worried. But she kept moving.

It wasn’t until sunset that I recognized the familiar smell of burning wood and cooked meat. With the little strength I had left, I lifted my head.


I was home. Sky had brought me home.

As we trotted up the hill, past the fields of grain and crops, several villagers spotted me and called out. But I hadn’t the strength to answer or even look in their direction. I was barely awake. Barely alive.

Before we made it into the village, dozens of people had come to us. I remember them untying me from the reins. I remember them talking to me. I tried to answer, but I couldn’t form any words. All I could do was look through the crowd for the familiar face.

“My wife,” I mumbled. “My children.”

The pain was unreal. My chest and head throbbed, but I no longer felt anything in my hands or feet. As I looked into the eyes of an old man talking to me, I opened my mouth to speak, then closed my eyes. Everything went dark and silent.

When my eyes finally opened, I was in a bed, covered in warm furs. My body still hurt, but I was more comfortable.

“Father,” my children called out.

I tried to see them, but my eyes weren’t focusing. Everything was spinning.

I could feel my daughter’s soft hands on my face and I heard the familiar voice of my beautiful wife as she cried beside me.

“Luddy,” my wife whispered in my ear. “You made it back to us.”

“How did I get here?”

“Sky brought you back to us. The healers did all they could do. They cleaned your wounds and stitched you up. The elders brought you the berries and the white root. But they said you are going to need rest.”

“I found them,” I whispered. I could barely muster the strength to talk. My chest hurt too much. “I found the elk.”

“Where are they?” asked another familiar voice. A wrinkled old man knelt beside my wife, but his face was too blurry to make out. “It’s okay, Luddy. You’re safe. Where are the elk?”


“Yes, husband,” whispered my wife. “We’re in the chief’s hut.”

“Where are the elk, Luddy?”

“I rode for days. The grass turned into forest, and the hills turned into rock cliffs. The bear. Oh God, the bear.”

The memory came back, and I cried in pain. The memory of its yellow fangs and terrible breath returned. The image of the inside of its mouth became clearer than my wife kneeling beside me.

“You’re safe, Luddy.” My wife kissed my cheek.

I could tell my face was mangled from the feeling I got when she kissed me. The skin wasn’t in the same place it used to be. Tears ran down my cheeks. I knew I was in bad shape.

“Where are the elk, Luddy?” asked the chief a final time.

“Two days’ ride,” I said. “The river beyond the cliffs. Follow it downstream for a day, until the cliffs become a hill. The elk are in the valley. Yellow trees, brighter than the sun.”

“Thank you, Luddy,” said the chief as he stood up. “You saved our village. Kurhass will always be in your thanks.”

I couldn’t see or answer him, but I heard the chief walk out of the hut and speak to the others waiting outside. Everything went dark, but I heard my wife and children crying by my side.

“I love you, Luddy,” whispered my wife as she kissed me on my cheek one last time.

I tried to answer her but could only smile.

I love you, Eva; love of my life.



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