After the wolves have run off, I wait in the tree for two hours just to be sure they won’t come back. At that point there are no howls or yelps erupting within earshot. I assume they are a fair distance away. They must have caught the scent of a deer herd. Crickets and toads fill the air with their melodic sounds. I growl in pain as I move on the branch and slowly climb down the tree. I pick up my spear from the forest floor and walk through the darkness. My mind isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be from lack of sleep, but I move quickly enough. I’ve lost a day, because of those damn beasts, but I remind myself there is no rush. The rest of my life is waiting for me in the distance. I’ll get there.
I think of where the blue river meets the great lake. Almaz hinted that something unfavourable is there. I want to know what it is. When I break out of the thick maze of trees, a weight lifts off my shoulders. I don’t look back. My past life is on the other side of the forest. I look up at the fading stars in the sky. My eyelids feel heavy as I walk through the field of long grass that appears blue beneath the navy firmament. At dawn, I stop to drink several gulps of water from my canteen. I wander further until I reach a bushy area. I decide to sleep there in the shade before the hot sun scorches me.
There’s a strange world hovering in that place between sleep and awake. Emotions that you don’t want to face will visit you there. You can’t escape their hold when you’re in that place.
Her musical voice dances on the warm breeze as my eyes flutter open.
“I hated you,” I mutter, sitting up to take a swig of water. “I don’t want to hear your voice again.”
The fields are aglow with the sunset’s golden kiss. I take some jerky out of my pack and chew it slowly, savouring the taste. I don’t believe in ghosts. I know that the story teller’s voice echoing in my mind is just a memory of how much she annoyed me. She is dead now and always will be. I smile in satisfaction. She will never again track me down when I am enjoying solitude by the river. Her bewitching voice will never again tell ridiculous tales that infect the calm night air.
“They loved her, yet she envied me and my experience,” I say aloud as I wander through a meadow covered in daisies and purple flowers that lose their colour as darkness floods over the lands. “That exalted existence she created for herself was because she felt inferior to men.”
My thoughts grow louder as I walk through the night. In the morning, something changes in the air. It is thick with moisture. I am getting close to water again. Will it be the blue river? Distant rumbling draws my attention ahead as a faint aquatic smell wafts into my nostrils. I break into a run in the direction of the noise. I slow down at the sight of a misty cloud at the end of a rushing blue river. The mist rises victoriously above a thundering waterfall. Gooseflesh covers my skin as I walk close to the water’s edge. White, frothy water pours into an aquamarine river hundreds of feet below. I stand in awe. Tears involuntarily stream down my sun-kissed face.
The water’s ferocity causes chills to run down my spine. I pity the poor fools from the days of old who attempted to navigate the upper strait only to find themselves drawn into the strong current and thrown over the falls. Breathing in the freshwater’s light and earthy scent, I take a step closer to the raging water and take in the surreal view. I wander along the edge of a high escarpment to find a place where I can start to climb down and get closer to the river. A fall from this height would kill me instantly. I can’t afford to make that mistake. More thundering causes me to look ahead. My jaw drops at the sight of another great waterfall ahead. It pours down on jagged rocks. Though they are stunning in their own right, they do not match the magnitude of the first falls shaped like a half moon. I look back at the mists rising above the snow-white water of the greater falls. I shudder in amazement and fear that something so formidable exists in this world. Why didn’t Almaz mention them?
“I’ll return to this area one day to start a clan of my own,” I decide.
I couldn’t imagine a better life than waking up to a view of the magnificent falls every day. Upstream there would be plenty of fish to catch. I pick up my pace, walking high above the greenish river. Something else catches my eye to the left. My heart nearly bursts from my chest as I look up at the tallest man-made structure I have ever seen. Frozen in my tracks, I gaze up at it. I’d heard of tall buildings that existed in the cities of the past, but I didn’t realize they were built to be that high. It juts up into the sky like a javelin. Lifeless and devoid of natural beauty, the tower looks out of place here. I never understood why people built cities in the first place. The only purpose they seemed to serve was distracting people from the natural beauty that was so close to them. I walk past the striking building and wonder what it was used for a hundred years ago. Surely people went to the top somehow to look down at the majestic falls, but the rounded addition near the top must have been used as a base of some sort. There are no other buildings surrounding it. They must have been destroyed during the riots that followed the plagues and genocides.
I turn my attention back to the gorge. The river is not the shade of blue that Almaz talked about in her warning line. I wonder if I am in the wrong place. As I travel further and look ahead, the greenish water transforms into indigo. I must be on the right track, after all. The farther I go, the closer I get to the river until I can finally walk alongside it. It widens and as I gaze at the horizon, it is vast, hazy, and blue. It looks like it could be an ocean.
“Where the blue river flows into the great lake,” I say in amazement.