In the distance, Harr could hear searchers calling out. He saw flashlights, and heard barking dogs. He scurried above the hills and climbed into high trees to view the search party below. He blended almost invisibly into the dark green. In a tree, surrounded by green branches, holding himself still and hardly breathing, he seemed part of the structure, a thick vine. Positioned vertically along one of the branches, high in the tree, he gazed down on the searchers below. The searchers never thought to look up, and if they did, they would have seen only more forest.
Harr had been out all night walking along forest trails, stalking rabbits and deer. He wore a raccoon cap and hunted with a sharp stick that he threw as a javelin. He set traps along the trails and would monitor them on a set routine and schedule. But the search party had frustrated his hunting efforts that night. No animal would wander blindly into his trap with all the forest ruckus going on — the shouting, the searching lights, the blowing whistles, the barking dogs. They were combing the forest, hacking through underbrush with machetes, occasionally lighting off a flare to illuminate the forest scene below.
Harr thought it best to return to his cabin — to that old, dilapidated, worn down cabin that stood near the creek on the other side of the mountain. It was so far off the trail, out of the path of the searchers, he felt it would be safe from the noise. The only problem is, all the wildlife had already been taken in that area.
Javelin in hand, he hunkered down the tree and crouched through the bushes out of sight of the search party. He walked down a series of criss-crossing trails — he knew the forest well. He turned down one trail, and then up another, and walked and walked, sometimes jogging slowly. He was so hungry, and without any meat digesting in his stomach, his adrenaline kicked in, and he breathed heavily, his thick green chest pulsing up and down as he lumbered down the trail. He would take refuge from the search party in his cabin, he would sleep and dream, and tomorrow he would resume his hunting.
It took him half the night to arrive at his cabin. But as the trail and the cabin appeared in the distance, rather than sighing in relief, he stopped dead in his tracks. A jolt ran through his body. The door was open, and he could make out, through the window, a figure inside. It was early dawn, before the sun had risen over the mountains to awaken the morning. A figure was certainly moving about inside. It must be men from the search party, he thought. But how? How did they find this place? And what were they doing in there?
He clutched tightly around his javelin and crouched behind a set of bushes. He could quickly move in and reclaim his home, dispense of these unwanted guests, but doing so would only draw more attention to his presence in the forest. The search party would change to a lynch party, and he would not be safe. It would destroy everything he had worked so hard to build. No, he decided to wait until his visitors left.
He crept closer to the cabin to get a better look. Not more than a stone’s throw from the window, he peered inside. It wasn’t a man from the search party, as he thought. Instead it was a young figure, with long delicate arms. She had already lit the candle on the kitchen table. In the window, she appeared as a dark silhouette. She moved about the cabin, exploring it. She looked under the bed, and at the ceiling. She stood on a box and peered around curiously. She crawled under the table and admired the javelins in the corner of the room. What was she looking for? He hoped she wasn’t looking for the book. The silhouette would move about, as if looking for something, and then would sit motionless for a while.
Harr’s father wasn’t the leader of the clan, and Harr never had ambitions to be a leader. Harr played a different role. He was a record keeper. His father had prepared Harr to fill this role from his youth – instructing him in multiple madratic languages, in the techniques for inscription and cartography. When Harr was just a boy, he would accompany his dad on hunts in distant wildernesses. They would crouch in trees for hours, looking down at the wilderness canvas below. His father would sketch the area in context. Harr always thought he would follow his father, and be a record keeper for his people. But things had taken a different road for Harr.
Harr found that although he was a capable hunter, the sight of blood make him nauseous. He didn’t enjoy the hunts like the other members of the clan. He did enjoy scaling trees, the tallest he could find, and looking out over the valley. He wasn’t afraid of heights. High in the tree, he could look down at and see all the life below – the deer making their way slowly through the underbrush, always on alert. He could see snakes slithering out of their holes. He could see raccoons and possums scurrying about, even coyotes prowling. And observing all this life, he couldn’t understand how he could possibly hunt these animals each night. He hated the traps he set, often finding a rabbit struggling with a bludgeoned foot, gasping for its last moments of life before he came to take it away. It affected him too much.
He once shared this with his father, but his father said it was foolishness, that a record keeper needed to be strong and exact. He needed to be keen and observant, letting nothing distract him from what’s important. A record keeper who became distracted could not maintain accuracy, and without a sense of accuracy, the records would be imperfect. Imperfect records would threaten the clan. Harr must remain independent and objective, always, his father said.
Harr remained crouched outside the cabin. He set his javelin carefully on the ground. He was entirely caught up in the new creature meandering about his cabin. The figure was female, a girl. Her long silhouetted hair in the window betrayed it. She stopped moving now and gazed up. She was looking out the window and up at the night sky. She looked in Harr’s direction but didn’t see him. Harr was so motionless he tried not to breathe. He moved his hand ever so slowly toward his javelin, as he might need it. But Harr didn’t blink. He didn’t move any facial muscles. And then he heard something that made him feel strange. It was a soft sound, almost something he didn’t hear at first. Like a whisper that gradually increased. A soft voice with perfect delicacy, but instead of words, it was like the voices of birds in the morning, growing gradually in strength and swirling like the eddies of a river. He couldn’t make out any of the words, but it connected with him on the inside. The voice was coming from the girl in the window, looking up in the sky. It wasn’t a cry, or a warning sound. It was something soft, and comforting. It seemed to fill him with generosity inside. He had heard wolves howl at the moon, and coyotes yelp in packs in the distance. And to these sounds there was a kind of stark rhythm, one sound climbing over top another to gain dominance. But this silhouette’s sound was divine. It was like eating soft juice of a thousand honeysuckle plants – all at once, while having your bed float through the air. Harr closed his eyes and relaxed all the muscles in his face. He dropped his crouching stance and sat more comfortably on the ground. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the being in the window. Her voice flowed through the air like a scarf blowing through a windy air, melodies being tossed up and around, and then flowing down below, and back up again. Harr remained entranced like this for close to half an hour. All thought evaporated from his mind as he let in the strange sounds, which transported him entirely. And then a branch cracked beneath Harr. He had moved. The sound stopped. The girl silhouette looked down from the sky and now directly at him. She moved closer to the window and looked straight at him, trying to make out what he was, or if he was.
Harr didn’t know what to do. He started to panic. His heart thumped. His mind raced like spaghetti. Run? Attack? Climb? Crouch? Dig? He didn’t know what to do. He heard an owl screech in the distance, and he shot up and bolted away from the cabin. He ran back down the trail he’d come and darted straight out into the forest. He ran faster than he’d ever run before, leaping over logs and down the creek bed, splashing across the creek. His mind was on fire. He raced full speed into the fading darkness, his green chest moving up and down in rapid-fire. Branches whipped across his face and body but he blew through them like they weren’t there at all, stripping leaves off vines. Three times he nearly ran directly into tree trunks but dodged them at the last minute.
He ran several miles before slowing down. When he did finally stop, he sat down in front of a tree and put his head in his hands. His breathing gradually slowed. He didn’t know what to make of it, the feeling that had swelled inside his chest, the silhouette in his cabin, the possibility his home was now the dwelling of another creature. Who was she, and how did she find his cabin?