Monday, March 21, 2011

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She runs through the dense forest, twigs scratching at her legs but she doesn’t stop. She runs for miles and hours; it seems as though she’ll never stop running.

She wears only an animal hide wrapped around her torso, barely covering her body. She wears no shoes; her feet have hardened from running through the trees, stepping in mud and dirt and over sharp rocks every minute of every day. A spear of wood and sharpened rock tied together rests in her palm.

Suddenly, she stops. Perfectly still, she crouches to the ground to examine the prints left behind by the animals she hunts. Her eyes flutter closed and she listens.

A snap. Then a crunch. Another snap, this time louder.

Her eyes snap open and she jumps to the nearest tree, climbing swiftly. Hidden among the branches, she readies her weapon for battle. Her hands are steady, practiced, the wooden staff fitting perfectly against the calluses on her fingers.

She waits, silent and still, completely focused, waiting for her prey to appear.

Another snap, more crunching.

A figure appears in front of her eyes, just a foot from her tree.

He is taller than any of her tribe, with yellow hair that she has never seen before. She cannot see his face. His skin is pale. He carries an instrument never seen by her before - long and it makes the light bounce.

She draws her breath in, uncomfortable around this man. She has only seen man once before – the elders forbid outsiders from the tribe. Quickfeet found one in the trees once and brought him before the elders. He was dragged into the medicine tent and visited by many tribe members. She was never one of those who visited the man.

Days later, Quickfeet dragged his body away.

This man is different. He wears strange skins, coloured and she doesn’t recognize what animal they came from.

She shifts her foot; a branch shakes. The man spins towards the noise.

His eyes are blue like the ocean, wide open and searching.

He steps away from her tree, walking in the direction of the tribe. He makes many noises – cracking and crunching and squishing. He does not know the forest.

She slowly makes her way down the tree as his back is turned, silent as ever. As she lowers herself to the ground she trains her weapon on the strange man. She watches as he explores.

She follows, her feet falling into the footprints he has left. His feet are larger, and they push deep into the earth.

He stops, suddenly, turns right to face her, his weapon pointing its long nose at her chest. His eyes widen.

She pulls herself up to her full height. She is not tall of stature, but her weapon is poised to strike him through the heart, and she is more than able.

His mouth falls open as he watches her. She notes the differences between them.

She is wild where he is tame. She is dark and he is light. He speaks but she does not understand his words. She is nearly bare and he is covered. She has patches of dirt, scratches and the marks of the forest all over her, but he is clean and without signs of battle. Her weapon is rough and made of nature, but his is clearly from elsewhere.

His eyes focus on her chest, examining the broken, scarred and torn flesh where her right breast once was, though it has not fully healed. His gaze makes her angry; she bears her tribe’s mark of womanhood with great pride. Her transition to woman is not complete but he has no knowledge of the spiritual journeys she must make.

She is home and he is an intruder.

She lunges at him, spear stabbing towards his body. He yelps and tries to pull away and defend himself. She barely scratches him with the tip of her spear.

She continues her attack, fast and brutal. He pushes her away from him and she falls against a tree.

He tugs on his shiny stick and a loud noise erupts from its nose. She dives for the ground, and looks up to see a hole in the tree she had been against, a small stone buried deep in the wood. Smoke rises from the instrument and her eyes are wide with fear.

He holds out a hand and starts to speak again, but she still does not know what he is trying to tell her.

She jumps to her feet and starts to run away from this man, this hideous intruder who has come to kill her. She has become prey.

She can hear his loud feet as he tries to follow her. She is faster than he is, but if he continues to follow her, he will find her tribe.

She jumps into the nearest tree, darting up to its higher limbs where he will not see her. He stops where she had been standing, crouching to the ground to examine the marks her feet left in the soil.

She drops down on top of him. He falls to the ground under her weight. She cracks the back end of her spear against his head and he slumps into the mud. She checks to make sure he is asleep.

She drags his body to the tribe, slow and careful not to bash him against trees. When she reaches the camp, the members of her tribe all stand and stare as she drags him to the center of the camp, towards the elder’s tents.

The elders stare down at him and nod.

“Good work, Redfox,” one elder, Wiseheart, says, putting a hand on her shoulder.

Redfox bows her head in respect. The women nod to her.

Wiseheart motions to the medicine tent and she pulls the man inside, propping him up against the pole in the center. She runs her hands up his legs and sides, pulling a knife from his pocket but finding no other weapons. Redfox strips him quickly. She ropes his arms behind his back and then ties his feet together. Taking the pieces she has removed from his body, she puts them on a pile of skins to be made into blankets. She will keep the knife as proof of her capture.

Redfox looks once more at the stranger, curious about his fate. She leaves the tent and returns to the elders.

Wiseheart smiles. “You have done well, young one. The gods will soon bless us with children.”

Redfox smiles. “I am honored.”

At night, she watches many women of the tribe go into the medicine cabinet. Redfox sits by the fire, shaving arrows with her new knife. When Quickfeet returns to the fire, she does not tell the old legends like she usually does. Redfox stands, prepared to visit the stranger.

“No, sister,” the woman sitting next to Quickfeet calls to her. “Only the ones who have finished their spiritual journey to womanhood. You are physically ready, sister, but not yet is your spirit prepared.”

She can feel her face squish up; she is confused. She is the one who found and captured the man, but she is too young to visit with him.

Three days later, she slits his throat and drags the body to the ocean. She begun this and so she must finish it. This is law – there will be no man among the Amazons.

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