We reached a barren summit. The sun, mirroring us, breached the next, and I struggled to my feet, touched by the golden light of dawn. The new day washed me clean, trickled down my neck, my chest, sloshed at my feet, and cascaded down into the valley. The dewy cedars below us sparked a million rainbows, a million promises. The streams glared into a brilliance, blinding.
I am dying.
Several deer, as the sunlight touched them, lifted lazy heads. Time soon to retreat into the forest's edges.
Never again will the world be destroyed by water - fire will cleanse as easily. Who will light it?
I was no longer afraid. I was no longer anything. I saw no fire, heard no morning birds. I felt nothing: not fear, anger, exhaustion, or hunger.
Hunger. I am dying.
At my feet, obscured by the harsh shadow of some large stone, lay my companion. Pitiable, wretched thing. Weak. Weaker than I. The fool that I'd followed into this wasteland. What had he promised to show me? What strange passion goaded me to follow? I no longer knew.
It was his fault. His fault that I'm dying, yes, but worse, he's a thief. At the moment he promised me nature, He stole from me the joy I'd had in it. And now he was too weak to move, and I had nothing left but the stone in my hand.
His eyes were already dead as he watched me. He lay his head on the great stone. "Here it is," he rasped, and barely motioned at the scene behind him. "This is your mother."
I brought the stone down on his temple. Twice. Again. I crushed his head into the rock. His chest heaved a final breath. I lapped his blood as his heart lay beating. I savored his life. With renewing strength I devoured what strength he had left.
I gobbled him up. (Mother, this is your son.)
I turned my back on the morning. I turned to go. I was quenched but still alight. I was filled but never, never again, sated.
I was born again some time later. I do not know when, though it seems like autumn. Deep in the teeming lonely forest, I no longer know the names of the animals that surround me. Playful, graceful, familial, or fearful: I only fear one thing now. And so do they.
My mother is Hunger.