In the cold season, he had blundered whilst chopping firewood, slicing off the ring finger of his left hand. It had dropped to the floor halfheartedly, staining the snow red where it had landed. He stuck the bleeding stub in his mouth, slowing the flow to a trickle against his tongue before sawing the last of his wood in misshapen halves with his good hand. Then he kicked the expelled appendage beneath the ivory blanket.
The stub didn’t really hinder him; it almost felt like some sort of connection. He still ate when he was hungry, sipped from the groaning streams when thirst clawed at his throat, and chopped dry logs when the cold seeped into his bones. It was like the forest had sweetly marked him, a give and take for her resource.
That amputation was his ticket, his promise; he belonged to the grasses and valleys, in debt to the living waters – along with everything that drank from it. In turn, he could let his bare feet wander the soil, kicking dirt between his toes – he could follow the meanders of the stream, like gushing blood against snow.
Several turns later,the next major event happened, during the time where day and night seemed without border, staring lovingly at each other through barely masked drafts.
It was when the darkness seemed to seep into the sky like sweet molasses; the air hung as the roof of a yawning jaw, the night dripping blackened pearls onto his skin. Gently, he pulled himself into a cross legged position, the shadows obscuring his vision - rendering his eyes glassy and unseeing.
If he looked far enough into the void, would the void peer back? He closed his eyes in mock retaliation.
He wondered if he was Hades embodied, as he sat with kaleidoscopes behind his irises, and let out a hissing breath. The darkness was so close that he could practically feel its maw gaping wide, threatening to eat him whole; he could feel Cerberus’ hunger – he could taste desperation in the anxious din.
Although he knew he was alone, every now and again he could feel the fangs of the beast nipping at his cheek; the coldness of the touch left ripples across his skin, tensity wracking his fingertips with wild tremors. Sharp and hard and brutal – the phantom breaths from the phantom teeth formed invisible clouds, and if his eyes weren’t tightly closed, he was certain he would see it.
In the formless void, he was both everywhere and nowhere, the lullabies of the forest settling into silence. Instead of tasting leaves upon his tongue, he was encompassed by the biting chill, hiding true sensation behind a blurred smokescreen.
He opened his eyes, peering through stained glass as though he half expected to see his monster. But he could not see a beast. It was him and the sky reflected upon the river, the sun blooming between dawn flower petals upon the horizon.
For a few moments he lay still against the ground, delicate rays kissing his pores as he gazed into the deep-set orb upon the skyline. Eventually he found the strength to gather himself up, as though he was winding his soul up like twine on a spool, wrapping rings around his spirit again and again until he felt himself anchored.
From his pack, he retrieved a pomegranate- his fruits had flowered late in the autumn, as the soils intended. Then from the ground he picked up his ax, splitting the fragile fruit open before nibbling on the tender flesh within, spitting the seeds into a jar and sealing it tight with a mauve ribbon. The sweetness lingered in his throat.
He let out a brief sigh, the air half solidifying around his ears, before skimming his tangle of black hair behind them.