As she leaned over the fire, the moon's light breaking along the back of her tunic June's mother read to her.  She always read to her when she was sleeping.  In the dreams her mother never exhibited symptoms, just the calm constitution that June remembered from her childhood.  Her mother's breath seemed to break with each stanza, increasing and decreasing in volume as the words took on a rhythmic quality.

Maybe he is not well.

Infirmity doth still neglect all office

Whereto our health is bound. We are not ourselves

When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind

To suffer with the body. I’ll forbear,

And am fallen out with my more headier will

To take the indisposed and sickly fit

For the sound man.

"Stop," said June. "Just stop."

"I can't." her mother lifted her head towards the protest. "You need to hear it."

"It won't help me."

Scoffing, her mother shook her head without meeting June's gaze, "You can't be sure of that yet."

Behind her mother three figures, undeniably male, were construed in the darkness. Every time June tried to look at them to identify them, her mother moved into her vision, cutting her off.

"June, where are you going?  Where can you go?"

"I-" the figures came into the firelight, but she didn't know them.  Every time she looked at one man his face changed.  They were nameless and somehow faceless, without identity but still present.  Just like her.  "I'll find somewhere.  Somewhere where I can let you go."

"June," her mother closed the book, "I'm long gone.  And you still can't let me go."

A snarl from behind and then a sharp howl.

She jumped awake.  Howard, her horse, was still lying on the ground but he was alert. Coyotes howled again.  They were much farther away than her dream had made them out to be.  She grabbed her rifle and turned east toward the noise.  The two of them sat poised, ready for confrontation.  Maybe an hour passed.  Then the howls decreased in volume until they could no longer be heard.  June rested back into her navy sleeping bag.  Howard still sat with his eyes scanning the horizon, unable to rest.  June began to drift back into a restless sleep.

"They are gone ol' boy," she said. "Let it go."

The End

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