He breathed in deeply, then exhaled a long exhausted groan. His stomach twisted again, and a pain shot up his legs. Cassim began to lose feeling in his legs. He had been lying on his straw bed for a day an a half.It felt as if he had been lying there for so long that he couldn’t remember not being hungry. The pain twisted in his gut again, and his legs continued to ache. Another groan.
Cassim had gone out to forage some berries and do some small hunting only thirty-five hours ago. The bow became his favorite hunting tool when he himself was forced to learn to hunt. The last experienced hunter was Passed two seasons ago, when hunting was the most viable method for gathering food. Cassim made his first kill when his arrow pierced a rabbit’s foot by a tree. He silenced the creature with a knife, learning the skinning and cleaning process of the hunt. No rabbit tasted sweeter than the first one he caught and cooked on his own.
His stomach twisted again. This time even stronger than before. Again he looked up at his contraption. The torch burned bright atop the cliff’s edge.
The rope was still set up, just out of his reach in the straw bed.
• • •
The woman looked peaceful. Her lifeless body lay high atop the funeral mound. Torches at the ready, horns blaring.
Cassim looked around him. He could see past the mound a young girl he recognized, or at least who was a young girl some time ago. She was a beautiful young woman with long black hair. She was silent and focused on the mound, her face wet with streams of tears for the woman on it.
He looked around and felt a slight eerie feeling, emptiness. The crowd was quieter than usual. That was to be expected though because these ceremonies occurred so frequently lately. When the village priest heard his lords beg his children come home, he made a case for no one to birth anymore. The village had had its time on earth and the villagers were ready to go home. That is what they believed.
But Cassim noticed something else. He could no longer find a young child’s face in the village. As everyone looked toward the pyre, he saw all of the faces.
The realization that his village was dwindling frightened him. But Cassim looked back at the young woman he remembered. She coughed. A slight paleness grew on her face in the moments he was not looking at her. She looked ill, and he began imagining the day he would see her lying on the mound.
The flames blazed before his eyes.
In his mind he saw himself on the mound and things went dark. He felt his head drop 100 feet down into his spine, and terror filled his face.
• • •