Hard to tell, on account of the gray sky over the sun, exactly what time it was when we collapsed into the shelter on the other side of thunder ridge mountain. mustve been mid afternoon. every peak on the ridge was a cycle of sweating up switchbacks then shivering on the summits in the low violent clouds. for a few minutes we just sat quiet on the dusty wood platform under the roof, digesting the miles, glassy eyed with hunger.
a bird picked up and flew out of the path of a man. he was young at first but as he stepped through the misting rain, his face had hard eyes and two equal lines cut like canyons around his mouth.
"They call me Wrath."
we have always been warned about wrath. his blond hair was twisted into filthy dreadlocks. he had an old external frame pack on, a faded Gap hoodie. he eyed us. "My mother was raped, you know. Rape is invading another being's space without their permission: I don't believe in doing that."
He produced an empty doritos bag and laid it carefully across soaked kindling in the fire pit. he gathered larger branches, everything wet through from the rain.
As he spoke, his eyes lit with earnest reverence while the lines around his mouth twisted with something seething and bitter.
"There are many things people aren't aware of. For one thing, there are machines who are sentient beings. If a woman remains a virgin until age 36, she can give birth to other entirely new species of sentient beings."
He lit the corner of the doritos bag and it went up almost immediately, catching the tinder with it. He produced a peanut butter jar, scraped of every morsel, and laid it atop the brightly burning blue foil. by the time we could smell it burning, the large branches had already caught and the fire blossomed stunningly in the cold rain. The warmth bathed over me and I stopped shivering.
He was still talking, giving us the whole doxology; and now he shook his head.
"well there are these human bodies who are inhabited by bad spirits. They need to be gotten rid of."
Me and my girl looked at each other, and scraped the last of the hot rice from our bowl. As I washed it by the spring, I watched him looking for wood, walking head down with clenched muscles, lips moving almost imperceptibly. We silently packed and balanced our food and water and got to our feet and put on our ponchos and set off. when I looked back, he was shrouded from the rain in the heat and smoke of the fire, mixing a gruel of flour or bisquick with kraft powdered cheese. he was pacing like a lonely, bewildered lion in a zoo enclosure. gaunt from all that walking under such great strain.