The Wild Hunt | by William VanDenBerg

Dense evergreens. The slope rises. We climb. We track it. Five of us. At night, we sleep in a ring around the fire. Thunder in the distance. Rain? A wreck? A cannon? We wonder. No clouds we can see, only bare stars. City long gone. Our flats busted. In the morning, a hawk keens high above. We see it. Kathleen, our leader, says, No more talking. As we climb, we find tunnels that lace the mountain. Climb up, climb through. Further. Find traces. A human arm. Dry, decomposing, breaking down. We check the arm for resemblance, but it is not our mother’s. Kathleen sings. We all sing along. We follow, rocks in our hands. We climb. Traces of it: uprooted trees, strange footprints, more parts. The monster. After we left the city, the thought came — not sure which one it came to, but still — we would try to reassemble her. A resurrection, parts equaling a whole. Kathleen sings. We all sing along. Further. Grows cold. Up one peak, then another. An unceasing range. Quiet of day, no thunder in the light. We see the monster over the next ridgeline, follow a trail of dry arms and legs through nettle beds. Another night, more thunder. It is shedding. Next day. Kathleen sees. By the waterline, breaking apart into the lake, clogging the surface. Fluid, foam. Thighs and wrists and heads sticking out. We charge. It turns. Work is over quick. A weakness had crept in. Us? Never stronger. We disassemble it on the rocky lakeshore. Piles of elbows, knees, torsos, and so on, all lying on chips of slate. A dryness to the skin. Finally, we think we have the right configuration. A resemblance persists. We see our mother. A few sections missing, but still. We wait. Wait all night. Thunder in the distance. We watch the remains. Wait for change. For motion. All through the next day. At night, Kathleen walks to the waterline then comes back. When back, face blank. Follow, she asks. We go further. Higher and higher. We walk all night, no light coming back. A fog enters. Cannot see the sky. Up among the clouds. Thunder growing close. We breathe the fog. Flash of light. Into our lungs. Follow, she asks. A rush, a roar. We climb until morning. We climb until the sky is behind us.

 

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William VanDenBerg is the author of Lake of Earth (Caketrain Press, 2013) and Apostle Islands (Solar Luxuriance, 2013). “The Wild Hunt” is from a series called MILK TEETH. Other stories in the series have appeared in Passages North, The Fanzine, and Dreginald. He lives with his wife in Providence, RI. His dog is afraid of the wind.

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