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He Had No Name

by Daryl Benson about a year ago in fact or fiction
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(Stock Internet Photo)

Slay-Wolf-of-Night rose in the early morning, the chill still very real but less oppressive than it had been on the heights. He still longed for the coat, but the cold was not as bitter as it had been. He should have already been back with his people, but the travel was slow. It had been three days now since he had seen the corpse of the wolf he had killed.

His name, Slay-Wolf-of-Night, in years, might be told around the fires of a heroic battle between man and beast. But he couldn’t help but feel that it was partially luck that saved him on that night almost a week ago. He also didn’t know if it was quite luck because he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t end up a corpse himself. His food was largely exhausted now, he was running on quarter rations and they would be gone shortly.

He estimated he was still three days away from his people if he continued to travel at his current speed. That was also wishful thinking, hoping he’d catch someone out scouting or gathering, otherwise it might be another two days. He didn’t have the strength for five days. Wishful thinking is all he had though. He corrected himself, realizing it wasn’t wishful thinking, it was the potency of the Blessed Spirit. He had the strength to go on because the Blessed Spirit was powering him forward, protecting him.

Slay-Wolf-of-Night, a boy no longer, but a man, winced in crippling pain as he continued the walk down a particularly steep embankment toward the river. He needed to restock his two waterskins, and this would be as close to the river as he planned to get over the next week. He would need to drink all he possibly could and restock his waterskins. He planned to rest here an hour at least to make sure he had entirely filled himself with water, hopefully enough to last him the rest of the day and partially into the next.

As he crouched down, falling the rest of the way as there was no clean way to bend his legs. He squawked out in pain as he thumped on the rocks of the bank. The river, perhaps more accurately depicted as an aggressive stream, flowed freely across the sparkling rocks. It was shallow and could have easily waded it if he dared to get wet. Although it wasn’t particularly deep, it had a quick current. In his current state he wasn’t sure he would be able to get out of it if he slipped on the slimy rocks that covered the bottom of the riverbed.

He laid back and breathed deep, taking a minute to try to completely relax his muscles. Every muscle hurt from tears, gashes, overwork, and counter-strain. He was using muscles he never had in his life trying to keep the pain abated away from his injuries. And that spoke nothing of the wicked burns he still had that were festering and pustulating. It didn’t matter the burns were self-inflicted, they were still a wicked mess of blood, pus, and seething pain. Slay-Wolf-of-Night was coming to the terrifying reality that he was probably not going to make it. The wolf, his namesake, had done it’s work efficiently, even if it paid the ultimate price for the deed.

Rolling over slowly, trying to not strain any of his body parts, he crawled up to the water. Slowly slurping his full, he inched away and tried to relax again. He would persevere. He must. The Blessed Spirit would not abandon him now, not now that he had seen the seer and now that he had his name. The Boy who had no name was no more, he was Slay-Wolf-of-Night.

As he lay there, on his back staring at the clouds overhead, he considered his options. Aside from water, which he would hopefully have enough until he encountered his people, the other single largest concern was food. He had to find something to eat later tonight or tomorrow or he would be hard-pressed to continue. The reality was, he simply was in no condition to hunt. He thought he might be able to find some grubs or mushrooms in the fields half a day from where he was. Well, it would normally be half a day, now it might be two.

The forest stirred, as the wind picked up and gusted through the riverbed. The leaves danced on the trees hanging over the banks, sucking in the sunlight and pulling in the rich nutrition from the water bank from the flowing river. Slay-Wolf-of-Night immediately became alert, instantly sitting up.

He almost collapsed as the pain washed over him like a bludgeon. A gasp and wide-eyed shock only made him more alert. He quickly looked around, everywhere, in near panic. That smell, it had to be an animal, a particularly nasty one. The wind had swept it in, and the beast must be close. The panic continued to make him alert, but it was mixed with a sharp stab of despair. He was entirely defenseless in his current state, there was no way he would be able to fight off anything. His fear pushing him to consider flight, but he didn’t think he could manage even that at the moment. His sudden jerk had his shoulder leaking fresh blood which he was staunching with his left hand.

As the wind stirred a second time, the whiff came a second time. It was pungent, and sharp. It had a sickly-sweet smell about it. His head was slowly rotating everywhere as he spun carefully in circles. He couldn’t torque his upper body without throwing himself into a spasm of pain, so he used his hands to slowly spin himself in circles, keeping his leg elevated and off the ground. He must have looked absolutely ridiculous. A smile almost crept across his face at the thought of it, but the pain even kept that at bay. If the Blessed Spirit heard his fervent prayers, perhaps some day he may yet laugh again.

A third time. His eyes bolted right in the direction where the scent had come from, and it was opposite side this time around. He had turned and with it the direction of the wind had shifted. If anyone would have been around to see him, they would have seen the abject horror as it crossed his face. His eyes slowly rested on his foot.

His hands slowly moved to unfasten his temporary splint. But he hesitated. Once he took it off, it would almost be impossible to get the splint back on. It was a primary reason he hadn’t touched his foot the last few days. If he did anything to it at this point, he might be crawling rather than the slow hobble he was managing. If he crawled, he would die for certain.

Fire. He needed fire. He didn’t have the energy for this. He looked at the rushing water, churning rapidly down into the valley. Such freedom, perhaps he could just crawl out into the water, and let it take him with it. His gloom lasted for some time as he really tried to come up with any other options. There weren’t any. He needed to make a fire and that would cost vital energy and time. But he didn’t dare do anything without fire. He would be camping near here for the night apparently.

He forced himself to rise, an untold effort that forced him to always stand for several moments just to recover from the effort and pain. He then spent the next hour accumulating enough wood to make a hot fire, and enough to make it through the night. The hard part was getting the fire-starter, which involved falling onto his hands, picking up tiny sticks, dry leaves, or needles from the trees. Stuffing his hide satchel and slowly moving it back to where he planned to spend the night.

Another hour would pass as he got the fire going. It was small, but he built up the coals and shelter them in rocks to trap the heat. He returned to the water to drink, which he wondered if that was worth the effort or if he should have used his skins. After all the preparation he finally laid back and took off his splints, and the wrappings that had held them in place.

The sickly-sweet stench came off in droves as the cloth came off. His head turned to the side and he threw up all the water he had consumed over the last several hours—his body spasming sending jolts of pain wracking his figure. How had he not noticed this until now? He was too concerned with just keeping moving. This wasn’t just infected; this was an organically growing infection. He tried to throw up again, but with an empty stomach, he just dry heaved repeatedly. Again, throwing his body into fits of pain.

He fell backward, panting. Slay-Wolf-of-Night wasn’t sure exactly what to do. He didn’t want to do what had to be done. He tried to think of any alternative at all. His fear, doubt, and worry returned with such presence that he closed his eyes and cried. He was truly a man lost, in the depths of pain and despair. He pulled his belt knife out and thrust it into the coals of the fire as the tears silently slid down his face.

Then he beseeched the mercy of the Blessed Spirit. He implored the Blessed Spirit for mercy as he never had in his life. He sought the strength to do what must be done. He continued his supplications as he pulled the blade from the fire, emitting a fiery glow. He placed it off to the side, giving it time to cool. He was slowly going numb, losing the ability to think as the realization of what he was going to do slowly continued to plague his mind. His supplications, never ceasing, he threw more wood on the fire, banking it heavily, knowing he would not be able to later.

His hand slowly reached over for his belt knife. It hovered over the blade, tense. The hesitation grew into a minute, his hand just paralyzed, hovering over the dagger. His eyes closed tight, breathing in and out as the emotions drained entirely from him. His hand clasped the weapon, his eyes opened, and he started cutting.

It would be some time before it was done. The process, indescribable. Perhaps it was ten minutes, perhaps it was two hours. He wasn’t sure honestly. Everything in the world stopped, time stood still. It was just him and the blade, and the pain.

When he was finally finished, he used valuable energy to throw his leg into the raging stream and watch it get carried into the valley below. He was getting carried, after all, into the seething currents. He burned the old strips of cloth he had originally used to bind his leg and create the splints. Using most of the water in one of his waterskins he washed the blood from the area, even though it was seeping more than it should be, despite the tourniquet. He tied a second tourniquet on, tighter. Then wrapped clean, or what the cleanest he had available, clothes back around the wound. Removed the first tourniquet, and finally collapsed.

He gulped most of the water out of the second waterskin has he lay back against the bank landing, where he had made the fire. Corking the waterskin, he fell into blessed unconsciousness.

Photo Credit: - Halfway Flat Campground, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

fact or fiction

About the author

Daryl Benson

Just trying to write a little on the side to see if anything can come of it.

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