The world was silent.
No birds and no animals. Not even the wind stirred the leaves upon the branches.
Had I not heard the beating of my heart and my boots upon the ground, I might have believed death had finally taken me.
But I did hear those things and, near the end of day, I heard her.
“I found your father.”
The Colts were in my hands before I could scarce take another breath. I peered around the forest, up into the trees, and down to the ground.
There was no sign of her.
“Not the right father, of course,” my mother continued, “but anyone will do. And this one, he was nearly as tough as your father.”
“Come out,” I said. “Sit a spell. We’ll have a bit of a chat.”
Her cold, brittle laugh filled the air and stung my ears. “Last time I tried to speak with you, you gutted me on the table.”
“I’ve no table,” I reminded her. “Although there’s a bare spot or two that should work fine. We can pick up where we left off.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Then why’ve you come?” I asked.
Her voice came from multiple directions, leaving me unaware as to where she truly stood. If she stood at all.
“I thought,” she said, her voice growing grim and vile, “you might like to see your father’s bones. I caught him unaware. And when I spoke, he was too slow. He had great big guns like yours, but he wasn’t nearly as quick with them. Not nearly at all.”
“Where is he?”
“You’ll see him soon enough.” My mother laughed. “You would have seen the bones and moved on. Now, at least, you’ll see them and know them for what they are.”
“Come with me,” I said through clenched teeth. “Let us speak with my father.”
She did not answer.
Instead, birdsong filled the air, as did the anxious chittering of squirrels.
With Colts still in hand, I made my way along the path, and true to her word, there were bones on the side of it. Whether they were my father’s or not, I do not know.
I did not stop to bury them.
He was dead whether they were buried or not.