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There was nothing except the commandment ‘There was nothing’. Though nothing grew and grew until it became something. Glistening white skin revealing the body of a naked man, who lay fast asleep.
Time came into being the moment before his eyes opened. The universe was conceived in the instant his vision cleared. It was a mighty crimson sky melting into falling stars that bled life for the living who watched. Showering all around and above knowledge of beauty to those who could know.
He knew nothing. He had appeared on the earth suddenly but felt as if he had always been alive. He was the stars rushing down the cosmos, the trees burning under them, beady eyes that watched in awe and terror, everything his birth had conceived. Everything he beheld.
The man stood up and went for a walk. Above him the sky was purer then it ever would be again. Its sun shone over the ocean and the sparkles congregated into gleaming silver dolphins turning corkscrews in the air. The feeling was unimaginable, for creatures who had never imagined until now and still gasped at its occurrence. Still still still but they were alive! And this life filled them unbearably, it expanded into every membrane of their sudden existence and made matter something prehistoric, in a matter of moments.
Before now there had been nothing. Just vague impressions drifting against the hollow of his forming brain. Nothing but the whole unknown earth floating out in space.
Clouds parted like a split yoke. The sky turned round and round, flashing purple, turquoise, violet, gold, thousands of colours he couldn’t describe and barely distinguish. They were the same as the trees he passed. The ground was as his hand. The moon – a fish’s spine trickling against the surface. The fish was the same as the ripple. He was all of it and it was him, and they merged in intercourse.
Until his acknowledgement, nothing had existed. Without its acknowledgement, he did not exist. He had come from nothing and given it form, nothing had formed him. And like nothing, he did not know he existed. All he knew was what he saw.
Pink faces bathing in hot springs. Leaves fluttering to the ground, between bolts of light that washed along his skin. A millipede slithering was more than he had ever seen before, a prowling wild cat remade the world. He sought out every crevice of creation and it opened inside him like the cosmos expanding. Like his being stretching until no trace remained, or had ever been, of ‘I’.
The man was alone on the earth. He could not speak and knew no language neither of tongue nor of thought, all there was – was the birds that fed him. The wind that clothed him. The grass where he slept. The moon that sung.
Traveller raised his head from his paws. The sky was lightening. He stretched against the ground, groaning as if he had just thawed from ice. Limping a few steps he broke into a trot. As Traveller warmed, the sun rose.
The family had long ago left. They were as faint on the air as his faint starving spirit drifting back to the world from wherever it had departed. For how ever long. Withering muscles and bony legs were the only clue that it had been a while. He would hunt before he regained them, his gaunt figure was shameful. It would be a provocation.
Many times he had found himself abandoned in the wilderness, body like the trees of winter, inexplicably saved from the stomach of his natural enemies. He would wake in full daylight, at midnight or in the dawn, with no understanding of how he had come to be and weakly grasping the last meal he remembered or companion he had seen. Perhaps no time had passed, except a deep warm slumber that ate his flesh like famine and drove away his pack for leagues.
Traveller’s namesake described the strange fits into which he would fall, and then black out as if dead. But time passed and he awoke again, though by then his brothers and sisters had already mourned him. “We sent away our love for you”, they wailed, “to your departed body. What returns to us is strange mind.”
He could not flee or destroy this possession. Sometimes it only came when the leaves fell, sometimes once a season. Sometimes he would drink caribou blood from the plains until it dried up, and sleep and rise happily as a newborn. In such times of forgetfulness he mastered the world and the weak, prowling and howling under the moon goddess like an angel himself. He had no use of memory until he found himself again, lifeless on the sneering earth. Time was the distance to his family. The lapse between what he could remember and now.
Fear burrowed deep within, coiling and coiling it claimed his life, it even named him. Traveller, his fellows called him, Traveller – the name unknown until him, sufferer of the travelling disease. No longer a name, him.
Lost and confused, terror gripped Traveller like hunger. Premonitions of death howled in the air and floated on winds of isolation. Ravaged hunting grounds hunted him on their ground, like an insect scrambling under the glare of the sun. He must travel alone – to find food or his family.
The day passed in panic and search, until finally, as night crept onto the plains a speck of white moved in the distance. Traveller froze; lowering his spine to the ground he crawled to his prey. Ringed in by a row of bushes, seven white rabbits nibbled at roots, chattering timidly. Often their voices would dissolve into everything such long deep ears overheard.
They pieced their voices together between shivering ear drums and spoke nonsense.
Their vacant faces chewed and chewed, they hopped from place to place and then suddenly froze in trance. Something in the distance floated to their ears, and then they chewed and squeaked.
He crouched barely a breath away. So close he could smell the vapours collecting between strands of fur. His hunger spoke loudly and yet they heard nothing. They twitched in unison and stood momentarily transfixed, his heart pounded at the prospect so strongly it filled his ears, but they did not hear him. A fat pup crawled closer. Traveller’s body vanished in anticipation. And suddenly noise surrounded him.
The air spoke.
Traveller! Frenzied as the screams his jaw terminated. The wind splattered blood like a depraved bitch. Like the voice of the force lying dormant inside his
body. Like his pack’s orphaned love seeking fixation, it betrayed his name to the whole world and they conspired to reclaim him.
When blood spills on the ground it consummates a mysterious convent. Life wafts from it in heady mists. Blood which has never seen the light of day is suddenly saturated in daylight, and how strongly it smells. Fragrance is the bond. The key which opens.
What else opened? As he opened up bodies and cracked open ribs housing space no one else had possessed, until now. What did he discover? What was illuminated in daylight? What dark matter stole into the world? What had vibrated between bones and only known the world as sound? Though the whole world had never known it, hidden deep inside.
He lifted his own head and howled. Being rushed from him, out under the moon.
Bodies collided and flew everywhere; excitement ascended to fever pitch. The lair was in chaos. As Traveller approached, his family’s panic grew and grew until even old wolves raised their heads.
Despair wafted from them and they shrieked as if in sight of a ghost. He was sorry to see his brothers and sisters like this, happiness at his return mired by certainty of his death.
“How many times will we mourn you?” they wondered, “until finally you die and we do not believe it? Our strange brother brings death among us. But we are bound to it for love of him.”
Chests heaved and eyeballs gleamed, but silence fell. It was a silence Traveller had long since submitted to. Whining, he lowered his head.
A wolf named Redface, and two of his minions began to circle Traveller. They were young, bursting with revenge. Fatherless. Kingless. Already wolf killers. Traveller knew no one would stand with him.
“What loyalty does he show with such long absence?” he could hear them ask. “Why should I trust him? He is not a wolf. He is a strange demon who wears the skin of our deceased brother. We do not know him. Even his name is not the name of a wolf.”
Beneath the weight of their hatred Traveller sunk to his belly. Wolves around them muttered and whooped nervously. Redface leapt at him. Hot fangs bit into Traveller’s flesh. Blood wet his fur. They scrambled over him, snapping and snarling. He cowered ashamed, too terrified too tired to retaliate. Redface snarled, and frenzied by blood he took up a low howl. Young wolves sprang up around them, adding their voices to the hunting call. In a great grey hurricane, they sped away.
Already weakened by long days of travelling and however long he had starved, Traveller merely slumped where he lay. He fought sleep with delusion born of the pain constricting him. He would venture too far and his mind would travel again. Strength seeped away as blood slowly trickled down his back. It was replaced by cold.
But suddenly warmth pressed against his body, a wet nose nudged him. Weakly turning his head he met the white eyes of Whitetail. Lying beside him she regurgitated food and fed him like a newborn. Oldfeet lay at his other side and they warmed his body between them as he ate.
“Rest,”, she said. “We will guard you.”
Traveller closed his eyes. He did not travel, but he dreamed.
In his dream Redface split into three wolves circling him. They each split again into smaller and still smaller Redfaces, like raindrops bursting into water. They moved together in a strangely rhythmical pattern – turning at once, raising and lifting their heads in sequence. The Redfaces covered miles of ground, revolving in different directions but always around him at the centre. Suddenly they began to flicker and change, they became other wolves with different name