"Be quiet, Shadow Rock. No idle farers, we."
"Time!" you say.
I nod and lead the way along the path to the west of the rock. Time.
"It's important," I tell you, spacing my words to compensate for the climb we have begun, "it's important to observe the details."
"Observe them in your time," you say.
"We are going to perform a ritual," I say. "Should we skip parts of that?"
"Let's just get to it."
The path is rough: pebbles, twigs, bottle shards. Jutting tree roots form an irregular set of steps as though the path had been cut for them. The incline is steep enough to fatigue me if I climb it for too long but I know it plains out soon. You have never been here and don't know that.
The day is fine and mild. Clean. There is a sparkle to everything the sunlight touches. It should make you feel calm but you are irritable. I wonder if you are ready for what you are going to do.
We reach the flatter path and move forward into the bushland. We will walk for another half kilometre before we stop and begin the rite. You are slim but you are puffed from the climb. I should be worse off for it but you are. Whenever I turn and look at you I try to catch your eye but you won't allow it. You shouldn't be this affected.
"It is a nice day," you huff.
I let the blandness of the words fall between us. Nice. What kind of word is that?
"I'd call it a beautiful day."
"I'd say the sunlight is flooding over us without hurdle of cloud or haze."
"And that the air is its perfect compliment. It's cool but not cold."
"And that it feels clean. It's as though we are being cleansed just by walking through it."
"Let's just do this!" you say, breaking a little. I wonder if you are ready. You need to be convinced of your right to do this. Are you breaking?
"I just want to keep the bullshit to a minimum. I need to be clear."
I stop for a moment and regard you. You're ready. I turn and continue. Not far now.
This bushland has been freshened by this weather but there is still a stink from some of the vegetation decaying. That's normal for the season and I quite like it anyway. It's not like a human stink but something older, pre-human. I wonder if this is what a child smells that bonds it to its parents, the odour of the lifegiver. Ah, here we are.
It's a clearing. The yellow barked trees have been kept back to a neat circle and stand around us like a crowd around a street performance. We face each other. You visibly control your racing breath waiting for the words to come. I am calm, looking back, ready.
You close your eyes and take a breath. You relax your skinny self and find your centre in there. There are no birds calling. There is a fine breeze but it's inaudible. You exhale. You have taken control of yourself. I smile.
"Turn," you say softly. "Turn and kneel."
I turn and kneel. The ground is carpeted with fallen leaves. There are no stones to jab into my knees. It is very easy to keep still here. I hear you approach from behind. You are quiet and sure. You wrap one arm around my neck and remove your hunting knife with the other hand. A tiny click from the sheath clip and a whisper as the blade withdraws from the leather.
" I am demon," you say. "I am god the blade and god the wolf. With this scission I consume the will of your blood."
You hold the knife in front of me. You will now plunge it into my heart and cover yourself with my blood and rub it the pores of your face and arms as though it were lotion.
I lift you easily over my head and hurl you on to your back in a smooth motion. You are winded and cannot say what you want to. I rise and kick you on to your front. I stand on your shoulders and bring my left boot to the top of your neck and jam the heel there until the crunch tells me you are dead.
You are limp and light and easily borne. I lower you into your grave and cover you with red earth and leaves.
"You are demon. You are god the blade and god the wolf. I heard your cry in the light of morning. Your pain flew to me on gentle wings. Rest you, now, forever free from torment."
The light is golden. The silence rises to an even breath which surrounds me and lightens the path returning.
"Be quiet, Shadow Rock," I tell it when I see it.