By Edward Lerner
My head hurts. I expect it: this is winter. I want it to be spring.
Paradise does not ask what I want.
The winter is young, and I think the dogs are not yet so hungry as to attack me. Still, I hold tight to my spear. Dogs or no dogs, the spear helps me walk through the knee-deep snow.
Only trees show above the snow, and I do not know what is under. In winter, asleep, the plants cannot scream when I step on them.
Because they are asleep, Father told me. Long ago. Before Mother died. Before I left home. I did not understand what he meant. I do not now.
I think Father is gone, too. “Watch the flag,” Father told me, long ago, pointing at the tall pole that stood near Ship. “I will change the flag every day. Unless … I can’t. Then you must come. You must.”
From a high hill in my part of the forest, around a great curve of the sea, I look every day for a spot of color on top of the pole. Day by day, the spot changes color. Once, I knew the names of the colors. No more. Talking only to myself, the words go away. But then a day came when the color did not change. Not the next day. Not the day after. Not in … many days.
I see I do not remember numbers, either.