The Journey South: Part 3
Adam collapsed five minutes into his search, the emotions overwhelming him. The anger at himself, the fear for Radish, the anger at the wolves, the fear of himself, the grief for the young bleat; all came crashing down like a thunderstorm.
Adam wept, as well as golem can weep. There were no tears, there were no great heaving gasps, just noises and violent motions. Constant grinding and rumbling came from his throat as Adam tore chunks of soil from the ground, grinding them to dust in his palm in search of relief from the pain. It wasn’t forthcoming. Finally, after an hour or so, Adam began to calm down, laying on his side in the ditches he had dug around himself. He sat up, ready to attempt to sort through his feelings.
He hated the beasts. They had attacked the herd and killed one of the younglings. They were monsters.
But more than he hated the beasts, he hated himself. He had failed the bleats, letting his guard down when he had thought the battle over and safe. He was the reason the young bleat was murdered, if only he had been paying more attention… And Adam had wanted the fight! He recalled how happy he was when the battle had begun, how he was happy to finally fight the enemy. Everyone was in danger, and he, Adam, was relieved. Adam’s mind was in a whirlwind now. He thought to every feeling he had had, the satisfaction of killing the wolves, the heat of the battle, the feeling of victory even as he was defeated. And then, the death of the injured beast. Adam shuddered. It had been helpless, pitiful even, and he had killed it in a rage. A rage at himself no less.
Adam was a monster. He knew it to be true. He killed and killed, failed his Father, now the bleats.
Adam moved to a cliff’s edge.
Why should he live? Why was he any better than the wolves, or Father?
A small voice in the back of his mind voiced its opinion. “Radish. You have to protect Radish.”
Adam wavered. Radish… his son… he couldn’t leave him alone. He had to protect his son.
Adam stepped back from the edge.
He would protect Radish and the bleats in every way he could.
The shadow flickered through the bushes. The sun had still not risen, and Adam’s eyes barely caught the movement. “A beast,” he thought. Adam walked, pretending not to notice the rustling bushes. Suddenly, the beast moved quickly towards him. Adam prepared himself. Grabbing the beast, he crushed down with all his strength. A weak “beat,” could be heard from the beast in his palm.
Adam couldn’t look. He couldn’t. His grip went loose, the body of the now-dead bleat falling to the dusty ground.
Hearing the weak cry, the other bleats had come searching. As the herd looked on in horror, Adam began to shake. He had sworn just moments earlier to protect them, and now… he had their blood dripping from his hand.
The herd turned away, rushing away from Adam. Radish was among the last to arrive and the only one to approach Adam.
Radish looked in askance, not understanding what had happened. Adam choked on his words.
“A beast came and-” he couldn’t continue. The lie tasted acrid in his mouth even as he spoke it, but he had to keep Radish. He couldn’t lose him too.
Radish nodded as if he understood. He reached for Adam’s hand, gesturing that they should return to the herd. Adam flinched back, removing his bloodstained hand from Radish’s reach.
“No, we can’t, they-” Radish looked strangely at Adam before trying to grab his hand again.
Adam moved it away again. “We have to leave. The herd thinks we attract the wolves.” Radish wasn’t listening, still trying to lead Adam back.
“NO!” The word seemed to shake the mountain, Radish stumbled back in shock. Adam hated himself. “I- I’m sorry. We have to leave.” Hesitantly, Adam turned and started down the mountain. For a moment, there were no footsteps behind him. Then, Radish followed his father, the pair alone once more, Adam not daring to meet his eyes.