This is a work of fiction.
I went to check on the female Leader of Worship. As soon as I removed the gag, she asked for water, which I provided.
Then she said, “What will you do with my Partner of Worship and me?”
“I will set you free once I have killed him.”
“May I watch him die?”
“If you are certain, then yes, you may accompany me.”
“May I help you kill him?”
“Yes, if you wish, but let there be no misunderstanding between us.” I told her of my plan. By then, the day was growing old, but I figured that there would be enough time before nightfall, and if not, moonlight would suffice.
She agreed to my plan, and I untied her carefully, lest I cause her skin to be abraded by the rough vines, and helped her to stand at her request.
She leaned against the tree and said, “Are you afraid?”
“Of killing him?” She nodded and I shook my head. “No. Are you?”
“Yes. I can’t help but feel what he cannot. But he left our children and the sitting bird and her eggs to die, and I must bear witness.”
“I have already seen fear in his eyes, so I know that he can feel it. He has done what he has done, and must pay for it with his life. I feel nothing for him. He has no heart. Let’s go. It’ll be over in a few minutes.”
I did not ask her if she wished to stay behind; to do so would have shown her gross disrespect, and she walked by my side to the clearing where he was bound in his canoe. She untied the canoe and together, we hauled it down the slope toward the river. He couldn’t speak, but he could look at us, and his gaze was filled with a mixture of anger and fear.
When we arrived at the river, she secured the canoe to a tree, and I untied him from it, but left him bound at the ankles and wrists. I stood him up and pushed him against a tree, where I held him.
His Partner of Worship faced him, looked him in the eye, and said, “You have betrayed our people and have led many to their deaths. You have left your children and the sitting bird and her eggs to perish. You have imprisoned me in a bicycle cart, and I have heard you push a young woman to her death. I know the dark tide, and it has your heart. You are a curse to all those you meet. You are a traitor, not only to humans, but to life itself. You have shown that you prefer death, so to death you must go, alone.” She looked at me.
“Would you tell him his fate?” I nodded.
“This is my judgment. All the wrongs that you have committed, all your crimes, both legal and moral, merit the sentence of death by drowning. As your lungs fill with water, instead of floating up to the stars, your spirit will be trapped for eternity in the void that is death. Unlike those above, you will never see another spirit again. Where you shall be, there will be no plants, no humans, no birds, and no other creatures of any kind that are, will be, or have ever been alive. Before we carry out the sentence, do you wish to speak? You have a hundred breaths to consider what you will say.” The female Leader of Worship counted off his breaths silently while I watched his face. I saw calculation in his eyes. What was he planning?
At ninety, she began to count with hand gestures, and she said “one hundred” out loud. I removed the gag.
“Your daughter was a lady of the low,” he said. “I never had the pleasure myself, but I know others who did. I am a faithful man, but I know what those who stray from their wives’ beds thought of her. They said that there was nothing in the world that she wouldn’t do. If you had any honor, which I’m sure you don’t, given what you fathered, you’d untie me, we’d each pick up a knife, and we’d see just who could kill the other.”
“If you weren’t a traitor to your people and to all life, then yes, probably, but I won’t allow you to goad me into killing you and thus freeing your spirit. I saw you thinking as your Partner of Worship counted your breaths.”
I looked at her, and she said, “Time.” I looked at the day, and figured that there was maybe half an hour left before the sun set.
“The time is right,” I said. Together, we tore off all of his clothes, and tossed them aside to be burned later, along with anything else that hadn’t been washed since he’d last touched it.
We dragged him as fast as we could to the water. I held him while she removed the vine ropes that bound his wrists, and he attempted to strike her, but she evaded the blow and laughed in his face. I untied his ankles, looked at her, and she pushed his head beneath the surface. He put up a struggle, but we held him, and soon, his efforts to come up for air weakened.
“How long?” she said.
I looked at te day and said, “Until sunset, so not long.”
“Good,” she said. “I’m almost spent.”
“Yes, so am I.”
We said nothing more as we waited for the sun to set, and when it did, we let go of him, and his body began to drift.
We didn’t wait for it to pass beyond our sight, but found matches in the canoe and burned everything of his that had been tainted by death.
Once that was done, we found blankets, and made up beds in the clearing where she’d been tied.
I’d just lain down when she said, “Your eyes are sad. Why is that?” I sat up.
“Because I was so sure that my daughter was alive, but alas, it was only a dream.”
“What happened?” I told her. “I did hear him calling for help, and I also heard somebody walking by where I was tied.”
“Yes, and the footsteps were light, as those of a small woman, and they walked in the direction of the clearing where my ex Partner of Worship was. So perhaps you did not dream it.”
“But why would she leave?”
“That, I know not, but maybe she will return, or maybe she won’t, but it’s highly probable that she is still alive out there somewhere.” She gestured in a circle at the deepening night all around us and smiled at me. “Rest deep,” she said, lay down, and closed her eyes. I said and did the same.
“My father!” I opened my eyes, and saw the female Leader of Worship rubbing hers and my daughter standing a few steps away. “Dad, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to interrupt you, and the young bird needed my help. I had to go with her and there wasn’t time to tell you. Oh Dad . . .” She gasped for spirit.
“Come and sit down,” I said. “Yesterday is history, and today is new.”
She walked over to a tree and collapsed on the ground at its base.
“Are you all right?” the female Leader of Worship said.
“I think so.”
“Let’s eat,” I said.
Once all three of us had been replenished and were sitting in the clearing, my daughter said, “The young sitting bird found a young father bird. He was newly hatched and his parents were nearby.” She shuddered. “I saw their bodies. They had both been drained by a vampire snake. I know vampire snakes are just creatures like us, only trying to live and feed their young, but oh, why do good creatures have to die that others might live?” She put her right index finger to her lips. “Don’t answer that. I know, but it was so hard for me to see that.” The female Leader of Worship and I nodded. “So when she found him, the young sitting bird came and found me where I was just starting to pick berries. I didn’t know what she wanted, and I feared for the life of my love and for those of the children. She flew us to him and I helped her with him. He wasn’t hurt, but I didn’t want to leave right away, because my love said that he’d heard a large animal nearby that would make good eating. That took until nightfall, and I didn’t want to leave until morning.”
“Do you think the young sitting bird will still fly us to go and rescue your mother’s spirit?”
“I don’t know, but all we can do is ask her. If she won’t, then maybe we can try by boat.”
The female Leader of Worship said, “I know I shouldn’t ask, but I’m afraid to stay here by myself.”
My daughter said, “Rescuing my mother’s spirit is something that my father and I must do alone, but we can take you to where your children are, but neither you nor Dad may meet my love until after. We’d better start out now. It was only a few minutes in the air, but it will take four hours or so on foot. Mom’s spirit has waited long enough.”