• Elijah J. Graham

Walk: Introduction

Twelve months.

It took twelve whole months for the child of Roj the Fit and Iri to show itself. Twelve months of waiting. Twelve months of worry. Twelve months of anticipation. Of the full sentence, three of the months had been full of absolute discomfort for Iri. She is a strong, fair haired, sun-kissed wise woman. Despite her clear strength proven in speech, the child had grown large inside of her stomach and the torment of pregnancy had proven fairly equal in strength. She had been pregnant before, however the child had never been this active, or survived their residence in their mother.

Iri had gone through a gauntlet of pain and suffering throughout her 40 winters of life, however the pain of carrying this child has been one... unrivaled. For a year, she had tossed and turned at night, going untouched by her husband in their fur sleeping cot. The black clay and tan wood adobe grows increasingly tense every night since the initial six months of her unexpected pregnancy, and most knew of this smoldering intensity.

The expected parents were born into and continue to live in a tribe of nearly two hundred men and women in the Northern piece of the Western Hemisphere. The two are not very prominent in their community, with Roj the Fit being a skilled hunter, yet cowardly fighter and Iri mainly keeping to herself, despite being the only wise woman or shaman that the tribe has left. While the tribespeople look to her for guidance in every facet of their meager yet honest lives, she looks to the innocent nature surrounding her for each answer she conjures through its inspiration and influence.

Twelve pounds.

The unnamed child of the two tribal commoners had arrived at twelve full pounds, each being well accounted for. Upon the break of her water, Iri was rushed to the nearest community religious gathering place and given the warmest and richest of the buffalo hides to comfort her childbirth, as the night provided no warmth at a subzero temperature. The preparation for the newest tenant of the Tekalow tribe involved countless blankets, a bucket of blessed water from the running river, and miniature fur robes to fit the newborn snug. Despite Roj and Iri being fairly insignificant tribespeople, the birth of a new Tekalow is quite the event.

As a midwife speaks to Iri, she screams for beds to deliver the baby. With all of the preparation provided for the birth, the accumulative midwives that commonly deliver babies for the tribe have forgotten to seek out a bed first. They suggest resting on the floor of the small community gathering hall, however Iri refuses the rough feeling of the old sheepskin rugs covering the cold grass, therefore she reaches for Roj the Fit and the expectant parents journey outdoors, homebound, to deliver their baby. Passionately does Iri trot outside into the freezing, aggressive snowstorm. Her passion blinds her, as she exits disregarding clothes for warmth.

Twelve steps.

Iri goes twelve steps until the Gods force her to her knees, then back, and her child calls for her. She lands in the middle of the tribe’s center and opens her legs to welcome her spawn into the world. The people of the independent tribe watch from the insides of surrounding buildings, afraid to fall to sickness from the cold, however Roj the Fit crouches down right beside his lover to welcome their child alone yet together.

Twelve minutes.

Iri screams in excruciating pain for merely twelve minutes before what she discovers to be her firstborn son, finally arrives. As Roj lifts his son into the sky and uses a skinner’s knife to cut the umbilical cord, the raging blizzard calms into a daintily pleasant snowfall. Crystal-like snow dances down from the sky, to land and nest daintily on Roj and Iri’s eyebrows and eyelashes. Roj, noticing the weather shift, looks up, smiles and says to his son, “The gods must be fond of you. What shall we name him, Iri?”

Exhausted and nearly unconscious yet never opposed to exhibit a display of strength, Iri holds off on her body’s desire to sleep, just so that she may hold her weeping son. With heavy breath, she manages “At last, I can meet you, my…son. You have stripped the world of its winds…and the air from my lungs. The silt of our home will keep you warm now. You do not need me.”

“That is not true, my love! He will always need his mother to provide wisdom and care, as she has done for the entirety of her Tekalow people for so many years!” Roj cannot help but interject.

“No, no. He is an independent life now. He shall live for himself. Through the trials and hardships of life, he may not have me. I shall never love him.”

“Love him!?” Roj gasps. “You are his mother! You must surely love him more than anyone.”

“I cannot. To love him would do him disservice” Iri groans. She winces in pain and holds Niltsi close enough to ensure his undivided attention. “The world will not always love you.”

“My dear…” Roj eases over his wife. She ignores his pleas and says “We shall name you Niltsi, for you must be the silt of your own home if you’d see it stand. You are my treasure, Niltsi.”

Roj bellows high into the sky, “My son, Niltsi!” leaving an echo to dance through the thick, snow feathered forest.

Iri’s shivering grows intense, her grasp over her son falls limp, and her eyes drift blankly off into the stars and across the moonlight. The ravines of the scars sprawled across her rough face are illuminated by the nocturnal light, revealing a hardly open mouth housing a limp tongue and the wide, dilated green eyes above it. Her lips pale into an icy blue hue and the frosted trembling of her body ceases into a stale rest.

With uninterrupted staring and investigation, Roj waits for the only lover he has known to breathe, hoping she had not forgotten to. The windows of his head flood in pools of grief. He reaches for his patient newborn and wraps him in purple and orange robes made custom for his slight frame, and holds him tightly on his chest as his wife has done so exclusively only seconds ago.

Dropping to his knees, he sobs, “Niltsi…you and I. I envy you, for you will never have only one soul. As your mother has carried you, you will carry her. You are chosen, by the Gods.”

The snow halts is ceaseless attack. Roj, fully knowing why, continues to speak to his son. “The Gods have given you a great gift, Niltsi, but have also begun to test you. You must pass their tests, no matter the task.”

A tear freezes into a transparent sculpture on his winter beard. Roj, weeping in sporadic breaths, whispers “You would not fail your mother.” Curious of the halted snowfall, the people of the Tekalow tribe slowly exit their homes to console Roj and care for his wife’s lifeless body. “Roj, your child! Your wife! A fateful day!” greets Dasniki, the traditionalist of the tribe.

Roj shakes his head as Toplaw, chief of the Tekalow, approaches. He bellows loudly for all to hear, “Blessings to your family, Roj the Fit. I extend my sincerest apologies for Iri, our committed wisewoman, as well as great excitement for our new Tekalow! What shall we call it?”

With Niltsi in his arms, Roj extends to his wife and kisses her on her cold, dry lips. Speechlessly, Roj stands from beside his wife and carries his naked newborn away. He shrug off the hands of the community and ignores their calls of inquiry.

“Must you go so soon?” Toplaw chuckles.

“What shall we do with your wife!?” Dasniki inappropriately shouts.

“Sorry.” The midwives admit with shame.

Home will feel surprisingly full of spirit and love that night. Roj the Fit will drift off asleep, cuddled alone with his newborn son.