Writing: ‘The Gates of Ytan’ by Steven Adrian Freeman, HMP Bure

gates-of-ytanFox he come in sharp night, bobbing of head, busy of ears, to place of two black rivers where trees stand right away. High over trees so high over trees is far black river and spots of fire but not yet big eye that steals away dark and hunting time. Fox he has in middle such pain of not eating food and this give him courage and danger to do things fox know he must not do.

Land it sings in smells to fox, fox and his so-clever nose, fox that taste with his mouth and his tongue and his teeth things that were for eating but not here now, not now, things that go away from fox and his empty middle. Always and always about him things move, and their moving send secret scents to him. Clever things they move and nothing catches in his ear, bad things they move and all forest hears. No-one hears fox. Fox his feet are clever.

Fox makes his nose to run through trod grasses and spilled bowels and chewed leaves and every true story of pungent day hidden about this place, sifting, sifting to find warm fur new smell that cries to come to me O fox. His tongue it hangs and yaps in air to bring carried scents, and fox makes quick circle of head for he has found it true. Warm and uneaten it waits for his belly, smelling of soil and burrows and hiding places and slept-in dung. Fox he whimpers little cry of triumph to his ears and darts along hurried way his food has gone before. His nose will fill his belly soon, and all will be well.  And there will be high screamings and low twitching limbs and hot hot blood.

But what is not right. Fox comes to other, low black river where foul things swim in their noise and their stink. Food it waits for fox, waits for him on other shore of terrible black river and fox he is in agony of knowing he must go and knowing he must not go. Back and from, back and fro fox stalks on shore of silent river but there is no mistake. Smell of living food it whispers to him across bad place, and he even hears tiny not-far-away rustlings from its feet and its snout and its tail. Come to me O fox, it laughs at him. Across black river, where fox must never go.

Owl he has catch tonight. Some small food it is making a death song for owl and owl dances it to high tree places fox never sees. Fox hate owl and makes biting face, as if to be eating owl and his dinner both, but owl he knows fox does not fly.

Hunger speaks to fox, and he knows indeed what he must do. Forlorn, he glances back into forest, ears flitching and barbing at every sound. From black river, with its steady small fires unblinking, comes only a strangeness of silence and new hard stenches of unknown things long carried away. Upriver, downriver, carried away in their hateful stink that makes fox his tail droop sadly. A sharp night wind sorts through moss and bracken and slugs and rottingness and speeds across river to fox, saying come now, come quick, or food find other stomachs. Fox place forefoot so unhappily onto hard black river, and starts across.

Midriver comes the sound, from over hill and making hard black river to shake under fox. He stops, living and alive in every hair of his frame, to look as shape comes over hill, blinding with its eyes, roaring. For the very briefest of instants, fox tastes the bitter pang of regret.


Read the whole of  The Gates of Ytan.




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