In the bowels of the valleys where I live the smell of anger comes in bouts. The smell rides down from the mountain sides on great horses wearing heavy armor and large blades; the smell drives at us with the sound of hooves pounding on soft valley soil. My father could scent this smell twenty-four hours before it came, but when he was hungry for something angry, to him the smell of war was everywhere. The day he left to find the source of the scent was the day he left me all alone.
One man stumbled towards me as if under a drunken afternoon spell. His mouth hung open, saliva pouring down. When he came beside me he spat into both my eyes and I screamed, falling to the grass beneath my feet. I saw black and smelled drool and could not open my eyes.
I gave him my satchel and shoes as he asked me, then I shed my clothes as he advised me to do. "Wear this," he said, and he shed his own skin. It fell off in a pile on the soil floor looking like a tablecloth used in my home. When I clothed myself in his skin I no longer smelled like my home or the valley. Instead I became like the men on the mountain. I smelled distinctly foreign. I thanked the man and watched as he dressed himself in my own clothes. He said he would wear them until new skin grew on his back.
Under my feet I felt the rhythm of aches and sighs breathe with each step I took. I felt like I was walking on quicksand. And indeed, when I tried to move my feet I could not feel my toes but only the inability to move them on the surface of palpable danger. When I turned to ask for his help he only laughed. Then I began to think it was he who was making my feet turn to stone.
While I stood and shook I prayed for the knowledge to come and fill that part of my head that knew and understood nothing of this world.
When I touched the needle it magically fell loose and landed on the inside of my palm.