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page 75

[Long description: Devon weeps in the shade of a mesquite tree. Amery strokes his back, but it's a cold comfort-- The boy is hollow-eyed and absent of mind.

Colder still is the touch of Kith's great muzzle, as she cradles the two of them. Neither of the boys seem capable of perceiving her, despite her efforts. In the distance, the authorities recover Kith's mangled jeep.]

“I should've been there,” Devon weeps. “I should've been there.”

He holds himself, holds his face like he might fall to pieces if he lets go. Tears stream freely down his cheeks, and he makes himself so small beneath the mesquite tree that Kith thinks he might disappear into its shadow.

She thinks she might, too. She cannot move. There is some part of her that's rooted to the earth, like heavy stones tied to a corpse in a river. It takes all of her strength just to keep her head above the water.

And then there's Amery. Sweet, gentle Amery, who made clumsy efforts to understand her, even when she made no effort to be understood. She cannot look at him; one glance was enough. There is nothing in his eyes. He has said nothing, done nothing, made no motion to move but to absentmindedly squeeze Devon's hand as he cries and cries.

It's obscene. It's voyeuristic. Kith was never meant to see them weep, not for her. They should have looked at the jeep a little sadly, told the game warden “That's hers,” and retired to one another's company. Not grieve. Not mourn.

“Th—The one time I wasn't...” Devon's lungs give out. He lets out a tiny, keening cry.

Oh, Dev, you didn't know!

Kith lurches forward, without thinking. She can feel the warmth of their bodies, feel herself physically pushing them apart as she wedges herself between them. But even as they bend under her weight, they do not react. It's as if some simple turn of the autumn wind had caused them to huddle together.

Kith sinks slowly back down to the ground. She lays her heavy head in Amery's lap, completely spent. Devon's tears plink against a cool andesite boulder, inches away from her face.

“Why did you come back here? Why didn't you tell us?”

I didn't know how. This isn't your fault.

“I should've been there.”

I never told you. You didn't know.

“I'm sorry.”

It's okay.

“I'm sorry.”

I'm here.

Back at it again.

If this was the first part of Ghost River, I'd give you some kind of rough gameplan for what's next, but honestly? I'm flying by the seat of my pants again. I can only say for sure that I have some little vignettes that I want to get out of the way before I start tackling the big things. We might be caught in an intermission 🤔

(In the mean time, hi, I'm sad.)